We continue to look at the lives mentioned in The Hall of faith – found in Chapter 11 of The Book of Hebrews. With the aid of some New Testament reflections, we examine the life of Noah, a Biblical character who was asked by God to do some pretty crazy things. What does God have to teach us about obedience and trust through the story of Noah? What other lessons does the faith of Noah share that can help us live a life of faithful obedience?
We started the Hall of Faith where we have this son, this king, and this priest, and an opportunity for us to participate in the ministry of the son, the king, and the priest. We participate in that with the word mixed with faith by doing what God asks us to do, we actually are participating in Christ’s high-priestly ministry and in his kingship as servant kings in this world. And, in doing so, we are actually fulfilling our destiny as people, what God made us to do, to help him rule the earth in perfect harmony with each other and with him.
And we looked at, last week, and we saw that pleasing God is the ultimate aim of our life. By pleasing God we are actually fulfilling what he made us to be. And we saw that it’s impossible to please God without faith.
There are two things we have to do if we want to please God and have faith, two things we have to believe: We have to believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.
He is who he says he is. He is not a genie, and he’s not a vending machine. He is God. He is our father. He is our shepherd. He is our king. He is our provider. And he makes it worthwhile if we do what he says we should do.
We tend to look at other rewards that are more tangible. He rewards things that are intangible today and will be tangible later. And if we believe those rewards are better than whatever the world can offer us, then we can please God.
We said that what we’re going to do as we go through here is think of a triangle where we’ve got God at the top of the pyramid, let’s say, and the other two ends of the triangle are me and other people. So we’ve got me, other people, and God. And we’re always interacting with this triangle.
We’re always thinking in terms of me. We do that all the time. We feel our pleasures. Even a small baby thinks about me, feels the hunger pangs or whatever.
And then as we get older, we start being aware that other people are looking at us, and we might even get the maturity to see them looking at things other than us. That’s when we become good listeners.
But maturity is actually getting to the point where we see what God sees, not only what we see and what other people see, but what God sees.
So let’s look at Hebrews 11:7. “By 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 to the righteousness which is according to faith.”
Now of course Noah and everybody in the Hall of Faith is a positive example. We got plenty of negative examples earlier in Hebrews. In particular, the wanderers in the wilderness who fell without possessing their possession. God promised the Promised Land to them. He gave them the path to go possess it, and they failed to do so.
Well, here we have Noah who also did not possess his possession in this life, but did in the world that was to come, so to speak.
So let’s look at a few things in this verse.
He was divinely warned of things not yet seen. What was he warned about that he couldn’t see? The flood coming. What was the flood going to do? Destroy the earth. So God comes and says, “The world’s going to end. The end is near, and I want you to do something because of that.” Not a particularly easy thing to think about. It was far off, and yet Noah did.
Why did he do it? He was moved with godly fear. So he said, “I believe what God is telling me, and I want to do something about that.”
Most of the time when we’re moved to action, we’re moved by fear of what other people think of us. That tends to move how we dress and how we act in many respects. And as we’re going to see as we go through this, Noah had ample reason to fear what other people thought and ignore what God said.
But he didn’t. He listened to what God said and moved with godly fear and built an ark. Why did he build an ark? God told him to. He built the ark because he wanted to save his household because he believed what God told him.
In doing so, he condemned the world. This is another one of these martyreo instances. We’ve seen in the early part of Hebrews 11 here, Martyreo, witness. By having a witness of someone who obeyed, he created accountability for all the people who didn’t obey.
“And became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”
The implication of the passages that we’re going to look at this morning would indicate to me that the building of the ark, in and of itself, was an amazing testimony to others.
Introduction to Noah
So let’s go to Genesis 6, and let’s meet Noah first hand.
Genesis 6:3. “And the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be 120 years.”
God has a clock, and he’s started the clock. He’s going to give man 120 years.
Genesis 6:4. “There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of men and bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”
We could spend a lot of time on that verse, but I’m going to just skip over it.
Genesis 6:5. “Then the Lord saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he made man on the earth, and he was grieved in his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I’m sorry I made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.”
So this is our first introduction to Noah. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Noah was a just man, perfect in his ways.
