THE ARK OF HOPE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-3-46 7:30 p.m.
And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth Me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord … And God said unto Noah … Make thee an ark of gopher wood.
[Genesis 6:7-8, 13-14]
The judgments of God are based on moral considerations; they do not come by whim, by fancy, or by caprice. The judgments of God are eternally, inevitably, and everlastingly morally conditioned.
There are several reasons for God’s sending the unprecedented deluge that destroyed the world in the days of Noah [Genesis 7:17-24]. One of these reasons is found in the sin that thrived on the intermarriage of believers and unbelievers. “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose” [Genesis 6:2]. This passage of Scripture states that the sons of God (that is, the children of the line of Seth) saw the daughters of men (that is, the offspring of the line of Cain), and as they looked they were consumed with lust. The daughters of the children of Cain were fair, beautiful to look upon, and apparently without moral inhibitions. Anything went, and among the things that “went” were the religious devotions and convictions of the children of Seth. “They took them wives of all which they chose” [Genesis 6:2]. They had a field day in polygamy. In a previous chapter, the fourth of Genesis, we are introduced to the first bigamist, Lamech, of the line of Cain, who “took unto him two wives” [Genesis 4:19]. Now here in the sixth chapter of Genesis God’s people, the Sethites, are consumed with lust and sensual desire and become polygamists. They began to take wife after wife after wife. And each one of those wives was a carnal unbeliever, a daughter of the world. Religion was forgotten, and the wickedness of man became great, terribly great, in the earth [Genesis 6:4-5].
God has a tremendously important word to say to all men about this matter of joining the house of God with the house of idols. Scarcely will there be found in His Book anything against which the Almighty pleads more earnestly than the intermarriage of believers and unbelievers. Look at the first few verses in the seventh chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy. Speaking to the people of Israel through Moses, God says:
When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou … thou shalt make no covenant with them … Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following Me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
There is a reason for the earnest plea Abraham made to his steward Eliezer when he made the servant swear that he would not seek a wife for his boy, Isaac, among the heathen people of the land, but that he would go back to Abraham’s kindred and find a wife for his son there [Genesis 24:2-4]. That reason is illustrated in the life of Isaac and Rebekah when “Esau … took to wife Judith … the Hittite, and Bashemath … the Hittite; which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah” [Genesis 26:34-35]. The sorrow that intermarriage caused is finally stated in these words of bitterness spoken by Rebekah: “And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of … the land, what good shall my life do me?” [Genesis 27:46]. It was then that “Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him … and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother. And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful” [Genesis 28:1-3].
It seems that the Spirit through the ages has found it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to carry forward the work of the Lord so long as His people persist in marrying unbelievers. The great reforms under Ezra and Nehemiah were centered in that very thing, the separation from unbelievers who had married into the households of God [Ezra 10, Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-31]. In the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul states that it is allowed to us that we marry but “only in the Lord” [1 Corinthians 7:39]. When we marry, we are to marry no one except a Christian. In the sixth chapter of 2 Corinthians, he has a most powerful word about not being “yoked together with unbelievers” [2 Corinthians 6:14].
Herein lies one of the secrets of the building of the church and of the purity of the kingdom of God in the hearts of men. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” [Psalm 11:3]. If we do not make sure of the Christian foundation for our homes, if we do not seek Christian marriages for our young people, then we have no right to hope for power and purity in kingdom work. Surely, surely, our churches should foster and maintain and lay special emphasis upon meetings and gatherings of young people, where a Christian boy can meet a Christian girl, where they can learn to know each other better, where Christian association ripens into friendship, friendship into love, and love into marriage. Such associations go far in performing and furthering the ministry of our Lord toward the establishment of Christian homes.
I repeat: one reason for the coming of the Flood was the intermarriage of the children of Seth with the children of Cain, the intermarriage of the people of God with the people of the world [Genesis 6:2]. The children of these mixed marriages did not follow the virtues of their fathers, but they rather emulated the vices of their mothers. We are not surprised, then, to read that when “God looked upon the earth, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” [Genesis 6:12]. It is ever thus when the godly are joined to the ungodly. Where there is no separation from sin and the world, there is no sanctity or reverence or consecration.
