“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.” 1 Peter 3:18-20
Whew, what a run on sentence! But man what a beautiful image of God’s patience and provision.
Last night we had Community Group, our weekly Bible study with friends who aren’t able to be in a Sunday school class because they’re involved in ministry on Sundays. We’ve had a slow time moving through 1 Peter this semester, but the times we spend in the word, digging and asking hard questions, always leaves me so encouraged and refreshed. It’s fun getting to learn from your peers, especially when a handful of them have spent time in seminary and have such wisdom and insight to share. (I don’t think my four weeks in three classes count as legitimate seminary experience so I’m not talking about myself here 🙂
The passage in first Peter gets interesting as he draws a connection to the ark and the time God waited to save eight people from a world of sin. At first that doesn’t seem like many, an entire world of people and only eight were spared from the flood that took out all mankind. But even for one man to be spared in spite of being born into sin is an amazing act of God’s kindness and grace. Once he had decided to wipe out the world, he still waited during that time as Noah faithfully built a boat that would save them from the water. The ark represented such hope: saving him, his family, and all those animals from a godless and dark world. The ark was a form of rescue that was undeserved but specifically tasked to bring Noah and his family into salvation.
Fast forward all those years to Christ’s death on a cross. The world needed to be saved from itself, but God had given us His promise and His rainbow as a reminder that He would never again destroy the world like the flood. So Christ became our rescue. Christ is on the cross, the wood that held him up through the worst storm he would ever endure, the wrath and damnation of His Father. All of man’s sin poured onto Him as He hung on the cross, the same way the rain poured from the sky and overwhelmed an entire world in Genesis. He bore the pain, weight and wrath that we had created for Him. But it wasn’t just His death that put us in this new, eternal ark of salvation. It was His precious life being raised from the dead, conquering that world of sin, so that we might have safety and rescue in His arms.
I couldn’t get past this image that Matt shared last night — that Christ is our eternal ark once and for all. He invites us into the safety and provision from the storm, carries us safely through the rising water, and ushers us into new life on dry land. This truth resonated with me last night in such a tangible way. Noah and his family didn’t deserve to be spared, but God in His infinite mercy extended grace and rescue. “The same waters that submerged a godless people lifted up Noah and the ark” (Matt Carter, Creation Unraveled). Today, just a week away from the Good Friday where we remember Jesus’ death on the cross, I’m amazed that He still extends His grace to me, a sinner.
I love this quote from Charles Spurgeon on the rainbow:
The rainbow, yet again, is a token that vengeance itself has become on our side. You see, it is an unbroken ‘bow.’ He did not snap it across his knee. It is still a bow. Vengeance is there, justice is there; but which way is it pointed? It is turned upward; not to shoot arrows down on us, but for us, if we have faith enough to string it, as to make it our glorious bow – to draw it with all our might, to send our prayers, our praises, our desires, up to the bright throne of God. Mighty is that man, omnipotent in his faith, who has power to bend that bow and draw it, and shoot his prayers to heaven.