November 18, 2018
In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, the main character, a farmer played by Kevin Costner, was plagued by the lack of relationship he’d had with his now-deceased father. In the midst of that turmoil, he began hearing a voice which said, “If you build it, he will come.” The it was a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield, the field of dreams. He who would come was the main character’s father, with whom Costner was then able to play catch in a stirring conclusion to the movie. That utterly ridiculous plot made famous the line, “If you build it, he will come.”
But, as silly as it sounds, the idea is not without biblical warrant. What do I mean? Last week, we looked at Enoch who’s eternal epitaph reads, “Enoch walked with God.” You’ll remember his brief story appears in Genesis 5. There we read when Enoch was 65, he had a son named Methuselah. After the birth of his son, he walked with God for 300 years, and then he was no more, God took him away. Hebrews 11 tells us he never saw death – he walked right out of this world into the very presence of God.
What is interesting is the implication Enoch walked with God after Methuselah was born. And what is really interesting is what the name Methuselah means. You see, back then, names meant something. For example, Adam meant man for obvious reasons. Eve, whose name means living was named by Adam because she was the mother of all living. Joseph and Mary were told by the angel to name their son Jesus, which means “The Lord saves,” for He would save His people from their sins.
Well, back to Methuselah. What does it mean? Roughly translated, the name means, “When he is dead, it will be sent.” That sounds familiar. What is it? Doing the math, you find Methuselah, who lived 969 years, died the very year the Flood began. In other words, many feel God revealed to Enoch, who named his son, that when Methuselah died, He – God – would destroy the earth with a Flood. “When he is dead, it will be sent.” If this is true, and I think it is, there are a couple of things we learn from this:
First, it reveals God’s mercy. How so? God said He would destroy the earth when Methuselah died. Who’s the oldest man to ever live? Methuselah. God was patient, waiting till the last possible moment to execute His judgment. Waiting for Enoch’s great-grandson to be born.
Second, if this is accurate, we see Enoch’s knowledge of impending judgment perhaps caused him to walk with God. I mean, if you knew God was going to return one day in judgment, and say, destroy the earth in consuming fire, would it affect the way you lived? Consider II Peter 3:
3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,
4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”
5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water,
6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.
7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.
9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. [in other words, like the Flood, He is holding off deserved judgment till the last possible moment]
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!
This promise of God’s future return and judgment is certain, and brings joyful expectation and holy living – or it should. Enoch lived that way – he had a consistent walk, a faithful walk, and a talking walk, such that it was said of him he walked with God – was pleasing to God – because without faith, it is impossible to please God.
And there was another man of whom it was said, he walked with God – Genesis 6:9. His name was Noah. And to this Noah, God said, “When you build it, it will come.” Really, it’s right out of Genesis 6. Look at it with me:
11 Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.
12 God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.
13 Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.
14 “Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; [and then God gives Noah all the instructions for building the ark – here’s what I want you to see – God said to Noah, when you build it, it will come. What is it? Verse 17]
17 “Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.
18 “But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.
19 “And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. [and so on, but in verse 22, we read]
22 Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.
You see, with all that by way of introduction, I am suggesting both Enoch and Noah were aware of God’s coming judgment, as are we. Oh, we haven’t seen it yet. And people are mocking. But it is coming. And as a result, by faith, they walked with God. And so should we. And by God’s grace, through faith, they were spared. With Enoch, God took him out of this evil world, and left everyone else here. With Enoch’s great-grandson Noah, God took everyone out, and preserved Noah through the flood. And so both of them made it to the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. So let’s read our text today – one verse – Hebrews 11:7.
Having defined faith in verse 1, the author goes on to give a chapter full of examples of those who had enduring faith. It is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. When warned about things not seen, Noah built a boat. This conviction is absolute trust – faith in God – that produces works, obedience to God’s commands. That is, living as people of faith. You see, faith changes us – it makes us different people. Now, I pointed out, whether intentional or not, the author gives his first three examples:
- Abel, who demonstrated a worship of faith.
- Enoch, who demonstrated a walk of faith.
- And Noah, who demonstrated a work of faith.
And those all go, inseparably, together. Which causes me great concern for the church today. Because of salvation by grace through faith – which is true – many think they can believe, and live however they want – which is not true. Faith changes us. John Piper says, make sure you don’t slip into a mentality common among modern Christians – namely, the faith spoken of here has nothing to do with salvation – that it is a kind of add-on to basic Christianity – that we were saved by an act of faith that is somehow different from what’s being talked about. In other words, many Christians think that saving faith is only a single act (“asking Jesus into your heart”) and all else that happens in the Christian life is something added on for our benefit for the sake of maturity, but it’s not relevant for salvation.
