By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. – Hebrews 11:7
Modern Christians have a peculiar relationship with the Old Testament account of the flood. What other Old Testament account is used as both a children’s Bible story and as a leading objection by Atheists? The latter will talk about how morally repugnant the whole account is, while believers put of pictures of Noah’s ark and it looks like a child’s bath time toy.
What do you think? Was there truly a global flood? Did Noah really build an ark? Was the whole of land walking creation wiped out in a drastic act of God’s judgement? Does it matter? Can’t you just love Jesus and leave some of the specific Old Testament stories behind?
Now, some people really struggle with the idea of the ark being built. I think this is because they think of the bathtub toy with a giraffe standing on the deck looking over the edge. These pictures are cute for children but do a disservice to adults with questions. For many the ark seems unbelievable there are many ancient constructions, such as the Pyramids, that are still standing and put the ark to shame. We are often tempted to believe that people before us were primitive, and Noah, literally, blows that assumption out of the water!
Others struggle with the morality of a global judgement. God wiping out the humanity seems in contrast to a God who, as John 3:16 says, “so loved the world that He gave His only son.” While John 3:16 is true, so is John 3:19, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” Human nature has not changed and even the flood, while addressing the iniquity of that particular time, did not ultimately solve is the issue of man’s hearts. Even after the flood, in Genesis 8:21, God says of mankind, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” God would be just, as a righteous Judge and Overseer of the universe, to flood the earth again. We are often shocked by the flood only because we aren’t shocked enough at the darkness of our sin.
Still others struggle with the historicity of the flood, yet from a Christian perspective these sorts of miraculous things are not as hard to believe. Why couldn’t an all-powerful God choose to flood the earth? Most of ancient cultures have accounts of floods. Plus, as we’ll see, the flood is not just important historically, but also theologically significant.
For now, the Scriptures would call us to take note of Noah’s faith. The author of the book of Hebrews, who I’ll remind you we are not 100% sure of who wrote it, is writing to encourage weary believers in their faith. He uses various Old Testament examples with one message: Believer, Stand Firm in Faith.
He began this discussion in Hebrews 11 by highlight what faith is. It is confidence of things not seen and assurance of things hoped for. He offered the creation of the world as a clear example of faith. None of us were there, but what doesn’t we cannot know anything about it. He then begins to take us down the “Hall of Faith” by considering righteous Abel and a Sufferers Faith. Last week we looked at the account of Enoch and how his life displayed the Reward of Faith. This week we will consider living with “A Flooded Faith.”
First, we see Noah’s Act of Faith. By faith, Noah…constructed the ark. We do not know exactly how long this took, though it is possible it took over 100 years! While Noah likely had hired help, he had to oversee the construction. This act was a display of perseverance. Through summers and winters, he built the ark. Through birthdays and the marriage of his sons, he built an ark. Year after year, collecting wood, putting it together directing hired help.
Friends, could you imagine a project like this? Genesis 6 records God telling Noah how this ark is going to look. Look at Genesis 6:15, “This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits.” In modern measurements this is around 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high.
To help set that in perspective, the standard length of a football field is around 360 feet. It was as tall as some of the buildings in downtown Owensboro. A massive production in its day. Noah built this by faith.
Notice that it was his faith that led him to this work, but his faith was not this work. We often confuse doing “works” for God with our faith in God. But these things should not be confused. In Genesis 6, before God even mentions the ark, he comments that Noah was blameless and that he “walked with God.” Some of us think all faith consists of is playing by the rules. To do what I’m told and I’ll be loved and accepted. But this wasn’t Noah’s story. Before the first tree was cut down to build the ark we read this in Genesis 6:8, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” He received grace from God. Noah encountered unmerited favor from God.
Noah’s obedience is not something he could have stirred up in himself! Friend, he needed the grace of God and the gift of faith to live this way. Maybe we feel God is asking us to build an ark in our lives. He is asking us to parent a difficult child, love a difficult spouse, share the gospel with my friends and family, to step out of our comfort zone in faith, friend this isn’t something you can do in your strength! The ark may have been built with wood and tar, but it was also built with grace and reliance on the Lord!
