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Living by faith (1)

Noah: he saw the horror of destruction, he experienced the grace of salvation, he owned the beauty of the new, but

Scripture Readings

  • Genesis 6:9-22
  • Hebrews 11:1-6

Songs

  • “Light of the world”
  • “Highest place”
  • “Speak O Lord”
  • “All my days”

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Noah’s story is introduced by this statement:

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. (Genesis 6:5, NIV)

Noah’s story our story.  One can only wonder if we are better off than Noah. Let’s take the last 40 years and look at a few statistics:

The divorce rate has increased more than 100 percent
Marriage rate has decreased for the up to 40 years olds by 41 percent
Cohabitation in 1960 was called living in sin; now 41% of women under 40 have cohabited, a tenfold increase
Once virginity before marriage was valued, by 2000 79% of single women aged between 20-24 were sexually active
Out of wedlock children increased 523%.  One American child is born outside of marriage every 25 seconds.
Only 45 percent of all teenage children between 13-18 live with their married biological father and mother
According to the Australian Medical Journal in 2003 a calculated guess had 84,500 babies aborted, an average of 231 per day.  That was in the “good old days”; one can only wonder what it is now 10 years later.
In France more than a quarter of a million unborn babies were killed in 2007, while in the United States out of the 4,136,000 babies born 320,000 were killed before birth (an average of 880 per day).  These figures almost make Nazi Germany look good.

We have not talked about crime, lies, stealing, misconduct, alcohol, drugs, extortion, people trafficking, prostitution, pornography, unfaithfulness or bribery.

Just last week President Obama praised the United States as being a great country, and our leaders keep telling us how blessed we are to live in the wonderful land.  Are we blind, or just plain spiritually dead to think we are any better off than those living in the time of Noah?  Do we perhaps think, intoxicated by materialistic bliss and outward success that the people then deserved to be punished, while we can just keep going on in our ways of rebellion of the Lord?

Surely, we must give God thanks that more than just Noah is left in our society.  Surely, God has done wonders by adding to his church many who are saved everyday.  The work of missionaries is not in vain, and the ministry of the Word still brings to life the spiritually dead by transferring them into the kingdom of God.  It however does not take away the fact the our world is running down:  we are running out of time; the return of our Lord today is another day closer than yesterday.  He will come to judge the living and the dead.  The question is, “How will we escape?”

Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)

Noah – he saw the horror of destruction and believed God

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 is in keeping with faith. (Hebrews 11:7, NIV)

By the mercy of God, not all descendants of Cain turned out to be like him.  He had a son called Enoch, who was the great-great-grand father of Noah. Enoch walked with God.

All of grace

We read in Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”

Was Noah such a good man that, because of his righteousness, God granted him his favour?  No, the word there is the same as “grace”, and in many places it expresses the relationship of a superior to an inferior, e.g. a king to his subject.  Of Joseph the Bible tells:

The Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. (Genesis 39:21, NIV)

When Moses had to lead God’s people out of Egypt, God promised:

“And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. (Exodus 3:21, NIV)

So, Noah did not find grace in the yes of God because he was righteous;  rather, God declared him righteous because He bestowed grace upon him. This is a great biblical principle.  The grace of God always comes before anything. We might imagine in our unsanctified state that God loves us for what we are intrinsically or for what we have done or can become. But God does not love us because of that, nor is he gracious to us because of that. On the contrary, he loves us solely because he loves us. He is gracious to us only because he is.

So it was with Noah.  The grace of God changed his life.  Verse 9 says:

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. (Genesis 6:9, NIV)

Being justified by grace Noah started to live like someone whose heart is in tune with the heart of God.  It showed in his deeds.

He was righteous

It is a “relative” righteousness, for compared to his generation, Noah did practice real goodness, even though his obedience was imperfect and not the basis of his justification. As a result of God’s grace, we manifest this experiential righteousness, and it is brought to completion in our glorification. As Augustine says in the City of God (15.26): Noah was “perfect in his generation — not indeed with the perfection of the citizens of the city of God in that immortal condition in which they equal the angels, but in so far as they can be perfect in their sojourn in this world.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? (James 2:14, NIV)

If we are justified, we will begin to act justly. If we do not act justly, then our claim to be justified is mere presumption, and our faith, such as it is, is merely that dead faith.

He was a preacher of righteousness

2 Peter 2:5 calls Noah a preacher of righteousness. Not only was every piece of gopher wood Noah cut to the measurements God gave him a sermon to the unbelievers around him; and not only was every nail Noah drilled into the timber to construct the ark a way of preaching to those who scoffed God in their unbelief and corruption, Noah was a preacher is his word and life.

He was blameless

The idea seems to be not only that Noah acted uprightly before the Lord but also that he acted in such a way as to appear blameless in the eyes of the watching world.  Peter writes:

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12, NIV)

He walked with God

Because Noah walked with God he had an acute awareness of the coming judgment of God and the ungodliness of his generation, which was the cause of the flood.  It is therefore not impossible to see tears in the eyes of Noah building the ark, knowing of the immanent judgment of God upon unbelievers.  He fully trusted God that what He had said He would do will come to pass.  He agreed with the righteous act of judgment of a holy God.  But, being human, he knew that good, yet unbelieving friends and relatives, would perish in a flood which would cover the world with no chance to escape.

