Hope requires much from us. It requires our affections, our vulnerability, our energy. And even when we give ourselves to it, when we are willing to embrace that in-between-ness of hope, that possibility that things may work out or that they may not, we do so risking what can sometimes be total heartbreak. It’s hard work to hope, because there’s always the possibility our hopes can be dashed.
We can only imagine that Lamech must have known that feeling as he watched his son Noah grow up, not only experiencing the pain of toil himself, but also living in a world that seemed to be turning ever more toward sin. Noah may have been born in hope, but how could hope possibly survive in a world like this?
Genesis tells us that humanity had become so corrupt, so wicked, they entertained “only evil continually” in their hearts (Genesis 6:5). This was a far cry from the garden of Eden in Genesis 1 and 2. Things were so bad that Genesis 6:7 tells us God was grieved “to his heart.” In response, God said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Just as it seems that all hope is lost forever, a little word, three letters long, is introduced into the narrative. And that little word changes everything.
But. B-U-T. It may seem like making too big a deal over three little letters, but the truth is a coordinating conjunction has never looked so good, because this little word marks a big change in direction. Just as we read God had declared he would wipe out all living things, verse 8 continues, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”
Now, when we picture Noah, this righteous man who walked with God and was blameless in his generation, it can be easy to imagine a guy who had it “ all together. But the thing about people who seem too good to be true is that they usually are. And Noah was no exception. Noah stood out among his generation for the simple reason that he walked with God, living according to his will. So, while we may be tempted to think Noah’s righteousness earned him God’s favor, that couldn’t be further from the truth. God’s favor is never earned. It is always a gift of grace.
Noah’s father, Lamech, died in hope. It’s a hard reality, and one we’d rather not share, but if Genesis 6 teaches us anything, it’s that our hope need not be in vain. God is merciful, and he is good, and because his love is a condescending love—a love that stoops down to us because we could not possibly reach up to him—we can hold on to hope even in the midst of the harshest circumstances. Lamech would never know the satisfaction of a realized hope, but God would remain faithful. His rest would come.