The curtains here at Stage #1, where God’s One Big Story is currently in production, are now opening on Vignette #6 of Act 1, Scene 1 of the Story. As they do, they reveal a set which, in the absence of any light, appears to be completely empty. However, when we begin hearing angry shouts, screams, and cursing, as well as the unmistakable sounds of fighting—as unseen fists are meeting with unknown faces in what surely sounds like unrestrained fury—we immediately become aware of the presence of a great many people on the stage, even though they continue to remain invisible to us.
Given the volume of this din, and with what we have so recently learned about the Planet, Population, and Powers at work during this period of human history, we are not at all surprised to hear our off-stage Narrator announce…
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth (Gen. 6:11-12).
What does surprise us, though, is the sudden appearance of a near-blinding shaft of light, streaming from an overhead spot and directed toward the center of the stage—the place where we now see a man standing alone in the light. As soon as he comes into view, the commotion in the background diminishes enough for us to hear the Narrator once again, as he says…
[But] Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Gen. 6:8-10).
As Noah continues standing alone in the light, the stage, as well as the entire theatre, suddenly begins to shake as the inimitable voice of God is heard, revealing to Noah the following startling news and very specific instructions…
I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms on the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits [abt. 450 ft.], its breadth 50 cubits [abt. 75 ft.], and its height 30 cubits [abt. 45 ft.]. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks.
For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die (Gen. 6:13-17).
At this point there is a brief pause, just long enough for us to wonder what must be going through Noah’s mind upon hearing such an ominous pronouncement. Surely, he must be questioning what an ark is, what a flood is, and what this will mean to him and his family. Then, as if to allay any such thoughts—or possible fears—we hear the voice of God say to Noah…
But, I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you and your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you (Gen. 6:18).
And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come into you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them (Gen. 6:19-22).
Having finished with His instructions, God stops speaking, and Noah walks off the stage. As he departs, the spotlight dims and we hear the voice of our Narrator close out this Vignette with…
[And] Noah did this, he did all that God commanded him (Gen.6:22).
With this, the curtains close once again, giving the crew time to reset the stage for the next Vignette—and giving us time to consider just what Noah’s obedience to God’s commands would have cost him.
The High Price of Obedience
Although no one knows for sure how long it took Noah to build the Ark, given its enormous size—and the fact that he didn’t have the luxury of (or the electricity for) power tools—it must have taken him many years. Some understand God’s declaration in Genesis 6:3, “…My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years,” to mean that it would take Noah that long to complete this assignment. Given the massiveness of the undertaking, the limited number of tools and hands available, the extended life spans of those in Noah’s generation, and the incredible long-suffering of God, this was entirely possible.
If this was so, Noah would have been about 480 years old when he was given this job, which, when considering that he lived for 950 years, would have put him at the midpoint in his life. Since Scripture doesn’t tell us anything about Noah’s occupation prior to this time, we have no way of knowing if he had any carpentry skills or construction experience which would have qualified him for this type of work. And yet, here at midlife, he was being directed by God to leave whatever vocation he may have had before and take up a new one; one for which he may not have had any preparation and one from which, for the next 120 years, he would derive no income. Not only would this job not pay him anything, but before it was finished, it would end up costing him a ton of money (in whatever the currency of the day happened to be) for the materials (I can’t help but wonder what Mrs. Noah had to say about this plan when she first heard of it?).
To get a small idea of what these expenses could have amounted to, let’s get out our calculators and do a little math:
- Using 18 inches as the approximate measure for a cubit, the ark would have measured 450 feet in length, 75 feet in width, and 45 feet in height—a space containing 1,518,750 cubic feet.
- However, not all of that space would require lumber—only the hull, roof, three floors, interior walls, and doors would have needed it. If these features accounted for roughly one-fourth or 25% of the space, then 379,687.5 cubic feet of lumber would have been needed for the wooden surfaces.
- Since a board foot of lumber (1” thick, 12” wide, and 1’ long) equals 144 cubic inches of sawed lumber, and 1 cubic foot equals 1,728 cubic inches, then 1 cubic foot (1728 divided by 144) would yield 12 feet of sawed lumber.
- If the Ark required 379,687.5 cubic feet of sawed lumber, this would translate into 4,556,250 board feet of lumber.
- Although no one is quite sure what type of wood gopher wood was, it surely must have been a high quality, durable wood—one far superior to the pine used for general construction purposes today. However, just for the sake of this discussion, if Noah had used pine for the ark, at today’s price (per Home Depot) of approximately $2.30 per foot, the bill for his wood would have come to $10,479,375—which, when spread out over 120 years, would have amounted to a yearly expenditure of $87,328.13.
- Of course, these figures do not take into account the cost of the pitch (probably a resinous substance similar to shellac), any wages that Noah may have paid out to hired help, or the food which would be needed to sustain the people and animals on board the Ark for at least a year. They merely help us put Noah’s possible monetary investment into proper perspective.
As for the 120 years that he invested in this project, any one of the following reasons would have made these years some of the most physically demanding and emotionally and spiritual draining ones of Noah’s life.
- The work of locating and cutting down the trees, converting them into usable timber, transporting them to the construction site, and incorporating them into the structure of the Ark would have required tremendous amounts of physical strength and ingenuity, not to mention tenacity.
- With the first of his three sons not being born until at least twenty years after he began this project—and since it would be several years after that before they would be old enough to help—apart from hiring extra help, Noah would have had to do the work by himself. Although his father and grandfather were still living throughout most of this period, I am not sure how much help they would have been able to offer him. He certainly couldn’t have counted on any assistance from his neighbors because, as we learned in our discussion of the Planet, Population, and Powers, they would have been card-carrying members of the society who had rejected God and followed in the path of Cain—some of whom may have even been among those unseen participants in the opening melee of this Vignette.
- Surrounded as he was by people later described by Jude as those who “…blaspheme all that they do not understand (Jude 10)…” and as “…grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires… loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage (Jude 16)…”—people who no doubt mocked him day and night for undertaking such a foolish project—Noah would not only have been an easy and a frequent target for ridicule and persecution but, because he was living in a violent and demonically-controlled society, his life and those of his family members would have constantly been in jeopardy.
- Plus, being “…a herald of righteousness…(2 Peter 2:5)”—one preaching to people who, for 120 years, rejected and scoffed at the truth he offered, surely must have caused Noah untold frustration and discouragement; while the knowledge that all of the people he had preached to—some of whom would likely have been near relatives—were going to die alienated from God, certainly must have brought tremendous grief to his heart.
So, to recap what we have just discussed, Noah’s obedience to God’s commands cost him…
- A lot of time;
- A lot of money;
- A lot of hard work;
- A lot of aggravation;
- A lot of loneliness;
- A lot of rejection;
- A lot of humiliation; and,
- A lot of heartache.
Given the expensive price tag that was attached to it, why did Noah choose to go the way of obedience? What could possibly have motivated him to give his all to the completion of this work? For that answer, we need look no farther than Hebrews 11:7a, where we learn that…
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.
I think if we could ask Noah if it was all worth it, he would say that it was, for…
By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11:7b)…
…and the payoff doesn’t get any better than that!
Here is Don Moen with “Trust and Obey”–something that Noah certainly knew how to do..