Mid-Week Lent – “By Faith…Noah” – Hebrews 11:7 – 4/2/14

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Repeat together).

Today we consider the faith of Noah. “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.” (Heb.11:7)

Last week we read the genealogy of the first 7 generations of fathers who come from Eve and lead directly to the OFFSPRING OF THE WOMAN who is Jesus Christ. The 7th name in that list was Enoch. And we read, “when Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah.”

After Enoch, the genealogy continues as follows, “When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he father Lamech. Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.”

And then we read, “When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah…” And then Lamech adds this, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bringus relief from our work and from the painful toll of our hands.” (Gen.5:25-29). The word Noah, is taken from the Hebrew word that means “relief,” or “rest.”

As the world population continues to increase, so does sin. We read, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thought of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen.6:5) “Only evil continually.” I know that we like to say that things seem to be getting worse and worse. But how much worse than “only evil continually,” can you get?

But then we read this, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Gen.6:8). We’re not told why or what it is about Noah that sets him apart from everyone else. But we should pay close attention to this one thing. “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” BEFORE he actually does that thing that he is so famous for. Noah is declared RIGHTEOUS before God APART FROM WORKS, by GRACE ALONE, through FAITH ALONE.

Noah is the recipient of God’s good pleasure because he believed the Word. “Without faith it is impossible to please him for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb.11:6).

But FAITH doesn’t just happen all by itself. It comes from HEARING THE WORD. I am convinced that Noah’s father, Lamech taught him the faith. Thank God for faithful Fathers and Mothers who taught us the faith and who teach the faith to their children.

Divine Warning
“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen…”

Noah received a WARNING. We’re familiar with ‘warnings.’ How many times have we heard our parents say to us or have we said to our children, ‘I’m warning you….”

“Warnings” tell us that there is a DANGER that is either coming our way or that we’re headed into. Weathermen, doctors, policemen warn us about weather and high blood pressure and speeding. And if we’re wise heed their warning. If we don’t we’re going to have trouble.

But how do we ACTUALLY respond to their warnings? Well, if we can ‘SEE’ the danger that lies ahead, we will probably take their advice and do what they tell us we need to do to avoid it. But if the danger is ‘UNSEEN,’ we tend to ignore the ‘warning.’

Noah received a warning from God. The Bible is filled with ‘warnings’ from God. Usually they come through His prophets. Sometimes, when the situation is really dangerous or immediate, he sends an angel to deliver his warning in a vision or a dream.

And God’s people respond to the warning either in ‘faith’ or ‘unbelief.’ And very often the response depends on how ‘visible’ the danger is. True believers respond with “conviction of things unseen” based solely on the fact that it is God’s Word of Warning.

Can you imagine a more ‘UNSEEN’ danger than the one that God WARNED Noah of? Nothing like this had ever happened in human history. We can imagine a flood destroying an entire city or town. Or a ‘tsunami’ that wipes out huge stretches of land and people. But it’s hard for us to take a WARNING like “Global Warming” seriously because we’ve never seen anything like it.

God WARNED Noah about a flood that would cover the entire earth and destroy every living thing. How would you respond to a warning like that? Especially if it was a perfectly sunny day, not a cloud in the sky and you’ve made other plans for your life that don’t include boat building or sailing?

While you’re thinking about that, listen to this. It’s a DIVINE WARNING from God through His messenger named Peter. “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the work that are done on it will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10). How do you respond to an ‘unseen’ warning like that?

Reverent fear
“In reverent fear [he] constructed an ark for the saving of his household.”

Noah responded to the divine warning ‘in reverent fear.’ Some other translations call this a ‘holy fear.’ We’re reminded of the way that Luther begins his explanation of the 10 Commandments, ‘we should FEAR and love God, so that…’

“FEAR” is just what it says it is. It’s that internal alarm that sounds in our heart telling us that is dangerous, or that danger lays ahead. We receive the WARNING and ‘FEAR’ moves us to heed the WARNING. The usual action that is called for is to REPENT. We call people who heed the ‘warning,’ WISE.

