Even if you never, ever went to Sunday school as a kid I’d bet money you’ve heard this song.
And, if the name Noah evokes images cartoon safari animals and sad little people who get happy because there’s a rainbow, plus tons of weird questions (starting with “Does God really call it an arky arky?”), know you are not alone. It’s no wonder most of us don’t realize how important the flood story really is.
I’ll tell you right from the beginning – this story is deep and complicated. There’s plenty I don’t know. I’ve read the teachings of renowned scholars, both Jewish and Gentile, and know there’s some deep stuff in here. I have ideas and some beliefs that I’m not going to share here because 1. I’m not a scholar, and 2. Some things are worth digging out for yourself. But it is instrumental to our Christian faith and worth studying, even if it brings up more questions than can be answered in one blog post.
Take a few minutes to read the Biblical account from a translation you can easily understand. It’s worth the time! Read Genesis chapters 5-9:17. I know. The headings look like you should start at chapter 6 and lineages are boring, but stick with me. You know things are rough when we go from Creation to God’s decision to destroy all of creation in six short chapters. Let’s find out why.
Chapter five starts us off with such an interesting verse.
“This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his own image, and named him Seth.”
Whoa. Take a minute and write down you thoughts here. What are the implications of Adam being made in God’s image, but his children being in his likeness, not God’s? Remember, Seth was born after Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden. He was born after sin entered the world.
Another really, really interesting thing to do if you have some time is make a timeline of chapter five. (I know. What a nerdy thing to do, but it is FASCINATING.) It’s so hard to not be a spoiler here! If you do this notice three things –
1. How incredibly cool is Enoch?
2. Pay attention to Enoch’s son. When did he die? Don’t you wonder how he died?? This is definitely one of my questions I’ll probably forget I want to ask God when I get to heaven.
3. How many generations were there before the flood? How many past (i.e. how many sons were born) after the time of Adam’s death?
Even if you don’t make your own timeline, this part is too important to pass up.
Noah was a part of the very first generation born after Adam’s death! Isn’t that crazy? Adam WALKED with God in the garden, and ten generations later mankind was so corrupt God regretted ever creating them. In fact, Enoch was Noah’s great-grandfather. His grandpa was so connected to God he didn’t even die! We can tell from our timeline that Noah wasn’t even born yet when that happened, but surely his father and grandfather remembered Enoch and knew his story. Yet both of these men died the same year as the flood. Did they die in the flood? Maybe. We don’t know. Regardless, only Noah “found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” The KJV says, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Isn’t that beautiful? There’s no Scriptural reason to believe he was perfect or holy. Instead he was a man who knew God and was saved by grace.
Chapter 6 gets us to the why of it all. Mankind had gone south in a serious way. Regardless of who you believe the Nephilim were or where they came from, it’s obvious they made quite an impression. Many scholars believe they were renowned because they were wicked which made them notorious across the land. Sounds like their children were wicked too. Re-read 6:5-10. Just like his great-grandpa Enoch and his ancestor before him, Adam, Noah walked with God. The world was falling apart and yet God still walked and talked with Noah. Chapter 6 goes on to tell how God filled Noah in on what was about to happen and gave specific instructions on how to build the ark to save himself and the animals. Not only that, God gave Noah a sneak peek at the promise he was going to make.
From Sunday school most of us assume there were two of every animal on the ark: a “mommy” one and a “daddy” one, right? Take a good look at Genesis 6:19-20 and 7:2-3. How many animals were on the ark? Do you think it was every single animal or every type of animal? (For instance, was there one of every breed of dog, or dogs in general?) How these questions are answered makes a big difference for the image in your mind, doesn’t it?
Chapter 7 gives us the details of the flood itself.
I find it intriguing that there’s no account of how the animals got to the ark. Did Noah have to round them up or did God send them there? I don’t know. Evidently this little detail isn’t what we’re supposed to know here, but Verse 5 is. What does it say?
Let’s write down a few details from chapter 7 so we don’t miss their significance.
Who all was on the ark with Noah?
When did the flood start?
How long were they in the ark before the rain began?
Who shut the door?
How long did the flooding last?
How deep was the water?
How long did the water last?
Those are some crazy numbers! We’ve all watched the flooding in Houston from Hurricane Harvey. It’s been devastating and will take months to recover. Can you imagine 40 days of flooding? And another five months of just floating around in all that water?
Chapter 8 starts with some beautiful words. “But God remembered Noah”. God had not abandoned the only eight people left on the earth and the animals, even though surely there were moments it felt that way. Instead, what did God do? When did the ark finally settle on Mount Ararat? When did they finally see the tops of the mountains again?
Once they could see land again, Noah started a series of tests to see if it was time to leave the ark. For several weeks in a row he sent out birds to test and see if the land was ready: first a raven, then a dove. (There is so much symbolism here with the dove and olive branch. If you’re looking to dig a little deeper on your own this would be a great study!)
According to 8:13, when were the waters dried up from the ground?
Look at verse 14. How much time passes between when “the waters were dried from off the earth” (v13) and when God told Noah he could go from the ark? (v14)
I don’t know about you, but to me that feels like the hardest part of Noah’s obedience. Build a boat without probably ever seeing one before? Check.
Find pairs of all kinds of animals? Check.
Live in a floating stable with grown kids and inlaws and stinky animals? Check. Check.
Stay in that boat one more second after seeing that the water was gone? Mmmm…not so sure about that.
In total, how long was Noah, his wife, sons, daughters in law, and all those animals in the ark?
Noah’s first recorded act after leaving the ark was to build and altar and sacrifice some of every clean animal and every clean bird to God. It pleased the Lord, and this is when God made His promise – His covenant with all people.
“I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down ever living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” 8:21,22.
It’s defined even further in 9:9-11. Go ahead and read it. How amazing is this? This promise wasn’t just for Noah and his family. It wasn’t just for the Israelites later. This promise is for EVERYONE. All mankind. Forever. And all the animals. Isn’t that incredible? Have you ever been with an animal during a storm? They’re nervous and scared. God even promises them that total destruction will never happen again.
In verse 12 we finally see the rainbow. Not over the boat full of fluffy baby animals like so many pictures portray it, but after everyone has left the ark and sacrifices have been made.
“And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations….’When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’”
One thing I’ve always found fascinating is that a flood account is a part of almost every civilization throughout history. Over and over again missionaries have found bits of biblical truth in all cultures that can be pointed back to the One True God. The flood story is one that comes up again and again and shows God’s grace and mercy for those who love Him. It’s one that is referenced in the New Testament too. Even Jesus tells us His return will be just like in the days of Noah.
Read Matthew 24:36-44.
In the days of Noah, the whole world was focused on just living life. “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away”. That’s when they realized it was too late. Everything they deemed important wasn’t important at all. Today we remember the story of Noah as both a warning and a beautiful story of grace. We have the opportunity walk with God, just like Noah. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection has brought salvation for us all. There is grace available for all, not just a few on a stinky boat. Today don’t be one who is caught unaware. Don’t assume there will always be more time to live the life you “know you should” or to make different choices. Matthew 24:44 says, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
We don’t know how much longer we have here on this earth. Don’t wait. If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Savior and leader of your life, what’s stopping you? You can do it easily right this moment. All you have to do is talk to Jesus just like you’re talking to a friend. Tell Him your fears, your mistakes. Ask Him to lead you and guide you. Thank Him for coming into your life. If you have questions and feel like you need someone to talk and pray with, reach out! Call your pastor, a believing friend, or one of us here at HFL. We’re all happy to talk with you. You don’t need all the answers or to have your life together. You only need a willing heart that believes Jesus gave himself for you. It really is that easy.