The Faith of Noah

Bible Book: Genesis  6 : 5-22
Subject: Noah; Faith; Noah Movie

Genesis 6:5-22; Hebrews 11:7

About a year ago I saw the first trailer for the movie NOAH, and I was VERY excited! I mean, from the previews I saw it looked like the film would honor the Scriptures plus it had one of my favorite actors in the starring role: Russell Crowe. As Noah Russell would be “piloting” a boat—and I thoroughly enjoyed it when Russell did that in Master and Commander. On top of that—it was a film about one of my favorite Biblical heroes—Noah—and I love it when the Bible makes it to the wide screen. So when Noah hit the theaters Daniel and I made plans to see it.

But—as I told you in a recent SOWER article—I was greatly disappointed. The film totally distorted the Biblical account. It was very ANTI-Bible and as such was a waste of my money. In fact, in my opinion it was the least Biblical Biblical epic I have ever seen. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised because the producer is an atheist and his last film was reputed to be weird. So it shouldn’t have shocked me that he turned the Bible story into a weird tale filled with rock-monster fallen angels where mankind fell—it sinned by destroying the environment and eating meat.

With that in mind I felt led to do my best to set the record straight as to what really happened in the story of Noah! So—with no more reference to the Russell Crowe film, let’s look at the actual account of Noah as told in Genesis—and I promise it is a much better story. The truth always is.

But I don’t just want us to look at the Biblical account to “set the record straight.” I also want us to see what it can teach us about authentic faith. And the best way to begin all this is by getting a good picture in our mind’s eye of the SETTING of this historic event which is recorded in Genesis chapters 5-9. We don’t have time to read all these chapters but keep your Bibles open because we will refer to them throughout our study.

First, let’s examine Noah himself. His grandfather was Methuselah—-who still holds the record when it comes to the longest life span. Methuselah lived to be 969 years young! Methuselah apparently died immediately before the flood hit. R. Kent Hughes says that Genesis 7:10 refers to seven days of mourning that God allowed Noah and his family after Methuselah died before the “floodwaters came on the earth.” Noah’s NAME means “comfort” or “rest.” Scripture says that his father, Lamech, gave him this name because, as a baby, Noah, comforted him as he labored to work the ground that had been cursed due to the sin of Adam and Eve. And Noah himself was a father. He had three sons, named SHEM, HAM, and JAPHETH. Scripture also says that Noah was a righteous man. Look at Genesis 6:9 where it says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time.” Now—the word “blameless” doesn’t meant perfection. It literally means “uncontaminated.” As we shall see, Noah was not “contaminated” by the wickedness of his day. He was God’s man through and through. Clarence MacCartney calls Noah, “the SOLITARY Saint” because Noah was the ONLY ONE of his kind—which tells us that SOLITARY goodness IS possible. I mean, with God’s help, it is possible to go against the flow—even if you’re the only one doing so. Noah is proof of this because he lived in a culture that was unimaginably degraded—horribly corrupt—and yet he was different. He was the only man of faith in an entire world that had turned its back on God.

You may remember that Henry David Thoreau once said, “If I seem to walk out of step with others, it is because I am listening to another drum beat.” This is a picture of genuine faith because Christians who embrace a deep faith in God walk through life as though listening to another “drum beat.” Like Noah, they are out of step with the world. By the way, this is a good time for me to say that there is no such thing as a Christian life that is NOT counterculture. If you are a follower of the Lord, it means you are going to have to make decisions that distinguish you from the sinful world in which we all live. Philippians 2:14-15 says that if we follow Jesus—if we live out our faith, “we will shine as stars in the universe, amidst a crooked and depraved generation.” The fact is no one can thoroughly participate in everything that’s true of our culture today and follow Christ at the same time. Following Jesus is tough because it means going against the flow of this fallen world. We follow a narrow path! You students out there looking to college in a few months especially need to hear this. It can be very hard to be a young adult and STAND ALONE for God. It’s hard—but Noah’s life proves that it is possible! God needs “Noah’s” —He needs individuals who are willing to stand alone for Him if need be. In Ezekiel 22:30 God says, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”

The question that comes to each of us day after day is, “Will YOU be the one? Will YOU be like Noah and do the right thing even though everyone around you does not? Will YOU be the one to point people to Jesus even though you face ridicule for doing so?”

