Before Jesus Christ came to Earth to fulfill the requirement for our eternal redemption, many pictures of salvation were painted in scripture by the hand of God as He saved his people in one way or another. One of these pictures occurred very early in our history when the Lord saved Noah, his family, and so many animals from that destructive flood. God had been pleased by some but displeased by most, and the level of his displeasure meant that He had to distinguish between them. Death came to those who were evil, and life came to those who were righteous. Some were saved, and others were destroyed. It is a picture of what we will see on that day, but the road to the flood also paints an important picture for us now. It gives us a glimpse of what our lives should look like before that day.
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
Mr. Clark had been called in to clean up the school, and that was exactly what he planned to do, but not every student there was a terror. There were many good students in that school who simply needed a better environment and some good support in order to excel. One of the first things he did was to hold an assembly during which he called to the stage a certain list of kids. Once that stage was full, he announced that this group was expelled from the premises immediately. Those kids were too far gone and simply would be nothing but trouble as Mr. Clark would try to make things better for those who should remain there. To preserve the worthy few, he had to cut off the terrible masses.
When the Lord surveyed what He had created and what that creation had become, there was a strong air of evil. Wickedness reigned so greatly that He actually was sorry for creating mankind. Yet, in all that darkness, there was a glimmer of light shining through Noah and his family. They were a beacon of hope. These people were faithful, and they were able to turn God’s regret to hope. Yes, instead of God giving them hope, they gave him hope. They illustrated that not all was lost and that some people indeed were worth saving. We see the same thing today. Jesus came to live and die and rise again if even for one, and even just one would be enough to show that his sacrifice was worth it. Those who have put their hope in the Lord and have come to a saving knowledge of him then become his hope for spending eternity with his Church.
And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.”
I used to read this passage and think that God was simply giving Noah facts. He states the reason for his displeasure and what He intends to do about it. He tells Noah what his future with the Lord will look like, which is encouraging and promising. There is comfort in knowing that Noah’s family also will be saved along with him. They will be spared to live another day. We can be tempted to look at these words as good news for Noah and his family but bad news for those who will be destroyed. While that characterization of this passage is not necessarily incorrect or inaccurate, there is something else going on here. These factual statements also serve as a warning because they illustrate not only the grace of God’s favor but also the burden of his wrath.
We cannot forget that Noah still had work to do here. When God told him that he and his family would live, and that He would establish a covenant with Noah, this certainly was conditional upon obedience to the plan. A vessel would save them from destruction, but Noah would have to build that vessel. Not only that, the ark’s specifications had to be met in order to preserve the wildlife God intended to save as well. This was exact, meticulous work that had to be carried out by this man. It mirrors what our path from now until the return of our Lord looks like. Salvation is free, but we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. There is much for us to be done if He is to call us faithful. We must remain obedient or destruction can fall on us as well. Eternity with God is there for the taking through his grace, but we must complete our work faithfully between here and there.
And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive.
The scenes have been comical even in depictions that were meant to be serious. Artistic interpretation may tell us that Noah and his sons were running around like wild men trying to catch birds and foxes and kangaroos. They are shown having difficulty herding the animals God wanted to be on that ark. Even when we remove the comic relief and think about the serious event of corralling all these animals, it seems overwhelming and mind-boggling that it was a success. But, if we pay attention to the words in this passage, we see something interesting. The people did not have to go in search of the animals they were to save. The animals went in search of the people who would lead them to their salvation. Noah did not go to the animals; the animals came to him.
A duck is not like a person, but the picture we see here is very similar to what our evangelism looks like. Scripture tells us that God first draws us to him before we think about drawing near of our own accord. He calls, and we respond. We also know that those who carry the Holy Spirit are the face of Christ to the world. In drawing sinners to himself, He draws them to his Church. The same way God used Noah to lead these animals to his salvation, God will use us like that today for the sake of human souls. We do not save, but we can snatch from the fire. We can show the way to God, which is the job of the Church here on Earth. God will send people our way so that we can show them how to reach him. We need to be ready and mindful that they will be coming. We need to be on the lookout so that the opportunity does not pass us by.
Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth.”
Noah was righteous before God in his generation, and we can presume that his family also walked in that righteousness as they also were saved from the flood. These words tell me something interesting. Noah was righteous in the midst of his generation, which means that he did not exist in a bubble. He had to coexist with the evil and depravity that resided around him and yet remain faithful to God. This was a rough crowd as we learned above because every thought of their hearts was wicked. There was no goodness in those people who God destroyed. They craved only those things which were evil and ungodly, and Noah had to remain pure alongside them. This is the prime example of being in the world yet not of the world, and I can imagine that the temptation to stray from God’s plan arose around every corner.
I know what it is like to be a Christian among those who are not Christians, but I am rarely alone in that standing. Whether at work or at school or any variety of social settings, I have never been alone against the world. I have had to stand alone against several or a few, but Noah and his family had to stand for God against the entire world as they knew it. Every single other person who walked this soil was nothing but wicked, and I imagine it is not unreasonable to foresee a future that may look like this for us. Mankind is daily inventing new ways to sin, new evils by which to find depraved pleasure. If we are going to stand faithfully on the side of God, we must realistically expect that times could become this drastic for us. We must consider whether we truly are prepared to stand as the lonely one against the world if it comes to that.
So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood.
Now Noah had seen it all. He and his family lived among the most wicked of the most wicked. Fallen angelic beings had taken for themselves women of the Earth, and their offspring were a perversion of humankind. Lawlessness had become king. Then, the Lord pulled Noah aside and displayed to him a plan for the redemption of the righteous. The plan certainly seemed a little crazy, and we can speculate whether Noah had his doubts, but that crazy plan was the only salvation. He would build a boat whose completion likely seemed to take an eternity, and he would do this in anticipation of a rain that never had fallen before then. Once the ark was completed, it fell to him and his family to collect the animals and whatever supplies would sustain them until their eventual landing on dry ground. When all was finished, they would board the vessel and wait for the rain to start.
I wonder what they were thinking when they closed that door and heard the first drops of water hitting the deck. They knew not the life that would be ahead, but I would wager that they never thought they would miss the life they were leaving behind. That world of lawlessness certainly would be fondly forgotten, and it is the same for us today. Scripture gives us picture after picture of what our future with the Lord will look like, but we cannot imagine that now. All we know is that it will be infinitely better than this life here. We know it will be a world devoid of evil, one in which we will share in unimaginable fellowship with the Lord. Noah closing that door to the ark is like us closing our eyes to this world that one final time. We will leave it never to return to it again. We will only look forward to the bright promise of the future.
One day, the great rains will fall, and all who have not boarded the ark of salvation will taste death. On that day, the door will close one last time, and the world of sin will see its end. Until then, we have work to do. It is for us to be obedient to the Lord, not relying on free grace but on his true transformative power. It is for us to be Christ to those He sends our way, that we would lead others to salvation. It is for us to stand firmly and maybe even alone against a world of lawlessness. God is our hope for the future, but we are his hope as well. Those whom He has chosen and who have chosen him in return prove the Son’s sacrifice was not in vain. We look forward to our future with him, and He looks forward to his future with us, but we do not simply wait for that future to arrive.