Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
May 24, 2011
522 railroad cars and the Ark
Can modern people believe in a prehistoric Ark? If not, what else in the Bible must we consider outdated today? Yesterday we met Noah, the man who received God’s chen (“favor”). Our Father offered such grace to all of mankind, but they would not accept his mercy. As we will soon see, they rejected every opportunity for salvation.
On the other hand, Noah positioned himself to receive such grace. He was “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). His righteousness did not earn God’s favor, but it put Noah in position to receive what God wanted to give. Noah was by no means perfect—remember his drunkenness in Genesis 9. But he responded to God’s grace, for himself and his family.
And so God called Noah to build an ark which would preserve his family and the rest of God’s creation. Its dimensions would be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, 45 feet high, creating a displacement of 14,000 tons. The ark possessed a carrying capacity of 522 standard railroad cars: 188 for 45,000 animals (17,600 species), three trains of 104 cars each for food, family, and room to move about. Building this ark took Noah 100 years (he was 500 years old at the beginning, and 600 at the end). Then “the Lord shut him in” (7:16), another picture of divine grace.
Now the rains came, falling for 40 days and 40 nights (7:12). They covered the mountains to a depth of 20 feet (7:20), flooding the earth for 150 days (7:24). Five months after the flood began, the Ark came to rest “on the mountains of Ararat” (8:4). Eight months after the flood began, the tops of the mountains became visible (8:5). A year and 10 days after the flood began, the earth was completely dry (8:14).
And God made a new covenant with Noah and with all humanity. He would never again destroy the earth by a flood (9:11, although 2 Peter 3:10 says the world will one day end by fire). In this covenant, God prohibited idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, robbery, and eating the flesh of a living animal. Then he gave the world the rainbow (9:13-17), as the sign of this covenant and promise that no rains will ever destroy the world again. The Lord proved that he has the power to end life, and to preserve it.
As we’ll see tomorrow, the story of the ark and flood is so remarkable that some discount it as myth. For today, let’s focus on a fact which each of us can accept on the basis of our personal experience: we all need an Ark. Paul spoke for me: “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15). I am not the man I should be. I’m glad you don’t know what God knows about me. And grateful that his forgiveness is offered to all who will accept it.
The only requirement for salvation from the flood was a willingness to board the boat. Now the door of mercy has opened again this morning for you. Why do you need your Father’s grace today?