This sermon is my first given in front of people at seminary. (Aren’t you glad they let us crash and burn in seminary before we go out and ruin the church! :-)) It is also my baptism into redemptive-historical theology.
I attempt in this sermon to show how God’s working in Noah’s life is an explicit preparation of His more perfect work through His Son, Jesus Christ. My aim is to show that when we read the story of Noah today, we find our salvation in the same faith that Noah displayed–faith in God. Therefore, the big point of Noah’s story is not for us to see how great Noah’s faith was, but to see how great God is. He is the true hero of Noah’s faith and the ultimate Savior, both of Noah, of us, an of the whole world.
Text: 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. (Hebrews 11:7 ESV)
Introduction: The Setting of Our Text
As we continue our study of God’s “Hall of Faith,” the famous 11th chapter of Hebrews, we come to a chapter that is dripping with one big idea expressed in two little words: “by faith.” Even just by glancing at the text of the chapter, the reader cannot help but be taken back by how the author has soaked the text 19 times with these two words: “by faith.” Like a railroad worker with a sledge hammer pounding loudly on a spike, the author is clobbering home his big idea–”wham, wham, wham”–listen up, here’s my main point: “BY FAITH! BY FAITH! BY FAITH!”
Faith is obviously one of the main themes of the book of Hebrews, and it is undoubtedly the main theme of our chapter 11. In verse 1 the author opens this chapter with a divine definition of faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV).
Faith Explained and Illustrated
Now, our author knows that definitions are best understood when they are explained and illustrated in terms that are familiar with the audience. So, he continues for the rest of chapter 11 to provide powerful illustrations from the Old Testament, which his Jewish readers were well familiar with, to explain his definition of faith “assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things not seen.”
It is at this point that we come to our text this morning, verse 7. The author of Hebrews brings us to the story of Noah.
So, as we prepare to look at the story of Noah in Genesis 6, we are doing so with two purposes. First, we are seeking to answer this question: Why does Hebrews use Noah as an example of faith? In other words, “How did Noah live by faith?” Second, we must ask, “So what?” In other words, as we listen in to the author of Hebrews write to his audience about faith using Noah as an example, we must ask, “What does this mean for me? Why should I care?”
Please turn with me to Genesis chapter 6 as we look into the story of Noah. This morning we will not be doing a detailed study, but as the author of Hebrews uses the big picture of Noah to make his point, so we will be taking the bird’s eye view of the story. So follow along with me as we lift up the helicopter to see the story from above.
Noah Introduced As The Godly Line of Seth
Look with me at Genesis chapter 6 verses 5-9:
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:5-9 ESV)
We are introduced to Noah in verse 9 as a man who “found favor” with God, a “righteous man,” a “blameless” man who “walked with God.” Moses, the author of this account, uses this specific language to let us know that Noah is in the line of the godly seed of Adam’s son Seth, the same line as Enoch, the man who “walked with God.” This description of Noah is important because it helps us to step back from the story to see the bigger picture. Noah is not commended here for being righteous himself. Rather, the point is that Noah is God’s chosen man to carry on the Godly line promised to Adam and Eve through their son Seth, continued through Seth’s sons to Enoch, and now to Noah. Therefore, while we see Noah introduced as a bright candle shining in a world of darkness, let us see that God is the one who has lit Noah’s wick. All of his righteousness is from God. It is only by God’s grace and kindness that God chose Noah to be the next seed-bearer.
God Brings His Message to Noah
Now that we have been introduced to Noah, please look with me at chapter 6 verses 11-15 to see the message that God brought to Noah:
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 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. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. (Genesis 6:11-15 ESV)
Now, as we move to verse 13, we see that God comes to Noah with a message. Notice that it is God who takes initiative. Noah did nothing to deserve God’s message. Rather, God chose to give Noah the message.
The content of this message is quite shocking. It is a double message: first, it is a message of radical judgment on the whole earth; second, it is a message of radical salvation for God’s chosen seed-bearer, the seed-bearer’s family, and the animals. God, the ultimate judge of the universe before whom all people will give an account, says He will judge the whole world for its wickedness in 120 years. Then, He commands Noah to build an ark to save himself, his family, and the animals that God had created.
Stop for a minute and see the terribleness of this message. It is shocking that God was so grieved by man’s wickedness that He decides to destroy the earth so quickly after He had just finished creating it not too long ago. God created the world in chapter 1 of Genesis, and now we are only in chapter 6. This should instruct us: God hates wickedness. He always must punish sin. In Exodus 34:6 God reveals that even though His is merciful, He will punish sin:
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
With the weight of this terrifying judgment in mind, perhaps we can empathize with Noah’s response. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Noah responded with “reverent fear.” Noah understands that life and death are at stake for himself, his family, and the whole world. Noah believed God’s word, and it moved him to holy fear.
But, not only did Noah believe God’s message, He obeyed it. Similar to how our Hebrews author is hammering home the two word message, “by faith,” in Hebrews 11, so Moses hammers home the point that Noah “did all that God commanded him.” Look at Genesis 6:22. Moses repeats this point in 7:5.
