Hebrews 11 7 – By FAITH Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his FAITH he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
I think all of us have a favorite time of the week when work is done and we know we will be able to kick back and relax. And for most people that time is Friday night. The work week is over so, unlike other days, commuters smile as they fight the traffic on their way home-because it is Friday and they know they won’t have to do this in the morning! Students are happier on Fridays because they know they have two whole days off before they have to return to their studies on Monday. In fact this portion of the week is so popular that it has led millions to wake up on Friday morning eager to express their gratitude to God for this special, greatly anticipated day by saying, “THANK GOD….IT’S FRIDAY!” The popularity of this time of the week has led to a successful restaurant chain: TGI Fridays and even to a prime time line-up on ABC TV.
Everyone looks forward to Friday — Everyone that is except senior pastors! For us, Friday is still “Wednesday.” The sermon usually still needs work…and there is almost always a church function on Saturday.
So my “Friday night” is Sunday night. The sermon is over and there are seven whole days before I have to have another one written. There is no homework to help the kids with. We can all unwind and relax together for a couple hours as a family.
Now, the Adams “tradition” on Sunday nights is to come home and fix something fun for dinner and enjoy it while we watch Touched by An Angel.
Well a few weeks ago, I began to see publicity on a special movie that was to air on Sunday night a 2-part mini-series entitled: NOAH. It boasted an all-star line up and a special effects budget of many millions so I began to eagerly anticipate the particular Sunday night that it was to be shown. I don’t know about you but I like it when God makes it onto prime time TV! So as the night of it’s airing finally arrived, I felt like saying, “TGISN!” …”Thank God It’s Sunday Night!” We had our traditional fun dinner and began to watch the show…..but….I was soooooo disappointed! The movie was a downer….a waste of a precious Sunday night! I say this because the producers got the story of Noah all wrong. They portrayed Lot as his best friend when in scripture Lot never even knew Noah. They lived hundreds of years apart. They had the destruction of Sodom and Gomorah occurring before the flood instead of afterwards as it is recorded in God’s Word! The script of the movie even had God threatening to kill Noah after he had faithfully built the ark. It was a fiasco! It ruined my whole “TGISN” celebration!
So as I was deciding which heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11 to deal with in this sermon series, Noah immediately made it to the top of my list. I’ve looked forward to this time when we can not only learn a great deal about faith from Noah’s life but we can set the record straight once and for all as to exactly what really happened! I want us to begin this process by getting a good picture in our mind’s eye of the setting of this historic event which is recorded in Genesis chapters 5-9.
First, let’s examine Noah himself. His grandfather was Mathuselah — who still holds the record when it comes to the longest life span….remember he lived 969 years! Noah’s name means “comfort” or “rest.” Scripture says that his father, Lamech, gave him this name because, as a baby, Noah, comforted him as he labored to work the ground that had been cursed due to the sin of Adam and Eve. And Noah himself was a father. He had three sons, named SHEM, HAM, and JAPHETH. Scripture also says that Noah was a righteous man. In Genesis 6:9 it says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time.”
Now the word “blameless” doesn’t meant perfection. It literally means “uncontaminated.”
As we shall see, Noah was not “contaminated” by the wickedness of his day. He was Gods’ man through and through. Clarence MacCartney calls Noah, “the SOLITARY Saint.” For, Noah, was the ONLY ONE of his kind…which tells us that SOLITARY goodness IS possible.
Noah lived in a culture that was unimaginably degraded…horribly corrupt and yet he was different. He was the only man of faith in an entire world that had turned it’s back on God. You may remember that Henry David Thoreau once said, “If I seem to walk out of step with others, it is because I am listening to another drum beat.” And this is a good description of genuine faith. Christians who embrace a deep faith in God walk through life as though listening to another drum beat. They are out of step with the world. You see, there is no such thing as a Christian life that is not counterculture. If you are a follower of the Lord, it means you are going to have to make decisions that distinguish you from the sinful world in which we all live. Philippians 2 : 14-15 says that if we live out our faith, “we will shine as stars in the universe, amidst a crooked and depraved generation.” You see, no one can thoroughly participate in everything that’s true of our culture today and follow Christ at the same time. And this is tough. We follow a narrow path! You graduates especially need to hear that it is difficult to be a young adult in college or wherever and STAND ALONE for God….it is difficult…but Noah’s life proves that it is possible! God needs individuals who are willing to stand alone for Him if need be.
Then Genesis 6:9 says something else about NOAH. He walked with God. You may remember that ENOCH also walked with God. In fact in all history, Noah and Enoch are the only two men of whom this is said. Walking with God means to move in the same direction in which God is going. It means keeping in step with God.
