In The Days of Noah
The area in which I live, about 66 miles east from the mighty Mississippi River, is known for its share of floods. In recent memory, there has been extensive flooding in 2008, 1993, and 1986. Also, anyone familiar with American history has probably heard of the great Johnstown Flood of Pennsylvania in 1889, which killed some 2,209 people. However, the greatest flood ever in the history of this earth took places in the days of Noah as recorded in Genesis 6:1-22.
First, we read about Noah's world in verses 1-7: "Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, 'My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.' There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. 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.'”
There is no basis upon which to conclude that angels were cohabiting with human women and producing giants. In Matthew 22.30, Jesus said, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” This implies that angels do not engage in sexual intercourse. Certainly, the text says that there were giants, but they were not necessarily the product of angel-human unions. These “giants” are also referred to as “men of renown,” so they could have been giants metaphorically in the sense of being notable leaders or having great strength. Even if they were giants physically, the fact is that human genetics allows that some people are simply larger than others. Just consider the Watusi of East Africa as compared to their neighbors the Pygmies.
The term "sons of God" can sometimes refer to angels as it seems likely in Job 1:6, where we read, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” However, here it most likely refers to the godly line of Seth who married daughters of man from the ungodly line of Cain and became corrupted. Some have used this example to teach that it is a sin for a Christian to marry a non-Christian. This is a question which has been much debated, but one thing is for sure. It is always best for one who wants to be a faithful Christian to marry one who is a faithful Christian. “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39).
In any event, the main point of this passage is that all mankind, even the godly line, became corrupted by sin. This illustrates the point made by Paul in Romans 3:23 as he writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And in the days of Noah, God promised to punish those who lived in wickedness, just as He promises now that all who persist in sin today will be punished. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Second, however, in contrast to the evil world we read about Noah's character in verses 8-12: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” Noah found favor with God. Why?
The text says that he was just. The word “just” means righteous. Of course, none of us is perfectly righteous (Romans 3:9-10). However, the general idea of being just or righteous is that of doing what is right in the sight of God. “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous: (1 John 3.7). The opposite of righteousness is unrighteousness, doing what is not right in the sight of God, which is sin. “All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death” (1 John 5.17). While the world around him was characterized by wickedness and evil, Noah was noted for his aim to do what is right before God.
The text also says that Noah was perfect. The word “perfect” does not necessarily mean absolutely sinless, since all responsible human beings, including Noah, have sinned. Rather, it suggests being complete before God by being blameless. In Genesis 17.1, we read “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.’” The word “blameless” here is the same one translated “perfect” in Genesis 6:9 and is rendered “perfect” in the old King James Version. Strong’s Concordance gives several terms like “without blemish,” “without spot,” “undefiled,” and “upright” to explain its meaning. God would not command Abram to be something that it was impossible for him to be. The Lord also tells us to be perfect in this sense. “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5.48).
And finally, the text says that Noah walked with God. The same thing is said of Noah’s ancestor Enoch. “Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5.21-24). The Hebrew writer shows that this means that Enoch lived by faith and thus pleased God (Hebrews 11:5). In other words, both Enoch and Noah served God faithfully. We also are told to please God by walking in the light (1 John 1:5-7).
Third, we read about Noah's instructions in verses 13-21: "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 this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. 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.'”
We are told that God spoke to Noah. How did He do this? We do not know exactly, other than it must have apparently been in some kind of direct fashion. However, the Bible teaches that God does not so speak today as He did to Noah and the other patriarchs. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2). How does God speak to us by His Son? “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).
However, since God does speak to us in the Scripture, which is His written word, we need to have the same attitude toward what He tells us that Noah did toward what God told 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 11:7). Noah was warned to prepare for the flood and told exactly how to do it. We are likewise warned to prepare for the second coming of Christ and also told precisely how to do so.
“Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.' For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:3-13).
Fourth, we read about Noah's obedience in verse 22: “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” While there is no doubt that Noah was saved by God’s grace, we must remember that the saving of his household was also the result of Noah’s own obedience in preparing the ark. The apostle Peter draws an important comparison. “Who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1Peter 3:20-21).
Jesus taught about the importance of obedience to God. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). It is not enough to know God’s will or even to talk about it. We must do what He says. “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17; cf. John 14:15, 15:14). And Jesus does not require of us anything that He Himself was not willing to do. “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:8-9; cf. Philippians 2:5-8).
Paul also taught about the necessity of obedience in God’s plan for our salvation. “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). Like Jesus, Paul did not demand that people do something that He was unwilling to do. “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). One specific instance of his obedience is seen in that when He saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was told “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). He did, and according to his own later account, a man named Ananias came and told him what he must do. “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). What was Paul’s response? “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).
What happens to those who do not obey God? What do you think would have happened to Noah if he had not obeyed? The fact is that we do not know for sure because he did obey, but it is not unreasonable to conclude that if he had not followed God’s instructions, he and his family would not have been spared. In any event, God has plainly revealed what will happen to those who do not obey Him. “And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
In conclusion, Noah is frequently mentioned in the New Testament. Consider these two others, besides the ones mentioned previously. “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37). “And did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5). Apparently, the Lord has many important lessons for us to learn from “the days of Noah.” One of them most certainly is that just as God destroyed the earth with a flood in the days of Noah, so He has promised that He shall destroy the earth by fire when the Lord returns. However, just as Noah obeyed God and saved himself and his household, so God offers us His grace that we might obey His will and be saved.
By Wayne S.
From Expository Files 23.8; August 2016