Look at Genesis 6:9 again for it says something else about NOAH. It tells us He “walked with God.” You may remember that ENOCH, Noah’s great-grandfather, also walked with God. In fact in all history, Noah and Enoch are the only two people about whom this is said. Walking with God means to move in the same direction in which God is going. It means keeping in step with God. You could say that Noah and Enoch didn’t run ahead of God—nor did they lag behind—they kept step with God. Think about it. When you’re walking with someone, you’re not moving so fast that conversation is difficult. You can enjoy your companion. And this sharing makes everything else enjoyable. You can look together at the cloud formations, the turning of the leaves in the fall, the flower beds in neighbor’s yards, the geese in the stream that by the path, or whatever. In short, walking WITH someone is a great picture of intimacy. This kind of intimacy with God was a lifestyle for Noah. Year after year, for longer and longer periods of time during the day, he shared more and more of his life with God.

Notice another characteristic of Noah. Twice scripture speaks of his OBEDIENCE. In Genesis 6:22, it says, “Noah did EVERYTHING, just as GOD COMMANDED him.” And, in Genesis 7:5 we are told “And NOAH did ALL (not most, but ALL) that the Lord commanded him.” Unlike many disciples today who pick and choose which commands of God they will apply to their lives, Noah embraced the kind of love for God that Jesus described in John 14 when He said, “If you love Me, you will OBEY what I command.”

Well, I hope we all see in Noah characteristics that we should emulate:

a righteous life unpolluted by the world,
a man who cherished and nourished an intimate daily walk with God,
and an individual who showed his love for God with a lifestyle of obedience to His commands!

But to really understand Noah we also need to look at the culture in which he lived and Scripture teaches that it was a culture of unprecedented wickedness. Genesis 6:11 says, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.” Throughout the Biblical account of Noah the combination of the words “corrupt” and “violence” is repeated again and again. This is because the moral degradation of life—the corruption of ethics is always accompanied by violence—a warning that we should heed in our day and age.

You may remember that the beginning of chapter 6 mentions “sons of God” marrying human women and “Nephilim” having children with human women. Most of biblical scholars I read this week believe these “sons of God” and “Nephilim” were fallen angels—demons who had children with the women of this day. And, Genesis 6:5 says that God SAW this as a great wickedness. In fact, it’s tragic to note that prior to this chapter in Genesis, any time God gazed upon His creation—any time the phrase, “God SAW” is used, it is followed by God commenting, “It was good.” or “It was VERY good.” But now God looks at the world and it is not good at all. It is totally corrupt. So much had changed! The human race was degraded almost beyond recognition.

God was thoroughly disgusted with what He SAW in mankind.

Then, listen to the last part of verse 5: “Every inclination of the thoughts of the hearts of men were evil all the time.” That’s how bad—how totally corrupt—things had become. R. Kent Hughes writes, “Their depravity was not a temporary state. There were no relentings, no repentances, no hesitations. Lust was their medium, violence their method. This was total, inveterate depravity.”

Corruption had become so thorough that there was nothing human left about these people. Even their thoughts were a constant mental stream of evil. They had already drowned everything “human” about themselves in a kind of moral wretchedness that had existed even before the rains began to fall. In short, mankind had already destroyed themselves—so, the deluge was the logical outcome of the way of life these people had chosen. Verse 6 is also significant in that it records not the ANGER of God but His GRIEF over the fallen state of humanity. It says, “The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.” So God’s heart ached as if He had lost something extraordinarily precious to Him.

