Faith Heroes: Noah

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” (Heb 11:7).[1]

Faith: the awesome, doubt-destroying, soul-liberating confidence that God can be fully trusted, that every word of His is completely true; that when He speaks, the most implausible, improbable things are infinitely more reliable and sure than the shadowlands of reason and science. Independent of historical precedent, transcending statistical probability, God’s Word calls for total confidence; “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa 40:8).

Ask Abel – in a world where killing animals for food is unknown, can God be satisfied with the blood and fat of lambs? Ask Enoch – in a world where sin made death universal, can a man who walks with God make a detour around the cemetery, and step directly from life into glory? Ask Noah – in a world that never saw a drop of rain, can a man obey God and build an ark (“An ark? What’s that?”), and be saved from a deluge he could not faintly imagine?

Were these all speculative leaps into the dark? Never! They ring out the strong confident steps of men who “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but [were] strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to [them] for righteousness” (Rom 4:20-22 KJV). This is the story of Hebrews 11; these are the stories of faith that please God.

Noah means “rest”; his father predicted that through his firstborn son, the wearisome harvest of Eden’s forbidden fruit (labor, pain, tears) would be reversed, and that a new Sabbath, a new “shalom,” would dawn (Gen 5:29). And while its full blessing awaits the advent of Noah’s greatest Son (e.g., Heb 4), there would indeed be, in the life of Noah, a temporary reprieve from the crushing insanity of a world gone mad without God.

The world was a mess. Violence, immorality, depravity and demon-possession were the norm; only one gleam in the twilight, one man, out of millions, attracted the eye of God. And what pleasure Noah brought to Him. He was a godly man, righteous and without blemish (both words in Gen 6:9 are elsewhere used of God) and, as such, found grace in God’s sight. Noah’s life was a life of faith; he walked with God, and in the enjoyment of that communion he was strengthened for faith’s sternest test. In reverent awe, he trembled at God’s crashing denunciation of all that was ungodly, and glimpsed the dawn, a harbinger of hope – an ark “for the saving of his house.”

By faith, he obeyed God. Like Moses in a future day, he built an ark “according to the pattern,” no detail too small for a man whose chief aim was to please God. And this vast construction project was only one responsibility; like his faithful great-grandfather Enoch (Jud 14), he was also a “herald of righteousness” (2Pe 2:5). The ark may have been a passive testimony, but together with his courageous preaching, he loudly and vocally “condemned the world.”

By every modern metric, Noah was a failure. We are informed (Gen 5:30) that Lamech had other children (likely many) in the 595 years after Noah’s birth, but in the words of the New Testament, “neither did his brethren believe in him” (Joh 7:5). The general population paid him no mind; Matthew tells us that after decades of preaching, the flood was a total shock, that “they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away” (Mat 24:39).

Only one man was not surprised; with quiet confidence he led the animals and their food, along with his immediate family, through the door. God was not surprised either. He knew the man that knew Him, and shut him in, safe from the storm, safe from judgment. And when the year had expired, and the water receded, the security of God’s promise was evidenced as they stepped into a new world; eight souls went in, eight souls came out. God can be trusted!

And now, thousands of years later, the author of the book of Hebrews (along with the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Romans) teaches us this most fundamental lesson: righteousness can only be acquired by faith. A right relationship with God was not based on Noah’s performance; rather, he was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” Like Abraham, “his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’ But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom 4:21-25). Did Noah work to please God? Of course he did, but it was the fruit of a righteous life, not the cause of it.

To a trembling Christian minority in the book of Hebrews, this brought great assurance. There was no need to return to the “works of the Law,” now ended in Christ and His cross. All is finished, God is satisfied, and every soul that embraces the promises of God by faith has “this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Heb 6:19). To an unbeliever, the message is equally clear. Salvation “is not of works”; eternal safety is found in the ark. The door is open, for the moment, and one need only come; “by me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (Joh 10:9). And for the Jewish remnant in the Tribulation, if Enoch points to a raptured Church, snatched away before the judgment falls, Noah points to a family preserved through the storm of universal judgment in the Tribulation. God’s Word promises a redeemed people, gathered around their newly-acknowledged Messiah, occupying a cleansed and renewed earth, fulfilling all the promises of a God who means exactly what He says (Rom 11:29).

“And without faith it is impossible to please him” (Heb 11:6).

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.