James Montgomery Boice comments:

The more Noah thought of the judgment of God, the more he was aware of the ungodliness of those around him. The more he was aware of their ungodliness, the closer he walked with God. The closer he walked with God, the more aware he was of judgment. Again, the closer he walked with God, the more aware he was of evil and unrighteousness. This is what happened to Noah. He walked with God, and this led him to live blamelessly and preach righteousness.

Noah was a man of his time: he knew God, but he understood the horror of sin.  “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 is in keeping with faith.

Noah experienced the grace of salvation

God warned about something that had never happened, and which no one else apparently believed.  There would be a flood that would wipe out mankind – a flood that would cover all the earth.
Matthew tells us what happened:

For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:38–39, NIV)

They knew nothing?  Did they not hear Noah preach?  Did they not see him build an ark?  Did they not mock him as being silly?  Or was it a case of seeing but not seeing, and hearing but not hearing?

Noah, on the other hand obeyed God.  He believed the God with whom he walked.  There was no doubt in his mind that the command of God was the only escape from immanent disaster. It to him was the hand of grace which would pick him up and hold him strongly till the flood waters receded.

So, he did as God commanded.  Painstakingly he cut the timber according to God’s design, hammered and joined together the bits and pieces and started to collect the animals on God’s command.  All in the sight of the unbelieving, God-mocking crowd who just could not understand the silly old man.

Then God commanded him and his family to enter the ark.  It seems as if their faith was tested for another seven days.  For a full week they sat and waited; nothing happened.  Or the seven days could mean time of grace for those who rejected the message of this preacher of righteousness.  After the seven days it was water everywhere: from the fountains of the deep and from the clouds God commanded water covered the earth.
God shut the door of the ark.  For Noah and his family it meant safety, but for those outside it meant final destruction.  For Noah and his family this would, humanly speaking, be a frightful event.  Soon they would float in a man-made ship over the mountain peaks of the highest mountains till there was nothing else but water visible.  I can imagine how violent the waves could be at times.

Would they survive?  Where would all of this stop?  What is going to happen when all is over?  Would it not be better to just drown and die?  Only them left in the whole world! The world as Noah had known it for 600 hundred years of his earthly sojourn would never be the same.  How many times did Noah have to remind himself and his family that God is God, and that He is control.  By faith …! This went on for about five months.

Then these words, “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals …

But God!  This right through the Scriptures changes everything.  When all else seems hopeless, there is always a “but God”. The water receded, ever so slowly, bit by bit, inch by inch, and after about eight months after the rain started the mountain tops were visible.  Noah waited another more than a month before he send out a crow which kept coming back.  After more days a dove was released but it returned because of the water. Then another seven days.  And another seven days! After one year and ten days in the ark there was the voice and command of God: “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives.”  They were saved – the full number.  God watched over them. Even all the animals were saved.

What a rescue!  And we sing, “What a salvation, what a Saviour!”

The first thing Noah did was to express his thankfulness in worship to God – he built an altar and sacrificed of the clean animals to God.  God was pleased and made this promise to Noah – and to us:

Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:21–22, NIV)

Noah experienced salvation by faith.

Noah owned the beauty of the new

We all know the relief to see the clear rays of sunshine appear after weeks of cloudy and stormy weather.  Everything seems fresh and clean.  No dust, the green of the grass seem greener, the blue of the sky seem bluer, and the chirp of the birds seems more joyful.

Can you just imagine what Noah and his family must have beheld: every day everything was new like never before.  It was clean slate, almost no past.  They had been in the ark almost long enough for overcome the grief of loosing friends and relatives.  Go where you want, start a new life wherever you want.  There is no history, no boundaries, no other languages.  All were of the same mind.  The scoffers of God were gone.  It was almost a return to paradise.

What a fresh start!  What new opportunities.  Noah, it there for the taking.  God gave it to this man and his family.  Saved by grace ushered into a complete new era of earthly history.

Be fruitful, increase in number and fill the earth!  Noah received from God what Adam received:

The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. (Genesis 9:2–3, NIV)

And God made a covenant with Noah and his sons: “I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” (Genesis 9:15, NIV)

There it is: brand, spanking new earth – all by grace.  Noah, enjoy! It is a gift from God.  Just remember that you have a responsibility towards God because you live in a relationship with God.

But…

Those who mocked God were out of the picture, the effect of sin was not seen – at least for a time.  The sins of man were wiped out, but sin was still present.  God Himself declared, “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.”

Noah planted vineyard, took of the grapes and made wine in which he overindulged.  He disgraced himself in the eyes of his sons.  Ham, like Canaan who was his spiritual father, is disrespect made fun of his dad and invoked a curse upon himself.

There it was again: sin, disrespect, division, hatred.  The old, old cycle of corruptness.

When God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, He sent the cure for sin.  He was the One who would crush the head of the serpent.  So, everyone who believes in Him, is saved into all eternity.  By faith in Him we are saved.  Without faith in Him we are doomed.  New resolutions of turning a new page and stating over again leads to nowhere.  Faith in Christ takes us from the old to the new.  More than that, when the clock of God’s grace has run out over the mocking, rebellious, godless, faithless sinful world, this Saviour, Jesus, will come again to take to him all who believed in Him – all else will be destroyed in eternal hell like those in the days of Noah.

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