Then, in verses 13 & 17 we read of God’s sorrowful determination to destroy not only human life but all other life as well. Every living creature was going to die in the flood—except for the few animals that would be protected in the ark. That might seem excessive until we remember that human beings were made regents of earth, to have dominion over all created things. And human corruption had apparently spread so that it ruined pretty much everything else. It’s like we see today when scientists make mistakes and spread radioactive waste over a large area—so that everything that comes in contact with it is contaminated and will pose a threat for thousands of years—polluting air and water and all life. Something like that evidently had happened in the days before the flood. Human fools had ruined life everywhere and there was very little left that was worth saving.

Okay—that’s the setting—let’s continue our study while focusing on what it can teach us about authentic FAITH. I want to point our three things that Noah—this HERO of the FAITH—has taught us when it comes to this subject:

(1) First—I think Noah’s life shows us that true faith has a BASIS.

Noah would say that faith in God is not a hunch. It’s not positive thinking. It’s not a leap in the dark. No—he would tell us that faith has a basis—a foundation. Hebrews 11:7 says Noah did what he did, “…WHEN WARNED BY GOD about things not yet seen.” The word “warned” means Noah was divinely instructed. God spoke to him and told him what He was going to do. So the BASIS of Noah’s faithful actions was the WORD OF GOD. And the Bible teaches this principle of faith. In Romans 10 it says, that, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by THE WORD OF GOD.” So—genuine faith has a basis. Specifically, it is founded on the things God SAYS. In fact a faith that doesn’t rest on the Word of God is not a faith worth having. True faith has a sure foundation. It is not based on our feelings or emotions. It is not based on our traditions. No, our source of authority—the basis of our faith—is the Word of God!

Note that the text says that God warned Noah of a thing, “not yet seen.” God’s Word that the flood was to come was all that Noah had to go on. There was no visible sign of an impending flood. In fact, it was 120 years out there in the future. And what is worse Noah had never seen RAIN. The Bible infers that it had never rained until the flood came. Genesis 2 says that, “God had not sent rain on the earth but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.” This means Noah had never seen a flood because you can’t have a flood unless you have rain. I mean, the words “rain” and “flood” weren’t even in their vocabulary. So, I am sure that Noah’s peers laughed at him as he built a boat 500 miles from the nearest ocean and a thousand times too big for his family and then began to fill it with the animals that God sent. I imagine they laughed as he preached sermons warning them of the impending cataclysm, encouraging them to repent of their sin—turn from their perversion and violent lifestyle, humble themselves and seek God.

But the thing I want you to note is that Noah had nothing to base his actions on—his construction and his preaching—on other than GOD’S WORD. I doubt if you or I would have trusted God under these circumstances but Noah had the faith to do so. He believed God’s Word. He accepted what God told him. For 120 years he worked on this huge ark on the basis of God’s Word alone! And in all that time, NOTHING HAPPENED to make him think it was going to come true. Now, it might have been easier for Noah if every three or four days God had blown up some clouds and let some lightening flash and thunder roll. That might have been encouraging to Noah. But this didn’t happen!

And if Noah could believe and obey God’s Word for 120 years under those conditions, then surely you and I ought to be able to do so with the fuller revelation that we have. We have an entire BIBLE filled with God’s Words upon which to base our faith. We have His risen Son in our hearts to guide us through life. We KNOW that God’s words are true! Do you hear the words to a famous hymn ringing in your heads?

“How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord is fixed for your faith in His excellent WORD! What more can He say than to you He has said? To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?”

Our faith DOES have a firm foundation because a person who embraces this kind of faith build’s his or her life on the Word of God. This is our foundation. This is what we base our “against the flow” actions on.

And listen—just as God promised in the days of Noah to destroy the world because of man’s wickedness, so He has promised that He will destroy the world again! In 2nd Peter God cites the example of Noah and the flood and then in chapter 3 verse 10 it says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be destroyed.” This text goes on to ask us, in light of this—based on THIS WORD OF GOD—what kind of persons ought we to be? What kind of lives should we live? Well it doesn’t say we should build an ark but verse 14 does command that we make every effort to live lives that are “spotless and blameless.”

