Even at the point when Noah and his family enter the ark, they are still stepping out in faith. What if the flood doesn’t come and they go onto the boat a week but nothing happens so that they have to re-emerge looking rather silly? What if the ark doesn’t hold up against the flood waters, it proves insufficient and breaks apart or sinks? What if it turns out that there is no hope at the other side. Each step forward in the journey requires faith.
Read Genesis 7:11-24
Noah and his family go onto the boat and are joined by all of the creatures. This section of the account places their embarkment on the very day the flood starts. This is probably both to emphasise the connection between the two and the work that would have been involved through the week of loading everybody and everything up. Notice that it is God who shuts them in from the outside, they are completely dependent on him (v11-16).
The waters increase over a 40 day period so that the mountain tops are covered. Whilst some have minimised this as a localised/regional flood, I believe that we are intended to read it as describing an event affecting the whole of the Earth. That flood stories exist around the world, beyond the Ancient Near East invites us to believe that. A covering of water may of course include an ice-age in colder climates (v17-20).
Everything dies. The description of all “in whose nostrils was the breath of life died” points us back to Genesis 1-2. It was God that breathed life in to them and so it is God who can withdraw it. This also causes us to see the event in terms of an act of de-creation as the filling and structuring/ordering of the land is reversed (v20-22).
All is “blotted out” just as God said would happen. The only survivor is Noah along with his family. Notice there that the focus is on Noah and so all other survivors owe their survival to their connection to him. We might say that they were saved “in Noah” (v23). The waters continue to cover the earth for 150 days meaning that Noah his family and the animals spend the best part of six months on the ark (v24).
You will notice that I highlighted verse 23, the salvation of Noah’s family was not based on their righteousness. Rather, they were saved through his righteousness. Noah offers us a type, or a foreshadowing of Christ. Just as salvation from the flood was in Noah, so salvation from sin is in Christ.
Stepping out in faith
We started by talking about how each little step forward required faith. At the same time, each step came with re-assurances from God. They were able to trace his faithfulness to his word and to them. The arrival of the animals and their willingness to enter the ark would have been one sign. Another sign was that God himself acted to shut the door, it wasn’t Noah’s doing. Finally, we see the rains themselves coming. The start of the judgement was surely evidence that God would keep his word and complete the work started. There would be an end to the period of judgement just as he promised.
So, we too can take those little steps of faith. As we do, we experience God’s faithfulness to his promises, his character and to us. It’s as we step out in faith that we grow in faith as we learn to trust God more and more.