In this article you will discover what the Ark represents and others lessons we learn from this incredible object lesson that God has given to us.
Everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus in some way. The people, places, and events in the Old Testament either illustrate, point to, or picture Jesus. Whether you are studying the Passover, the life of Moses, the flood, the Ark, the tabernacle, or the life of Joseph you will see a picture or lesson of Jesus everywhere.
After the resurrection of Jesus, two men who had been following Jesus were walking down a road and they were talking about all the events around Jesus: the trials, the beatings, the crucifixion, and the burial. While they were walking Jesus comes up to them, but they did not recognize Him. He asked them what they were talking about so intensely. They told Him. Then in Luke 24:27 we are told, “Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (NLT). The “writings of Moses” includes Genesis. So, Jesus walked them through Genesis pulling things out of the Bible that pointed to Christ and His gospel. One of those object lessons would have been the Ark.
Colossians 2:16-17 says, “So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality” (NLT). Before Jesus arrived there were all types of rules regarding what you could eat or couldn’t eat (clean and unclean animals) and there were special holy days and religious ceremonies and various special Sabbath days, but all them were simply the “shadows of the reality” that was to come in Christ. They were a shadow pointing to the real thing. A shadow is incomplete. You get an outline of someone, but you don’t get a clear picture.
This is what the Ark did for us. The Ark was a shadow of what was to come. Jesus is the reality of what the Ark pictured. So, when we look at the Ark what do we learn about Jesus and what does it picture for us?
The Ark reminds us of God’s patience
First, the Ark reminds us of God’s patience. In Genesis 6:4 God told Noah, “Their days will be 120 years” (CSB). God is saying the people had 120 years left before the Flood. This is how long it would take Noah to build the ark. During those 120 years God would wait patiently and provide the people with a preacher of righteousness calling them back to God (2 Peter 2:5). They would, of course, ignore his message. Peter said that “God patiently waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared” (1 Peter 3:20, CSB). God warned and waited before He brought judgment upon the people. Later, Peter would also write, “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, CSB). God warns before He judges. He delays His promised wrath. He longs for people to come to repentance. The Ark is a demonstration of God’s patience.
The Ark reminds us of God’s grace
Number two, the Ark reminds us of God’s grace. By nature, Noah deserved to be destroyed because of his own sins against God. However, according to Genesis 6:8, “Noah found favor with the Lord” (NLT).[i] Some translations word it, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (KJV). This is the first time the concept of grace or favor has been mentioned in the Bible.[ii]
Notice that Noah did not earn grace. Noah “found” grace.[iii] To find something means to discover it for oneself. God’s grace was always there, but for Noah, he discovered that it was for him personally. That’s how it is with you and I. We don’t earn grace, we find it. We discover it. We realize that it was always there, but when we find it our lives are never the same.
Ephesians 2:8 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (vs. 8-9, NLT). Noah found grace and favor in the eyes of God. God’s grace was displayed when God have Noah the instructions of how to build the Ark. God’s grace was demonstrated when God’s closed the door with Noah inside it. God’s grace was experienced when the floods of judgment came and Noah was safe inside the Ark. The same is true for every believer who is in Christ. When the floods of God’s judgment come at the end of time you will be safe inside Christ. That’s grace.
The Ark reminds us of God’s atonement
Number three, The Ark reminds us of God’s atonement. God told Noah in Genesis 6:14, “Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it with tar, inside and out” (NLT). The Hebrew word for “waterproof it” is kopher (pronounced ko-fer; noun: kopher, verb: kaphar) means “covering” or “to cover over.” What God is telling Noah is to cover over the inside and outside of the boat with tar. This will fill in all the cracks and holes and essentially make the boat one solid boat.
What is interesting is this word kopher is the word that will later be used to for the word atonement. Technically, this is the first mention of atonement in the Bible. In the Bible atonement refers to our sins being covered over by God’s forgiveness that comes through Christ. As a result, we are made one with Him. Our sinful cracks, holes, and brokenness is filled in with Christ righteousness. Our sins are atoned for, they are covered in the blood of Christ. The wrong is made right.
1 John 2:2 says, “He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins – and not only our sins but the sins of all the world” (NLT). Jesus is our kopher. He is our covering from the floods of judgment. The Ark is a perfect illustration of what Christ does. Just as the “tar” protected the people inside the ark from the waters of judgment, so the blood of Christ protects those who are in Christ from the God’s judgement when the Lord returns. Jesus is our kopher – our covering, our atonement.