So—Noah’s life shows us that our faith in God has a BASIS. Our faith is founded on God’s word—the things He has said in His Book which leads us to the second thing that Noah’s life teaches us about faith:

(2) If someone lives by faith it will be EVIDENT.

I mean, faith is not an invisible thing. It shows! Remember, Hebrews 11:7 says that Noah DID SOMETHING because of his faith! He built a huge ark—something everyone couldn’t help but notice! Noah’s faith expressed itself in obedience to God’s commands. And REAL faith—GENUINE faith—always expresses itself in that way. FAITH always acts in accordance with God’s Word! You know, many people think that men and women of faith are so occupied with the future that they sit around twiddling their thumbs doing nothing in the now. It has been said that people like this are so “heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” But living this way is not faith! It is fatalism! FAITH WORKS! FAITH is doing something now in view of the future! Faith is not passive. It is dynamic and forceful. Listen to this magnificent summary of the actions of faith in Hebrews 11:32-35: “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell you of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who, THROUGH FAITH, conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.”

NOTE—-These words are not poetry. They are HISTORY! This is FAITH AT WORK. These activities of faith have changed the course of history.

Noah DID SOMETHING about his faith. He preached for twelve decades. He built ark. And we need to remember that this construction project was no small task. The boat was 450 feet long—one and one half football fields. It was 75 feet wide or 3/4 of the length of a footfall field. Here’s a graphic showing it in comparison to other ships. It’s the biggest wooden vessel every built. In short, Noah’s ark was a monster of a ship. It was 45 feet high with three decks. And it was covered with pitch inside and out. Can you imagine how much pitch that was? I bet Noah and his sons smelled like tar the rest of their lives!

Plus Noah didn’t just call Home Depot and tell them to deliver the lumber for the ark! No, Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth had to cut all those trees and saw them into lumber. By the way, this was way before the advent of power tools! In other words, it was a big job! No wonder it took them well over a century to complete it. You can understand how Noah must have been considered the biggest fool in all of history. People saw him lay the keel of that great hulk of a boat and they must have laughed themselves silly. But Noah endured all this—he built an Ark because he believed God. Every tree he felled shouted, FAITH. Every board he sawed, shouted FAITH. Every swing of his hammer, shouted FATIH. Every seam to which he applied the pitch shouted, FAITH. Let me ask, do your works reflect your faith? Faith will make us work—and usually that “work” will be counter-cultural.

Now, of course you and I haven’t been told to build an ark. That was done once and for all. God will never flood the earth again. Every time you see a rainbow, remind yourself of that truth! But Christ is the “ark of salvation.” 1st Peter 3:20 teaches that the flood story is a picture of the coming of Christ. And let’s pause to note the parallels.

First, there was no way to prepare for the flood other than to follow God’s instructions. In the “immortal” words of Bill Cosby, Noah could have asked himself, “How long can you tread water?” Well, not long enough! The world was flooded for over a year!And in the same way there is no way on our own strength to escape the problem of our sinfulness. We need a Savior just like Noah needed that ark. We need Jesus. We need Someone to gather us in and protect us.

Another parallel is this. Just as the flood came suddenly, another cataclysm is coming. People in Noah’s day were eating and drinking and going to weddings and living out their corrupt, but comfortable, existence when the deluge abruptly came.Someday Christ will come just as suddenly. So, just like Noah, there is a lot of work for us to do. As Christians, we are called to “people” the ark. Jesus said, “You shall be witnesses unto Me.”Our work of faith is not to build an ark but rather to share the good news that people may be saved by entering the ark of safety provided by Christ.To do this we must have the FAITH of Noah—a faith that expresses itself in works because as James writes, “faith without works is DEAD.”I read a story once about an old fisherman who kept TWO OARS in his boat and on one he had written the word, “FAITH” and on the other, the word, “WORKS.”Someone asked him why He did that. He said, “Well, get in the boat and I’ll show you.”So they boarded and went out into the river and the fisherman picked up the oar that said “FAITH” and started paddling with it on one side. And the boat started going around and around in circles and drifting with the current of the river. So he looked at the one who had asked the question and said, “That doesn’t work does it?”

