One of the greatest, yet most controversial Bible Stories of all time.
Nurseries have its storyline painted on the walls, and Hollywood has made it an epic fantasy adventure. But what is it really? Why is Noah’s story told?
Now, I’m assuming you all know the tale. Hundreds and hundreds of years had passed since God created the world, and sin was running rampant. Almost everyone in the world had rejected God and become completely evil…except for one man: Noah. God saw that Noah loved Him, so He decided to spare Noah’s whole family from a great flood that would destroy everything else in the world. The animals came two by two onto an ark that Noah built, and soon things happened just as God said that they would. Noah and his family were the only surviving humans, and after the waters receded, they went out to repopulate the earth. And God made a promise that He would never again destroy the earth by water.
In Sunday school, we learn some important things about this story. We learn about obedience. We learn to trust God even when what He says seems crazy. We learn that God will provide for us. We learn that God will protect us. We learn many other things. But what if there’s even more to the story?
Genesis chapter 6 verse 9 says “This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on the earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.” Now, it’s important to understand what this means. This doesn’t mean that Noah was perfect. Certainly Noah was a sinner too. However, the New Testament tells us that Noah had faith in God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. Noah had faith in God and in His promise, so God saw him as righteous and blameless. He walked in close fellowship with God. However, everyone else on the earth did not have faith in God, and God saw them as guilty. Guilty people deserve punishment. They rejected God, and people that reject God deserve to die.
Now, I know that sounds harsh. But if you stop and think for a minute, it’s the only thing that makes sense. If God is truly good, then he must be just. He must give people what they deserve. He must punish sin. If God didn’t punish sin, then He wouldn’t be good. If someone commits a crime, but the judge lets him go, then he wouldn’t be a very good judge, right? I know this is kind of going off on a tangent, but it’s important to understand this concept, because it’s a big deal. We don’t often think about it, but in this story, God just drowns everybody. People die. That’s not what we paint on the nursery walls, but that’s a major part of this story. God punishes sinners. The wages of sin is death. God shows us from the very beginning, in addition to the mercies that He’s already shown, that He is just. He doesn’t take sin lightly. There will be judgment, and it will be overwhelming and complete. Nobody can escape. Think about it. How can you escape a worldwide flood? Despite your greatest effort, you would not survive. Everything that you’ve done, everything that you’ve worked for would be gone. It would count for nothing. There would be complete and utter destruction, and it would be inescapable. And Noah too, would have to face it. Like we already said, he wasn’t perfect. Just imagine. God could have chosen any way to kill the people. With only the command of His voice they could have dropped dead, and Noah could have been left to go about his business. But no. God sent a flood to destroy the world, to judge everyone, and it was coming for Noah too. God gives us a picture of what His judgment looks like. It is vast and all-consuming. Noah was as good as dead…unless God could rescue him. Unless God could save him. Let’s pick up in verse 17. God says, “Look, I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die. But I will confirm my covenant with you. So enter your boat.”
You know, a lot of times we look at this story and we see Noah as the main character. Noah was a hero. Noah saved humanity and the animals. But in reality, nothing could be farther from the truth. God is the main character. God warned Noah of the flood. God provided Noah not only with the supplies, but also the exact instructions to build a boat. God confirmed his covenant and his promise to Noah. God is the one who saved Noah and his family. He is the rescuer.
Notice verse 16 in chapter 7. Everyone is in the boat at this point and are preparing for the waters to come. Look what it says. “Then the Lord closed the door behind them.” And when God shuts the door, you know it’s not coming undone. He himself has sealed the rescue and has assured them of life. He himself has blocked the way of judgment and hidden them safely in the body of the ark. And chapter 6 verse 16 tells us, there was only one door. There was no other option for which humanity could be saved. If you wanted to live, you had to enter through God’s door.
The Greater Story
Thousands of years later, a man named Jesus walked the earth and proclaimed in John 10:9, “Yes, I am the door. Those who come in through me will be saved.” See, Noah’s story is only a symbol of what Jesus would ultimately do for us. We may not realize it, and we may not like to think about it, but a day of judgment is coming. Like the flood, it will be complete, total, and all-consuming. All of us will have to face it. And all of us will be guilty. But, Jesus is our rescue. Jesus is our ark. He’s not only the ark, but the one door to the ark. There’s no other name under heaven by which you can be saved. If you want life, then you have to enter through Jesus, and Jesus only.
In Ephesians 2:4 it says, “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.” Like Noah, we are as good as dead, and face a coming judgment. However, also like Noah, God provided a way of rescue for those who have faith in Him. Jesus is our rescue. Without Him, we would be no better than those who drowned in the flood.
And maybe you, like I used to, think that you can do it on your own. Maybe you’re relying on your own good works and your own morality to save you. But in reality, that’s just like swimming in a world covered in water. It’s not going to work. And maybe some others of you see yourself like we see Noah sometimes. Maybe you’re saved, you’re trusting in Jesus, but you see yourself as the main character of the story. You’re forgetting what God did for you. Sometimes we just need to take some time and remember that Jesus is the main character. Remember that you would be hopeless without Him. Remember that He is the rescuer. He is the savior. We, who are meant to drown in the water, are being raised up through it to new life – just like baptism so beautifully depicts.
Take comfort in knowing that Jesus as God himself has shut the door to judgment for those who have faith, and has assured your salvation. If you are trusting in Jesus as your savior and as your rescuer, then you are shut in. Your soul is secure. It cannot be undone. Romans 8:1 says “So now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Just as Noah and his family were hidden by God securely in the boat, Colossians 3:3 says, “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Your soul is safe. You are no longer seen as guilty, but God sees you as righteous because of what Christ has done, and because of your faith in Him.
At the end of the story, the waters are beginning to recede, and Noah sends out a dove to find land. At this point, I’m sure Noah was wondering what the future had in store. Yes, God had saved him, but would God follow through the whole way? Would there be land for him to start a new life? As the story shows, the dove confirms to Noah that God indeed follows through. It affirmed that there would indeed be new life. I can’t help but think how in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove. It descended on Jesus at His baptism, showing God’s favor on Him. But also, God has given us His holy spirit. Ephesians 1:14 says this, “The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.” Not only has God rescued us from our sin, but He has given us His spirit, so that we can be sure there is eternal life with Him.
The story of Noah ends with an amazing image, in which God once again confirms his covenant. God promises to Noah that He will never again destroy the earth with a flood. In essence, He promises a greater hope for humanity and an opportunity for many more to be saved. And the symbol of this promise is a rainbow. Now, the real word that’s used here in this verse isn’t rainbow, but its “bow.” Now obviously, we understand this to be a rainbow. However, people who read this text during the time period would have associated it with a bow – like bow and arrows. In fact, any other time this word is used in the Old Testament, it’s referring to a bow and arrows. And certainly, a rainbow has the same arc as that for a bow and arrows. But think about this imagery. When Noah sees this, where would the arrow be pointing? Down at the earth? Down at the people? No, it would be pointing up, just like all rainbows, at God himself. This greater hope for humanity, this promise that God was making, would come at the cost of God himself. And as we also know, rainbows are made up of the full range of colors. In the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible, John describes the throne of God in a vision of the future. He sees people from every tribe, tongue and nation gathered at God’s throne. And guess what’s encircled around God’s throne…a rainbow – Showing that He was willing to pay the price, in order to bring diverse people from all over the world to Himself.
“Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.” – Galatians 1:4
If you are trusting in Jesus as your savior and as your rescuer, then you are shut in. Your soul is secure.