Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
"NOAH SHOWED HIS FAITH IN GOD BY BLINDLY DOING WHAT GOD COMMANDED."
Singing: (Psalms and Hymns are from the "Book of Praise"
Anglo Genevan Psalter)
Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ!
The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth. People were so depraved, followed their own heads so obstinately. Even in something so fundamental as marriage people in Noah’s days took no stock of God’s commands; "they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose." Concerning that independence from God, Jesus said that "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 …, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." That’s our day, with people acting independently of God, doing what is right in their own eyes….
"But Noah," last week’s passage concluded, "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Noah. Who was he? What kind of man was he that he could survive the destruction of the flood? He’s introduced to us in the passages of Scripture we read today. Says our text: "Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did." In Hebrews 11 the Holy Spirit gives His divine commentary on Noah’s behavior: "by faith Noah … prepared an ark…" (vs 7). We would escape the destruction that will accompany the coming of the Son of Man? We too need faith. And faith without works, says James, is dead (2:17).
I summarize the sermon with this theme:
NOAH SHOWED HIS FAITH IN GOD BY BLINDLY DOING WHAT GOD COMMANDED.
1. What Noah did.
Objections to receiving instructions are commonplace. In how many of our homes do children quietly and obediently do whatever Mother instructs? A sigh, the roll of the eyes, some muttering, an objection: we don’t like being told.
But did you ever notice that in the whole account of Noah –and that’s some 90 verses spanning four chapters- we do not hear a single word coming from his mouth until the flood is all over? Noah receives instructions, dramatic instructions from God, but no mention is made of any complaint from the man. Scripture gives no record of questions, no record of muttering; there is only silence, silent obedience. Vs 22: "Thus Noah did." The Holy Spirit repeats it so we catch the point: "according to all that God commanded him, so he did."
No, that’s not normal human behavior. Muttering is. But Noah did what he was told, and that obedience had profound implications for the salvation of the world – you and I included.
How logical it would have been had Noah objected to God’s commands. We read the passage. Said God in vs 13: "The end of all flesh has come before Me…; behold, I will destroy them with the earth." All flesh … to be destroyed?? Does that not mean that God has changed? He once fashioned the world in six days for His glory, had divided the sea from the dry land, had caused plants to grow on that dry land, and created animals to romp on that land. And now God wants to destroy it all? Is that not the undoing of creation, destroying His handiwork?? Had God changed that He no longer delighted in what He had made?
Sure, God gave His explanation in vs 13: "for the earth is filled with violence through [men]." But why kill everything for the sake of evil men? Children, cows, rabbits, cats: why should they perish because some people act so wickedly? We could understand that Noah would have serious questions, even grave objections to God’s plan. Where is His love for His creation?!
Then there’s vs 14: "Make yourself an ark…. The length of the ark shall be 300 cubits, its width 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits." Those figures: that’s the size of a modern battleship! That’s what Noah has to construct?! A ship that big, and without the tools we have?! Imagine the logistics of building that! How in the world shall he do it! We’re sure: we’d have some big questions to ask God….
Then listen to what God says in vs 17: "I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life." We have some idea of what God meant with the term "floodwaters", for we have heard about floods and the devastation they cause (and maybe even seen a flood). But Noah didn’t. Back in Gen 2:5 the Holy Spirit recorded that "the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth." Without rain there is no flood, and Noah didn’t know what rain was until Gen 7. Floodwaters? Unknown. And God would use that to destroy all the earth? Again: how many questions, how many objections that thought raises!
But that’s not all. Vs 17: "everything that is 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." The rest? They’ll perish. Noah’s brothers? Perish. His wife’s parents? Perish. The son’s parents-in-law? Perish. The girls’ brothers and sisters? Perish. Those with whom Noah’s sons had gone to school? Perish. So spake God: "everything that is on the earth shall die," except you and your immediate family…. Objections? How readily they jump to our lips! We have enough trouble with what the Canons of Dort say about election and reprobation. But this? It seems so hard, so insensitive, so cruel….
