People in the West danced starry-eyed into the 20th century, envisioning a new age of utopian bliss on their horizon. With hopes grounded in the education and evolution of mankind, they had no categories for the depths of evil residing in the human heart. Evil simply defined a construct jettisoned long ago into the superstitious refuse heap of times past when ignorance reigned. A new day had arrived.
Sadly, that new day birthed leaders who marched the world into dictatorships, genocide, and war. In fact, in the hundred years of the century, approximately 200 million people were plunged into eternity by monumental violence, government-sponsored terror, war, and genocide. It’s well-nigh impossible to wrap our heads around such a staggering number—200 millions lives obliterated off the face of the earth.
How many times must we hear and ignore the definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. But true to form, educators, historians, and politicians continue to tell us that if we come to understand the origin of such events, we can prevent their being repeated in the future. Really? All you and I have to do is undergo educational enlightenment and these senseless atrocities will never happen again?
The Escalation of Wickedness
After the fall of Adam and Eve, the earth became populated with their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. As people multiplied, disobedience to God escalated and wickedness prevailed. Moses describes the times of Noah as “great” wickedness, so great that sin reached the point of no return. It could be said that before the waters of the deluge covered the earth, a deluge of sin immersed the earth in wickedness. And think of it—we’re only a few pages into the first book of the Bible.
Moses informs us that the problem wasn’t simply sinful acts of corruption and violence. No, as we all know, sinful acts are the external manifestations of what resides in the human heart. Of Noah’s neighbors as well as all the inhabitants of the earth, God tells us that “every intention” of their thoughts was “only evil continually.” It makes me think of David’s words in Psalm 14:3, “The have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” So the Antediluvian world put on display the human heart devoid of the Spirit of God.
But God never leaves us destitute of a light in the darkness. Shining forth through all this evil was the amazing power of grace in the life of Noah. As the world rushed headlong towards destruction, Noah and his family stood firm in faith. How’s your family holding up? Do you believe you live in a world of corruption and violence? Maybe spending some time with a man who ran the race and won the prize could help us in running the race set before us in a world gone mad. Unlike most of us, Noah didn’t possess a pastor, a church or a single godly friend to encourage him, yet he lived his life contra mundum for at least 120 years while building the ark.
The Only Remedy
So how did Noah live a faithful life in a world drunk on violence and corruption? What counsel would Noah give to you and to me if we were able to sit down over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table and have a heart-to-heart talk with the man? Calvin explains Noah’s life this way: “He sees, therefore, this to be his only remedy; namely, to disregard men, that he may fix all his thoughts on God, and make Him the sole Arbiter of his life.” If we stop and ponder Calvin’s observation, I think we will find a blueprint for building biblical fortitude into our lives in this present age.
1. Disregard men.
2. Fix all your thoughts on God.
3. Make God the sole arbiter of your life.
All three of these exhortations could fill pages of blog posts and hours of sermons. But I think most of us understand the point being made by Calvin via Noah. How different our lives would be if we took this counsel to heart. Rather than chewing our nails with worry over what other people think of us, we would refocus our attention on what God thinks of us. Instead of today’s media capsizing our minds in a sea of confusion, triviality, and fake news, we would be thinking God’s thoughts after Him. And think of the money we would save on self-help books and life-coaching conferences if we made God the sole arbiter of our lives.
The story of Noah and his family often gets relegated to the children’s Sunday School hour and left there. Not that Noah’s story isn’t important in that venue. I’m a Sunday School teacher who loves sharing the Gospel with young children from every book in the Bible. But there’s a certain familiarity with the flood account that inoculates us from its deeper truths and warnings. Our minds like to woo us into believing that we already know this story and can move on to something more relevant, more applicable, more comforting.
Noah has much to teach us about trusting God while living in a perverse generation, about knowing the sinfulness of our own hearts, about the abundant grace of God in Christ that is greater than all our sin, and about the power of grace that keeps us waking up believers each new morning. Noah, “a preacher of righteousness,” points us to the Word of God alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, to God be the glory alone. As the writer to the Hebrews puts it, “By faith, Noah being warned by God about things not yet seen in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household by which he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”
Brothers and sisters, are your hands busy with the tools of ark building? Are you living on the righteousness that is according to faith? The times in which we live are not for the faint of heart. Let’s take up the means of grace God has mercifully and abundantly provided for us and run this race to win.