Don’t fall into that mentality. Saving faith is not a mere single act of receiving Jesus. Saving faith receives Jesus in order to go on trusting him. Saving faith is a life of faith. You see, if saving faith was just asking Jesus into your heart – a single act of trust in the past – would you have spent over a hundred years building a boat in the middle of nowhere? No, saving faith produces enduring, obedient faith.
That faith is what this chapter tries to teach. We see that most clearly if you look at the verse that leads into the chapter – the last verse of chapter 10, “But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” Do you see what’s at stake: shrinking back to destruction; or pressing on in faith to preserve the soul. In other words, the evidence of authentic saving faith is pressing on. Faith that saves from destruction is faith that lives day by day. That’s what Chapter 11 is about.
And so, faith that saves from destruction and preserves the soul is past, present and future. It doesn’t just look back to what God did in the past, but looks forward to what God promises to do in the future. It gains confidence from God’s past faithfulness, but also believes God’s future promises, not yet seen. That’s not add-on, super-Christian faith. That is basic, ever-growing, ordinary Christian faith. That worships God. That walks with God. That builds boats.
And here, he lists Noah, in one verse, to demonstrate persevering faith in things not seen – by which he rescued his family, condemned the world, and became an heir of righteousness which is by faith. To be clear, he didn’t earn his righteousness by building a boat – he became an heir of righteousness by faith – a faith that changed his life.
Obviously, we won’t spend the next few weeks looking at Genesis 6-9 to review the story of Noah and the Flood. But what does the author of Hebrews cite that gets Noah into chapter 11, that gets him the commendation, he lived by faith?
Before we look at our Hebrews verse, the first thing I want you to see is, like Enoch, Noah had a consistent, faithful walk in a wicked generation. Noah lived in a horrible environment – a corrupt world – and yet he remained faithful to God. We saw that in Genesis 6, but verse 5 of the chapter says, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Look at that description:
- Man’s wickedness had become great.
- Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. Not only were his actions evil, his thoughts were evil, all the time.
- The earth was corrupt and full of violence.
- Genesis says all the people of the earth had corrupted their ways. Meaning the corruption was universal and willful.
Well, how did Noah, according to Hebrews 11, demonstrate faith in the midst of all that? By faith, what did he do? The main verb of the verse is there in the middle – He prepared an ark, that is, he built a boat. A big one. Now, at first glance, that may not appear to be a big deal. Except by all accounts, it seems it was built about 100 miles from the closest sea. And did I mention it was big. It’s not like you’d hook it to the back of your SUV or even a semi and transport it. He built a huge ark. Two points to this one verse:
- Why He Built the Boat
- The Results of Building the Boat
First, why did he build it? Two reasons are given at the beginning of the verse. First, because God warned him about things not yet seen. What does that mean? Well, God warned Noah about a worldwide flood – never before seen, and by the way, never seen since. There’s some question as to whether it had ever even rained to this point. Regardless, there had never been a flood like this. And God warned him – a big one was coming. So big, he needed to build a big boat – far from the sea – and that animals would be stored on the boat to rescue them.
The whole thing sounds a bit crazy. So crazy that, as we read earlier, people today scoff and mock the idea of worldwide flood. And yet, there are a number of independent flood stories in cultures around the world – it is estimated there are 270 of them. Many of them include the destruction of all humankind as a result of divine displeasure, that a single man with his family or a very few friends survived the catastrophe by means of a ship or raft or large canoe. There is:
1) The legend of Manu among the Hindus (Manu and seven others were saved in a ship from a worldwide flood)
2) Fah-he among the Chinese (who was the only survivor along with his wife, three sons and three daughters)
3) Of course, one of the most famous was the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. I won’t get into all the details, but in Tablet 11, there is a flood story amazingly similar to the Biblical flood story. The Noah in that story was Utnapishtim.
The point of all that is, the flood happened, and the story was passed down to succeeding generations – and the true story was passed on in the Bible. And God warned Noah about the coming flood, as yet unseen, and Noah, by faith built a big boat.
The second reason we read he built a boat was in reverence. Now, the word could be translated in fear – but most agree the context seems to fit reverence better. In the midst of a wicked generation, when commanded to do something that made no sense – in reverence to God – he did it. It got me thinking: there are lots of things we are commanded to do that, from a wicked world’s perspective, make no sense. Why would you give up a couple hours on Sundays, one of your only days off, to gather with other people to worship a God you’ve never seen? Why would you give, sacrificially, of your hard earned money to this God when, you know, you could use the money? Why would you spend valuable time praying, reading, serving, giving? To many, it makes no sense. To them, Paul says, the cross is foolishness. But to us who believe, it is the wisdom of God, and out of reverence for God, we obey – even when it make no sense.