God is not asking us to walk in our own strength. Let’s be honest: We can’t even get out of bed by our own strength, much less walk with God in faith. We need grace, the fuel of God to run the race.
In the words of John Piper, “Grace is power, not just pardon.” In other words, grace is not just forgiveness of sin, but power to overcome sin. The life of faith can only be lived by the power of Grace. Paul writes this in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. ” In other words, what enabled Paul to pursue God with such fervor was the grace of God in him not simply his own will power. Paul prays in 1 Thessalonians 1:11-12 that the church may “fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by God’s power…according to the grace of God.”
A life of faith is a life fueled by grace. Noah built the ark by grace-empowered faith. By this faith he constructed an ark and saved himself and his household. Genesis 6:22 tells us that Noah did “all that God had commended him.” Down to the tiniest detail. Noah’s act of faith was to build a boat. But the act itself is not the most significant thing- we also need to note how he did it.
Notice Noah’s Marks of Faith. The attitude of his faith. Did you see that in verse 7? By faith Noah, “being warned by God of things yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed the ark…” We see two marks there don’t we? Noah listened to God’s warning and Noah feared.
Let’s notice first that Noah listened. God warned him that a flood was coming and to build this ark. God spoke clearly to Noah and Noah responded. We don’t see in the text that Noah asked questions, though it is certain he hadn’t built an ark like this before. No doubt Noah’s calling by God had some uncertainties, but friends, if Noah had been given the ark by God rather than having to build the ark, where would his faith be? God spoke and Noah responded.
Consider that in your own life. Are we like Noah when we hear God speak? Do responded immediately to God’s Word when it comes to us? Delayed obedience could have gotten Noah washed away because delayed obedience would have been disobedience.
Noah believed God’s Word. Even in the wilderness, he believed God when he said it would rain. Without knowing how to build a ship, he took on the project. He believed the call of God above what he could see or understand. He looked with the eyes of faith when his eyes couldn’t see. Isn’t this fundamentally that faith is? Recall at Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is being fully convinced in something we are hoping for. Faith is Noah not seeing the flood rains for 100 years, yet knowing it was coming. Why? Because the only Weather Man with 100% accuracy told Him so- God Himself!
Why could Noah trust God? He knew what is written about in Titus, that it comes from a God who never lies. That it was trustworthy. This Word came from God who created the world out of nothing. Therefore, he knew there was nothing that God couldn’t perform. If He could make the world- some rain clouds weren’t a problem! Consider Hebrews 11:6 which we looked at last week- faith is believing God is and that He is a rewarder. Noah believed God was and that He could keep His promises, not just to flood the earth but also that would save His family through the ark! God is seen to be the rewarder of Noah as he sought Him.
Noah listened to God and Noah feared God. You’re probably thinking, “I would too! Why not fear a God who floods the earth?” But, it wasn’t the sort of fear we have of a killer or fear of a foreign army. Certainly, Noah saw the power of God and did not want to fall into the hands of an angry God, bur Noah’s fear was a “reverent” one.
Reverence is that overwhelming weight that possesses us when we’re in awe. Sunsets, the Grand Canyon, the beauty of a new born child, the soft whisper of the wind on a summers day- reverence is awe. And our awe for these things should not begin to compare with the awe of the living God.
Awe begins with recognizing just how small we are. Isaiah is strunk by awe when he gets a vision of the Heavenly court room and the angels singing praises to the Lord of the universe. They echo the song, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” – cause one Holy wouldn’t do!- and that the whole universe is full of His glory! Isaiah sees this vision and falls in awe confessing his uncleanliness. A reverence life begins with recognizing how small we are. How great our sin is before such a Holy God!