Another reason for the judgment of God upon the antediluvians was the repudiation of the preaching and pleading of Noah [2 Peter 2:5]. The Holy Spirit pleaded with the wicked through Noah. He is called “the preacher of righteousness” [2 Peter 2:5], and for one hundred and twenty years he gave invitation without a single convert [Genesis 6:3]. He was the lone witness to resist the torrent of depravity. He was the solitary saint, like a great evergreen tree in a forest of blasted, fallen pines. Among the faithless he alone was faithful.
Noah saw what was coming. God had said: “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth” [Genesis 6:7]. “His days shall be an hundred and twenty years” [Genesis 6:3]. Noah believed God and what God said. It is Satan who inspires doubt in God’s Word. It is the saint who believes. The whole antediluvian world laughed and mocked at the idea of a coming judgment. But Noah believed and faithfully preached the destruction to come. Hebrews 11:7 says that he was “moved with fear.” Fear of man makes cowards of us, but fear of God emboldens us to attempt the impossible. Against odds inconceivable Noah prayed and preached and worked. Then God said: “It is enough. My Spirit shall not always strive with man [Genesis 6:3]. They have grieved Me, insulted Me, dishonored Me. They shall die in their sins.”
Oh, those sad, sad words! “My Spirit shall not always strive.” “And God gave them up” [Genesis 6:7,13, 7:23]. The day of grace is over. The time of repentance is past. The unpardonable sin is written down in hard, black letters. The day of weeping and wailing and the gnashing of teeth has come [Matthew 13:49-50]. We meet this unspeakably tragic situation often in the Scriptures. Look at Jeremiah 7:16: “Pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to Me: for I will not hear thee.” No use to pray or to intercede. The prophet is shut up to the agonizing sight of the final casting out of his people. In the previous verse, Jeremiah 7:15, the Lord says, “I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim.” Death and captivity alone remain. A like terrible description is found in Romans where Paul speaks of the judgment of God upon the Roman world. Romans 1:24: “Wherefore God gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts.” Romans 1:26: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections.” Romans 1:28: “God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” Three times it is repeated, the final words, “God gave them up.” Engrossed with present things, and that alone; acting as though the earth were theirs, and theirs forever; forgetting that the lease has a surrender clause, they lived in defiance of God. There was, therefore, nothing left but “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation” [Hebrews 10:27]. “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins” [Hebrews 10:26].
It was thus in the days of Noah. As a preacher of righteousness [2 Peter 2:5] he spoke of sin, but they were not convinced. As a prophet he spoke of judgment, but they did not believe. As a faithful witness he spoke of a remedy, but they would not heed. Then follows the terribly tragic pronouncement upon all such obdurate sinners:
For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
That they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness
[2 Thessalonians 2:11-12]
“My Spirit shall not always strive” [Genesis 6:3]. God will try, the Spirit will make appeal, but the time will come when the Spirit of God will turn aside, and then we are left in our sin, in our ruin, utterly undone and hopeless. O God, forgive Thy erring people! In wrath, remember mercy! [Habakkuk 3:2].
As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all … Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed
[Luke 17:26-27, 30]
It is the picture of the final end of this age.
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” [Genesis 6:8]. He walked with God [Genesis 6:9], and God talked to him about the uncleanness of men. God told him that the earth had become so corrupt, so full of violence, so sodden with evil that moral necessity dictated a final destruction. The earth is to be destroyed by water [Genesis 6:11-13, 17]. But because Noah had sought and found grace in God’s sight [Genesis 6:8], he is to be saved. So God said to Noah, “Make thee an ark” [Genesis 6:14].
The ark is one of the most beautiful symbols in literature. It was in a little ark that the baby Moses was saved. When his mother “could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink” [Exodus 2:2-3]. It was in the ark of the covenant that the two tables of stone were kept on which God had inscribed the Ten Commandments [Exodus 25:16, 1 Kings 8:9]. It was this ark that alone was placed in the Holy of Holies—it was on the ark that the mercy seat was placed [Exodus 26:34], and upon which the covering cherubim looked, and above which the shekinah glory of God burned by day and by night [Leviticus 16:2]. Surely, there is safety and salvation and covenant promise in the word God said to Noah, “Make thee an ark” [Genesis 6:14]. That ark symbolizes the one hope of salvation [Genesis 7:23].
