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Hall of Faith: Noah

Written by Annette Halsey

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the people of old received their commendation….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 11:1-2, 7 ESV

Hebrews chapter 11 encourages believers by using the examples of earlier believers, and what they accomplished by faith. So what did Noah do by faith that can encourage us? 

He prepared an ark. 

What was it like to do that?

The ark was a huge structure.  It required an enormous amount of building materials and years of work to construct.  Though God gives Noah some very basic instructions (Genesis 6:14-16), there would have been many additional details that Noah would need to understand to build the ark.  Was Noah already a shipwright?  Did he have to study boat building after God told him to build the ark?  Did God give Noah more specific instructions that weren’t recorded for us?  One way or another, Noah had to build it, and it had to weather the worst storm ever recorded.  He also had to gather and preserve enough food to last him, his family, and the animals for a year. (Genesis 6:21, 7:11, 8:14-15)

What about the conditions under which Noah worked? 

The Bible tells us that during that time, “the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and…every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).  There may have been wars, taxation, and oppression hindering Noah’s work.  People may have tried to sabotage the ark, or attack his family.  Whatever the details were of how people treated Noah, it does not sound like a healthy work environment.

Still, Noah persevered.  Whether by himself, with help from his family, or even through hiring workers, Noah built the ark, gathered the food, and took his family and the animals into the ark.

What can we learn from Noah?

One of my favorite descriptions of Noah comes from Genesis 6:9: “Noah was blameless in his time.”  I don’t know what the details were of Noah’s first 600 years.  He lived in a horrible culture.  He was probably pressured to do many things that were clearly evil, and may have often found himself in situations where every available choice seemed wrong.  Yet, the Bible records that for the time and place that he lived, his actions were considered blameless.  When I am in a difficult situation where no choice seems right, this aspect of Noah’s life comforts me. 

Like many others listed in the “Hall of Faith,” Noah has some less-than stellar things recorded about his life.  After the whole ordeal of the Flood, he grows grapes and gets drunk (Genesis 9:20-21).  His youngest son acts inappropriately, his older two act better, and he wakes up and blesses or curses each according to their actions while he was drunk.  I don’t think I would want “she was drunk and then remembered what had happened” to be what is remembered about the last third of my life.  Despite this, Noah is in the Hall of Faith.  God tells people to behave, but His commandments are for our good (see Deuteronomy 10:13), not because He delights in punishment and is just waiting for us to sin.  When I sin, I should definitely confess it to God, try not to sin, and ask Him for help to not sin; but God didn’t define Noah’s whole life by this episode of drunkenness, and I shouldn’t expect Him to define my whole life by the mistakes I make. And the most obvious lesson from Noah:

He obeyed God, and he will be rewarded for it.

Noah would have known of the promise in Genesis 3:15 that the Lord would one day send a human (the Messiah) to defeat Satan.  That Messiah had not yet arrived on earth, so if Noah didn’t obey God, God would have come up with a plan B (see Esther 4:14).  It seems inconceivable that a man who “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9) would not clearly understand the promise of eternal life (John 6:47).  Noah could have just said, “This is too hard.  So what if I die in the Flood?  I have eternal life.  Trying to do what God says just isn’t worth the trouble.”

But he didn’t.  He worked.  He suffered.  He kept at it.  Or, as Genesis 6:22 says:

Noah did…all that God commanded him.

Noah spent decades of his life doing something that the people around him thought was ridiculous, and thus he survived a global judgment. At the age of 600, he walked off the ark into a world shaped by destruction—a world that was difficult, and where life was not always happy.  Noah desired a better country than what he knew before or after the flood—and God has prepared it and prepared a rich reward for Noah (Hebrews 11:13-16).  Noah believed that God exists, and that He rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6); Noah obtained a good testimony through his faith (Hebrews 11:39); and he is listed with those “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38).  God is not ashamed to be called “the God of Noah,” (Hebrews 11:16).  Can you imagine God saying those things about you?  Noah’s example does encourage me to keep living for God, even when everyone else says it’s ridiculous.

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