In the last Torah portion, we ended with God's declaration of man's depravity: "The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5 ESV). This is not unlike what we read in Romans when Paul declares that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23 ESV). Ever since the fall of man, this have been our condition. We were told that when we ate of the tree of knowledge we would reap death, and so we have been continually reaping death for the last six thousand years.
But, this is only the set-up for the next story, the cliffhanger that beckons us to "tune in next week." Man is depraved, violence has filled the earth, and yet one man has found grace in the eyes of God. In one man we find that there is hope for mankind. Of this one man, a prophet spoke saying "He shall bring us rest."
Now, in the Torah portion, we are of course speaking of Noah. But, prophetically this story points forward to Messiah. It is Messiah who provides atonement*; it is Messiah who delivers us from the judgment; it is Messiah who gives us rest.
Again, as we come to the end of the Torah portion, men think they can reach the glory of God through his own efforts. They come together and build a tower, a symbol of their pride. Yet, God confounds their language so that "every mouth might be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God" (Rom. 3:29 ESV). Noah was not saved by building a tower high enough to escape the flood. He was not saved by his mighty deeds or by anything that he might boast about (c.f. Gen 6:4). He was saved by trusting in the provision of His God. So, too, are we. The only difference is that our ark is not made with hands.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.... Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:27, 31 ESV)
*The Hebrew word for "pitch" in Gen 6:14 is the same as is often translated "atonement."