The Faith of Noah, Part 1

What is the most recognizable Bible event?  I would cast my vote for this one:  Noah’s Ark.  This event is the subject of paintings, pictures, children’s books, toys, & videos & even discovery channel specials – everyone knows about Noah’s Ark and the great flood.  (This is not a real picture of the ark or Noah – I only use this as an illustration of how familiar this caricature is to us. ) Unfortunately many view this event as a fairy tale, children’s story or legend.

  • To the Christian, Noah and the Ark is not only an actual historical event, but the source valuable truth about God, biblical history, and our own salvation. It does not surprise us to find it referenced in Hebrews 11, as an example of faith.
  • Heb 11:7By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

I.  Righteous Noah in A Wicked World – The original account of Noah and the flood appears in the book of Genesis 6-9. Read with me from Gen. 6:5-22. This really happened. The text goes on to tell us that God did destroy all the people on the earth (except for Noah and his family) with a worldwide flood. It tells us in 7:12 that it rained for forty days and nights; in 7:19 that all the highest mountains of the earth were covered with water.  Do you believe that this really happened? There are many who cannot get their mind around such incredible physical anomalies. But the most incredible part of this story is not how did the water get so deep,  or how did God got all those animals in that boat, but how could Noah have such faith in His God.

A.  How would you describe such faith? It is interesting to note that it never says in the Genesis account that Noah believed, or had faith.  Our verse in Hebrews clearly indicates that Noah acted out of (or by) faith. Notice what it does tell us about Noah in the verses we just read:

  • Gen 6:8 –  Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
  • Gen 6:9Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.
  • Gen 6:22Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.
  • Gen 7:1I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.
  • Gen 7:5And Noah did according to all that the Lord commanded him.

This is how God describes the faith of Noah. He was just (righteous or lawful).  He was perfect (undefiled or without blemish); walked with God and did was God commanded. These words all point to Noah’s practical obedience toward God. They certainly describe more than a mental assent toward God.

1.  The character of the faith that saved Noah is the same as the faith that saves us. I do not know how much information Noah had on redemption, sacrifice or salvation. I doubt he knew as much as you and I know now. But the Holy Spirit utilizes his faith as a lesson for us because it reveals to us what our faith must be. The focus in the Hebrews 11 examples is on the activity of faith. Faith expressed in the context of God’s commands. You cannot describe your saving faith in any other way.

B.  The Components of Noah’s Faith: The writer of Hebrews depicts the activity of Noah as being “by faith” (v. 7). In a single verse he characterizes 100 years of Noah’s life that was totally consumed by the prophecy and command of God. What does he tell us?

1. “being divinely warned of things not yet seen” – God told Noah that judgment was coming. A flood would overwhelm the earth.  Someone has indentified this as the intellectual component of Noah’s faith. He was called upon to accept as fact what God said. He had to reason on it and come to a conclusion – was it true?  Our faith is based upon God’s word. We must intellectually consider what He tells us and come to a conclusion.

a.divinely warned”- have you been warned by God?  The fact that God warned Noah was both an act of mercy and a call to action – this is the nature of the Gospel today – the scriptures are full of God’s warnings of things we cannot see with our eyes. – 2 Thess 1:7-9 – when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, Luke 13:3 – 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

b. of things not yet seen” – This is one aspect of Noah’s faith that is amazing. God was telling him about things he had no prior knowledge of, and could not understand through his own experience.

  • He probably lived in Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, a long way from any ocean or sizable lake.  The concept of the earth being covered by water may seemed absurd.
  • It is often concluded that Noah had never seen rain (or as a result any type of flood). Genesis 2:5-6…For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, …but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.
  • Noah was willing to accept the unseen (and somewhat unknowable) as real, because he trusted in God’s words.  He was convinced that what God said was true. Are you?