God said also to Noah: “I have a plan for the ark. It must be built to My specifications.” Then He told him how long, three hundred cubits; how wide, fifty cubits; how high, thirty cubits, with first, second, and third stories. It was to be adequate. “Rooms shalt thou make in the ark,” so that all should be cared for. It was to be sufficient for the salvation of all who were in God’s plan and purpose. It was to be safe: “Pitch it within and without with pitch” to make it doubly safe. And it was to have one door. The entrance into that ark of hope was through one door [Genesis 6:14-16]. There was not a door above for the birds to come in, nor a little hole in the floor for the humble creatures of the earth to creep in, nor a big gate for the elephant to lumber in; but there was one door, and everyone that was saved entered that door. The great eagle swooped out of the blue of the sky and entered in that door; the little wren hopped to safety through that door; the snail crawled slowly through that one door. Noah and his wife, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives, all alike, entered that one door [Genesis 7:1-9].
This is a picture of the way we are saved today—a foreshadowing of the reception into the kingdom of God of all who will believe. It is not to be understood that some men are “unclean” and therefore the door is shut in their faces, while others are “clean” and therefore by nature enter in. No, all alike will be received if they will enter in: whosoever will may come [Revelation 22:17], the door is open to all. Simon Peter learned in his vision at Joppa that “God is no respecter of persons” [Acts 10:34]. The Lord loves and invites us all.
But all have to come in the same way: through the one door of repentance and faith [John 10:9]. There is not a separate way of salvation for each race, each nation, each generation [John 14:6]. The learned man, brilliantly educated, comes in by repenting of his sins and by trusting in the Lord Jesus [Acts 20:20-21]. The stammering, poor, ragged man comes in the same way. The rich and the poor, the old and the young, the red, the white, the black, the yellow, and the brown, all come in the one door [John 10:7, 9].
On a Sunday morning in a church of which I was pastor, God gave us a wonderful harvest of souls. We were not in a special series of meetings; it was one of those morning hours when God’s Spirit works mightily through the preacher. As I pressed the appeal, down the aisle came a little boy, ten years old but small for his age. He gave me his hand and said, “I take Jesus as my Savior; I will follow Him in baptism and be a member of His church.” I welcomed the little fellow and he was seated. When I looked up, down the same aisle was coming the most notorious gambler and outlaw of Indian Territory days. He was seventy-four years old. Deeply moved, he said to me, “I repent of my sins; I give my heart to Jesus; I want to be baptized and be a member of this church.” When I lifted up my eyes again, I saw coming down the same aisle a feeble, tottering old man. He was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, one hundred and three years old. When he came to me, he said, “I take Jesus as my Savior; I want to be baptized and become a member of His church.” Among the others who came, these three sat together, the little boy, the notorious outlaw, the aged Indian. All alike were repenting of their sins [Acts 20:21], trusting Jesus as their Savior [Romans 10:9-13], entering the kingdom of Jesus through the one door of hope [John 10:7, 9].
What a glorious gospel! What a wonderful Savior! Oh, my friend, the door is open to you, wide as the world is wide, high and broad as God’s infinite heaven. While there is hope, while days of grace are given us, heed the call of the Spirit. While our hearts are strangely moved toward heaven, through the open door of Christ Jesus, come [John 10:7-9], let us walk in to safety, to life, to heaven, and to home. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him come into the ark of hope and safety and salvation [Revelation 22:17].
Oh, the sad words of Matthew 25:10, “And they that were ready went in … and the door was shut.” When the last one who is to be saved comes in, the day of grace is over, the time of testimony is closed, the door is forever shut. For God “limiteth a certain day, saying … Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” [Hebrews 4:7]. There will come a time when it will be too late:
And the Lord said unto Noah…
Yet seven days…and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.
And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him.
[Genesis 7:1, 4, 5]
“And Noah went in . . . and the Lord shut him in” [Genesis 7:16]. Safe, saved! Kept by the power of God in the days of judgment and the visitation of death! [1 Peter 1:5].
In these days of grace we have an ark of hope in Christ Jesus. There is safety and salvation in Him [Acts 4:12]. Come, come, while you have opportunity [Romans 10:9-13]. Listen to Him who says, “I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” [John 10:9].