Noah built the ark out of obedience, but even he could not keep the rain out. Only the Lord could keep Noah safe from the waters of His wrath.
“Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh… that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth’” (Gen. 8:15–17).
- Genesis 8:13–17
Noah was indeed a righteous and faithful man, but his later transgression makes it clear he was all too like the first Adam, which points us to God, not man, for salvation. Any honorable deed he performed was only possible because of the transformative grace of God that first renewed his heart, just as the Spirit must first enable all sinners who trust in the Lord (John 3:5).
Without question, the flood was an act of God’s wrath against evil. What may be less apparent, however, is the grace God shows in these chapters of Genesis. Notably, the story illustrates both the special grace of our Creator as well as the common grace He bestows upon all men.
When Jehovah promised to His people that the woman’s seed would bruise the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15), He put His honor on the line. Since He will not suffer the lessening of His glory (Isa. 42:8), He has to keep His promises, and thus He must preserve a seed if He is to be true to His Word. Nevertheless, this is an obligation the Lord places upon Himself; there is nothing in us that compels Him. The decision to sustain mankind at all is gracious because it is His decision alone.
Furthermore, even though our Creator has willed to use men to destroy Satan, He has not chosen to use every individual. Out of a race kept alive only by grace, He has called out many on whom He sets a unique, effectual love for salvation (Rom. 9:18). Noah was saved not because he was good but because Jehovah decided to establish His covenant with him (Gen. 6:18). Noah’s righteousness evidenced this choice but was not the basis for it (James 2:14–26).
The Lord must love His people before they love Him because man cannot save himself. Unlike other flood stories where the hero closes its door, God shuts Noah in the ark (Gen. 7:16b). Out of obedience, Noah built the ark, but even he could not keep the rain out. Only the Lord could keep him safe from the waters of His wrath.
Some might argue Noah helped save himself by building the ark. Note however, it was the Lord who graciously gave Him the blueprints for it (Gen. 6:15–16). Moreover, it was not his work that justified him but rather his faith in God to which his obedient construction, possible only because of the Lord’s grace, added nothing (Eph. 2:8). If you are a Christian, it is because God first loved you (1 John 4:19). Praise Him for His work of salvation.
Passages for Further Study
- Jer. 30:10–22
- John 6:44
- Acts 13:48
- Eph. 1:3–10