Dear Friend in Christ:
I pray you are having a blessed Autumn. This month, I want to look at a familiar Bible story, and draw some lessons that can encourage us in this season of storms and uncharted waters … uncharted by us, but known well by God.
How do you find a fresh way to tell a story that many have heard so often? What would Disney do with the story of Noah’s Ark? Of course, they would take some liberties with the narrative, add some characters, and manufacture unnecessary drama. The symphonic version of “Noah Built an Arky-Arky” featuring Phil Collins and Celine Dion would be a massive global hit. They might ask Morgan Freeman to narrate the exciting trailer for the 3-D animated spectacular. I can hear it now: “From the producers of ‘Elisha and the Two Bears’ comes Disney’s newest classic, ‘Noah’s Arktastic Adventure!’ A dreamer … his patient wife … an impossible task …and a wacky-but-lovable crew of in-laws and forest critters on a voyage that would change history and inspire the wildest theme park boat ride EVER!”
Of course, when it comes to Noah and the ark, you can’t improve on the actual original story. Too often, we see the story of Noah through familiar, albeit foggy religious glasses. We sometimes drift through amazing events that happened, forgetting that we are dealing with very real people and very real events, failing to identify with them in their struggles.
When I read Scripture, I like to try to put myself in the shoes of the people in the story and learn something from them. There is nothing in the Bible that is recorded by accident. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Aside from a truly epic, riveting story, what is the benefit of studying Noah today? Who were these people? Did these events really happen? Yes, I believe the Bible is true and trustworthy. We’ve also seen scientific evidence for the great global flood described in Scripture. Here is what we read in Genesis concerning the extraordinary events surrounding Noah and the ark …“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. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God…” (Genesis 6:5-9).
After the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden, due to the rebellion of Adam and Eve, their descendants behaved so wickedly, so ungratefully, that the Lord became sorry for the very creation in which He once delighted. It’s impossible to describe the tragedy and grief of that statement. And then, suddenly, a beautiful revelation is given: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Thank God for Noah! All of creation hung in the balance, and one man who found favor with God brought salvation to mankind, and even to the animals. The story continues:
“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. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch….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. 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. And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them.’ Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did (Genesis 6:13-14; 17-22)”.
Noah wasn’t saved by good intentions, happy talk, wishing on a star, or whistling for Jiminy Cricket. What God commanded Noah to do, Noah did. Noah did not only believe in God, but he BELIEVED GOD, and obeyed what the Lord said. Notice here the connection between faith and obedience; that is, the level of our obedience to God’s directives and the swiftness of our response is a good measure of our actual faith in Him and in Who He really is.
And, in this conversation with Noah, the Lord certainly told Noah many things that required great faith. We sometimes stumble when God tells us, “Share your testimony with the man at the grocery store,” or “Pray with the lady at the office.” What God said to Noah was, “My friend, I have some serious news. Because of the great wickedness done by humanity, I’m going to destroy the world— yes, everything you see around you, everything you’ve ever known—by sending a terrible flood. Yes, I know, you’ve never seen one. Listen very carefully!”
Now, the good news—at least for Noah and his family—was that Noah had walked in close relationship with God. Noah was righteous and God was gracious to him. God gave explicit instructions to Noah about how to build the ark—a huge ship, 450 feet long—and the type of construction materials to use. Many people have said that “Experts built the Titanic, and amateurs built the ark.” But the truth is, Noah simply carried out the instructions of the greatest Designer in all of eternity.
Of course, we cannot minimize the fact that Noah was able to hear God clearly. The right relationship Noah had with God brought clarity of hearing and understanding, which produced righteous action. The closer our walk with the Lord, the better able we are to hear and understand His voice. And the closer we are to Him, more we understand that we must be doers of His Word, and not just hearers only (see James 1:22).
Our relationship with God must be clear because God is going to say many things to you that will take you out of your natural comfort zone. If your heart is not right towards the Lord—if your spirit is not sensitive to know the sound of His voice—you can either miss what He’s saying or be confused about it.
God told Noah to build a ship in a place far away from the sea to prepare for a weather event that had never happened before, and to fill it with animals; not just sweet puppy dogs and kitty cats, but all kinds of animals, including the grumpy ones, the slimy ones, and the stinky ones. He told him to gather food enough for his family and all the creatures on board.
It was the grace of God that caused Noah to hear and obey. But even though God was gracious, Noah had to work. God is Sovereign, but that doesn’t mean we can be passive about His mission. If Noah hadn’t obeyed, he and his family would not have survived, and we would not be here today to discuss it.
We believe that Noah built the ark in approximately 2500 BC, but in the New Testament, both Jesus and Peter talk about Noah. The writer of Hebrews discusses Noah in Chapter 11, which some people call “Heaven’s Hall of Fame.” Why is Noah mentioned there? Let’s look!
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible….But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith…” (Hebrews 11:1-3; 6-7).
The writer of Hebrews tells us that faith is a substance … it is evidence of that for which we hope. If our hope is in the Lord, then faith is displayed through our obedience to His Word. Hebrews shows practical ways in which these heroes acted in faith. In Hebrews 11:34, it says that they were made strong out of weakness; they BECAME mighty in battle. In Hebrews 12, it says that Jesus is the author and finisher of faith. He initiates it, He exemplifies it, He births it in us, He perfects it in us, and He graces us to run the race, finish the journey, and win the prize.
Among the people mentioned here, we see Noah. He was moved by faith to build the large ship that saved him. Faith itself is an ark; it will carry you through seasons ahead that you cannot yet see or understand. It is a vessel for salvation, not only for you, but for people around you who will hear your voice, observe your life, and enter into the faith that you have received from God.
Noah was moved “with godly fear,” which means having a reverent, sober, and urgent appreciation for the voice of the Lord. Noah was open to hear God’s voice and obey it before God even spoke. He was prepared to do what the Lord said before God said it! How much better and clearer could we hear God if we approached Him with that kind of faith? Noah was going to walk in God’s will, regardless of what others were saying, what circumstances seemed to be, or what was convenient.
Noah’s faith was rejected by the world, but it brought salvation to him and his household. True faith rarely brings applause from the world; at least, not initially. Only after the obvious fruits of faith are readily seen by the natural eye will earthly-minded critics offer a belated thumbs-up. That is why we are not called to live according to what the natural eye can see, what the natural ear can hear, what the natural mind can conceive, or even what natural strength can accomplish. We are not called to emulate what the world promotes, to be conformed to how the world thinks, or to chase after fads.
Too often, we divorce our understanding of worship from the issue of obedience. We try to separate God’s power from God’s purpose. We think we can come to church on Sunday and sing peppy love songs to Jesus; that we can cuddle up with Him and whisper sweet nothings into His ear yet fail to listen to what He’s saying or be committed to obedience. God help us! Noah had a listening and willing heart. He found grace in the eyes of the Lord. So may it be with us as well.
We are so thankful for your friendship, and we continue to stand with you in prayer. Please feel free to send us your prayer requests. If you have any specific needs for which you would like us to pray, you can send them to CSM PO Box 850067 Mobile, AL 36685. As the Lord leads you, please continue to remember us in your prayers and in your giving this month. We receive testimonies daily from around the world of people who are encouraged by this ministry. Your support helps to make it possible! Thank you!*
Stephen Simpson, President
Scripture referenced: 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Genesis 6:5-9,13-14,17-22; James 1:22; Hebrews 11:1-3, 6-7,verse 34; Hebrews 12
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.