Why did Noah prophesize events that did not come to pass, on multiple occasions?
In the Suríy-i-Vafá (Tablet of Fidelity), Bahá’u’lláh writes:
Moreover, thou shouldst not perceive the fulfilment of the Return and the Resurrection save in the Word of thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Knowing. For instance, were He to take a handful of earth and declare it to be the One Whom ye have been following in the past, it would undoubtedly be just and true, even as His real Person, and to none is given the right to question His authority. He doeth what He willeth and ordaineth whatsoever He pleaseth.
In effect, true belief must be based on the Manifestation Himself, and His word, and not according to any earthly standard, such as what men understand of justice, truth, righteousness, mercy, or any other thing. Only such Faith is befitting to Him.
When Noah gave his unfilled prophecy, the correct response would have been for those believers to say, “Gracious God, the prophecy has been fulfilled”, even if their own eyes were unable to perceive the truth of it. In the same way, the divines of each age have persecuted and put to death the Messengers of God, because they weighed matters in the scale of their own judgment, so too believing the prophecies had remained unfulfilled, and invalidating in their eyes the claims of the Promised One.
The real standard is His statement, “He doeth what He pleaseth. He chooseth; and none may question His choice. Whatsoever He, the Well-Beloved, ordaineth, the same is, verily, beloved.” In the Gems of Divine Mysteries, He writes:
And should he encounter One Who layeth claim to a Cause from God, and Who holdeth from His Lord a testimony beyond the power of men to produce, he must needs follow Him in all that He pleaseth to proclaim, command and ordain, even were He to decree the sea to be land, or to pronounce earth to be heaven, or that the former lieth above the latter or below it, or to ordain any change or transformation, for He, verily, is aware of the celestial mysteries, the unseen subtleties, and the ordinances of God.
Even though Noah appeared to be giving prophecy that was not outwardly fulfilled, in reality it both was fulfilled, and tested the quality of mankind’s faith. Did they believe due to their acceptance of the Manifestation for His own sake, or according to their own reasoning and knowledge?
A similar thing happened when Muhammad changed the point of the Qiblih, mid-prayer, without explanation, causing several of His followers to leave and abandon their religion. They had placed their Faith in a fancy of their own imagining, and not His blessed Person.
At the end of the story of Noah in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, Bahá’u’lláh writes:
… from time immemorial even unto eternity the Almighty hath tried, and will continue to try, His servants, so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns. Even as He hath revealed: “Do men think when they say `We believe’ they shall be let alone and not be put to proof?”
Such faith must be rooted in the heart, and not based on agreement in the mind alone. With sufficient examination and reflection, the hidden, inner meanings may be brought be light; but we must proceed on the assumption that His knows, and we do not know. The followers of Noah were tested according to their expectations, and judged according to their deeds. It became an object lesson that has been repeated again and again, whenever prophecy has failed to take the forms expected by men.
If the mystic knowers be of those who have reached to the beauty of the Beloved One, this station is the apex of consciousness and the secret of divine guidance. This is the center of the mystery: “He doth what He willeth, ordaineth what He pleaseth.”
Were all the denizens of earth and heaven to unravel this shining allusion, this darksome riddle, until the Day when the Trumpet soundeth, yet would they fail to comprehend even a letter thereof, for this is the station of God’s immutable decree, His foreordained mystery. Hence, when searchers inquired of this, He made reply, “This is a bottomless sea which none shall ever fathom.” And they asked again, and He answered, “It is the blackest of nights through which none can find his way.”