Do you know the story of Noah’s ark? Did you like that story when you were a child? Did you draw pictures of cute animals going into a boat, and imagine a fun journey?
Did you ever, when reading that story, zoom out into what was going on outside of that boat – the shocking desolation, the destruction of life on such an unbelievable scale?
The Bible tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and it’s very tempting to say stuff like “oh, it’s not ‘fear’ in that sense, we’re not meant to be scared of him” – but looking at what happened back then, and at some of what is promised for later, I’m thinking: maybe that’s exactly what is meant by that phrase, maybe it’s about us realising that God is not to be messed with.
Because as long as we think God is this nice guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly, we can kid ourselves that we don’t need atonement and salvation. We can kid ourselves that somehow everything will be ok, God loves us so we don’t need to worry. We can kid ourselves that we can be saved on our own terms, that we don’t have to fit in with God’s requirements.
Oh, I hear you say, but that’s Old Testament stuff, in the New Testament we have love and grace and… Yup, love and grace is there – it’s actually there in the OT as well, right from the very beginning, when God made clothes for our sinful ancestors – love and grace is there, but on God’s terms. And guess which part of the Bible is full of references to hell? the New Testament. (And who was the guy who went around talking about hell? Jesus.) Where are we told about the future destruction of earth? In the New Testament, in the second letter of Peter, where he mentions the Flood in the past and then talks about what is to come:
“the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men.”
It is very tempting to push that stuff aside, especially when talking to those who don’t believe in God – tempting to try and be a good PR person and paint God as nice and friendly and approachable. The thing is: he is lovely and wonderful and all that, but he is God and not your puppy, and he will have mercy on whom he chooses to have mercy, and he does have the habit of demanding obedience.
The Bible gives us a mixture of bad news and good news, and the Genesis account of the Flood is a great example of that mixture: we see one man who puts his faith in God and obeys him, and he and his family are saved; but zoom out and see the bad news, for those who did not get into the ark:
“All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died.” (Gen.7:21-22)
All flesh perished. Including all mankind.
Except for those in the ark, those who went in to the place of safety designated by God, those who accepted God’s terms.
God gave Noah detailed instructions about building the ark. And what did Noah do? In Genesis 6:23 it says: “according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.” What I don’t see anywhere is Noah saying: oh, come on, God, you’re not seriously going to destroy humanity, are you? or: If God wants to save me, he can do it without me building this ark and getting inside there with all those stinking animals.
If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet accepted God’s offer of salvation through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for your sins, then please, for your own good, get inside the ark before it’s too late. Because God has promised that a day of judgement will come, and we’ve already seen that he’s perfectly capable of destruction. I’m sorry I can’t give you a prettier story, I can’t offer you nice illusions – not when you’re in such grave danger. It would be totally irresponsible of me to edit out the scary bits. They say ignorance is bliss – but if you blissfully continue on your journey towards hell, then I really don’t want that on my conscience.
Be afraid – and turn to God in repentance. That bit I quoted earlier from 2 Peter goes on to say this:
“The Lord is not slow about His promise… but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
Some people make the mistake of reading that bit and stopping after the word “perish”, saying: oh, I’ll be ok because God loves us and doesn’t want anyone to perish. But we can’t escape that fate without repentance – that means turning away from the way we’ve lived and turning to God, not just saying sorry but committing to living his way from now on, with his help. We can only get into the ark on God’s terms, and he has said what his terms are – repent and believe and be baptised. Believe in whom? Believe in Jesus, as the Bible tells us there is no other name by which we can be saved.
Do it now, while you still can. There was a day when God shut Noah inside the ark and that was it, everyone who was outside of the ark died. Get in while you can.