When Lamech saw his newborn son he named him Noah, meaning rest or relief or comfort, and then prophesied that Noah would give rest from “the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.” The perfect world created in God’s perfect week had been permanently damaged, first by Adam and Eve’s disobedience, and then by each sinful life that followed. Now sin was about to bear its full fruit, for by the time Noah reached his mature age of 500 “the LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”
I imagine that Noah grew up hearing his father’s prophetic words more than a few times (Lamech lived 595 years after Noah was born, dying only five years before the flood). It could have been a heavy burden for Noah to carry. Or it may have motivated him to live a godly life. Either way, it must have frustrated him, as he walked with God, to see no change in the godless people around him. There was no rest, or relief, or comfort. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord, and at the very time that God was poised to wipe all evil from the earth, he entrusted Noah with a rescue mission.
I doubt that Lamech had the ark in mind when he foresaw Noah’s mission of relief and comfort. Even now it takes a very long-term view to see the rest in that storm-tossed boat. Yet by carrying his children through the flood Noah made it possible for God to carry on his plan of redemption. Noah was the father of Shem, and from Shem came the Hebrew people. From the Hebrews God raised up one man, Jacob, who became the father of twelve sons. From that family God grew a nation, Israel, and from that nation God chose a family, the family of David. From that family came one man, Jesus, who offers all of us rest and comfort.
In giving us rest Noah found little rest himself. He worked hard, perhaps for a hundred years, to build the ark. He must have struggled with doubts as he worked to build something whose end and purpose he could not see. But his faith was greater than any doubt, and his life is an example of the sacrifice that is needed if we are to serve God and bring his rest to others.
After the flood waters dried up and Noah’s family left the ark, God said, “never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.” Lamech had cried out for relief from God’s curse. God used Noah to bring relief. In some way the earth itself is fundamentally different now than it was before the flood. Part of the curse of sin has already been removed by God, a down payment of sorts on the final transaction that will one day permanently remove us even from the presence of sin.