Whose name meant “comfort”? Noah’s! Lamech says as much. When Noah was born, Lamech proclaimed, “This one shall give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed” (Gen. 5:29). The NIV and KJV, among others, puts the word “comfort” for “rest,” Lamech was optimistic that Noah, would help alleviate the labor pains of farming in cursed ground.
Have you stopped to think about the meaning of Noah’s name and the mission of Noah’s life? What was his task? He was to build the ark, but he also preached (cf. 2 Pet. 2:5). Now, as to how many people Noah preached to, the Bible is silent. One might assume that he preached as far and as widely as a man engaged in such an enormous building project could. Or, one might say that he preached by the example of his righteous life (cf. Gen. 6:9). The best understanding of 1 Peter 3:18-21 may be that Christ preached to the disobedient ones through Noah’s efforts prior to the flood.
If Noah did preach to the disobedient, and/or admonished and exhorted onlookers and scornful neighbors to get on board the ark, he still was seeking to provide comfort. The thing to understand about giving comfort is that it does not always mean speaking soothing words, placating people, or telling them what they want to hear. That is, at times, a very appropriate and needed response–especially when people are suffering or trying to stay faithful. Yet, comfort can also be the fruit that only comes after a warning or rebuke. When a person is on a self-destructive course, they are destined for something inconceivably awful! What can a compassionate Christian do but try with tremendous effort to steer them back on course? That may be the only way that wayward sinner comes to the place where eternal comfort is once more a possibility.
Remember Jude’s teaching. He said, “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 22-23). Sometimes, comfort is in the product and not in the raw material or the manufacturing. Always being loving, let us risk offending now so that eternal comfort can be had later! The Christian’s name, nature, and business centers around that real, spiritual comfort, both for the Christian and those whose lives he or she touches (cf. 1 Tim. 4:16).