The Sixteenth Century of His-Story – A Very Small Church Preaches and Builds the Ark by Faith

As Noah watched people depart from the church in apostasy and the old pillars of faith, Methuselah and Lamech, grow older while the youth flocked to the thrills of the ungodly world, God looked upon Noah in Christ with singular delight. Noah found grace in the eyes of Jehovah because God had chosen him from all eternity, grafted him into Christ, and delivered him from the power and guilt of sin so that he in thankfulness walked with his God in covenant fellowship. Clinging by faith to the promise of God to crush the head of the serpent with the seed of the woman, Noah waited and looked to God. By the 16th century of history, Noah was about 450 years old; and God blessed him with three sons when he was 500. As he faithfully taught his young boys the fear of Jehovah, God himself spoke to Noah: “The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood” (Gen. 6:13–14a).

God then gave to Noah instructions for building the ark, and Noah did “according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” (verse 22) He followed the astounding instructions to every last detail, and openly declared his faith by preaching the contents of his faith. (2 Pet. 2:5; Heb. 11:7) “The promised seed will be born! You who mock and believe that the church will soon die out and free you from the preaching of God’s judgment will soon be destroyed with a flood of water. God is righteous. Your rebellion will not stand before him. God sovereignly works out the salvation he has prepared for his church. I build this ark at the command of the God who has created this earth and who will save his church with a flood.”

With great zeal and care Noah saw to it that the great gopher wood trees of the forest round about were cut down, shaped, and fitted according to the measurements revealed by God. We can be sure that this new flurry of activity and news of a great building project aroused the attention of the ungodly. They were experts at building cities and anything else to satisfy their desires, but what was this? What is this huge, pointless box Noah is building? Noah was not embarrassed to explain the coming judgment of God. The same God who had faithfully and consistently revealed himself in the church to his fathers had now revealed his will and purpose to Noah. God’s purpose was to destroy the monstrous wickedness of man that had developed, scour the earth with water, and preserve the righteous in Christ along with the life of birds, animals, and other creatures in this ark. According to man’s reason, this preaching was foolishness, and the ark simply a monument to a dying and soon-to-be dead church. God restrained their impulse to put a quick end to the sting of Noah’s preaching, prolonged their entertainment of mockery as they watched and perhaps even helped to build the ark, and in doing so filled the cup of God’s wrath upon them.

Throughout the 120 years of building, the sun came up the same every day. Noah’s three boys grew up in the shadow of this growing ark. The chopping of wood, the moving of ingenious ramp and crane mechanisms to hoist huge timbers into place, and the preaching of their father was all they knew. As the roof went on, and barrels of pitch were gathered and prepared to seal the ark, a new and increasingly frequent line of scorn cackled from the lips of the wicked, “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:4). Once this ark is built and nothing happens, they reasoned, the ark will serve as a final coffin and monument to a dead church, and we will dance around it in victory.

Noah faithfully built the ark in those final days of the old world, and today we labor as well to build up the church in the final days before the last judgment. Christ comes quickly, and God has given us clear direction in the work he would have us do to prepare for his coming. It is a work of proclaiming the gospel to the ends of the world, and also a work of bearing covenant children, rearing them in the fear of the Lord, and having fellowship with one another in the church. This work is clearly explained to us in the book of Thessalonians as a “work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father” (1 Thess. 1:3). This is a labor of faith, not family planning. It is a labor of love, not the selfish accumulation of wealth for our own enjoyment. It is a labor rooted in the hope of Christ’s return to gather his church. In doing this, the church of Thessalonica itself gave testimony to the world around to her faith and hope (vv. 7–8). The instruction continues with the words “walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory” (2:12). We are “to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men” (3:12).

The earthly occupations we have to provide income may not so absorb our time and energy that we don’t have time for this work in the church, but neither do we neglect our daily work in the home, factory, or business. The Thessalonians made the mistake of stopping their work and waiting around for Christ, but Paul exhorts them to “study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (1 Thess. 4:11–12). Providing for the children God gives us requires hard work and sacrifice. We work together to build schools where we can hire and support godly teachers. This work requires diligence, patience, and love toward one another.

Noah lived every day in the conscious awareness that God was soon coming in judgment and redemption. He did not become so absorbed in the work that he fell asleep spiritually. The living word of God was actively preached as he worked. Paul reminds the church, “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thess. 5:6). We must be active in the church, supporting one another as well as the office bearers. We read in verses 11–13, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”

Let us cheerfully take up the work that God has given to us, and work like Noah did, in faith. Compared to the billions of people around us, the church which holds to “the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle (2 Thess. 2:15), is very small. Unlike Noah, who worked virtually alone with his family, we have brothers and sisters in the Lord to give encouragement and comfort. We also have faithful preachers for whom we are called to pray “that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified” (3:1). Let us pray for peace and harmony in the church that this work continue until it is completed and Christ comes to redeem his people with judgment.