The story of Noah is the story of God’s grace – ‘Noah found grace’ (8). Noah lived in very difficult times (5-7), yet ‘Grace found Noah’. His testimony could be summed up: ‘Amazing grace…I once was lost but now am found’ (Mission Praise, 31). Expanding on the thought of 5:29 – ‘this one (Noah) shall bring relief from our work and from the toil of our hands’ – we may allow our thoughts to turn to Christ and say to Him: ‘Not the labour of my hands can fulfil Thy law’s demands…All for sin could not atone, Thou must save, and Thou alone. Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy Cross I cling’ (Church Hymnary, 83). In these two statements – ‘Noah found grace’ and ‘this one will bring…’, we see both salvation and service. We are saved to serve. Once we ourselves have been found by grace, we are to seek to bring others to Christ that they also may be saved by Him and become His servants.
To view the flood exclusively in terms of judgment is to see only one side of what God was doing. As well as judging, He was also saving – ‘In this ship a few people – eight in all – were saved by water’ (1 Peter 3:20). The ark points forward to Christ ‘who came back from death to life’, Christ who ‘saves’ us (1 Peter 3:21). God was working out His purpose of salvation. In Noah’s day, the remnant of faith was very small, yet the promise of God’s love was given to them – ‘I will establish My covenant with you’ (18). Even when wickedness threatens to overwhelm us, we still have God’s promise of love, ‘the new covenant in Christ’s blood’ (1 Corinthians 11:25). ‘The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7). Knowing that Christ loved us and died for us, we are to be like Noah (22). We are to walk with the Lord and serve Him.
Here, we pick up on the words of verse 16 – ‘the Lord closed the door behind them’. What was going on outside of the ark is contrasted with the haven of salvation inside the ark. What was it that made the ark a place of salvation? – The Lord. What is it that makes Jesus Christ the Source of our salvation? – God has given Him the Name that is above every name, the Name of our salvation (Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 4:12). From the ark, we learn of (a) the one way of salvation – The ark had only one door. Jesus is ‘the Door’ which leads to salvation (John 10:9); (b) the eternal security of salvation – All were safe inside the ark. In Christ there is eternal security (John 10:28); (c) the absolute necessity of salvation – Outside of the ark, there was certain death. Refusal to come to Christ for salvation leads to judgment: ‘How shall we escape…?’ (Hebrews 2:3).
Following the flood, we have this simple yet striking declaration: ‘the ground was dry’ (13). Safe from judgment! This is the message which comes to us from the Cross: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). The judgment has fallen upon Christ. We are no longer swept away in the judgment. We can stand on solid ground: ‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand’ (Church Hymnary, 411). He is our Support in ‘the whelming flood’. God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ship’ (15). We are in Christ. He is the Source of our salvation. God has brought us into Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). He does not bring us into Christ solely for our own benefit. We are sent out to be fruitful (17; John 15:16). We are to ‘abide in Christ’. This is the way of fruitfulness (John 15:4-5). We are not sent out alone. Strengthened in ‘the ship’ (in Christ), we step out with Christ and for Him.
‘When you see a rainbow, remember God is love’. The rainbow reminds us of the gracious promise of God (13-15). If the love of God is revealed in the rainbow, it is more fully revealed in the Cross: ‘We sing the praise of Him who died, of Him who died upon the Cross… upon the Cross we see in shining letters. ‘God is love’, He bears our sins upon the tree. He brings us mercy from above’. When we read the Old Testament stories, we must learn to see their place within the fuller Story, the Story of God’s salvation: ‘I will sing the wondrous Story of the Christ who died for me’. This is the greatest Story of all – ‘the Story of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love,… the Story of wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin’. ‘This is our Story. This is our Song, praising our Saviour all the day long’. This is ‘the Story to tell to the nations’ (Church Hymnary, 258,381,132; Mission Praise, 59,744).
What a sad episode this is! It teaches us that yesterday’s victories can become today’s defeats, if we do not keep close to God. We read, in Hebrews 11:7 of Noah the man of faith, but here we have a very different picture. The lesson is clear – ‘The arm of flesh will fail you; Ye dare not trust your own’. We must not look to our own strength to keep us in the way of faith and obedience. It cannot be done. We fail. ‘God can do anything but fail’. We must affirm our faith in God – ‘All my hope on God is founded’. In man, there is no sure foundation – only ‘change and chance’. There is nothing that will last – ‘only pride of man and earthly glory’ (Church Hymnary, 481,405). Can we be guided through change and chance? Yes, but we must learn from Noah’s fall – Past grace is no guarantee of present growth – , and we must keep our eyes on Jesus, ‘the Author and Finisher of our faith’ (Hebrews 12: 2).