Don’t just gloss over what is happening here. Moses wants us to see that Noah fully obeyed God’s difficult command over a period of 120 years. Noah heard God’s message, believed it, and kept on believing it for 120 years. Moses does not tell us whether God spoke to Noah again during these years. The assumption is that God was silent. For 120 years Noah’s only hope was God’s message. Also, the message was not an easy one to believe. In fact, it would have been really hard to believe. No man had ever seen rain, and God said it was going to rain over the whole earth. Nevertheless, Noah believed the message, and he obeyed completely.
God Remembers His Promise to Noah
Now, we hit the “fast-forward” button on the story to view briefly three more important events in the story. Turn to Genesis 8:1, the turning point in the story.
But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. (Genesis 8:1 ESV)
Here again we see God’s amazing grace toward Noah. Up to this point, God has chosen for Noah to be His seed-bearer, and He has given Noah the message of salvation. Now Moses tells us that God keeps His promises. Moses’ point is not that God had forgotten and then remembers, as a man forgets where he put the car keys, or a child forgets to clean her room. Rather, Moses tells us that God faithfully keeps his promise of to Noah. Moses wants us to see that God always keeps His promises.
This verse is the turning point in the story. From here on, the raging storm begins to calm down and the rising flood waters recede.
We come then to the point at which Noah gets out of the arc. Look with me at 8:20 and notice the first action that Noah performs out of the ark: he worships God.
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. (Genesis 8:20-21 ESV)
God’s radical salvation prompted Noah to worship out of thanksgiving. He built an altar and worshiped God with a sacrifice, and God was pleased.
Noah understood well that the only reason he, his family, and the animals were still alive is by God’s grace. Noah realizes that God is the hero of the story, and Noah says a whole hearted “thank you!” to God his savior with a pleasing offering.
God’s Covenant Sign: The Rainbow
As our helicopter tour of Noah’s story comes to its final stop, please look with me at chapter 9 verses 11-13.
I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (Genesis 9:11-13 ESV)
God ends the story of the flood by promising that He will never again destroy the earth with a flood. He signifies this promise with a sign: a rainbow. The fact that we still see this sign today is a striking reminder that God keeps His promises. For thousands of years since Noah’s day, God has kept His promise. Storms have come and gone, but never again has God destroyed the whole earth with a flood.
Noah’s Faith is Proved by Obedience to God’s Word
Before we turned to look at the story of Noah in Genesis, we noticed that the author of Hebrews is driving home one main point in Hebrews chapter 11: “By faith.” With this in mind, we went to Genesis to explore two questions. First, we asked, “How did Noah have faith?”
We have seen from Genesis that Noah’s faith is in believing God’s message and obeying God’s commands. We can’t be tempted even for a minute to think that faith is something that we conjure up inside ourselves, for that would be our own work. Rather, just as God took initiative to give His message to Noah, He also gave Noah the ears to hear God’s message. In the same way, God gives us faith to believe His message today. Ephesians 2:8 informs us that by grace we are saved through faith. Faith is God’s gift to us just as it was to Noah.
If we don’t pause to see that Noah obeyed God by faith, we are left with Noah being a self-made man. If it wasn’t for God’s gift of faith, we would worship Noah for Noah would be the hero of the story. But that is neither the point in Hebrews nor in Genesis. Rather, God is the hero of Noah’s faith; everything that Noah did was done by faith. Without those two words, we would be left to think that Noah earned salvation for himself by working real hard. Please hear the loud message of Hebrews 11: “by faith!”
The second question we took with us into Genesis is, “So what?” We see that Noah lived by faith, but what difference does that make to me today?
The answer is that by looking to Noah we see ourselves with the same need, and by looking at Noah’s faith we see that our need is met by the same Savior by the same faith. And it is here that we meet Christ in the story.
Christ: Our Better Noah
Noah needs and receives Christ’s righteousness; Christ’s gives His perfect righteousness
First, we were introduced to Noah as a righteous man who walked with God in a world full of wickedness. We saw that Noah is God‘s shining candle in contrast to the dark world. Moses tells us that Noah’s righteousness is not in himself. Rather, Noah is God’s chosen seed-bearer. He is in the godly line of Seth, the line that God promised would produce the Messiah, the ultimate Savior who would turn back the curse and make everything right. Yet, even though Noah is in the promised line, he still needs God’s salvation.
Noah, though he walked with God, was a sinner who needed to be saved himself. But Jesus comes to earth as the perfect God-man who never sinned. Jesus is God’s chosen fulfillment of the promised seed who will save God’s people forever.
We find ourselves in the same place as Noah. We live in a dark, wicked world. God has come and brought His message to the world, a message of salvation and a message of judgment: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Just as in Noah’s day, God proclaims to us that He is coming to judge the whole earth. And just as God gave Noah’s generation 120 years to repent, God in His patience has given us time to turn from our wicked ways and believe God’s promise of salvation through Jesus. We, like Noah, desperately need God’s salvation. It is a life or death matter. Our salvation comes only through looking to Jesus, by faith, believing His message of salvation, by faith, and obeying His commands, by faith. You might ask, “But I can’t see Jesus?” He replies, you can’t see God with the eye of flesh, but you can see Him through the eye of faith.