So Noah and Enoch didn’t run ahead of God….nor did they lag behind….they kept step with God. Think about it. When you’re walking with someone, you’re not moving so fast that conversation is difficult. You can enjoy your companion. And this sharing makes everything else enjoyable. You can look together at the cloud formations, the turning of the leaves in the fall, the flower beds in neighbor’s yards, the geese in the stream that by the path, or whatever.
So walking with someone is a great picture of intimacy. This kind of intimacy with God was a lifestyle for Noah. Year after year, for longer and longer periods of time during the day, he shared more and more of his life with God.
Notice another characteristic of Noah. Twice scripture speaks of his obedience. In Genesis 6:22, it says, “Noah did EVERYTHING, just as GOD COMMANDED him.” And, in Genesis 7:5 we are told “And NOAH did ALL (not most, but ALL) that the Lord commanded him.” Unlike many disciples today who pick and choose which commands of God they will apply to their lives, Noah embraced the kind of love for God that Jesus described in John 14 when He said, “If you love Me, you will OBEY what I command.”
Now graduates, I hope you see in Noah characteristics that you should emulate: a righteous life unpolluted by the world, a man who cherished and nourished an intimate daily walk with God, and an individual who showed his love for God with a lifestyle of obedience to His commands!
Now to really understand Noah we also need to look at the culture in which he lived. Scripture teaches that it was a culture of unprecedented wickedness. Genesis 6:11 says, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.” Throughout the text the combination of the words “corrupt” and “violence” is repeated again and again and this is because the moral degradation of life, the corruption of ethics is always accompanied by violence, a warning that we should heed even in our day and age. You may remember that the beginning of chapter 6 mentions “sons of God” marrying human women and “Nephilim” having children with human women. Many biblical scholars believe these “sons of God” and “Nephilim” were fallen angels, demons who had children with the women of this day.
Well, Genesis 6:5 says that God saw this as a great wickedness. And it is tragic to note that prior to this chapter in Genesis, any time God gazed upon His creation….any time the phrase, “God SAW” is used, it is followed by God commenting, “It was good.” or “It was VERY good.”
But now God looks at the world and it is not good at all. It is totally corrupt.
So much had changed! The human race was degraded almost beyond recognition. God was thoroughly disgusted with what He saw in the human race. Then, listen to the last part of verse 5… “every inclination of the thoughts of the hearts of men were evil all the time.” Corruption had become so thorough that there was nothing human left about these people. Even their thoughts were a constant mental stream of evil. They had already drowned everything “human” about themselves in a kind of moral wretchedness that had existed even before the rains began to fall. They had already destroyed themselves.
So, the deluge was the logical outcome of the way of life these people had chosen.
Verse 6 is also significant in that it records not the anger of God but His grief over the fallen state of humanity. It says, “The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart wis filled with pain.”
So God’s heart ached as if He had lost something extraordinarily precious to Him.
Then, in verses 13,17 we read of God’s sorrowful determination to destroy not only human life but all other life as well. Every living creature was going to die in the flood except for the few animals that would be protected in the ark. That might seem excessive until we remember that human beings were made regents of earth, to have dominion over all created things. And human corruption had apparently spread so that it ruined almost everything else. It’s like we see today when scientists make mistakes and spread radioactive waste over a large area.
so that everything that comes in contact with it is contaminated and will pose a threat for thousands of years polluting air and water and all life. Something like that evidently had happened in the days before the flood. Human fools had ruined life everywhere and there was very little left that was worth saving.
Okay,that’s the story….let’s see what it can teach about FAITH. I want to point our three things that Noah….this HERO of the FAITH…has taught us when it comes to this subject:
1. First-I think Noah’s life shows us that true faith has a BASIS….it has something to back it up.
Noah would say that faith in God is not a hunch. It’s not positive thinking. It’s not a leap in the dark.
No, Noah would tell us that faith has a basis….a foundation. Hebrews 11:7 says Noah did what he did, “…WHEN WARNED BY GOD…about things not yet seen.” The word “warned” means Noah was divinely instructed. God spoke to him and told him what He was going to do.
So the BASIS of Noah’s faithful actions was the WORD OF GOD. And the Bible teaches this principle of faith. In Romans 10 it says, that, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by….THE WORD OF GOD.”
So genuine faith has a basis. It is founded on the things God says. In fact a faith that doesn’t rest on the Word of God is not a faith worth having. True faith has a sure foundation. It is not based on our feelings or emotions. It is not based on our traditions.
No, our source of authority. The basis of our faith is the Word of God!
