Genesis 7:17-24, “The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. 20 The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.”
Scripture repeatedly calls us to be patient. Job had to endure a long period of trouble before hearing from God. The Psalms regularly urge us to wait for the Lord’s deliverance (for example, 37:5–7). James commends the prophets’ long-suffering as an example to new covenant believers (5:10). Paul lists patience as a fruit of the Spirit’s work in the Christian (Gal. 5:22–23).
It is not difficult to understand why the prophets and the apostles are quick to exhort us to wait patiently upon the Almighty. In His providence, the Lord has decided to extend the full realization of His promises over millennia. At times, we can be tempted to think God may never come to our aid. These exhortations help us to remain faithful even when it seems our Creator tarries.
Noah’s life also encourages us to wait for divine aid. For example, the number forty is found throughout the flood narrative. God sent rain upon the land for forty days and nights (Gen. 7:4, 12). Today’s passage reminds us of this (v. 17), and notes that the waters covered the earth for 150 days in total (v. 24). We do not doubt these numbers are to be taken literally, but there is more here than just bare historical fact. Scripture sometimes records the number forty to accentuate a hero’s endurance (1 Kings 2:11; Luke 4:1–13). Moses gives us these figures to recount history and to emphasize Noah’s patience. The Lord’s direct, audible word to Noah may not have made it any easier for him to be faithful. Like us, he struggled against sin; thus, we should not think his trust in God to end the flood always lacked doubt, especially when even the miracles of Jesus could not convince His disciples to stay with Him after His arrest (Matt. 26:31). But if Noah could wait upon the Lord, we who live under fuller revelation can as well.
The number forty also recalls Jesus’ wilderness temptation (Mark 1:12–13) where He had to wait patiently. Like Christ, we may live through seasons when we are tempted to believe the Lord has forgotten us. Let us faithfully persevere in these hours of pain or doubt, looking to Jesus as our example of complete fidelity and as the One who sustains us in our difficulties (Heb. 12:1–2).
Are you going through some period of difficulty right now? Perhaps someone close to you has recently died. Maybe you are ill or are doubting the Lord’s promises. Perchance a friend or family member is suffering. If you feel you have not trusted God perfectly, be encouraged, for He is looking for the obedience of faith, no matter how small it may be (Matt. 17:20). Look to Jesus and press on. Even if you are troubled, go and encourage another who is also facing trial.
The Flood Continued, Copyright (2022), Ligonier Ministries.