Noah’s salvation leaves us longing for a future, perfect salvation
Second, we see that because Noah by faith believed God’s message and by faith obeyed God’s command, God saved Noah, Noah’s family, and the animals in the arc. Then, God put Noah’s family and the animals in a purified earth. Therefore, the godly line of Seth was saved from being destroyed by the wicked line of Cain, and the creation was saved from total destruction. But as good as the story of Noah appears to be, it is incomplete. It leaves us unsatisfied. The story goes on and we see that sin remains even in the godly line of Noah. Therefore, we must look for a better Noah, a Noah without sin.
Jesus comes as the sinless, obedience servant of God who obeys God even unto death. By His perfect obedience Jesus saves His family, a much larger family than Noah’s. Jesus’ family includes people from every nation, every tribe, all over the world. Furthermore, Jesus brings salvation to the earth. His death is the down payment that secures the New Heavens and the New Earth for His family to dwell within when Christ returns. Furthermore, Jesus defeated Satan once for all. Noah, by God’s grace, won a battle. But Christ has won the whole war! Christ defeated Satan and death.
We find ourselves living still in the world after Noah’s flood. Thought it was purified, sin remains. We are in a battle against principalities and powers without and our own sinful nature within. We live on the earth that groans as it awaits to be released from its curse. And we wait for Jesus to return when He will reverse the curse forever. He is bringing the New Heavens and the New Earth, only seen now with our eyes of faith. This is our future certain hope for which we long.
Noah’s sacrifice, though pleasing, leavs us looking for a perfect, totally satisfying sacrifice in Christ.
Third, Noah’s first act after getting out of the arc was to worship God with a sacrifice. God was pleased with Noah’s sacrifice, but He was not totally satisfied. God would require many more sacrifices after Noah’s.
Jesus offered Himself as the ultimate worship sacrifice that ended all sacrifices. On the cross Jesus fully satisfied God’s wrath so that God no longer requires sacrifices. Christ’s sacrifice is totally sufficient. The whole price has been paid. Any attempt to repay what Christ has already paid would now be an insult to Christ, as if His payment was not good enough. While Noah’s sacrifice pleased God, Christ’s pleased and satisfied God completely.
Here we find ourselves. By faith we are assured that Christ’s sacrifice is completely satisfying on our behalf. We have confidence that since God is fully pleased with Christ’s payment, He will never require payment of His children, those of us connected to Christ by faith. Thus only on the basis of Christ’s utterly satisfying sacrifice can we worship God in deep thanksgiving for what God has done for us. In Christ God has cancelled out debt against Him because Christ already paid it. He bought us, and we thank Him through worship. We were dead and He gave us life, so we praise Him. And we are confident of these things only by faith.
The faith that condemned Noah’s generation condemns ours as well.
Fourth, Noah condemned the world by obeying God’s command through faith. Yet, Christ, in a way so much greater than Noah, condemned the world by His perfect life, His unjust death, and one day when He returns as the Judge and King of heaven and earth. He first appeared as a carpenter, but He is returning as a king to execute condemnation on those who do not submit to His divine authority.
We find ourselves again in the same place as Noah. When we believe God’s message by faith and obey God’s commands by faith, we too condemn the world. Jesus told us that the dark world hates the light because the world’s deeds are dark. And He commands us to shine as lights in the dark world. This is no easy job. But, He does not leave us without help. Just as God lit Noah’s candle of faith, Christ, the Light of the World, lights our candle of faith. God gives faith; it is His gift. God enables us to obey by faith.
Noah inherited Christ’s righteousness; Christ inherits all things.
Fifth, Noah becomes an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Noah was a sinner, but by faith He received God’s righteousness for salvation. Jesus, being so much greater than Noah, is not a sinner. He is perfectly righteous. Noah received God’s righteousness by faith, but Christ gives His righteousness to us. Noah is an heir of Christ’s righteousness, but Christ is the heir of all things. God the Father has made Jesus the ruler of all, the King of Kings, the true Heir of God.
By faith, we find ourselves in the amazing place of being joint heirs with Christ. When we put our faith in Christ, He gives us his righteousness and makes us fellow heirs of all that is His. One day we will dwell in His perfect kingdom, the New Heavens and New Earth, because He has adopted us into His family as His children.
Noah’s rainbow foreshadows God’s kingdom coming to earth.
Sixth, God gave Noah a sign, the rainbow, that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood. We see in Revelation 4:3 that a rainbow surrounds Christ’s throne. God puts His royal sign on the earth in anticipation of the day when Christ will bring God’s throne to earth. It is in the position of anticipating His second coming that we find ourselves now. Our hearts cry, “Come Lord Jesus! Bring your kingdom! Make the whole earth your throne room!”
We find salvation in Noah’s faith since Noah’s faith is in God
Brothers and sisters, by faith in Jesus, Noah’s story of salvation becomes ours:
By faith, we, having heard God’s message of salvation through Jesus, believe it with reverent fear and obey God’s commands to repent and believe the Gospel for our salvation. By our faith in Jesus and His message we condemn the world and become heirs with Christ of His righteousness and of His rewards that come only by faith.