|RPM, Volume 19, Number 44 October 29 to November 4, 2017|
Congregation of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
Hebrews chapter 11 is known to us all as the great faith chapter of the Bible. Faith in this chapter is not only defined but it is also pictured in the long list of people who have become known to us as the heroes of the faith. Among all those other heroes of the faith stands one man whom we don't hear sermons on very often and yet whose faith is a classic example of true Godly faith. That man is Noah.
Now, of course, the moment Noah is mentioned we call to mind the Biblical story of the flood. Noah and the flood have become almost synonymous. What we have to understand, however, is that Noah is important for us, and Noah is held in high esteem by the Scriptures not just because he is somehow identified with the flood, and not because he was the only man who God spared through the flood. Noah is to be remembered and Noah is held in high esteem because of his response to the Word of the Lord. Noah is mentioned in Hebrews 11 as a man of faith. Noah was one who believed and who responded to God's Word spoken to him. In that respect Noah was a believer and a forerunner of all believers who follow in his wake.
Noah was one who put his hope in what God set before him. He staked his life and his reputation and really his all on the plan which God called upon him to carry out. Noah is for us an exemplary Old Testament man of God.
There is a sense in which Noah's all was staked in the ark which he was commanded by God to build. But first what Noah really trusted in was God's Word. That word spoke to him of the ark. So the ark was his hope but he learned of the ark from God's Word which means that he had a twofold trust in God.
That ark now points us to Christ, for Christ is the one whom God's Word points us to. Jesus Christ is for us in many ways what the ark was for Noah. What we must learn to have is the same kind of a faith in Christ that Noah had in the ark which demands of us a like trust in God's Word. It all holds together in him.
When we begin to think in terms of the need, the situation, out of which the ark came to be and out of which the Savior was sent into the world, then, of course, we are led to think of a sinful, lost, desperate, hopeless world. In the case of the ark we read back in Genesis 6 of the awful degeneration which had taken place in the human race. God had made man to be his special, God-glorifying creature and instead man had become an immoral, self-serving rebel.
The extent of man's rebellion is reflected in what we read in Genesis 6: 3 when God said to himself about His fallen, sin saturated creature: "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." My Spirit will not contend with man forever! Those words give expression to a frustrated Creator, a Creator who has witnessed the works of his own hands turn their backs on Him.
Again, we read in verses 5 and 6, "The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain." Those words speak of an absolute depravity which prevailed among humankind in those days and of the Creator God's reaction to it. There was no good to be found in men's hearts or minds anymore. All was evil and malicious and immoral and inclined contrary to God their maker.
In the wake of that dismal evaluation, we read that God determined to bring judgment upon man's sin. That judgment would be a universal, world-wide judgment as we read in verse 7, "So the LORD said, 'I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth – men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground and birds of the air – for I am grieved that I have made them."
What an indictment against man's sin those words present. God, the Creator-God, was sorry that he had made the world seeing it was so corrupted in sin. But God, not being a helpless victim of sin, promptly determined to purge the earth by destroying its sinful creatures with a flood. That determination on God's part set the stage for his word to Noah about an ark.
Now lest this whole matter seem to us to be concerned with matters of long ago and far away, you and I must realize that God has declared that he will again, in the last day, destroy this old world and cleanse it, this time by fire. We read for example in Mathew 24: 27, 30, and 31, "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man….At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." And from II Peter 3: 5 – 7, "But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's Word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and with water. By water also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men."
The judgment of the earth to come is also to be due to the apostasy and the wickedness of the people of those days. We read for example in Matthew 24: 9, 10, 12, "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,… Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,…" And from II Peter 3: 3, "…you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires."
The point that we are trying to make, people of God, is that we live in a world today, as a part of a human race, which is not all that different from the one Noah lived in. When we open our eyes and look around we see a world of sin and immorality and deceit and crime and bloodshed and rottenness and rebellion and godlessness of every kind. Words fail us to adequately describe it all. The need which brought God to speak to Noah about a coming flood is a need in our world today as well.
God has already indicated that this old world is going to be destroyed in the end by fire. It's only a matter of time until that destruction comes. As far as need is concerned, our need is parallel to Noah's. God's judgment upon sin is coming. What we need is a way of escape.
In that whole dismal account of Genesis 6, there is one bright ray of light. We read in the words of verse 8, "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD."
Now we can say a lot of things about Noah, and speculate about what kind of a man he must have been, but the really distinguishing thing about this man was that he took God at his word and obeyed him. Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. And so the LORD approached him with what to the ordinary person sounded like an utterly preposterous plan.
God told Noah that he was going to destroy the world. "'I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth,'" said the LORD. (Genesis 6: 13). Then God told Noah to build an ark, a big boat wherein he and his family would be saved through that flood to come.