Then there’s vs 19: "of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark." But imagine the questions! Was Noah to round up a male and female from each species?? Would they all fit into the ark? How would they all be fed? Could eight people actually look after so many animals, including the feeding and the cleaning? Questions! O yes, God promised that He would cause two of each species to come to the ark (vs 20). But how’s that to happen?! Shall foxes and rabbits walk up the ramp together?? Questions!!
What do you think, boys and girls: if your father came home with a message from God as Noah received, how would you respond? Would you advise your father to carry out the instructions? Or would you come with a host of objections, questions, and discourage him from doing God’s will?
And you wives: by God’s ordinance you are to be a helpmeet to your husband. How should Mrs Noah have responded when her husband told her what God had said? Would you tell your husband quietly to obey? Or would you have him raise objections, ask questions, discuss this course of action with God?
And what about Noah himself? God, we say, has created mankind to be responsible, to think for himself, to weigh the pros and cons of what he did. And now such an instruction? Surely, we say, Noah has the obligation to object, to draw to God’s attention that this is not fair, that babies have not participated in the sins of the fathers, that cattle ought not to perish on account of human sin, that there is no need to be so radical in God’s judgment…. Besides, should Noah not have some feelings? What about the business Noah had built up in the hundreds of years of his life? And his house? His animals? His son’s houses? Their country? Their friends? All perish in the floodwaters?? No, Lord, no!!
We put ourselves into Noah’s shoes, and God’s command to build an ark becomes so absurd, so ridiculous, so impossible. We put ourselves in Noah’s shoes, and every fiber in our bodies screams against this command, screams out against that terrible plan of God. And the careful voice of protest in our hearts rises to an urgent shout against God: this is not good! That wicked men perish is one thing. But should God not have mercy on the women who are the victims of men’s selfish demands? And should He not have pity on all those innocent children who do not know their right hand from their left? We put ourselves in Noah’s shoes, and we’re convinced: this calls for protest, for objection.
Exactly that, congregation, makes our text so startling: Noah does not protest. God had much to say to Noah in the vss 13 to 21. Noah’s response is so basic. Vs 22: "Thus Noah did." Lest we miss this amazing response the Holy Spirit repeats it: "according to all that God commanded him, so he did." Though wife may have protested and children may have shaken their heads, though the neighbors may have laughed those 120 long years and the media made Noah out to be a fool, the man did not object; he simply did what God told him to do – though the command made no sense at all to the human mind
That brings us to our second point:
2. Why Noah did it.
He set to work to an ark the size of a modern battleship. Inside he constructed rooms for every creature on earth and every bird of the air. He hauled in feed sufficient for every creature, feed according to the need of each animal. Why he did it?
God Himself, brothers and sisters, explains that simple obedience as evidence of faith. Heb 11: "by faith Noah … prepared an ark for the saving of his household" (vs 7). "By faith," says that passage.
But what is faith? We could describe it with the words of Lord’s Day 7, so that I explain how faith is a sure knowledge and a firm confidence…. But Hebrews 11 does not go into a doctrinal explanation of what faith is. Hebrews 11 describes what faith looks like, describes what shape faith has in real life.
What shape it has? Faith, says Hebrews 11, is that Noah dared to accept as true whatever God said to Him. Faith is that he dared to trust God’s word, dared to entrust himself to God’s loving care. If God told him to do something, it was worth doing. If God told him a destructive flood was coming, it was sure to come. He’d never seen floodwaters, had never seen a boat that big, had never seen animals come two by two into a ship. But this was his faith: if God said this would happen, it simply would. For God is God. He believed in God, and therefore could accept that if God in His wisdom decided to destroy the whole world He once created, this would be the right thing to do; there wasn’t need for further questions. He believed in God, and therefore could accept that if this God was pleased to use an ark to preserve Noah’s family as well as the creatures of earth, it would be OK; there wasn’t need for protest about whether the ark would float, whether the animals would come, whether it was really ‘fair’ to destroy loved family members, etc. For faith listens to what God says, faith accepts God’s plans and commands as good and reliable, and acts accordingly. Faith trusts.
