Commemoration of Noah
November 29, 2012
The Lord be with you
One of the features of the Liturgical Calendar developed for the Lutheran Service Book is the addition of a number of Biblical saints not previously celebrated in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod with a designated day. One of them is Noah, whose name means “rest.” His story can be found in Genesis 6-9.
Noah was the son of Lamech (Genesis 5:30). In his days the world had grown so corrupt that only Noah, and his family, retained faith in God. Having abandoned the source of life, they went after the devices of their own hearts, following in the ways of death. God determined to judge the world by sending a flood. Noah was warned and he built the Ark, sort of a giant floating barge, in which he, his family, and representatives of the diverse animal kingdom, would ride out the flood. Along with building the Ark, Noah also regularly warned humanity, but none believed him. On the day Noah and the other passengers entered the Ark, the rains started, great subterranean guises gushed forth, and the flood came. The entire earth was flooded, destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals” (Genesis 7:23). After the Ark beached itself, and the land dried up, Noah disembarked along with all the rest, to give the earth a second chance. Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. God used the rainbow as a symbol for all humanity that he would never again destroy all life with a flood. He did this in spite of the fact that he knew we are all sinners and really deserve nothing but death and damnation.
The debate over the historicity of this story rages. By focusing on this aspect, we often overlook the lessons of the story. In 1 Peter 3:18-22 the flood, and the salvation of Noah through the Ark, are presented as a type of Baptism. Just as Noah and his family were brought safely through the waters so “baptism now saves us.” This taps us into the Gospel message of Genesis 6-9. God wants to save. Those who perish are those who reject God’s saving purpose for them.
Noah also is a model of faith. He acted on what he believed. Sometimes we might think that being saved by grace alone through faith alone means we can sin all we want. Such an attitude is not only not scriptural, but does not reflect saving faith. Saving faith is a faith we act on. Noah didn’t just believe in God as some propositional truth, but he put his faith into action.
A third lesson we might learn from Noah is the need to be vigilant. After the flood he got sloppy drunk and passed out. Clearly this man of God had his flaws. However, so do we all. “None are righteous.” Therefore we learn to keep a watch over how we live our lives.
A fourth lesson we can find in this story is the importance of passing our Christian Faith on to our children. It seems most parents failed in this responsibility in the antediluvian world. Noah, though, had succeeded. The faith of his family is clearly seen as, instead of joining with everyone in the society that mocked Noah, they joined him in the Ark. We too should take every opportunity to pass our Faith on to our children.
A fifth lesson we might learn is that God knows how to save those who believe in Him. We might say by analogy that the antediluvian world represents our own fallen world. The ark of wood, by which Noah and his family were saved, represents the cross of Christ, by which we are saved. The post-diluvium world represents heaven. The Flood represents the Final Judgment. To be saved on the Last Day, one must have received God’s grace in Christ Jesus. God, who is faithful and just and will safely bring us to that distant shore.
A final lesson comes from Noah’s name itself and the fact that all Old Testament prophets and patriarchs are types of Christ. As said above, “Noah” means “rest.” The writer of Hebrews (chapters 3-4) informs us that all the entering rest passages in the OT point us to our “rest” in Christ. Because Jesus has done all the work for our salvation, we rest from our labors and receive from him life and salvation. Noah’s name and work ultimately point us to Jesus and his completed work.
Collect for the Commemoration of Noah: Almighty and eternal God, according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all. Grant that we may be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, so that with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert