February 3, 2019

Noah: The Obedience of Faith

Passage: Hebrews 11:7

Good morning! If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to Hebrews 11. And if you don’t have a Bible, there should be a Bible under the row of chairs in front of you. If you can grab a Bible, we are going to be in Hebrews 11, this morning.

For the past few weeks, we have been going through a sermon series titled, Heroes of the Faith, where we have been looking at the Old Testament characters mentioned in Hebrews 11, and the faith that each one of them had that made them the heroes they were.

And my hope for us, throughout this series, is that we will understand faith better, and that we will grow in our trust in God, that He is in control and that He is good.

Last week, we looked at a guy by the name of Enoch, who showed us the fellowship of faith. We saw that fellowship with God has been made possible through Jesus, who gave up eternal fellowship with the Father and the Spirit to come to this world, and to die on a cross, and to be raised back to life in victory over death, so that we can forever be in fellowship with God.

Though we die, we live. That’s the promise of God for those who are in Christ Jesus. And faith means grabbing hold of that promise, where we trust that God is true to His Word and that He has good things in store for those who seek Him.

And this morning, we are going to look at a guy by the name of Noah. And Noah is made popular among Christians and non-Christians because of Noah’s Ark. Most people know about Noah’s Ark. But many people might not know that Noah’s story is a story of faith just like the rest of these characters that we are going to be looking at in this series.

The story of Noah takes place in the days when the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and when every intention of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually. That’s what Scripture tells us about the day and age, in which Noah lived.

There are days when I feel like the world is close to getting back to that, but what we know is that Noah lived during a very wicked and depraved time.

So, Noah teaches us something significant about faith, and that is, the obedience of faith. Noah teaches us what it looks like to respond to God when the world around you doesn’t understand. And my hope for us, this morning, is that our faith will be strengthened and that we will be challenged in our walk with God.

So, with that, let’s look at Hebrews 11:7. “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.”

1. The first observation about the obedience of faith is that the obedience of faith is going to seem contrary to human reasoning.

“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.”

This should sound familiar to us, because this was part of the definition of faith that we looked at, in Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And here we see Noah warned by God “concerning events as yet unseen.”

And that requires a lot of trust, right? When God is asking you to step out in faith, and you don’t know the road ahead or it seems like foolishness to you, it can be really hard to take that step in walking with God.

But the Bible is all about God showing that man’s wisdom is foolishness to God. All of Scripture is about God using the weak to shame the strong.

Here are a few examples just from Hebrews 11: God caused a 100-year-old man and his 90-year-old wife to conceive a son. God used a man with all kinds of excuses and inabilities to help free the Israelites from Egyptian oppression. God used 300 Israelites to defeat 135,000 Midianites. God used a boy with a sling and stone to defeat a warrior giant. God used a cross to be the means of our salvation. And God used a group of twelve ordinary men to spread the gospel to the nations.

You want to know how obedience to God is often contrary to human reasoning, look no further than the entirety of Scripture. If you need encouragement to step out in faith, here it is. But it won't make sense to you, unless you trust God.

And that’s where we come to Noah. And if you can turn in your Bibles to Genesis 6, you will find the story of Noah. In Genesis 6, we are told that things have gone from bad to worse with God’s Creation, so much so, that God regrets that He made man on the earth and that He determines to bring judgment on all the evil in the world. That’s how wicked things had become.

And here is what Genesis 6, beginning in verse 9, says: “These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For behold, I will 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. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.’ 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.”

Do you think that was easy for him? Do you think it was easy for Noah to hear what God was going to do and what God was requiring him to do? No rains like that had ever happened before. No boat like that had ever been built.

I can just imagine the ridicule he would have received, as he’s shouting out warnings that judgment was coming, if they didn’t get into the boat that he was building. I can just imagine that this wouldn’t have made sense to him or to anyone around him. All of that work. Would it all be for nothing, or would God keep His promise?

And that is where the obedience of faith comes in. You see, faith is often going to seem contrary to human reasoning. Faith often won’t make sense, from our human perspective. But what does our text say about Noah? It says that “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.” He had no proof that what God was saying would actually happen, but that’s where his faith took over.

Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 14. Jesus has just sent His disciples away in a boat, and they find themselves in a massive storm. So, Jesus comes out to them, walking on the water, and says for them to not be afraid, which, at that point, I’m wondering who they’re more afraid of: the storm or Jesus.

But in verse 28, Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus says, “Come.” And we think Peter’s crazy, right? It doesn’t make sense that Jesus is walking on the water, so why would Peter think that he could walk on the water, as well?

But Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water toward Jesus. And verse 30 says that when “he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’” And Jesus immediately pulls him out of the water.

But what's interesting is what Jesus says next, in verse 31. He says to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Now, I don’t know what Peter was expecting to happen when he got out of the boat, but his faith made it so that it didn’t seem so crazy. His faith took him to a place of total dependence upon Jesus, regardless of how contrary to human reasoning it seemed.

Peter obviously lost sight of that. But faith means trusting in God, even when you can’t see the road ahead or when it seems like foolishness. Sometimes you just need to get out of the boat.

And this is where the obedience of faith is crucial, because if we don’t believe in the God of the Bible, if we don’t believe that God actually entered into His Creation in the Person of Jesus Christ, if we don’t believe that this same God gave His life so that we can forever live with Him in heaven, if we don’t believe any of that, then ultimately nothing changes in our lives, and we can live however we want.

But if we do believe in the Christian faith, then everything changes. All of a sudden, I am not my own, I belong to God. I represent God in the way I live my life. And what we need to understand is that this is often going to seem contrary to human reasoning.

For example, it’s contrary to human reasoning to marry someone before having had sex with them or living with them, first. I remember when I was working at Walmart, and people thought I was weird when I wasn’t sleeping around with other girls or when I wasn’t living with my girlfriend.

It’s contrary to human reasoning to believe and teach that the life in the womb is sacred and that it should not be aborted. It’s contrary to human reasoning to believe and teach that God created male and female, and that whatever gender you are, that is the gender you are.

God and the world are contrary to one another, where you will either hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other, and what we need to ask ourselves is whether or not we will be obedient to the Christian faith, even when it doesn’t make sense to the world around us.

2. The obedience of faith is going to seem contrary to human reasoning. Secondly, the obedience of faith fears God more than man.

Look at Hebrews 11:7. “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.”

Noah is warned by God that a great flood is going to come and wipe out all of God’s Creation, and that their only means of salvation is a giant boat that Noah is supposed to build.

And what is Noah’s response to all of this? It says, in reverent fear, Noah “constructed an ark for the saving of his household.” In a day and age of such evil and depravity, Noah exhibits the obedience of faith, by responding “in reverent fear” of God, not man.

This is remarkable, because it would have been so easy for Noah to be concerned with whatever was being said about him, because you better believe that he was experiencing ridicule from the people around him for what he was doing. It would have been so easy for Noah to give up on what God had called him to do, because of what his neighbours were saying about him.

And what this reveals to us is that Noah feared God more than he feared man. And why this matters to us is because we often have the tendency to value the praise of man more than we value God.

One of the deadliest sins that we can fall into is the love of human praise. It is so easy in our “click like” culture, for us to desire the praise of man more than anything else. We want to be validated. We want people to compliment us on the things we do.

As a pastor, I’ve been convicted of this, on numerous occasions, because I’m always wondering what people think of my sermons. And the problem for myself, when I love the praise of man more than I love God, is that preaching becomes something that will tickle many ears, rather than something that will expose the ugliness of the human heart.

And the reality is that I will not be judged for the amount of people who laughed at something I said in my sermon; I’m going to be judged for my faithfulness to the Word of God.

And what I hope for each one of you is not that you would say that I am an amazing communicator and that I preached an amazing sermon, but that we have an amazing Saviour and worship an amazing God.

Faith is so contradictory to the praise of man. Faith is coming to God with nothing; the praise of man is expecting glory from it. And the obedience of faith is obeying God, even when it means we won't get the praise. And that might be really hard for some of us.