2.  “moved with godly fear” – This is the emotional component of faithThis phrase is translated from a single Greek word – eulabeomai (yoo-lab-eh’-om-ahee) to be circumspect… (by implication) to be apprehensive; religiously, to reverence: from a root word that means to fear or dread.  Noah was fearful. He acted out of fear. What did Noah fear?  Considering the words that God expressed, I would conclude that he feared God’s judgment.  But every relationship of love involves an element of fear – you fear displeasing the other person. To fear God is to not want to displease Him.

a. But his fear is also described as “godly fear”. It points to a recognition that God will act as He has spoken, and that God should be respected as such. The verb form of this word appears in  Hebrews 5:7 as it speaks of Jesus in garden – “ who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear. – (“Not my will be yours be done”).  Later in chapter 12 the writer commands all … since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb 12:28-29)

3. “he prepared an ark” – His faith (accompanied by his fear of God) caused Noah to build the ark. The word “prepared” points to the fact that Noah was looking to the event of the flood as a reality. He was convinced that he was going to need that boat to survive. His ark building was not a novelty or an eccentric expression of his individuality.  He knew why he was doing it. – to save his family.

a.  But the primary element here is his immediate obedience to God’s commands.  He did not delay or argue with God.  John MacArthur writes.. . “To surrender all his time and effort to building a boat took a special kind of commitment. He probably had little idea about what an ocean-going ship was like. Certainly he had never seen, or even heard of, a giant ship such as the ark was to be. He had no experience in shipbuilding, no easy access to building supplies, and no help except that of his sons. Even they were not able to help for many years after the ark was begun, because they were not born until after Noah was 500 years old (Gen 5:32). One of the greatest practical acts of faith in all history was Noah’s cutting down the first gopher tree for wood to make the ark” (from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary)

b.  His obedience was comprehensive and specific to God’s commands.  Gen 6:22 – Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did. Noah made the ark exactly as God specified. There were practical reasons to do it God’s way. It would certainly hold all the animals and serve its purpose – it would float.  But there was also the moral reason that his faith demanded it. It he believed and respected God’s word on one part (coming flood) then he needed to respect his word on everything revealed.  Noah claimed no prerogative in the means of his salvation.

c.   He kept on obeying God – Noah worked on that ark for over 100 years.  He did not give up or abandon the project.  Even though there was not ongoing evidence that he would benefit from his obedience , except the words of God.  No doubt he was ridiculed and persecuted.

  • The story of a man walked up and down the street with a sandwich board on his back – the front side said – “I am a fool for Christ”; the back side said, “whose fool are you? “ Everyone is a fool in the eyes of someone. Many are willing to look like fools for their cause. Noah’s faith allowed him to be a fool for God for over 100 years.
  • What if he had stopped building? Would he have regretted it?

Conclusion: We will look at the second half of this lesson tonight. What was the result of Noah’s faith?  But once again I must confess how astounded I am at Noah’s confidence in the word of God. His life is defined by the faith he expressed in things not seen. He rested in God’s word alone.  How did he accomplish that?

  • In 2 Peter 2:5, the apostle mentions Noah, and calls him a “preacher of righteousness”. This seems to indicate that Noah was attempting to get others to accept what he believed and what God had revealed. He preached for 120 years as he built the ark. He only saved himself and his family in all that time. But maybe that preaching and teaching was as much designed to save Noah and those he spoke to. Faith is sustained through our willingness to share it with others, and give it voice.  The apostles faced enormous persecution and were made to be fools for Christ.  But their willingness to not stop preaching sustained their faith – and their faith moved them to not stop preaching.
  • Peter also tells us in 1 Peter 3:20-21 that God waited in longsuffering while Noah was preaching and the ark was being prepared. And then he says that the salvation of Noah and his family “through water” is a type of our salvation though baptism. He states it clearly – Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you — not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him. Noah wanted to please God  – Do you?  IF you seek a clear conscience, then appeal to God through your willingness to be baptized today. Your faith in God demands it.