But, awe doesn’t stop there. Awe also arises out of incredible love. A child’s unconditional love. A spouse’s commitment. Love that floors you. This is a stirrer of awe. Noah knew what it was to be loved! As I mentioned, he found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Prior to being called blameless or anything, God pursued Him. It wasn’t because He needed Noah to build a boat- someone else could build the boat. Hear me: God could have another you tomorrow! He is not obligated to display grace to anyone! He was not obligated to warn the people or to warn Noah of the disaster that was coming. The people had spent generations walking in disobedience. Genesis 6 describes all the people as “every intention of the thoughts of their hearts were only evil continually.” The people were dominated by evil. Yet out of this mass of sin and darkness, God chose Noah! Not because of who Noah was, but solely out of grace!
The beautiful truth of God’s electing love is not something that should stir up anger or charges of God’s fairness- cause if God were fair all would have been in those flood waters, as would have we. But the doctrine of election should stir up overwhelming awe toward God! Who am I that you would show favor to me? Paul writes all about election in Romans 9-11 and he closes that section of Scripture with these words of awe,
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
That is a man in awe! That is worship from reverent fear! God is to be worshipped and revered by all who know Him! To know God is to love God and to love God to revere Him!
Noah constructed the ark after being warned by God and listening and out of a reverent fear for the Lord. We recognize Noah’s act of faith, we saw the marks of faith, now we turn to the results of his faith.
Notice the second sentence in Hebrews 11:7- By this (his faith) he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. The story of Noah’s life and the flood are a clear warning for us of the dangers of sin. While God has promised not to flood the world again, He has not promised not to judge the world again. By this, God condemned the world, and condemns the scoffers. Peter writes in his second epistle, “For [scoffers] deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” Peter would also write that Noah was a preacher, with one message: Flee to the ark. Friends, God’s message hasn’t changed. Flee to the ark.
Our ark, though, is not made with wood; our ark was hung on wood. Our ark didn’t pass through water, but was drowned in the wrath of God! Our ark came out of the other side of death, but it wasn’t in an empty mountain, but in an empty tomb! Jesus Christ is the ark of salvation! Flee to Him! He is the only hope for the floods of God’s wrath. There was one door on the ark, and even those who built it, missed it. Will that be your testimony?
See, many of us misunderstand God’s forgiveness. We see it much like a Presidential pardon, where God signs a paper, waves his hand, and after a time of suffering, we are forgiven. This isn’t the gospel though. The gospel is not a Presidential Pardon, it is substitution. The prisoner is not forgiven arbitrarily, his punishment and his debt are fully paid, it’s just paid by someone who didn’t commit the crime! In the gospel the President of the Universe- God Himself- takes your punishment in order to forgive you. In the gospel there is a great exchange, and we see it in Hebrews 11.
Noah was commended as righteous. By faith, we are commended as righteous. Embracing God’s word of forgiveness was the only way! By faith, Jesus works are credited to us and our sins are placed on Him. The one who knew no sin becomes sin for us that through Him we might become the righteousness of God. This is tremendous news! Will you flee to Christ by faith by morning?
Friends, whether we realize it or not, all of us are Noah’s in our own day. We’ve got the ark built and God has told us the rains are coming. A day is coming when all of us will stand before him and give an account for our lives. On that day, it will not be about the weights on a scale- hoping our good outweighs our bad. No one can swim through a flood. Will we be messengers of rescue? Love speaks- it does not stay silent. How will you speak up for Jesus this week? If you are a Christian, you are Noah. How can you live as Noah this week?
In closing, let me offer 5 practical examples:
- Pray. God delights to answer a prayer for gospel opportunity.
- Show Hospitality to Neighbors by inviting them over to your house for dinner or meet them to eat. From there talk to them and leverage any spiritual topics or common ground to speak about Jesus.
- Invite a neighbor or class mate, maybe even someone who you don’t know well and seems to be an outsider, to church with you.
- Form Spiritual Connections by praying with someone- out loud. Maybe your waiter or waitress at lunch or a neighbor or friend in need. This simple step of faith offers an opportunity to follow up about answered prayer
- Organize a Bible Study with people who might be interested. Even if monthly, this would allow for direct spiritual conversations
Robbie Gallaty once said, “The Gospel came to you because it was heading to someone else.” Will it stop with you or continue through you?