Then he put down the “FAITH” oar and took up the oar with the word, “WORKS” on it and he put it in the other side and stared paddling. And again the boat started going around in circles—spinning the other way this time as it drifted with the current. So he said, “That doesn’t work either, does it?” Well, then he took both oars and stared paddling on both sides of the boat and the boat made progress in the right direction. It moved against the current of the river.

The obvious point of this story is that you need both FAITH and WORKS to get anywhere in the Christian life. FAITH without works doesn’t amount to much. If we have faith but not works then as Paul wrote the Ephesians, we will be: “…tossed back and forth—around and around in circles—by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”FAITH and WORKS go together. Faith gives us the courage to do the works God calls us to do—and doing those WORKS grows our faith. So, to review, a look at Noah’s life shows us that FAITH has a BASIS. It is founded on the WORD OF GOD. His life also shows that genuine faith has a visible expression. FAITH and WORKS literally go hand in hand—and then we can learn one more thing about faith from Noah’s life:

(3) We see that storms like Noah endured stretch and mature our faith in God.

The storms of life develop us into stronger, more fully-developed disciples. And this truth is seen when we look at the way Noah’s voyage of faith ENDED. Scripture says that after 150 days, the rains finally stopped. At this point there is a very stark statement in Scripture. Look at Genesis 7:23: “Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth.” Notice the next phrase, “ONLY NOAH WAS LEFT.” Now, imagine how Noah felt as the wind and the rain stopped and the waves disappeared and the boat stopped moving and floated in calm waters. Everything was gone. Death was everywhere. There was only silence and darkness. Remember, the boat was closed in everywhere. There were no portholes. Perhaps it was more like a huge coffin than anything else we can imagine—covered with pitch inside and out. The door through which the animals and people entered had been closed by God. So Noah couldn’t see out—or if he could it was only through the opening at the top which means he could look only upward not downward. This helps us see why it was hard for Noah to see if the waters were receding. He couldn’t look down and see if the ground was dry. Another thing I want you to notice is that Noah was told very little about what would happen to him when he BEGAN this adventure. He didn’t know how things would END. He had obeyed God’s verbal instructions but now GOD WAS SILENT. As Noah floated on the water all these months, encased in this great wooden structure, there was no explanation, no prompting, no voice of hope from God. In Genesis 6:18 God had spoken to Noah and said he was the only righteous one in all his generation, the only one who had a heart for God. God had given him His word by saying, “I will establish my covenant with you and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.” But Noah didn’t hear anything about getting OUT of the ark—nothing about the END of the story. So now Noah goes through 150 days of floating with no word from God, encased in a place where he couldn’t see out or get information. And in a beginning this “blindness” to the outside was probably a blessing. Imagine how horrible it would be to see all those bloated bodies floating on the sea. But as weeks and months passed this blind ignorance must have been hard. I imagine that every hour of every day Noah wondered when and how it was all going to end, but he had no word from God as to what the end of the story would be. So, Noah waited and waited.

Have you ever had a time like that? Waited in a time when God seemed to be silent? Well, after floating silently for five months without being able to see where he was going, having no idea of the conditions outside the boat, wondering if it would ever come to an end things finally began to happen. The Bible says, “God remembered Noah.” Of course, God never forgot Noah and his family—this phrase is just a way of saying, the time for the end of his voyage finally came. So, God sent a wind to move the ark and the waters receded and the ark came to rest in the mountains of Ararat. You can imagine Noah’s relief to know that the ark was not going to be his home forever. The first thing Noah did was to remove the covering so he could see that the ground was dry. This was ten and a half months after the flood began. He saw that the water had receded but Noah didn’t come out yet. Then a month and 27 days later he could see that it was growing increasingly dry. But Noah still did not come out of the ark—not until God finally spoke again and invited him to do so.

