By Rosie Moore.
The apostle Peter called Noah a “herald of righteousness”. His message was folly to the perishing, but a powerful rescue plan for the eight people who believed God’s word and took refuge in the Ark:
“If he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:5, 9).
(Please read Gen 6 and 7.)
A herald is a person or object viewed as a sign that something momentous is about to happen.
Noah acted as a herald for 120 years by warning his neighbours and friends that God was going to put an end to every living thing on the earth, as the ancient world was so full of violence and corruption (Gen 6:12-13). As a herald of righteousness, Noah warned the people of a catastrophic flood that would engulf the whole world, inviting them to take shelter in the Ark that God had provided for safety. But only Noah’s family survived.
The incineration of the entire town of Lahaina on 8th August 2023 illustrates how vital a trustworthy herald is. With no warning sirens to alert the residents of Lahaina of the coming hurricane, most were caught unawares by the worst natural disaster in Hawaii’s history. No one could outrun the wind-fanned fires which swept through the town and the only escape route was a single road out of Lahaina. The death toll is still unknown and survivors’ stories are heartbreaking.
Hearing of the annihilation of this small town on Maui island made me think of the important role of a herald. Noah was not only a herald of the great flood that wiped out the ancient world. In a prophetic sense, he was also a herald of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Herald of the gospel.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that “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.” (Heb 11:7)
Through Noah’s example, we are encouraged to keep preaching the gospel even though many will reject and scoff at our message. Noah shows us what it looks like to faithfully obey God and persistently preach the gospel in season and out of season. Without a preacher, people will perish (Rom 10:14-15).
There are two floods in the story of Noah. One is a flood of evil. The second is a flood of divine judgment:
Flood of evil.
The context in which Noah preached was probably more hostile than ours. The world was flooded with wickedness. Genesis 6:5-8 is a sober indictment of a truly depraved culture.
In Noah’s time, “God saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 6:5-8).
In stark contrast, one man remembered and walked with the God of creation. “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God” (Gen 6:10). He found favour in the eyes of the Lord (Gen 6:8).
Noah obeyed the Lord by building the ark even though nothing of its kind had ever existed before (Gen 6:14-16, 19-22). He simply trusted and obeyed God without question: “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him” (Gen 6:22).
Noah’s patience, obedience and faith were extraordinary, but only God could have given him the strength and grace to carry out his monumental task. Based on God’s instructions, Noah built a 300-cubit boat on a piece of dry land, located six day’s journey from the sea. The ship was the size of one-and-a-half rugby fields, with a height of a modern four-story house. And it took Noah 120 years to complete the Ark and gather in the animals (Gen 6:13-14). Now that’s longterm commitment to a project! Noah was six hundred years old when the relentless deluge began.
Flood of judgment.
In Noah’s flood, we witness the full force of God’s wrath and judgment against sin. But the prelude to the flood also speaks of God’s great mercy and patience, as He gave the people of Noah’s day a hundred and twenty years to hear the message and respond to it by turning from their sin and entering the ark. There was a century between the warning siren and the catastrophe.
But when the Ark was complete, and pairs of every living creature were escorted up the gangplank, God closed the door on Noah and his family. “The Lord shut him in.” “On that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth for forty days and forth nights” (Gen 7:11-12). The flood of God’s judgment came swiftly and decisively.
Noah’s witness to the world.
I can only imagine Noah’s conversations with his neighbours and friends as he and his sons carried timber and nails to the strange vessel under construction. As God’s ambassador, he had 120 years to plead with them:
“Friends, God has been warning us for generations to forsake our evil ways and return to Him. But we’ve only descended deeper into depravity. Look at how wicked we’ve become! We have not listened to His warnings, but only gotten worse. The God who created this world along with its ‘laws of nature’ says that He is going to reverse these same laws and drown the earth. I don’t know exactly how, but it will be the greatest act of God the world has ever seen. See this ship? It is God’s grace to you and me. Trust Him and turn from your sin. Step inside the ark and live. There is plenty of space and provisions for us all inside. But if you refuse to enter, you will be swept away in the flood. You will perish in your unrighteousness.”