Noah believed, and therefore did "according to all that God commanded him." He got to work, made his plans, fetched the needed gopher wood, and started construction. The response of the people? Never mind their laughter and ridicule. The doubts that crept over him as he nailed the planks together? Never mind. He knew: God was God, fully reliable, His Word was sure, and therefore was obedient conduct the only thing to do despite the scorn of man and the doubts of the flesh. For 120 long years he labored on, fully convinced that the God in whom he believed would certainly send those floodwaters to destroy his neighbors, his home, his country, his gardens, his unrepentant brothers and sisters, and convinced that that was all OK. He labored on, by faith. He labored on, certain of what Jesus would say so many centuries later: "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Mt 10:37). And by extension: he who loves his house or his business or his country or his friends or his in-laws more than Me is not worthy of Me. So by faith Noah left all behind in order to obey the command God had given, he left all, convinced that he would received a hundredfold in this life, and eternal life in the age to come (cf Mk 10:29). He possessed his house, his business, even his broader family as one not possessing, ready to give up all for the sake of the Lord God and His kingdom. He believed that the God who would give up His Son to pay even for Noah’s sins would care for him so carefully, so tenderly, would preserve him in all the storms God sent in this life. He believed, and therefore acted, despite the human cost.
"Without faith," says Hebrews 11, "it is impossible to please [God]." The Lord Jesus Christ will shortly return, and we need faith to stand in the coming judgment. It raises a big question: if this is faith, do I have faith?? Faith without works is dead, say the Scriptures. This blind, simple obedience to God as Noah illustrated is fruit of faith, say the Scriptures. But I, then, have I faith?? Do I trust God so completely as to be convinced that it’s always good to obey the command of my Father in Jesus Christ, no matter how objectionable God’s commands appear to be?? Am I ready to give up house and family, business and country, for the sake of God and His kingdom, ready to do it convinced that my Father in Jesus Christ will care for me well? Do I trust, and therefore make a point of obeying, despite the circumstances?
We know it: here we fall so short. We are not Noah, not at all. We know God’s various commands as they pertain to our lives, we’ve heard them this morning again and are certainly not ignorant of what they mean. But do them? Readily and willingly obey, despite ridicule from men and the doubts of our own sinful flesh, obey because we believe that God’s way is right and best...? We fail, how we fail so miserably! How then shall we stand in the coming judgment?! Does God not ask too much of us?! If only He stood in our shoes, He’d know we can’t do what He asks!
Precisely there, beloved, is the gospel! The God who gives us His commands is our Father in Jesus Christ! That is: this God loves us so much that He gave His only Son for our salvation! More, this Father knows what is best for us, and His commands are directed to that end. More still: between this God and us is our ascended Savior, the Mediator! This Savior has walked this earth, and so been tempted as we are in every way, tempted to disobey God’s commands with the objection that those commands were too hard. But our Lord never caved in to the pressure of temptation. Always He entrusted Himself to His God, always He trusted that the commands His Father gave were good. Then it’s true: because of His obedience He ended up on the cross; what a terrible consequence to His unwavering obedience! But He on the cross through His obedience earned His own righteousness before God, and so God accepted Him – though our sins had been piled onto Him. More, Jesus’ obedience is now written to our account so that God does not look upon our sins. More still: this same Jesus is today in heaven –we just remembered His ascension!- and now pleads for us before the Father.
Does the Lord God understand the difficulties we may have in the face of His commands? Make no mistake, beloved: He does! The Holy Spirit tells the very same Hebrews who are told about Noah that Jesus Christ was tempted in every way as we are, but He never buckled, never protested God’s commands; He rather entrusted Himself to God. This Jesus is now in heaven as our Mediator! So: if God gives a command, does He know what kind of command He is giving? When we ask Him for strength to obey, will He give the strength? Indeed, beloved, He will! That’s the promise! (cf Rom 8:32). So it is for us to believe that He supplies the strength we need – and then act according to His instructions, without objecting.
Still, a question remains. Noah’s faith seems so extra strong…. From where did Noah get this faith? That’s our third point:
3. Where Noah got his faith.
We’re so surprised by Noah’s ready obedience, and actually a little bit envious too. Yet when all is said and done, beloved, Noah’s conduct was not really so surprising. After all, Scriptures say that the righteous man delights in God’s ways and does them (cf Ps 1, 37). And Noah receives from God this testimony that he "was a just man, perfect in his generations." In fact, Noah was a man who "walked with God" (vs 9).
Noah was just, we read, righteous. The point is that Noah was above reproach, was a man of high integrity. Noah’s manner of living contrasted starkly with his contemporaries; of them it is said that they were evil, filled with violence, brooding brutality in all their quiet moments. Recall the previous sermon on Gen 6.
But Noah was different. Despite the pressures of his peers to adopt for himself that same egoistical perspective on life (and hence to plot for personal gain, to plan deceit in an effort to get ahead of the neighbor, lest he be himself a victim of others’ trickery), Noah remained righteous, perfect. How it was possible for him to remain just, perfect in the face of such evil around him? We’re told: it’s because Noah "walked with God."
"Walked with God." The picture is of two persons walking the track of life together, being open together, dependent on each other. "Walked with": here is conversation, honesty, trust. It’s the relation of man and wife, the relation between the thickest of friends. "Walk with": it’s doing things together, it’s having no secrets, it’s a team effort.
In the face of the evils, the deception, the crookedness and brutality of people around Noah, it was this "walking with God" that explained how Noah could be perceived by his contemporaries as "a just man, perfect in his generations." No, he wasn’t without sin; that’s not the meaning of the words used. But he was above reproach in the eyes of his neighbors and town’s folk, and the cause for his integrity lay in the fact that he "walked with God". He walked the path of life at God’s side, he was open with God, spoke with His Maker, laid his concerns honestly before God, sought God’s will. He accepted God’s response, trusted that what His life’s Companion had to say was good, reliable. Between Noah and God there was the intimate communion reflected in Ps 37: "The Lord helps [the righteous] and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in Him" (vs 40).
Noah "walked with God." No, it wasn’t his own doing. The Lord God established His covenant of grace with Noah, and in His care gave Noah godly parents (cf Gen 5:29). So Noah, by God’s grace, was taught from childhood already how to live with God, how to walk with God. That walking with God became his life’s pattern, and that’s why, when God came to him with the command to build the ark, there came no protest from Noah’s side; rather by faith Noah obeyed despite the objections that presented themselves. He obeyed, and that obedience was predictable, because Noah had learned to walk with God. It was predictable, because Noah’s whole life was a constant interaction with God, an honest telling God what was on his heart as he noticed the evils around him, a constant interaction based on a child-like trust that his divine Companion was faithful always, His word always right and good. Such was his life, and therefore he could obey that instruction about the ark without protest, all his questions notwithstanding; this was his normal habit through out life. He walked with God, conversed openly with his Father in Jesus Christ, listened to what His Father had to say, and so mastered the art of living by faith. And once Noah –by the grace of God- had mastered that art of living by faith in the small things of life, he was in a position to listen to God even in the face of something so catastrophic as a universal flood. He lived by faith, he walked with God, and therefore was he able to do according to all that God commanded him.
The wickedness of man was great on the earth, so great that judgment had to come. But God saw to it that on the earth was also a man who could stand in the judgment; God saw to it that in Noah’s heart was faith, and therefore obedience to God’s commands. God wanted to work salvation on the earth, and so the way had to be prepared for Jesus Christ to come. How wonderful His mercy!
The wickedness of man is great on the earth today; we recognize in our day the independence-from-God foreshadowed that repeats the attitude displayed before the flood. Wickedness is great, and so judgment must come; Christ Jesus will come on the clouds of heaven to judge all men according to their works. Who can survive that judgment? Not, brothers and sisters, those who protest God’s commands. Not those who disobey, who follow their own heads. Who shall survive? Those who have faith. And the evidence of faith is works, the evidence of faith is blind obedience, simply doing what God commands without protest, without objection. Those who obey are those who trust God; they show that they know themselves safe in the hands of the God who has become their Father for Jesus’ sake. They trust, and therefore accept God’s commands as good and wise, and so obey.
Will the Lord find faith on earth on the day of His return? The answer is Yes; the ascended Christ is an eternal King, and so there will always be a church. And this faith will not be hidden; it will be apparent in works, in obedience. In the midst of a society that ignores God, that goes its own way, that does what is right in its own eyes, there will be those who simply obey, without objections.
Does this include us? That’s a question for each of us to answer. Amen.