Wherever I travel throughout the world, I always make certain to visit the grave sites of civilization’s most famous men. From the grave of Martin Luther in Germany, to the tomb of Cyrus the Great in Persia (present-day Iran), I have visited many places where the honored dead have been buried. Recently, I was in Yerevan, Armenia, where it is hard not to see the great mount Ararat standing tall in the distance between Armenia and eastern Turkey. Every time my eyes caught a glimpse of the great mountain, I could not help to think that it was upon that massive, snow-covered mountain where Noah’s ark rested after the great flood. Concerning the worldwide deluge as recorded in Genesis, we read: “At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen” (Gen. 8:3–6).
Much to my dismay, while traveling through the surrounding region of Mount Ararat, I did not come upon a tombstone bearing the name of Noah. However, I wonder, if there did exist a tomb where Noah had been buried, what would his epitaph read?
In Genesis 6, we read of man’s great wickedness and of God’s deep sorrow in creating man: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 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’” (vv. 5–7). God was grieved over what became of His glorious creation. The entire mass of fallen humanity was an utter wasteland of corruption. Just as a father’s heart is hurt more deeply than the degree of physical pain his child experiences, so the heart of God was “filled with pain” over the state of His creation, or, as the King James Version reads: “and it grieved him at his heart” (v. 6). “But,” Moses records with great suspense and climactic drama: “Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (v. 8). Although it has never been regarded so highly, verse 8 of chapter 6 of Genesis is the bedrock of the continued existence of civilization. Without the historic truth of this simple verse, and it’s simple conjunction, “but,” civilization after the flood simply would not be. The great flood wiped out all civilization, except righteous Noah and his family. Thank the Lord God Almighty that He preserved a remnant for Himself — one man who loved God and who trusted Him at His word. It is for no small reason then that the Word of God mentions the integrity of this man of centuries, indeed, millennia, gone by. The Word of God describes Noah as “a righteous man, blameless in his generation” (v. 9).
Noah found favor in the sight of God and was honored by God. When commanded to build the ark, Noah “did all that God commanded him” (v. 22). He followed all the stipulations the Lord God set forth, and he endured the mockery of the world as a result. In the New Testament, Jesus did not say that whoever is persecuted shall be blessed. He gave certain conditions for blessing: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:10–12). We are not blessed by God simply because we are persecuted, for it is often the case that Christians are persecuted simply because they are obnoxious. Rather, we are blessed by God Almighty when we are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, when the accusations against us are false, and when we have upheld the name of Christ — only then are we blessed by God. As Peter writes in his second epistle, Noah was a “herald of righteousness” (2:5), and for that reason, he was persecuted for righteousness’ sake even though he had many shortcomings (Gen. 9:20 ff.). Nevertheless, Noah was blessed by God (9:1), and God established His covenant with Noah and his descendants (9:9).
It is true that we are all descendants of Adam and Eve, and it is also true that we are descendants of Noah and his family. In fact, it could be said, as the people of Armenia like to say in jest: “Since all people descended from Noah, and Noah and his sons came down from Mount Ararat, we are all Armenians.” However, whether or not we came from Armenia, we are descendants of Noah, and like Noah, we will all die one day. And like Noah, we will be remembered for what we did in our lifetimes, and more importantly, who we were in our lifetimes. May it be said of us that we were blessed by God because we stood for righteousness and for the cause of Christ, and may it be said of us that we found favor in the eyes of God. If we are to be numbered among the honored dead in the history of civilization, may the words of our epitaphs be the same, simple words spoken of Noah: “…and he walked with God.”