Years ago a well-known comedian imagined what that first conversation God had with Noah must have been like.
It is absolutely fascinating to find millennia old blueprints for a massive ocean liner in the Bible, but there it is. God commenced with precise and explicit instructions, down to the cubit. In fact, the dimensions and seaworthiness of the ark were once tested on a smaller scale and sure enough, the ark could have stayed afloat with all that weight aboard. Still, whether you accept the ark of antiquity as a real artifact, or an ancient legend, the ark does serve as a symbol or type, pointing to something else.
- It was made of gopher wood. No one today knows what type of wood that is, but the word “gopher” holds meaning. “Gopher” and the word “pitch” which occurs in this passage, is the same Hebrew word used later in Exodus to mean “atonement.” All three of these words come from the same basic Hebrew root, which means “to cover.” Thus, the ark was made from “atonement wood,” and it was made water-proof with “atonement pitch.”
You can see where this headed. The ark of the covenant, described in Exodus, had an “atonement cover,” also called the “mercy seat” of God, which leads to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who carried, in a mysterious way, all believers with Him as He brought His own through death and into the newness of eternal life.
- There was only one door in the ark. God provided only one way of salvation (an ark) and only one door into that salvation. People could not be saved by any method they wished, but only through God’s provision. The same is true today. The apostle John quoted Jesus as saying, “I am the door: by me if anyone enter in, you shall be saved,” and “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” That is a hard saying, and there are several ways to understand what Jesus meant by that. It is not a saying meant to exclude, I think. It is rather a revelation to bring clarity.
So, Noah persevered in faith, and expressed his faith in his willingness to continue building, and to continue explaining what he was doing to whomever would listen. He and his family must have often felt discouraged, and felt tempted to give up. This was not an immediate rescue. What God asked of Noah was going to take a long time, involving hardship, sacrifice, focus and perseverance. Let’s look at the numbers,
- In Genesis 5:32, we find out Noah was 500 years old when his sons were born (whether they were triplets, or born close together, we don’t know).
- In Genesis 6:30, God began the countdown at 120 years.
- In Genesis 7:6, we discover Noah was 600 years old when the Flood came.
If we take the story at face value, then Noah started his work alone, at 480 years old, or possibly his father and grandfather joined him, in those earlier years, though they were certainly very old men by that point. (For a fascinating prophecy, embedded in the meaning of Noah’s ancestors’ names, see “His Death Shall Bring It”)
After about twenty years, Noah’s sons were born, and they grew up in their unusual family, building the ark as their after-school activity.
For another hundred years Noah, his wife, and their small family were a tiny island of godliness in a sea of godlessness. Noah’s sons joined with their father in this long, hard walk of obedience, patiently sharing their faith, and God’s plan of rescue. They stockpiled vast quantities of food. They became naturalists, observing and capturing every kind of creature, making sure they had a viable breeding pair of each. They created habitats for these creatures within the ark, and prepared for the long sojourn they would be spending together.
And, Noah preached to all who would listen. Imagine how he might have felt, as a preacher and teacher, when the only people who consistently listened, and ended up believing, were his own family and no others. Even after 100 years of solid, faithful ministry…
[Glass Ark | Pixabay]