These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. And Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japeth. Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. Then God said to Noah; “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. And this is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. And behold I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife and your son’s wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind shall come to you to keep them alive. And as for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them.” Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.
Genesis 6:9-22 [NASB]
Can you imagine Noah’s thoughts as God gave His instructions? Whether or not it had ever actually rained, nobody had ever seen that much rain. Never had a boat (or any structure probably) been built to such scale as God set forth. What was Noah thinking? “How can I possibly build something that big?” “All the animals? Really?” “Why me?” “Why my family?” “This is impossible.” “People are going to think I am crazy.” and maybe “Holy cow! God’s talking to me!”
There are a lot of details that we never get, like where all the wood came from or who had to muck the stalls, but what we know is that Noah did, in fact, build the ark. And it was because of his faith:
By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Hebrews 11:7 [NASB]
By faith. Noah had no frame of reference for really understanding what a world-wide flood would be…or what an ark was. All he had to go on was what God had said. Yet Noah committed to this massive undertaking. And was it massive! Forget the time and materials, think of the cost this ark was to Noah himself. As soon as Noah committed to doing this thing God told him to do, his entire purpose and identity shifted. From that moment, his life’s focus became fulfilling this calling – it had to. Every decision, every action, of every day, now took on new meaning. And suddenly Noah was no longer “Noah, son of Lamech” now he was “Noah, that crazy guy with the boat.”
You can just imagine the reactions as word of Noah’s project spread. The disbelief. The ridicule.
And if he were wrong? What if God hadn’t spoken? What if he never saw a sprinkle?
Noah had everything to lose. Still, he committed whole-heartedly to the task before him. Why on earth would he do such a thing?
By faith Noah…in reverence prepared an ark
Noah fully believed what God had said, and responded -appropriately- with reverence (i.e. caution). God didn’t have to prove His power to Noah, He didn’t offer any signs, He didn’t even have to pull some burning bush trick just to get his attention. In fact, nowhere in their conversation does God have to say who He is, and nowhere does Noah ask. And do you know why? Noah already knew who God was. In fact, he walked with God (Gen 6:9) just as his great-grandfather had done.
Noah’s faith came from his relationship with God.
We could stop right here, you know. Throw in a few thoughts on how the more you know someone the more you are able to trust them, and that it is the same with us and God. All good, and worth coming back to at some point. But, to me, that isn’t the most impressive or challenging part of Noah’s faith.
What amazes me is that Noah didn’t have a Plan B. In fact, so far as we know, Noah never felt that he needed one. Abraham tried one. So did Moses. But we have no record of Noah wavering. And that is astonishing.
I think it has something to do with the next part of Hebrews 11:7, the part that doesn’t seem so nice:
by which he condemned the world
Did you think we were going to skip over that part? Because we aren’t.
The word for condemned there is katakrino, which can be used in a couple of ways: either to judge against, or to be the good example that exposes another’s faults. So, in context here, this can read one of two ways:
By faith, Noah prepared an ark for the salvation of his household and his example of faith and obedience was so astounding it highlighted how faithless the rest of the world really was.
Or: By faith, Noah prepared an ark, and judged against the world.
I think they are both pretty accurate, don’t you? Noah’s faith was pretty ridiculously big, like he alone was compensating for the lack of faith in the rest of all humanity. And the rest of the world was condemned by the whole not-being-on-the-boat thing. But here is my point: Noah’s act of faith wasn’t getting on the ark, it was building it in the first place. Similarly, Noah’s condemning act wasn’t closing the door of the ark, it was building it in the first place.
Have I lost you?
Let’s look at this again. Remember what I said about Abraham and Moses both trying a Plan B at some point? Well, look at their circumstances. When Abraham laid with Hagar and tried his own hand at fulfilling God’s promise, he was being completely logical according to his time. It was a common thing for barren couples to produce heirs through other members of their household. In this moment, Abraham looked at his circumstances and used the logic of the world to try to resolve his problem.
When Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it, he was listening to the doubts and concerns of the people around him, he let his anger get the best of him, and acted according to what he thought best, rather than what God had asked.
So when God told Noah to build an ark, Noah could have listened to his own fears. He could have asked God how he was ever supposed to be able to do something to massive all on his own. He could have doubted his qualifications. He could have said it was impossible. He could have tried to think of a way to save himself of his own means.
But all of those thoughts are thinking the way the world thinks. So when Noah committed to obeying God and building the ark, he was essentially saying “I am throwing my lot in with God, regardless of what the world may think of me or the impossibility of my task.”
Think of it as an early version of Paul’s attitude in Galatians:
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10 [NASB]
Noah had a relationship with God and trusted that God (and His plan) alone was his salvation. What the world had to say had no bearing on Noah’s commitment to pursuing the new life that God had called him to, so that, from that moment, Noah was dead to the world, and the world was dead to Noah.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this sometimes. From the world’s perspective, my life doesn’t make a lot of sense. I have a degree in a growing field and could easily have a stable, long-term career. But I have chosen instead a life of full-time ministry and am dependent on God’s provision through donor support. I don’t know where I will be in the next five months, let alone the next five years, and the only real reason I have to give is “because God called me to.” On a good day, that is a hard sell. On a bad day, I question it myself. But Noah inspires me to live in the conviction of my calling, to trust God -even when what He is asking seems completely insane.
So what about you? Is knowing God enough reason for you to trust Him? Is there something He is asking you to do that you hesitate to commit to because it doesn’t make sense from the world’s perspective? Or how do you react when the world questions your calling?