Note that the text says that God warned Noah of a thing, “not yet seen.” God’s Word that the flood was to come was all that Noah had to go on. There was no visible sign of an impending flood. It was 120 years out there in the future. And what is worse. Noah had never seen rain. The Bible infers that it had never rained until the flood came. Genesis 2 says that, “God had not sent rain on the earth but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.” And Noah had never seen a flood…for you can’t have a flood unless you have rain.
So, I am sure that Noah’s peers laughed at him as he built a boat 500 miles from the nearest ocean and a thousand times too big for his family and then began to fill it with the animals that God sent.
And Noah had nothing to base his actions on other than GOD’S WORD. I doubt if you or I would have trusted God under these circumstances….but Noah had the faith to do so. He believed God’s Word. Noah accepted what God told him. For 120 years he worked on this huge ark on the basis of God’s Word alone! And in all that time, NOTHING HAPPENED to make him think it was going to come true.
Now, it might have been easier for Noah if every three or four days God had blown up some clouds and let some lightening flash and thunder roll. That might have been encouraging to Noah. But this didn’t happen!
But you know, if Noah could believe and obey God’s Word for 120 years under those conditions, then surely you and I ought to be able to do so with the fuller revelation that we have. We have an entire BIBLE filled with God’s Words upon which to base our faith. We have His risen Son to guide us through life. We know that God’s words are true! Do you hear the words to a famous hymn ringing in your heads? “How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord is fixed for your faith in His excellent WORD! What more can He say than to you He has said? To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?” Our faith DOES have a firm foundation. For, a person who embraces this kind of faith build’s their life on the Word of God.
And listen. Just as God promised in the days of Noah to destroy the world because of man’s wickedness, so He has promised that He will destroy the world again! In 2 Peter God cites the example of Noah and the flood and then in chapter 3 vers 10 it says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be destroyed.” This text goes on to ask us, in light of this, based on THIS WORD OF GOD…what kind of persons ought we to be? What kind of lives should we live? Well it doesn’t say we should build an ark but verse 14 does command that we make every effort to live lives that are “spotless and blameless.”
So, Noah’s life shows us that our faith in God has a basis. Our faith is founded on God’s word. The things He has said — which leads us to the second thing that Noah’s life teaches us about faith…
2. …. if someone lives by faith…it will be EVIDENT in their life. Faith is not an invisible thing. It shows!
Remember, Hebrews 11:7 says that Noah DID SOMETHING because of his faith! He built a huge ark….something everyone noticed! Noah’s faith expressed itself in obedience to God’s commands. And REAL faith — GENUINE faith — always expresses itself in that way. FAITH always acts! These days, there is a common misconception that thinks of men and women of faith as so occupied with the future that they sit around twiddling their thumbs doing nothing in the now. It has been said that people like this are so “heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” But living this way is not faith! It is fatalism! FAITH WORKS! FAITH is does something now in view of the future! So when we fold our hands and wait for the second coming we are not living a life of faith. Faith is not passive….it is dynamic and forceful. Listen to this magnificent summary of the actions of faith in Hebrews 11:32-35 : “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell you of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets – who, THROUGH FAITH, conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.”
NOTE — These words are not poetry. They are HISTORY! This is FAITH AT WORK. These activities of faith have changed the course of history.
So, Noah did something about his faith. He built an ark. And we need to remember that this was no small task. The boat was 450 feet long one and one half football fields. It was 75 feet wide or 3/4 of the length of a footfall field. It was 45 feet high with three decks. And it was covered with pitch inside and out. Can you imagine how much pitch that was? I imagine Noah and his sons smelled like tar the rest of their lives!
And Noah didn’t just call Home Depot and tell them to deliver the lumber for the ark! No, Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth had to cut all those trees and sawed them into lumber. By the way, this was way before the advent of power tools! In other words, it was a big job! No wonder it took them well over a century to complete it. You can understand how Noah must have been considered the biggest fool in all of history. People saw that great hulk of a boat being built and they must have laughed themselves silly.
Now, you and I haven’t been told to build an ark. That was done once and for all. God will never flood the earth again. Every time you see a rainbow remind yourself of that truth! But Christ is the “ark of salvation.” I Peter 3:20 teaches that the flood story is a picture of the coming of Christ. And let’s pause to note the parallels. * There was no way to prepare for the flood other than to follow God’s instructions. In the words of Bill Cosby, God could have asked Noah, “How long can you tread water?” Well, not long enough! The world was flooded for over a year! And in the same way there is no way on our own strength to escape the problem of our sinfulness. We need a Savior just like Noah needed that ark. We need Jesus…we need Somebody to gather us in and protect us. Another parallel is this…just as the flood came suddenly….another cataclysm is coming. People in Noah’s day were eating and drinking and going to weddings and living out their corrupt, but comfortable, existence when the deluge abruptly came. And some day Christ will come…suddenly.