Now what effect did this time of God’s silence have on Noah? Let’s do a little “before and after” comparison to answer this question. BEFORE the flood Noah was the only righteous person on the earth. 2nd Peter 2:5 says he was “THE preacher of righteousness.” With all the corrupted half-demon people running around, he must have felt that he was pretty special. But when he floated in the boat—when he seemed forgotten by God, he was able to notice the tension that existed between him and his sons and their families. He could see his capacity to be angry with God, and to feel sorry for himself. The awful realization dawned on Noah that he was going to start the world again, and his heart was as much in need of the grace of God as anyone else. He saw that he was not a good specimen on which to build a new earth. He found out that he was as capable of tawdry and angry and embarrassing and godless behavior as anyone else. I believe these months of silence showed Noah all this.

And—doesn’t God often teach us lessons like this? You see, as long as we can compare ourselves to other people, we can fool ourselves. But when we are put in some kind of wilderness and there’s nothing but the spiritual reality of who we are on the inside to occupy our thoughts, the awful discovery begins to take place: We see that we are capable of sin. We see that we are not as great and courageous and Godly as we think we are. We discover our weakness and shortcomings. So, when the day finally came to break the seal, open the door, and see the world, Noah was a man who had discovered his own inadequacy. This is why he would not come out until God invited him out. I imagine he wanted nothing more than to set his feet on solid ground but he didn’t. He didn’t step out and leap into the arms of his Lord, because his own failures were still ringing in his mind. In fact, the first thing he did when he came out was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice to God. I think it was both a sin offering and a thank offering. It was a way for Noah to both thank God for His protection and to say, “I need you God. Please save me from the sins I’ve discovered in my heart.” So, God used this time of silence to change Noah—to mature his faith and make him into a man who realized how much he needed God—the type of person on whom God would rebuild humanity. And that is how it is with us. In fact, the kind of faith that God values most develops in these times when He seems to be silent. Paul Tournier said, “Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith.” And he was right, for faith—real faith—demands uncertainty and confusion. It requires times of silence from God to test it and make it stronger.

As you know I was in the hospital this past Holy Week with an intestinal obstruction caused by scar tissue. This is the fourth time I’ve had to go through that kind of trial. Treatment is basically waiting for the obstruction to rectify itself—which it usually does in three or four days.

And that’s what you want to happen because surgery to remove the blockage only makes the potential for more scar tissue. So—you lie there in discomfort, nausea, and then hunger—and you wait and you wait and you wait for it to go away and if you’re like me, as you wait, you ask God, “Why? Why is this happening again?” Well, one of the answers to that prayer for me this time was a reaffirmation of the simple but incredibly comforting fact that God takes care of me. I mean, I had a beautiful room. I had excellent care—and I lost count of how many times I discovered a nurse or a technician or a custodian or a doctor was a Christ-follower. Plus I had all your cards and prayers—and through all that God reminded me that I am ALWAYS in His almighty, all-loving, all-knowing hands—-not just on the third floor of Montgomery General. That’s a precious lesson to learn—and if you’re like me—many times the only way to learn it—REALLY learn it and INTERNALIZE IT—is in times of hardship—times of waiting. This kind of experience strengthens our faith and matures it if we let it. It deepens our trust in God.

Yancy writes, “Paradoxically, the most perplexing, Job-like times may help ‘fertilize faith and nurture intimacy with God. The deepest faith sprouts at a point of contradiction, like a blade of grass between stones. Human beings grow by striving, working, stretching.” Only the storms of life can grow our faith to this level of maturity.

So let’s review what the REAL STORY of Noah has taught us about FAITH. Genuine FAITH is not wishful thinking. It has a solid basis because it is founded on the WORD OF GOD. And real FAITH works! It acts! People SEE our faith by the way that we live. Finally, Noah’s experience shows us that our faith is strengthened and matured in times of crisis when God seems to be silent.