There is a dynamic interplay in the story of Noah that has intrigued me recently.
Methuselah’s age as recorded in the Bible has become the stuff of trivia, factoid, debate. But have you ever wondered why he was the one who lived the longest?
Methuselah’s name is significant. It means, “when he dies, it will be sent.” The it, of course, being the flood. This means that Noah wasn’t the only one to get the revelation concerning the destiny of the world. His great grandfather Enoch did too. Once Enoch saw this revelation, he began to walk with God.
Revelation changes us.
It has the power to radically alter our life habits, to the point where our friends may wonder if we are the same person as before.
Noah in a sense inherited the revelations of the godly men before him. Noah was born into something that was already set in motion by God. He came on the scene right in the midst of it. Then God came in and revealed the situation to him and also the way of salvation.
That must have been a decisive moment in his life. The impact of the revelation must have been staggering. To put it in Watchman Nee’s words, he saw “a world under water.” How could he live the same? In a sense, that moment defined him. His life could be dived by the before and after. This revelation produced a deep inward realization about everything.
Imagine walking through town later that day and looking around thinking, “It’s all going to be under water.”
Noah had only one option before him- build the ark. And he was racing against time. Methuselah could have died at any moment. In fact the characteristic of that age was unprecedented violence.
Now, consider two scenarios.
What if Methuselah died before Noah finished building the ark?
I don’t think God would have allowed that. That would mean the flood would have come before the building was complete.
What if Noah finished building the ark before Methuselah reached 969?
I think Methuselah would have died younger. I don’t think God would have just let the ark sit around for 50 years after it was completed. The point was that the ark needed to be built for a new generation to be ushered in.
Thus there was a dynamic interplay between Methuselah’s age and the time it took Noah to build the ark.
The reason Methuselah ended up being the oldest person in the Bible was because God was waiting for the building of the ark.
…when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared…
1 Peter 3:20
No one knew when Methuselah would die. What they could see was the relative completion of the ark. That was surely a sign to them.
I think this same dynamism exists today. On the one hand, we don’t know when Christ will return. But the building of the church is a sign to us. When the church is built to a sufficient degree the Lord will come. Recently some people have been predicting when Christ will return. This would be like sitting around and betting on when Methuselah would die. Noah’s family may not have been so clear regarding when the flood was coming, but they got built into the ark.
Focusing on when exactly Christ will return or trying to guess the date does not do that much for us because the crucial thing is the building of the church and our being built into the church.
If the story of Noah has any spiritual implications related to the church, then this means that Christ’s second coming is directly related to the building of the church.