This word perfect is sometimes translated complete. It’s the same idea as this teleosi. So it’s the idea of bringing a lamb that is perfect or complete, doesn’t have a missing leg or something is the basic idea here. He was the complete package during the time he was around.
Then he begot three sons.
Then Genesis 6:11, “The earth was also corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.”
So this was the core problem of the earth. People were evil, and the only specific thing we’re given that demonstrated the evil actions of people was that the earth was filled with violence. And this was the reason why God wanted to destroy the earth.
Going back to the whole idea of Hebrews, to be servant-kings and priests. Kings and priests in God’s economy are there to create harmony. Harmony is when the body is working together, where everything is doing its part for the great benefit of the body. And instead here, we’ve got conflict because rather than serving one another, now we’re trying to control one another. And when we try to control one another, what that leads to is violence, coercion.
So the earth is filled with violence and God says, “I don’t like that.”
Genesis 6:12. “So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.’”
Flip over to 2 Peter 3:5. There are a couple of collaborating New Testament passages that I think are worth stopping and looking at very quickly. We’re talking about people who asked the question: Well when is God going to come? It’s been a long time since he said he was coming back. “Since the fathers fell asleep all things continued as they were from the beginning of creation.”
Verse 5. “For this they willingly forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world by then existing perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
There’s another judgment coming because the earth is still filled with violence, and it won’t be with water this time. It will be with fire.
So the warning to Noah is going to be very tangible to us as well, as we will see.
Let’s look also quickly at Matthew 24:37. These are the words of Jesus. “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
We also are going to experience the same sort of thing Noah has experienced, and that is a promise. And the question is will we act on that promise? Will we be filled with godly fear, or are we going to pay attention to what other people say?
Building The Ark
So he tells Noah how to make an ark. Tells him to make it about 450 feet long and 75 feet wide. I’ve been told that there was not a ship made that large until the middle 1800s.
And he says then in Genesis 6:17, “And behold, I myself am bringing myself flood waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh which is in the breath of life; everything on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you.” Verse 22 “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.”
Well, let’s just think about what Noah went through here. If we had time, we would play the Bill Cosby routine about Noah. I think he got it right because if you remember that old routine, Cosby does a great job of putting yourself in Noah’s place.
When he says, “Noah, I want you to build an ark.” “What’s an ark?” He has to explain that to him. “Why am I going to build an ark?” “Because it’s going to rain.” “What’s rain?” The indication is in Genesis, it never rained. “It’s going to flood.” “What’s a flood?” The world was close to being perfect at that time. They didn’t have floods at that point in time.
So he’s telling him all these things that are sort of just unimaginable. It’s not just that it’s going to happen again. These were things that were unthinkable at the time. There was no experience to explain any of these things that Noah was being asked to do.
“And, by the way, I want you to do this over a period of a hundred years.” You know, a hundred years is a long time to wait! A hundred years is a long time to just keep on keeping on. It happens to be longer than most of us are going to live.
So again, it’s a positive example of how to behave.
Suffer for Doing Good
Well, let’s go to a passage that explains a lot about Noah. Let’s go to 1 Peter 3. We’re going to see Noah used as an example to explain something to us, and in doing so, I think we’re going to learn a lot about this application of Noah.
1 Peter 3:17. “For it is better, if it’s the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
Now if we back up just a few verses, look at maybe 13. “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?” Normally, when you do good, people like it.
I Peter 3:14. “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you shall be blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled’” Often when you do good, you’re going to get punished for it. That’s just life.
I Peter 3:15. “But sanctify the Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”
Here we’ve got our triangle again. Here I am. I’m doing something good. Someone who doesn’t like it is reviling me for it. And what I do is say, “Well, I don’t really like being reviled; but I’m going to look at God instead of looking at you reviling me, and I’m going to say ‘Pleasing God is more important to me.’”
And someone else comes and says, “Well this person is reviling you. Why are you happy about it? Why are you just taking it?” Then you can say, “Well, I’ve got hope in me of God.”
To my knowledge, this is the only passage in all the epistles that gives an explicit command to actually tell someone about your faith. There are plenty of examples of people doing it. This is the only place where it says to do it.
And the interesting thing is it’s in the context of being a Martyreo, a witness, just like these Hebrews 11 folks. Because they see our lives, they want to come and ask about it.