So, just like Noah there is a lot of work for us to do. As Christians, we are called to “people” the ark. Jesus said, “You shall be witnesses unto Me.” Our work of faith is to share the good news that people may be saved by entering the ark of safety provided by Christ.
To do this we must have the FAITH of Noah…a faith that expresses itself in works. Because as James writes, “faith without works is DEAD.” I read a story once about an old fisherman who kept TWO OARS in his boat…and on one he had written the word, “FAITH” and on the other, the word, “WORKS.” Someone asked him why He did that. And he said, “Well, get in the boat and I’ll show you.”
So they boarded and went out into the river and the fisherman picked up the oar that said “FAITH” an started paddling with it on one side. And the boat started going around and around in circles and drifting with the current of the river.
So he looked at the one who had asked the question and said, “That doesn’t work does it?” Then he put down the “FAITH” oar and took up the oar with the word, “WORKS” on it and he put it in the other side and stared paddling. And again the boat started going around in circles…spinning the other way this time as it drifted with the current.
So he said, “That doesn’t work either, does it?” Well, then he took both oars and stared paddling on both sides of the boat and the boat made progress in the right direction. It moved against the current of the river.
The obvious point of this story is that you need both FAITH and WORKS to get anywhere in the Christian life. FAITH without works doesn’t amount to much. If we have faith but not works then as Paul wrote the Ephesians, we will be “…tossed back and forth ….around and around in circles… by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”
So, a look at Noah’s life shows us that FAITH has a BASIS. It is founded on the WORD OF GOD. His life also shows that genuine faith has a visible expression. FAITH and WORKS literally go hand in hand and then we can learn one more thing about faith from Noah’s life..
3. We see that storms like Noah endured stretches and matures our faith in God.
It develops us into stronger, more fully-developed disciples. And this truth is seen when we look at the way Noah’s voyage of faith ended. Scripture says that after 150 days, the rains finally stopped. And at this point there is a very stark statement in scripture. Look at Genesis 7:23 :
“Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth.”
And then notice the next phrase,
“ONLY NOAH WAS LEFT…”
Now, imagine how Noah felt as the wind and the rain stopped and the waves disappeared and the boat stopped moving and floated in calm waters. Everything was gone. Death was everywhere. And there was only silence and darkness. Remember, the boat was closed in everywhere…perhaps it was more like a huge coffin than anything else we can imagine covered with pitch inside and out. Genesis 6:16 has an ambiguous phrase that is probably describing a small window. It was covered over during the storm. And the door through which the animals and people entered was closed by God and covered over with pitch.
So Noah couldn’t see out or if he could it was only through the window near the top so he could look only upward not downward. This helps us see why it was hard for Noah to see if the waters were receding. He couldn’t look down and see if the ground was dry. Another thing I want you to notice is that Noah was told very little about what would happen to him in the end when he began this adventure. He had obeyed God’s verbal instructions but now GOD WAS SILENT. As Noah floated on the water all these months, encased in this great wooden structure, there was no explanation, no prompting, no voice of hope from God. In Genesis 6:18 God had spoken to Noah and said he was the only righteous one in all his generation, the only one who had a heart for God.
God had given him His word by saying, “I will establish my covenant with you and you will enter the ark-you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.” But Noah didn’t hear any thing about getting out of the ark….about the end of the story. And now Noah goes through 150 days of floating with no word from God, encased in a place where he couldn’t see out or get information. I imagine that every hour of every day he wondered when and how it was all going to end, but he had no word from God as to what the end of the story would be.
So, Noah waited and waited. Have you ever had a time like that? When God seemed to be silent?
Well, after floating silently for five months without being able to see where he was going, having no idea of the conditions outside the boat, wondering if it would ever come to an end….things finally began to happen….the Bible says, “God remembered Noah.” He sent a wind to move the ark and the waters receded and the ark came to rest in the mountains of Ararat. You can imagine Noah’s relief to know that the ark was not going to be his home forever. The first thing Noah did was to remove the covering and saw that the ground was dry. This was ten and a half months after the flood began. He saw that the water had receded but Noah didn’t come out yet. Then a month and 27 days later he could see that it was growing increasingly dry. But Noah still did not come out of the ark….not until God finally spoke again and invited him out.
