This post continues a series of posts connecting Noah, his ark, Enoch, his city, and the "rest" we find as we enter into the everlasting covenant.
In this post, I'll lay out the case connecting Noah's ark to 'the word' of God, which is an expansive concept Stisa and I have both discussed many times (see here, here and here for some examples). In that first link, written in February 2020, I said the following:
I believe ... that we can greatly benefit by seeing the rod as an implement of gathering in the hands of a divine messenger. It is more than just printed words on a page, it is divinely inspired messages, the voice of the Spirit, and invitations to follow the Savior.
A rod is a very apt metaphor for the word of God, a tool used by shepherds to direct their flock. How we choose to respond to the portion of the word we receive is what will ultimately determine our destiny.
In that same post, I outlined how Nephi connects "the word" with the power to save (particularly power over the waters) and do "great work" on the earth. (See 1 Nephi 17:26.)
My recent studies on the topics of Noah and 'entering into His rest' have repeatedly led me back to the concept of the word. I'll attempt to illustrate how intimately connected these concepts are in this post.
Let's take a closer look at the two Old Testament stories in which the Hebrew word 'tevah' is used: the story of Noah and the story of infant Moses.
- In both cases, a group of people faces death by drowning: all humanity in the case of Noah (see Genesis 6:7) and all male sons of Hebrew women in the story of Moses (see Exodus 1:22).
- Both vessels were covered in pitch (Genesis 6:14 and Exodus 2:3).
- In both cases, only a single family or individual is saved from the waters.
Post-biblically, however, the use of tevah to signify the ark in the synagogue is old, going back to early rabbinic times, in which the word also meant “box.” (As it does today in such contemporary words as tevat-do’ar, or “mailbox.”) We know this not only from the Talmud, but also from the more exotic evidence of Ge’ez, the ancient sacred language of the Ethiopian Christian church, in which tabot means “holy ark,” too. This usage has, according to the scholars, no indigenous Ge’ez derivation and must have entered Ge’ez in the early centuries C.E. from a Hebraic source. (The old legend that the original Ark of the Covenant was taken to Ethiopia after the destruction of the Temple may be related to this.) ... The word teva does designate the pulpit in Sephardic synagogues, i.e., the table or stand on the bima or platform from which prayers are recited and the Torah is read. The ark, on the other hand, is called by Sephardic Jews the hehal (pronounced “HEY-khal”), from the Hebrew heykhal, “temple.” (source)
It's very intriguing to realize that 'tevah' can refer to the pulpit in a Sephardic synagogue or the box in which the Torah scrolls are kept in an Ashkenazi synagogue. A variant of the same word refers to a replica of either the Ark of the Covenant or the Tablets of Law (ten commandments) in the Ethiopian Church. (Not to mention that Sephardic Jews refer to the ark using the Hebrew word for temple.)
This is particularly interesting because in the Old Testament the Ark of the Covenant is not referred to using the word 'tevah.' Rather, 'aron' is used. But the fact that three very old Judeo-Christian religions substituted a form of 'tevah' to refer to 'the word' is quite telling.
In light of all of this, it seems that one deeper message we can take from both stories is this: 'the word' can save us from death if we "enter into" it. On that, it seems there is general consensus. This begs this question, though: How do we enter into God's word? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is uniquely positioned to offer a deep answer to that question, which has to do with Christ, covenants, baptism, temples, and latter-day revelation.
Parallels to Christ
I believe the symbolism embedded in the story of Noah is intended to point our minds to Christ's atonement, which is the ultimate means by which we can obtain everlasting life. Just as Noah entered the ark after hearkening to God's command to build it, each of us must build an ark of sorts from the word of God in our own lives and enter into it by trusting God to lead us and guide us through the chaos of mortality in safety. Recall that the ark had no sail and no oars.
Christ is the Word, who was with God and was God from the beginning. Those who receive Him obtain power from Him "to become the sons of God" by becoming "born ... of God." (See John 1:1-2, 12-13.)
I like the connection between baptism and the story of Noah. When we are baptized, we lay down the old creature into the water and allow a "new creature" to arise. (See Mosiah 27:25-26.)
This new creature rejoices and diligently serves God for the rest of his or her time on earth. As discussed in this post, we do not serve Him to somehow earn eternal life. As I stated in that post:
...our good works are not performed in an effort to be saved. They are not the cause of salvation, they are an effect of it! These good works spontaneously appear when we truly recognize by what power we are saved.
The new creatures are the sons and daughters of God (Mosiah 27:25). His children perform good works such as baptism "as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world." (Mosiah 18:13)
There isn't a set number of "good works" we must perform in order to qualify for salvation. Rather, we must use our agency to bring about a "mighty change in [our] hearts" (Alma 5:13-14), after which good works flow naturally from us like pure water from a fountain.
Baptism as the gate by which we "enter in"
- Noah "enter[ed] into the ark" (Genesis 7:13) prior to the flood.
- Baptism is the "gate by which [we] should enter" in order to "receive." (See 2 Nephi 31:9, 17-18.)
- This is the beginning of the process by which we become "peaceable followers of Christ" who "have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven." (Moroni 7:3)
I'll give Alma-2 the last word:
37 And now, my brethren, seeing we know these things, and they are true, let us repent, and harden not our hearts, that we provoke not the Lord our God to pull down his wrath upon us in these his second commandments which he has given unto us; but let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word. (Alma 12)