Well, it’s better to do the will of God to suffer doing good than to do evil. There are two ways to suffer. One is to suffer because you deserve it; you did evil. The other is to suffer when you didn’t deserve it.
Jesus Working Through Noah
And we have an example, 1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, That he might bring us to God—”
So there’s your example. I mean Christ never did anything wrong. And because of his witness, because of his testimony, because of his obedience, we’re brought to God. We can do the same thing with others. We can do the priestly function as well because we are willing to suffer for doing good. We can bring other people as well. See the example?
Verse 18. Jesus was “put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.”
How was Jesus put to death in the flesh? He was crucified. How was he made alive in the Spirit? He rose again.
What particular thing do we do that emphasizes put to death in the flesh, raised—baptism, right? Jesus was baptized into death and rose in the Spirit, didn’t he? And that’s what he’s about to do. He’s going to tell us about baptism. And he’s going to talk to us about the first baptism which was Noah. It was a big baptism!
I Peter 3:18. “—being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison.”
Now a lot’s made of this verse. I’m not going to dig into what all people say about it. But in order for this to make sense, it has to fit into the whole idea of being an example of suffering for doing good rather than for doing evil. And I think it will easily.
So, Jesus, by the Spirit, preached to spirits now in prison. What spirits in prison? What spirits in prison did he speak to and when did he do it?
Well, who is it? is answered in the next part of verse 20.
I Peter 3:20 “who formerly were disobedient, from once the divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah—”
So God’s waiting for a hundred years, waiting for people to come to repentance and stop doing violence. These are the people that he went and preached to.
Well, did he go and preach to them while they were in prison, or did he preach to them while they were alive on the earth? Alive on the earth.
Look down at I Peter 4:6. We’re still talking about the same people here. “For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead—” Why? “—that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”
Jesus went in the Spirit and preached to the people of Noah’s time so that they could do the same thing Noah did, which was to obey God instead of man. To be judged according to man, made alive in the Spirit.
Jesus despised the shame. And for the joy set before him endured the cross.
So he went and preached. Now it doesn’t say exactly how he went and preached. I believe the implication is he went and preached through Noah. And the preaching that we know—Noah may have said a lot of stuff. We’re not told whether he did or not. What we know Noah did was build an ark.
Now I don’t think that building this ark would have been something people would have missed. It was a big project. I can imagine that people in a world full of violence, people would have mocked Noah. I can imagine that people would have made this a running joke. They certainly, we know from the passage in Matthew that we read, they ignored the implications of it and just kept right on going with their lives.
But Jesus went and preached the gospel to them through Noah. And the gospel is, in its fullest sense, that if we believe God, from faith to faith, we will gain righteousness with God. And when we gain righteousness with God, we get all these amazing benefits. And when we don’t, we get all these amazing detriments.
Saved Through Obedience
I Peter 3:20 “So while the ark was being prepared in the days of Noah, which a few eight souls were saved by water—”
So there’s an anti-type, an example, a figure for us to see, which now saves us.
What saved Noah? Obedience. And the obedience was specifically that he did what? Built an ark and then got on it. That saved Noah. What did it save him from? The flood. Dying. It saved him from the consequences of judgment. It didn’t save him from Hell. Noah had already found grace in the sight of the Lord. None of this is heaven and hell stuff.
What we’re talking about here is consequences of behavior. So there’s a figure—baptism—that saves us. Not the removal of filth from flesh, not the ceremony, not the fact that we actually go into water. That’s just a ceremony.
No, but the answer of a good conscience towards God. Perhaps you remember when we were in Hebrews 9 that we can go into the Holy of Holies through the veil that is now the body of Christ and get sprinkling on our heart—not the sprinkling on the Mercy Seat that just covers sins committed in ignorance on the Day of Atonement once a year—but any time we have need for cleansing, we can go into the Holy of Holies by faith through Jesus and have our hearts sprinkled so we can get a clean conscience so we can do good works.
When we say we’re buried in Christ and raised to walk in the newness of life, the intent of that ceremony is to say this is our commitment, to live this way. To live with the reality that we no longer have to walk in the flood of dissipation of our flesh because that’s really all we get from the flesh.
We can now walk in newness of life.