On the other hand, policemen, firemen, soldiers are trained to OVERRIDE those WARNINGS. They are trained to go against the WARNINGS and actually run into the danger. And we call that HEROIC

But in a bad sense, our sin overrides the ‘WARNING’ so that instead of responding with ‘REVERENT FEAR,’ we laugh, or simply ignore the warning and run right into the danger. The bible calls that person a FOOL.

When we ignore the warning of our doctor, we are saying that we’re not AFRAID of the danger he is predicting because we really don’t believe it’s true. We don’t believe his word.

And really, what can the doctor do to you if you ignore his warning? The worse he can do is to say, ‘if you’re not going to take my word seriously and do what I tell you to do, I’m going to release you as a patient. Go find another doctor. Maybe you can find a doctor who will tell you what you want to hear.’

Ignoring the warning of God says about the same thing only the consequences are much greater because the One whom we are saying this to is much greater. We do not FEAR GOD because we don’t really BELIEVE HIS WORD. We don’t really believe that what He says will actually happen. We’re simply not AFRAID of Him.

Referring to the people in his generation, David said, “there is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Paul quotes David when describing the people of his generation. “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rom.3:16).

Sounds like a good description of things in the days of Noah doesn’t it? And maybe our own too?

So what is God to do? Just like the doctor, He “gave them up in the lusts of their hearts…” “He gave them up to dishonorable passions…” “God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Rom. 1:24,26,28).

Noah was ‘warned by God’ and “in reverent fear,” he did what God told him to do. “He constructed an ark for the saving of his household.”

We are impressed that God does not simply tell Noah to “escape the wrath to come,” but also gave him the way to escape it, AND IN SUCH DETAIL, specific materials and quantities and measurements.

You sure do get the idea here that there are not MANY WAYS to escape the wrath to come, but only ONE way.

And we get an idea of Noah’s faith and his “reverent fear” when we are told, “Noah did this; he did ALL that God commanded him.” (Gen.6:22). He paid close and careful attention to God’s Word and delighted in the details.

His REVERENT FEAR freed him to face a threatening and dangerous adventure without fear. Our Psalm for today could very well have been Noah’s sailing song just as it can be ours. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, through the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its water roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” (Psalm 46:1-3).

Condemned the world.
“By this, he condemned the world…”

How many people must have stopped and asked Noah what he was up to? Surely everyone who passed by. And surely word spread to every living person on the face of the earth about Noah and what he was doing and why.

Noah would have told them, “Repent. God is fed up with the disobedience and evil and that there is “no fear of God before your eyes.” “He is going to ‘bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.” (Gen.6:16-17). ‘Repent before it’s too late. Bring your family onto this ark so that you and your household may be saved.’

And you know the response that Noah got to all his wonderful sermons. People must have said things like, ‘that’s interesting,’ or ‘what a religious nut,’ or ‘there’s no rain in the forecast,’ or ‘sounds like the church trying to manipulate people with guilt again’ or ‘science says something different.’

In the end, no one got onto the ark except for Noah and his own family.

The point is, Noah’s faith was not just a PERSONAL thing. Our faith in God and His Word is always on display before others. Our response to the Word and Promise of God is displayed in the way that we live our lives.

We’re reminded of Jesus’ warning to the Scribes and Pharisees. “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:41-42).

Heir of Righteousness
“By this… he became an heir of righteousness that comes by faith.”

Noah believed. That is what the Lord wants from us. “Believe Me!” The works will follow. They may not be as dramatic as Noah’s. But God has given us all plenty to do in our daily vocation in life – with our own ‘household.’

The Ark
Let’s close like this. What about that ARK that God instructed Noah to build? That BOAT that delivered believing Noah and his family, safely through the danger into what was essentially ‘a new creation’?

Can we see in that ARK a down payment on the Promise that God made in the Garden to Adam and Eve of a Savior who would deliver His people out of a sinful and evil world and into a NEW WORLD, washed clean of all sin and evil?

Can we see in that ARK a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, who safely delivers all who are IN HIM. And who condemns all who refuse to come into Him?

Repeat with me: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

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