Bigger than a Boat

noahGenesis chapter 6 recounts the story of Noah, one of the best known narratives in the entire Old Testament.  Though the description of the flood of the earth is a fantastic account that surpasses Hollywood’s best disaster films, the ark is an often misunderstood marvel.  While most depictions in children’s books or preschool walls devolve the structure into cartoon-like renderings complete with a couple of giraffes sticking out of the top, the real ark would have bested any ocean going vessel preceding the 1800s. Its capacity would have equaled about 569 standard-sized railroad cars, and had floor space approximately the same as 21 college basketball courts. It would be easy to spend this whole post just talking about the logistics of what it must have taken to construct such a craft!  While it’s interesting to ponder those aspects of the story and other questions like as “Were there dinosaurs on the ark?”  and “How did Noah fit all the animals in it?”, it’s more important to major on the underlying spiritual principles God is trying to convey to us through this event.  I think there are several that are worth noting…

 Commit yourself to righteousness, regardless of popular opinion.

Scripture pictures the world at that time as wicked, full of corruption, violent, and that the hearts’ of the people were intent on evil all the time. (vs 5-6)  (sounds a little too familiar!)  Yet, Noah committed himself to a life of righteousness and faithfulness to God.  Chapter 6 verse 9 contains the definitive commentary on his life.   “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.”  I think if I could leave any legacy behind, I would want it to be that people would say something similar of me.  “She lived a righteous life and walked with God.”  But of course, for that to be true of me (or you), it means that we have to make the hard choices that are necessary to be godly in a world that opposes godliness.  When I first moved to Atlanta, I worked for a major news organization. My every day environment was less that hospitable to the Gospel.  While it wasn’t necessarily corrupt or violent, it wasn’t what you would call a place committed to righteousness either.  Even though I was just learning the basics of Christianity back then, I decided that I would, as best as I could, live my faith on my job.  That meant that I spoke up when it was easier to stay quiet.  I went home when everyone else went out.  And I ate a lot of meals all by myself.  I wouldn’t say a revival broke out because of anything I said or did, but God did arrange some significant conversations with people, and He certainly grew my faith during those difficult days.  That’s why it’s imperative that we choose to follow God even, or perhaps especially, when it’s difficult.  When we commit our lives to Him, He uses us to do His work and bring His righteousness into any environment.

Act based on God’s commands, not on your circumstances.

Full Size Ark Replica The Netherlands
Full Size Ark Replica
The Netherlands

In verses 13-21, God gives Noah a detailed list of instructions for the building of the ark.  He tells him the specific dimensions, what kind of wood to use, and even how to make and apply waterproofing.  Obviously, no structure of this size had ever been built before, never mind that it was on dry land, and far from any body of water large enough to float such a craft! It would seem to have been a ludicrous endeavor! However, despite the seemingly illogical goal of his task, verse 22 indicates “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” If we model his example, we’ll learn to obey God precisely, even when it conflicts with what appears to be a reasonable course of action.  That can be pretty tough on those of us who like to be in control a little more than we should.  We prefer to know what to do, how to do it, and especially why.  But that’s not the way a life of faith works.  Hebrews 11: 1 reminds us that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” So sometimes… maybe a lot of the time… God withholds that “why” answer to build our trust in Him. This is the essence of Proverbs 3: 5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  God’s commands won’t always appear on the surface to be the logical thing to do, but they are always the right thing to do!

Diligence is the companion of faith.

Noah was over 500 years old when he was commissioned to undertake this enormous building project, and he was 600 years old when he entered the ark.  Although Scripture doesn’t give a specific timetable of how long it took to build, it’s safe to say he spent many decades attending to every detail of his assignment. That’s a long time…. A really, REALLY long  time.  In fact, its longer than our average life expectancy!  How many of us would have anything approaching that kind of dedication to our God-given tasks? Lack of commitment to even small tasks is far too common among believers today.  Frequently, we’re ready to move on to something new at the first sign of opposition, difficulty, or even a little boredom. When we honor our commitments based chiefly on our desires, we forget from Whom the assignment comes and for Whom we labor. (Col. 3:23-24)  Noah didn’t stick to his building project because he loved his new career or that it was easy.  Hebrews 11:7 tells us that he was motivated by a “holy fear” and reverence for the Lord as he built the ark. We need to cultivate a similar attitude, remembering that we are serving the Living God  … Creator of the Heavens and Earth … Sustainer of Life!  It’s a privilege to be called to carry out a task for Him, and we need to be just as serious, committed and diligent to our responsibilities as Noah was.

The Gospel According to Noah

Probably the key thing to notice in this story is that there’s an obvious parallel between it and the New Testament Gospel.  As the scripture says, during Noah’s time, humanity was full of wickedness, so the Lord set a day when He would send his judgment and cleanse sin from the earth.  In response to Noah’s faith, God provided a way for him to be saved through the destruction.  All he had to do was choose to enter the ark and be transported to safety.  Today, people live much like they did in Noah’s day.  They pursue the sinful pleasures this world offers, ignoring the fact that judgment is coming.  God is still holy and cannot tolerate sin any more today than He did in Noah’s time.  So once again He has set a day and time for cleansing of the earth of impurity (this time by fire – 2 Peter 3:10)  And like long ago, God has provided a way for anyone to be saved from the coming judgment.  Only this time, the way to safety is not a wooden boat; Our ark is a person – Jesus Christ!  All we have to do is choose salvation by trusting in Him through faith.  (Romans 10:9-10)  Since you never know when time is up, (Matt. 24:42) I urge you to make sure you are in the “ark,” before God closes the door!

ark animals

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