The Ark reminds us of God’s details
Number four, The Ark reminds us of God’s details. God is not just interested in the big picture of your life, but also the details of your life. He is lovingly meticulous about you and your life. Look what God told Noah in Genesis 6:14, “Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it with tar, inside and out. Then construct decks and stalls throughout its interior. 15 Make the boat 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. 16 Leave an 18-inch opening below the roof all the way around the boat. Put the door on the side, and build three decks inside the boat—lower, middle, and upper” (vs. 14-16, NLT). When I first started thinking about God, my thoughts were that God is only interested in big and epic things. He is only interested in creating the universe and earth. Making humans. Dividing the Red Sea. Raising the dead. Healing the sick. Casting out demons. He is definitely interested in all those things, but He is also interested in the details of your life.
Notice God did not tell Noah to build and Ark and let Noah to it. God gives Noah some details about the Ark. God tells Noah to build the ark out of “cypress wood” (not just any wood, but cypress wood) and to put “tar, inside and out.” God tells Noah the ark should be “450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high.” God says there should be an “18 inch opening below the roof all the way around the boat” and the “door [should go] on the side.” Inside there should be “three decks” – a “lower, middle, and upper.” That’s great engineering, but it’s also very detailed and meticulous.
Listen carefully, while the Ark and the flood are both epic and huge in their own right, God still directed Noah in the finer and more details of the project. That will be the same for you. When God gives you something big to do, He will also give you the details of how to do it. If God calls you to marry someone, He will also give you the details of how to love that someone. If God gives you children, He will also give you the details of how to train that child. If God tells you to be generous, then He will give you the details of how to be generous. God may give you something big to do, but He will also give you the details.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (NLT). That’s pretty detailed. You will have many paths placed before you throughout life, but the Lord “will show you which path to take.” You are to marry that person and not that one. You are to take that job and not that one. You are to buy that house and not that one. You are to connect with that church and not that one. You are to bless this family and not that one.
Psalm 37:23 says, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives” (NLT). God is interested in the big picture of your life, but He is also interested in the details of your life. He “directs the steps” of your life and He “delights in every detail” of your life. He directs and delights in the little things of your life.
The Ark reminds us of God’s provision
Number five, the Ark reminds us of God’s provision. Noah did not design the ark. He didn’t sit down and say, “What does this boat need to look like? What shape does it need to be? How big does it need to be?” Noah may have had other questions, but he did not have these because God specifically told Noah the dimensions of the ark. Look what God told Noah in Genesis 6:14, “Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it with tar, inside and out. Then construct decks and stalls throughout its interior. 15 Make the boat 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. 16 Leave an 18-inch opening below the roof all the way around the boat. Put the door on the side, and build three decks inside the boat—lower, middle, and upper” (vs. 14-16, NLT). Noah did not plan for his deliverance, God did. Noah didn’t design the ark, God did. The ark was not Noah’s idea, it was God’s idea. Before the flood of judgment ever came, God was making a way of out.
In the same manner, God was the one who planned for our deliverance from the penalty of sin. It was God’s idea to send His Son Jesus to rescue us and save us. God planned and provided for our salvation before the universe was created. Before His judgment finally comes, God has made a way out. Ephesians 1:4 says, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” (vs. 4-5, NLT). God was already planning your salvation even before you were born. He was already thinking of you, before you were able to think of Him.
The Ark reminds us of God’s call
Number six, the Ark reminds us of God’s call, specifically God’s call to salvation. In Genesis 7:1, God says to Noah, “Go into the boat with all your family…” (NLT). God’s responsibility is to deliver them from the flood. Their responsibility is to enter the ark. God does not force them to enter the Ark, He simply commands and calls them into the ark.
It’s the same for you and me. When God calls you into salvation in Christ it is your responsibility to respond. Jesus once said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (NLT).
This call to salvation may be given to a group, but we must all, as individuals, make a decision. Noah must enter the Ark and so must his family. Noah cannot enter the Ark on his family’s behalf. They must each make a decision to enter the Ark. In the context of salvation, no one can come to Christ on your behalf. You yourself must come to Jesus by faith. Enter the Ark was a personal decision that each person made and entering the ark of salvation in Christ is also a decision that each person must make.