Which brings us to the results of his obedience – and they were three. First, by building the boat, he saved his family – that is, his wife, his three sons, Ham, Shem and Japheth, and their wives. Eight in all. And I Peter 3 tells us, God waited patiently for Noah to finish the ark, that He might bring those eight safely through the flood. And by his obedience, those eight were saved – which preserved the human race. And that salvation through the flood serves as a picture of what God does for His people today – preserving them safely through a wicked and perverse generation. Bringing us safely to that which He has promised.
Secondly, notice by his actions, he condemned the world. What does that mean? Several thoughts. Remember, he was living in a corrupt generation. And Genesis 6 indicates he, and he alone, found favor in the eyes of God. That does not mean that Noah, somehow in his own righteousness, earned the attention of God. That God looked down and said, hey wait – I’m about to destroy the world, but there’s this one guy and his family who are righteous. I’ll preserve them. No, what that means is, he, and he alone, received grace from God to live a blameless life. Not perfect – just unlike the rest of the world around him.
And by his actions of faithful obedience, he condemned the world in their sinful rebellion. As he obediently completed the ark, he consigned the rest of the world to their just deserts – judgment and condemnation. [aroma] Now, to be sure, he did so while warning them. Consider II Peter 2:5, “and [God] did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly…”
Notice, Noah was a preacher of righteousness. Now, I suppose we can surmise that by his actions alone, he condemned the world in their sin. But the word preacher speaks of a proclaimer of truth. It seems rather that he preached of the coming destruction. And no one listened. And yet, he faithfully built, and faithfully preached. Like Enoch, he walked the talk, and talked the walk. Now as I suggested last week, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that he was likely persecuted, opposed because of his message. The unrighteous never like the proclamation of truth – especially when the proclamation includes their wrong and pending judgment. But proclaim, the faithful do. Noah did, and thereby condemned the world in their already coming, deserved judgment.
The third thing we see is the last part of the verse, Noah “became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” In the Scripture, this kind of saving righteousness is always external to people – what Martin Luther called an alien righteousness. It isn’t something we do to earn. Don’t miss that – Noah did not become an heir of righteousness by building a boat. No, it was that which came according to faith. That is always the way people are declared righteous, and become heirs of Christ’s righteousness – by faith in the gracious provision of God.
Because, you see, apart from the favor or grace Noah received – he would have been just like the rest of his generation. The same is true for us – except for the grace of God we receive by faith, we would be just like the wicked generation around us – still condemned in our sin. Our righteousness is not something we produce, but something we receive as an heir. We remember that critical verse in II Corinthians 5:21, “He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” And of course, Romans 3:21-22 tells us, “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested…even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe….”
Have you? Have you believed in Jesus Christ, thereby becoming an heir of the righteousness of God? And escaping the judgment to come? It is coming.
As we close this morning, I want you to notice something else about Noah’s faithful obedience – his walk with God. Genesis 6:22 says, “Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.” As you read through the story in Genesis, you find Noah’s immediate, unquestioned, faithful obedience. God spoke, and Noah obeyed. Several thoughts:
First, there is no record of Noah ever questioning, despite the infeasibility of the event. Don’t forget Hebrews tells us Noah built the ark when warned about things not yet seen. There had never been a universal flood before. Some say it had never even rained to this point in history. And animals coming to you two by two? Living on a boat together for over a year? This was ludicrous, and yet Noah heard and obeyed. Think about it – this event is so preposterous that people today say that it never happened. It had never happened before, and yet Noah believed God and was obedient to His command. This shows us Noah’s walk, like that of Enoch, was one of faith. By faith, Noah built an ark. Noah’s walk with God was so real, so intimate that when God assigned the infeasible, Noah obeyed.
Second, not only is there no record of Noah ever questioning, there is also no record that he ever complained. There was no complaining about the actual construction of the ark. This was a strenuous, mind-boggling task. You can read the description of the ark in Genesis 6, but let me remind you that Noah is commanded to build a monstrosity of one and one half million square feet without handy power tools. No doubt this took some time – up to 120 years.
And, there was no complaining about the company he had to keep. He had to take on board Gila monsters and wart hogs, lions and tigers, black widows and scorpions, rattlesnakes and cobras.
There was no complaining about how long they were on the ark – not forty days and nights, but for one year and seventeen days. This was not a Caribbean Cruise or the Love Boat – there is no record that the bodily functions of the animals ceased.
Not only was there no record of questioning or complaining, there is no record of wavering, despite the ridicule he no doubt received. While the Scripture is silent on this, we can assume he was mocked and scorned, because the unrighteous always oppose the righteous. Noah believed a God he had never seen telling him about something that had never happened, all the while no doubt being ridiculed for his faith expressed in this ridiculous promise.
That was Noah’s walk. It was a consistent walk of faith, demonstrating the reality of his faith. Because faith changes us. It’s how he got into the Hall of Faith.