Folly to the perishing.
But Noah’s neighbours and friends wrote him off as a deluded nutcase who had brainwashed his children to think like him. No matter how much he pleaded and reasoned with them, his words were folly to those who were perishing. I can only imagine the ridicule and accusations they spat at Noah and his God:
“Well, if your God is so cruel and unkind that He will drown us all, I want nothing to do with him. I have my own gods that are pleased with me and don’t judge what I do.”
“Noah, what an arrogant, ignorant bigot you are! How dare you judge us? There is no such thing as good and evil! That’s so outdated. Our personal preferences are all that matter.”
“Noah, what makes you so special that you can escape God’s so-called judgment? I’ve seen the things you do, and you’re no better than the rest of us. Stop acting superior to us all.”
“Noah, you don’t love your neighbour at all! I may not be perfect, but try walking in my shoes for a day and you’ll understand why I do the things I do. We are just broken people doing our best in a broken world.”
“Take your crazy family in your boat to the edge of the earth for all I care, but don’t bother me and my family! We’re happy to stay where we are.”
I’m sure Noah included the mercy of God in his appeals:
“Friends, I am no better than you. If I refuse to enter the Ark, I will also drown in the flood of God’s judgment, as I am also unrighteous. Just think of how His mercy has spared us all these years while we’ve enslaved one other; murdered and stolen; sacrificed our children; raped the helpless; cast spells on our neighbours; colluded, bribed and lied to get ahead. You need to turn from your sin and trust in the Ark that God has provided. Then walk up the gangplank. Please do it now before it’s too late. As for me and my household, we are trusting the Lord.”
Heralds of righteousness.
As heralds of the gospel today, Noah’s story reminds us that our call is not to be respected or palatable to those who are still blinded to the truth (2 Cor 4:4). Our call is to persist in preaching the cross fearlessly, accurately, and clearly, for the sake of those who are being saved (1 Cor 1:18). We all desperately need to be covered by Christ’s righteousness, or we will stand before Him in our own unrighteousness on judgment day.
But because the gospel sounds foolish to those who are perishing, it’s tempting to keep our mouths shut or leave out offensive elements of the gospel. Our sin and God’s judgment are the most offensive elements of all. But how can we be heralds if we fail to warn of the wrath to come? It’s an essential part of the job description of a herald of righteousness.
In fact, God assures us that the gospel will sound foolish to the world. We must expect this. But He also promises to make foolish the ‘wisdom of the world’ (1 Cor 1:20). The wisdom of the world in Noah’s day led everyone who followed it to a watery grave. There was no safety in numbers. Humanity’s unbelief proved to be tragically foolish.
The days of Noah.
Like Noah, we are heralds of events unseen which will destroy the whole world. Jesus tells us that Noah’s ark was a gospel picture and a vision of what the world will be like when He returns in judgment (Matt 24:37-39).
We live in the days of Noah. While watching the movie ‘Sound of Freedom’, I was cut to the heart by the evil of our generation. I cannot conceive of greater depravity than a massive global sex trafficking industry, in which millions of children are stolen, sold, raped and abused by human traffickers and pedophiles. It is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world after illegal drugs. At any given moment there are 750 million perpetrators searching online for videos involving child sexual abuse. It sometimes feels as if God does not see the wicked or hear the cries of their victims.
But Genesis 6 reminds us that God does see and it grieves Him to his heart (Gen 6:7). God will act in a final outpouring of judgment against all wickedness. The Bible paints a dismal picture of all who turn away from God’s gracious revelation and will not turn from their own sin (Rev 21:8; Heb 10:26; Isa 55:6-7).
But God has also provided an Ark, a much bigger, more perfect Ark in the form of Jesus Christ—the crucified, risen Son of God. All who take refuge in Him will be sheltered from the flood of God’s judgment on the day of His return. Outside of this Ark we stand condemned as godless and wicked.
That’s why Paul, one of the boldest heralds of the gospel said,
“It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21). For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Rom 1:16).
The folly and power of the gospel are always two sides of the same coin. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). Like Noah, let us continue to be obedient, faithful, fearless heralds of the gospel.