I look at Noah, who could have been easily swayed by what the world around him was saying. And yet, he had faith that the voice of God was more true than all the other voices around him.

And what we need to address in our own lives is whether we fear God more than man. Because if we fear man more than God, then we can read this book, and continue to live how we’ve always been living. But if we fear God more than man, then we can’t just read this book, we actually have to do what it says.

3. And this brings us to our last observation about the obedience of faith, and that is, the obedience of faith secures the reward of faith.

Look at the second half of Hebrews 11:7. “By this,” that is, the constructing of the ark for the saving of his household, “he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”

If we aren’t careful, there is the potential for us to read this to mean that Noah’s obedience led to his righteousness—that Noah was considered righteous in the sight of God by what he did. And that’s not what we see here.

We see that Noah “became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” In other words, we are saved through faith alone, not as a result of works, so that no one may be boast. We are saved as a result of faith in what Christ has done, and not as a result of anything we do.

But look at Genesis 7:1. God says to Noah, after Noah had done all that God commanded, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.”

You see, faith isn’t just believing something; it’s acting upon what you believe. Noah didn’t just believe God; he acted on that belief by building the ark that God was commanding him to build. It would have done Noah no good to simply believe God and to not do anything to change his circumstances.

Obedience, then, is not what saves us, but it is what secures our faith. Noah built the ark that God commanded him to build, not because he was earning God’s righteousness by doing it, but that he would eventually receive the reward.

“By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”

What I want to make clear for us is that obedience does not lead to faith; faith leads to obedience. We see faith producing obedience in Noah, so that Noah believed God and responded in obedience to Him.

And the good news of the gospel is that the obedience of one man, Jesus, has provided the means for us, who are all naturally disobedient to God, to also become heirs of the righteousness that comes by faith. Nothing we do can add to what Jesus has already done on our behalf. But to think that what we do is unimportant and that we can live our lives however we want, misses the gospel.

We have not been called, according to the purpose of God, for us to continue to live in disobedience to Him. If our faith is merely lip service to God and nothing has truly changed in our lives, then we have not grabbed hold of who we are, now, in Christ. In fact, we are living contrary to the gospel.

But if our life has been so drastically changed through the grace and mercy of Christ Jesus, that we begin to evaluate what is beneficial for me in my walk with God and what is maybe not beneficial for me in my walk with God, then it means God is producing that obedience in us.

I know that I sure haven’t arrived yet. I know that I still have growth left in me. I know that God is still wooing me down the path of life, getting me to focus on Him and not on all these other distractions around me. I know that there is still the temptation to wander from the position that I have in Christ as an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

But the obedience of faith secures the reward of faith. When we put our faith in Jesus, we begin to see the fruit of obedience at work in our lives, where we desire to live now in light of the reward of faith that is to come.

When Katie Davis Majors was 18 years old, she went to be a teacher of kindergarten children in Uganda. Against her parent’s will, who wanted her to go to College, she said she was going to take a year off to go serve Jesus in Uganda.

And while she was there, God spoke to her and told her to stay. And she did. She adopted 13 Ugandan children. She is now their mother. And she raises $70,000 a month to keep those children and that orphanage going.

She has come to understand that she has no resource but God. Her faith has become so real to her, that coming back here is a very uncomfortable experience for her, because back here, there are so many other things to depend on. In Uganda, there is no one but God. But God is so real to her, it’s incredible. That’s what faith is.

Faith is living now, in light of the reward to come. That’s what the faith of Noah teaches us.

God isn’t asking us to build an ark, but the question that each one of us needs to answer, is: Am I obedient to the faith I profess? That’s a penetrating question, because it exposes all sorts of areas in our lives that we like to keep hidden.

Is there anything in our lives that God is wanting us to give over to him? Is there a spouse, or a child, or a thing, or a sin, that we don’t want to give up? Do we struggle with fearing man more than God? Are we trying to earn God’s righteousness by what we do? Are we living now, in light of the reward to come? Where is the obedience of faith taking you?

My hope is that we might see the joy of stepping out in faith, knowing that we are right where God wants us. May God continue to grow our faith. Let’s pray…


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