The Ark reminds us of God’s rest
Number seven, the Ark reminds us of God’s rest. Genesis 8:4 tells us, “Exactly five months from the time the flood began, the boat came to rest on the mountains of Ararat” (NLT). Sometimes you may feel like the people in the Ark, being tossed around through the storms of life. Even if you are in Christ, you are still going to go through some storms. However, after the storm God will make sure you land where you need to land and have rest. This is both true now (in your life) and later (after your life). There is an eternal rest coming that only comes to those who are in Christ.
The Ark reminds us of God’s door
Number eight, the Ark reminds us of God’s door. In Genesis 6:14 God told Noah to “put the door on the side” of the Ark. God instructed Noah to build only one door. This is the door that all the animals and people would go through to enter the Ark and escape the flood of God’s wrath upon the planet.
The Ark’s one door is a perfect illustration of another door that God has provided. Jesus said in John 10:9, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved…” (NASB). The way you enter this door is by faith. You trust Jesus to save you, forgive you, and to be the Lord of your life. By entering this door, you will escape the coming judgment.
After all the animals and all the people were on board something significant happened and we are told in Genesis 7:14, “Then the Lord closed the door behind them” (NLT). The door of the ark was open for a long time. For about 120 years Noah had preached to those who would come by to see what he was building. He warned them of a coming flood of judgment. At any time they could have joined Noah, even up to the last minute they could have come aboard the Ark with the animals. But they didn’t. When God’s timing had arrived the door was closed by God himself. It is now too late to turn to God. It is too late to get on the Ark. The opportunity has come and gone.
Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near” (NLT). The offer of the gospel is a limited-time offer. This door of opportunity will shut either by God choosing to stop calling, your death or the return of the Lord.
The Ark reminds us of God’s judgement
Number nine, the Ark reminds us of God’s judgement. After the Lord closed the door to the Ark, Genesis 7:17 says, “For forty days the floodwaters grew deeper, covering the ground and lifting the boat high above the earth. As the waters rose higher and higher above the ground, the boat floated safely on the surface. Finally, the water covered even the highest mountains on the earth, rising more than twenty-two feet above the highest peaks. All the living things on earth died – birds, domestic animals, wild animals, small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the people. Everything that breathed and lived on dry land died. God wiped out every living thing on the earth…” (vs. 17-23, NLT). As Christians, who study God’s Word, we know that Jesus is going to return. The Bible describes this return as a day of judgment. For us it will not be a surprise, but for those aren’t listening nor looking God’s judgement will take them by surprise.
Even though Noah and his family knew what was happening, the people around them were clueless. They had ignored Noah for 120 years. As the animals began to board the ark and there were only days left until the floods came, people were living life like normal. Not concerned about what they had heard and seen from Noah for the past 120 years. But when the door to the Ark shut and the waters began to fall the people began to panic. It surprised them. They were not ready. It was unexpected.
Jesus says something about this in Matthew 24:37, “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes” (vs. 37-39, NLT). The church and believers may see the Lord’s coming and be able to recognize the signs of the times and know that the Lord’s coming is soon, but most of the world will be taken by surprise. It will be unexpected.
Listen carefully to Hebrews 11:7, “It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith” (NLT). As you live your life it will take faith. It takes faith to obey God. It takes faith believe what the Bible says especially “about things that have never happened before.” Jesus is going to return.
[i] The Hebrew term hen refers to grace or favor.
[ii] It is true, of course, that Adam and Eve also found grace when they sinned; justice alone would have sent them into outer darkness forever. Seth and Enoch and all the others found grace. But here for the first time grace is explicitly mentioned. (Boice, James Montgomery; Genesis: Volume 1, 317).
[iii] Note the consistent Biblical order here. First, Noah “found grace.” Then Noah was “a just man” (that is, “justified” or “declared to be righteous”). Thus, he was “perfect in his generations” (or “complete,” in so far as God’s records are concerned), and therefore he was able to “walk with God.” Salvation in any era is exactly in this way. By sovereign grace, received through faith, the believer is justified before God and declared to be complete in Him. Only as a result of, and on the basis of, this glorious gift of grace, can one then “walk” in fellowship with God, showing the genuineness of his faith by his works. Four times it is said later, for example, that Noah “did all that God commanded him” (6:22; 7:5; 7:9; 7:16). (Morris, Henry; The Genesis Record, 177).