It is here that we see a beautiful portrait of the gospel of God’s grace. Like a brilliant diamond set upon a black cloth, the salvation of Noah and his family from the judgment of God is clearly contrasted to all the death that occurred during the flood. Noah’s family experienced amazing grace as they sat safe and dry within the ark as it slowly rose over what would become the watery grave of the rest of the world. It is noteworthy that it was Noah who “found favor in God’s eyes” and who “walked with God.” Those things are not said about his family members. In fact, it becomes clear in Genesis 9–10 that not all of Noah’s sons were of the household of faith, yet they were brought into the ark of God’s common grace, saving them from a watery grave, because of their union with Noah. The point here is rather simple: Noah was a righteous man of faith who walked with God and was blameless in his generation. Though a sinner to be sure, he was well pleasing in the eyes of God and found favor in God’s sight based on God’s grace and not his works. Through their covenantal relationship with Noah, his family was spared the great water judgment of God.
So also is it for those who are in Christ. The flood in the days of Noah was only a preview of the climactic judgment of God that will occur once more in history, and only those who are found to be in union with the covenant head who is greater than Noah will be saved. That salvation is found only in Christ, and for those who are in Christ, salvation is full and free. Though Christ was perfectly well pleasing in the eyes of God, for our sake He underwent the baptismal reality to which the flood pointed—the cross. So Jesus said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished” (Luke 12:50). Jesus understood that His baptism by John was only a preview of a greater reality that was yet to come. Though already baptized, Jesus had a greater baptism to undergo when He would be submerged in death, passing through the cross into the grave.
Jesus’ death was our death. The flood of God’s judgment found Him in our place. The judgment and salvation displayed in the days of Noah have found their fulfillment in Christ. Those who are in Christ can, with Noah, smile safely from the top of the ark. The storm has passed. The clouds have broken. The rain has stopped.
Perhaps it is not so ironic after all that we display pictures of the flood in our children’s classrooms and nurseries. We should all be reminded that our hope is not in ourselves but in Christ, who has conquered sin, death, and even our hearts through His death and resurrection. At the same time, any portrait of the flood in the days of Noah ought to be a sobering one, as both the sinfulness of humanity and the just judgment of God are on full display. Our God is not to be trifled with. Our salvation may be free, but it was not cheap. And our response ought to be one of deep gratitude for a salvation so rich and wondrously full.
I’ve often imagined that when Noah and his family looked down from the ark, they saw the watery tomb of many who refused to repent and believe. And yet later, after the waters subsided, when Noah looked up, he saw the rainbow proclaiming the promise of God that though we walk in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, our God is faithful and His kingdom will be victorious in this world. The rainbows we see so often remind us that God’s grace is nothing to be taken for granted. Yet for those who remain outside of Christ, there is a threat in every rainbow: the end of the world—almost.