Now what effect did this time of God’s silence have on Noah? Let’s do a little “before and after” comparing to answer this question. Before the flood Noah was the only righteous person on the earth. II Peter 2:5 says he was “…THE preacher of righteousness.” With all the corrupted half-demon people running around, he must have felt that he was pretty special. But when he floated in the boat….when he seemed forgotten by God, he was able to notice the tension that existed between him and his sons and their families. He understood his capacity for to be angry with God, and to feel sorry for himself. The awful realization dawned on Noah that he was going to start the world again, and his heart was as much in need of the grace of God as anyone else. He saw that he was not a good specimen on which to build a new earth. He found out that he was as capable of tawdry and angry and embarrassing and godless behavior as anyone else. This time of silence showed Noah all this. Doesn’t God often teach us lessons like this when He’s quiet? You see, as long as we can compare ourselves to other people, we can fool ourselves. But when we are put in some kind of wilderness and there’s nothing but the spiritual reality of who we are on the inside to occupy our thoughts, the awful discovery begins to take place: We see that we are capable of sin. We see that we are not as great and courageous and godly as we think we are. We discover our weakness and shortcomings.
Well, when the day finally came to break the seal, open the door, and see the world, Noah was a man who had discovered his own inadequacy.
So, he would not come out until God invited him out. I imagine he wanted nothing more than to set his feet on solid ground but he didn’t. He didn’t step out and leap into the arms of his Lord, because his own failures were still ringing in his mind. In fact, the first thing he did when he came out was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice to God. This was the first altar of worship to God that is mentioned in scripture. And I think it was both a sin offering and a thank offering. It was a way for Noah to both thank God for His protection and to say, “I need you God. Please save me from the sins I’ve discovered in my heart.”
So, God used this time of silence to change Noah….to mature his faith and make him into a man who realized how much he needed God….the type of person on whom God could rebuild humanity.
And that is how it is with us. In fact, the kind of faith that God values most develops in these times when He seems to be silent. Paul Tournier said, “Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith.” And he was right, for faith …. real faith….demands uncertainty and confusion. It requires times of silence from God to test it and make it stronger. I broke my arm by falling out of a tree when I was 12 and I remember asking the Doc if it would break again. He told me it might if I wasn’t more careful in my tree climbing. But he also said it would be less likely to break in the same spot than any where else because it was stronger there now than it was before. The stress of the fracture and the subsequent mending of the bone made it stronger at the point of the break. And the stress of silence can make our faith in God stronger. Philip Yancey teaches that there are basically two kinds of faith….the childlike trust that God can do anything…which is the kind of faith that young David had when he went toe-to-toe with Goliath. And then there is that “hang-on-to-God-no-matter-what” kind of faith….which is what Job and the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 practiced. And as Christians we need both. For childlike trust may not survive times in an ark when God seems to be silent…times when we are overcome with the evil in the world around us. Such times call for something more…a deeper, stronger faith. This kind of faith is embraced by mature disciples who have learned that even when we cannot see God at work or hear His voice….even then we believe that He still reigns and has not abandoned us. This is the kind of faith that Noah developed in that ark. It is the kind of faith Job had when in the midst of his troubles he exclaimed, “Though He slay me….yet will I trust Him.” Yancy writes, “Paradoxically, the most perplexing, Job-like times may help ‘fertilize faith and nurture intimacy with God. The deepest faith…sprouts at a point of contradiction, like a blade of grass between stones. Human beings grow by striving, working, stretching.” Only the storms of life can grow our faith to this level of maturity.
So let’s review what the REAL STORY of Noah has taught us about FAITH. Genuine FAITH is not wishful thinking….it has a solid basis…it is founded on the WORD OF GOD. And real FAITH works! It acts! People SEE our faith by the way that we live. Finally….Noah’s experience shows us that our faith is strengthened and matured in times of crisis when God seems to be silent.
You know I don’t just thank God for Sunday nights….I also thank Him for Sunday mornings! This moment each week is a very precious, special time of the week! For it is the time when all of us….your pastor included….responds in some way to the things God has taught us in worship. This is the moment at the start of a brand new week, when we allow God to take us as we are and use worship to re-mold us into the kind of people He needs us to be.
So of all days, it is a day for which to THANK GOD! Now, think for a moment when you look back on today, why will you thank God? Will it be because this was the day you decided to put your faith in His Word accepting His forgiveness through His Son, entering the ark of salvation that is found only in Jesus Christ? Or, will you thank God for using today’s service to help you see your need to live your faith to live your life in such a way that your peers see your FAITH IN GOD….as they saw Noah’s when he built that boat? It may be that you are thanking God for this Sunday because He helped you better understand a time when He has been silent. Perhaps God has helped you to see some trial you are enduring…some storm that is raging in your life as something that has actually strengthened your faith. If you have any decision to make public…we would thank God for the privilege of sharing it with you.