The stories of the Old Testament are entertaining, but they were not written merely to entertain us; they were designed to confront us with important spiritual truths.
In Hebrews 11:7 — ‘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’ — the author refers his readers to the story of Noah and the ark.
Although this story is thousands of years old, it has great meaning and significance for us. It tells us one way in which we are all like Noah — he was ‘divinely warned of things not yet seen’.
The author tells us that Noah was warned in advance of a terrible calamity that was coming: in response to the extreme wickedness of the human race, God was going to send a flood upon the earth.
God directly revealed this information to Noah, and Noah relayed it to his fellow citizens. The Bible tells us that Noah preached to his contemporaries for a period of 120 years. So God preached to Noah, and Noah preached to everyone else.
The same God who warned Noah about the coming flood has also given all of us a clear and distinct warning about the future. No, he does not speak to us in the same way he did to Noah; he rather speaks to us in his Word, the Bible, for this is God’s revealed truth.
This Bible tells us that this world is not all that there is. It is not even most of all there is! There is coming a day in which we must leave this world. We must die, and death is not the end for us — after death comes judgement (Hebrews 9:27).
Judgement day is going to be a horrific experience for those who do not know God. They are going to hear the Lord Jesus say, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matthew 25:41). And off they will go, into the place the Bible calls ‘hell’ and ‘the lake of fire’.
Many object to this teaching, even though they want justice in human society and believe there ought to be prisons for those who violate human laws. We even hear people say of this or that criminal, ‘They ought to lock him up and throw away the key’.
Hell is divine justice. It is God’s prison; a place of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. It is a place of fire and brimstone and the final destination of all those who march proudly through life without regard to God and his laws.
Yes, this is all in the Bible, but it is also written inside us. Unless we have made a determined and concerted effort to ignore and suppress the truth, we know that this world is not all that there is; that we were made by God and must eventually meet him.
Hebrews 11:7 also tells us one way in which we are not like Noah — he ‘prepared an ark’.
After the Lord told Noah about the coming flood, he, the Lord, told him to build an ark. This ark would be the means of salvation for Noah and his family. The great storm that was coming would strike the ark, but it would not strike Noah and his family.
God has told us in his Word about coming judgement and about the horrible reality of hell. He has also told us that there is a way of escape, an ark of safety. That ark is the salvation provided by the Lord Jesus Christ in his redeeming death on the cross.
God does not tell us to build our own ark. He does not tell us to construct our own plan of salvation. He rather tells us to flee to the ark that he has provided — Jesus Christ.
Have you ever given serious thought to what Jesus did there on the cross? We must not think it was just another man dying on another cross. The death of Jesus was special. It was a death like no one before had ever died or anyone since.
On that cross, the storm of God’s wrath actually fell on Jesus. Just as the rain fell on the ark and did not strike Noah, so on the cross the wrath of God fell on Jesus. That same wrath will not strike those who are in Christ.
Then there is one way in which we should all be like Noah — he, ‘by faith’ was ‘moved with godly fear’. We can’t build the ark of our own salvation; God has already done that in Christ. We would do well to recall that when Jesus died on the cross, he cried out, ‘It is finished!’ (John 19:30).
But as Noah got into the ark to escape the flood, we can and must get into Christ if we are to escape God’s wrath in hell.
How do we get into Christ as our ark of safety? The author of our text makes it clear — ‘by faith!’ Faith is taking God at his word. By the grace of God, Noah had faith in God. When he heard God’s message about the impending flood, he believed that message and acted upon it. He was ‘moved with godly fear’.
His faith prompted him to believe God’s warning about judgement, to fear that judgement and take action. Are we to actually fear judgement? Many would say ‘No!’ But Jesus says ‘Yes!’ He says, ‘Fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear him!’ (Luke 12:5).
It seemed utterly ludicrous for Noah to believe as he believed and to act as he acted. There had never even been rain, let alone a flood (Genesis 2:5-6). Noah was in the distinct minority. No one believed God’s message except Noah and his family.
God has given us warning about judgement to come and the awesome reality of hell. He has also told us about the provision for sinners that he has made in and through his Son, the Lord Jesus.
He now calls us to faith in Christ. He commands us to stop believing the foolishness of the world and believe what he tells us to believe. He tells us that believing his message will both put us in the minority and make us objects of ridicule and scorn. But he tells us to believe anyway, remembering this — if we want to be in the majority, we must go to hell (Matthew 7:13-14).