Trust and Obey
Thus Noah did, according to all that God had commanded him, so he did. (Genesis 6:22)
God has surveyed the corruption of mankind at the time of Noah, saying that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Consequently he told Noah that he would destroy every living thing from the face of the earth. Noah had found favour with God, being justified by faith but also proving it by living blamelessly and righteously. Now God tells him to build an ark of gopher wood (probably cypress wood but no one knows for sure) and to cover it on the inside and outside with pitch or tar. The Hebrew word for pitch also means expiation. Just as the pitch was to keep the waters of judgment from seeping into the ark and drowning the inhabitants, so the expiating blood of Jesus keeps the wrath of God from seeping into our lives and consuming us. Noah was to construct an ark, not a boat (there were no navigation instruments) and the Hebrew word is the same one used to describe the basket in which baby Moses was placed at the Nile River (Exod. 2:3). And later Yahweh would prescribe the ark of the covenant which also provided God’s presence and deliverance from sin (Exod. 25:10).
God told Noah to make the ark with three decks; the length of the ark was to be three hundred cubits (a cubit was roughly eighteen inches long), the width fifty cubits, and the height thirty cubits – that is four hundred and fifty feet, by seventy-five feet, by forty-five feet. Not until the mid-nineteenth century did any ship approach the size of Noah’s ark. Some have suggested the ark had a displacement of forty-three thousand tons, had a storage capacity of four hundred and fifty thousand cubic yards (one double-deck railroad car can safely carry two hundred and forty sheep, and the ark was the equivalent of five hundred and sixty-nine double-deck railroad cars), carried twenty-five hundred tons of food, and over one million gallons of water. If ‘kind’ in the text is similar in the taxonomic rank to ‘family’ then two thousand ‘kinds’ of animals were on the ark. If ‘kind’ is similar to ‘genus’ then the number is more like sixteen thousand ‘kinds’ of animals. Even with the latter number the ark would have only been at fifty percent capacity.1 Then God told Noah to place a window in the ark, perhaps to remind him and his family, as they saw the carnage of human and animal flesh rotting on the surface of the water, of his mercy to them, of their mighty deliverance by his righteous right hand (Isa. 41:10). He was told to build one door in the side, the only one through which his family and the animals could enter, reminding us that we enter by the narrow gate (Matt. 7:13-14), pointing to Jesus as the only means of eternal salvation (Acts 4:12, John 14:6). God promised to make his covenant with Noah, probably referring to that which he fleshed out in more detail later (Gen. 9:9ff). Noah, as the federal or covenant head of his family, was responsible to God for their welfare. He was to lead his family in the things of God. So must every husband and father in our day who names the name of Jesus.
Have you ever pondered the remarkable faith and obedience it took on Noah’s part to accomplish the construction of the ark? We know he was at the task for one hundred and twenty-years. He believed what God said, that judgment was coming, that God was using him to preserve his family and some of the animals as a remnant. So daily he cut down trees, planed them into boards, gathered pitch, and slowly built the ark. His sons probably helped him but the work surely was drudgery. There was nothing exciting or romantic about it. Every day (no doubt he rested on the Sabbath), day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year for one hundred and twenty years! Keep in mind that the Cainites were murderous and sensuous, and no doubt mocked him. He stayed at it! Amazing!
What does this mean for you? Obedience and faith are foundational for joy and peace in this world and the next. Consider these three things briefly. First, obedience in the little things enables obedience in the big things. The day to day sanctified drudgery of ark building was anything but exciting. Probably ninety-nine percent of your daily work is not very exciting either – taking care of children, doing your job at work, running your family – but it is amazing how these little building blocks of life, when faithfully added each day to the structure of your life and family, over many years, will build a glorious edifice of God’s presence in your family. Do the little things each day – private and family devotional times, small group Bible Studies and accountability groups, public worship, going to work on time and being faithful in it, tithing and saving, living within your means. After many years you will be able to look back in wonder, seeing God’s bountiful provision.
Then, not only obedience in the little things but also faith is vital. That’s because without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Faith has at least three components. First, you must learn the promises of God and claim them, what the Puritans call ‘pleading the promises of God.’ For example, Jesus said, ‘Give, and it will be given to you, full measure, pressed down, overflowing into your lap’ (Luke 6:38). You plead this promise by saying to your heavenly Father, ‘God, I believe what you say here. If I give my money to your work then you promise to cause me to overflow in abundance. You promise that if I move toward those who hate me, if I love my enemy, if I pray for those who despitefully use me, then you will bless me beyond anything I can imagine. You say it. I believe you will do it.’ Second, you must learn to do the next thing correctly. These mostly are the little things in life. After reading this, what is your next task for the day? Well, just do it. The will of God is not rocket science. It is actually very simple. Just do what he is commanding you to do for this proves your love for him and your faith in him (John 14:15, James 2:14-17). And third, learn to wait upon God (Psa. 27:14, Isa. 40:31). By this kind of waiting I do not mean sitting in your doctor’s office, thumbing through a magazine as you await your turn to see him. I mean a kind of waiting that is active. You are looking, expecting, praying, believing he will answer in his time.
Faithfulness in little things will eventually bring opportunity to be faithful in bigger things (Matt. 25:21). God wants to see you prove yourself in little, non-romantic things before entrusting you with something bigger – like a football coach with a rookie quarterback who only gives him easy reads and easy throws, nothing too fancy – like a father who refuses to allow his sixteen year old daughter to drive from Hartford to Los Angeles. She must first prove herself capable.
Are you obeying God in the little things of life? Are you believing what he says – his promises, threats, admonitions, comforts? Trust and obey. For there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.
- See John Woodmorappe’s Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study, and James Boice’s, Genesis, Creation and Fall, volume one.
Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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