Now, you see, Noah had to take and accept God's Word there really in two respects. In the first place, he had to accept for truth what God said when he spoke of destroying the world with a flood; and then in the second place he had to believe that he would be spared in the ark God told him to build. That is exactly where Noah showed himself to be a man of faith. He took God at his Word. He expected the flood to come just as God said it would and to prove it, he set out to building an ark.
Oh, how his kinsmen laughed and mocked! There year in and year out for 120 years that man worked building a huge boat out in the middle of a dry land. Who ever heard of anything more ridiculous? Wasting your life and your efforts on building a boat miles from any water?
But Noah built on. He did that not because of any superior knowledge or wisdom or intelligence or insight which he possessed, but because he believed God and took Him at His Word. That Word for Noah directed him to build an ark. In that respect Noah put his hope for survival in the ark God told him to build. The ark was for Noah his way, his avenue, to safety.
Living in circumstances similar to Noah's, with God's judgment already passed upon man's sin and with the knowledge that the destruction of this world is coming, you and I must recognize that God approaches us too in a way similar to how he approached Noah. God comes to us too speaking of a way of escape. To us he doesn't come with a command to build an ark but to trust in a Savior.
Jesus Christ is our ark. Jesus Christ is the one through whom we may be spared from the judgment to come. The Bible is full of promises which speak that truth. For example, Romans 8: 1 says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus," and Romans 6: 5 – 7 says, "If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." Jesus Himself said, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14: 6) and "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away….This is the will of him who sent me , that I shall lose none of all that he has given to me, but raise them up at the last day" (John 6: 37, 39) and "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned ; he has crossed over from death to life" (John 5: 24).
The point which has to be held before us is this: We have to believe that a judgment is coming from which we need a way of escape and then, like Noah, we must take him at his Word and put our trust in Jesus as our ark, our hope, our way to life. We read in our text, "By faith, Noah when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family." By faith we must in like manner be warned of God concerning a future not yet seen and be moved to trust in Jesus Christ for the saving of our souls. Indeed the whole of our lives must revolve about that trust and that confidence so that we live lives which are truly lives of faith, daily expressions of dependence upon God.
When Noah was building the ark, his neighbors and his fellowmen called him a fool. They laughed at him and derided him. Noah didn't end up being a fool, however, but he ended up being the only one alive. His fellow men's laughter was in the end turned to crying for as it turned out plenty of them, no doubt, wished they had an ark too. Their failure was simply one of not taking God at his Word, not believing, not accepting what He declared as the truth. Those who were destroyed took the approach that the world would continue on as it was forevermore. They didn't accept the thought of divine intervention into history, of divine judgment upon sin, of a day of accountability before God. Because of their rejection of God's Word, they were all swept away.
Now the Bible tells us that it's going to be the same way in the final end. We read: "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation'" (II Peter 3: 3, 4).
In the end time, says Scripture, people are going to say: What's this talk about an end of the world? What's this talk of a judgment day? That's all nonsense! This world isn't going to be interrupted like that; it's going to go on and on as it has now already for millions of years. And so they laugh as did the men of Noah's day. And they reject the Word of the LORD and they cast aside the One whom He has sent us as our ark. All we need to do is open our eyes and our ears and we see and hear their cry every day. In the world in which we live today, who is thinking or talking about judgment day?
To the wise and the faithful, Scripture says: "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming" (II Peter 3: 11, 12a).
What kind of people ought we to be? People like Noah, the man of faith. People who take God at his Word and live accordingly. People who stake their hope for salvation in Jesus Christ as Noah did in the ark and who then live obediently and expectantly before and unto Him.
What that calls for is an alertness in each one of us such as Jesus called for when he said, "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21: 28).
What that calls for is a living, daily expression of our faith, the kind of an expression which makes an impact upon the world round about us. Notice how it is said of Noah that through his faith he condemned the world, he pointed out to it its error and its wickedness, and he himself became the heir of the righteousness which comes by faith.
That's our challenge too – to condemn the evil of our world and to claim the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ our ark, by taking God at His Word.
That is the key to the whole matter before us. That is the key to faith – taking God at His Word and living accordingly. Are we, each one of us, doing so? Amen
Father, we acknowledge that we live in a world of darkness and sin and that we in ourselves are weak and helpless. We need help; we need a Savior. We thank you, Father, for the story of Noah and the ark and the way in which it points us to Jesus Christ our ark. Move us to find our refuge and our hope in Christ even as we accept your Word as truth. Hear us, we pray, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
|This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor. If you would like to discuss this article in our online community, please visit the RPM Forum.|
Subscribe to RPMRPM subscribers receive an email notification each time a new issue is published. Notifications include the title, author, and description of each article in the issue, as well as links directly to the articles. Like RPM itself, subscriptions are free. Click here to subscribe.