This morning and next Sunday, I want to share some thoughts about men of the Old Testament period. Some time ago I did a series on the women of the Old Testament Scriptures - now it is the men’s turn and the man’s name is Noah.
Reading about his life and work leaves us with ore questions than answers and yet he is the first person in the Scriptures to have any real amount of space devoted to his life and work and the really interesting thing is that when we read about Noah we learn more about God than about Noah.
What can we say about this man? Many things - but let me highlight just two of them for you this morning.
First, Noah was a Godly man and he came from a family of God fearing people. We are told that one of his forebears was Seth, one of the descendants of Adam and in Seth’s time, the Scriptures tell us, people first began to call on the Name of the Lord. In Genesis 6: 9, we are told that Noah was a just man and perfect in his generation who walked with God. It is interesting to see and important for us to note the influences which families have. We live in an age when families are being fragmented, when out of necessity both parents have to work and so the responsibility for raising their children is left in the hands of child care givers. When I did an exchange in New Jersey many years ago the parents brought their children to a day care centre operated out of the church just after 6 a.m. I remember being first on the scene one day and parents entrusting their children to me - a total stranger. Families do matter ......... We are told that Noah walked with God - just as at one time Adam and Eve walked with God. He spent time every day in prayer - not only talking but listening. Not just on the Sabbath but day by day. George H. W. Bush related in his biography how he made time for prayer ad Scripture reading, how he followed and schedule that enable him to read through the Bible. Many Christians make time each day to walk with God, in the morning to set the tone for the day or in the evening to review the events of the day and give thanks ...... Walking with God implies communion, a deep and intimate spiritual relationship that shapes our attitudes and our perspectives. Walking with God brings changes how we make our decisions. People watch, people see - especially those who are nearest and dearest to us, who live with us day by day. When push came to shove, Noah’s 3 sons: Shem and Ham and Japheth stuck with him.
Secondly, Noah was an obedient man. We are told not once but twice that Noah did all that the Lord commanded him. But when the commands are extraordinary, or perhaps even in our own judgement, ridiculous and inexplicable, we can only marvel at his obedience. God said build me a boat and gave him the dimensions: 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 35 feet high with 3 decks, it must have raised many questions for Noah. Where will I build it, how will I build it, it is not even raining ..... Yet with the help of his wife and his sons he set about this monumental task. I don’t know how he accomplished it.
In the midst of all this construction work, we are told that he was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2: 5) and that was an incredible thing in the age when he lived. The Bible tells us that only Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord - only Noah. That is a hard thing to be as we are finding out in our present again. It is easy to go with the crowd. It is difficult to go against the tide of public opinion. We are called upon to be politically correct, we are called to give in to the rights of the minority at the expense of the majority and not only to approve but to facilitate life styles and practices which we find abhorrent and contrary to our faith.
Genesis 6: 11 - 22 Noah
When people came to criticize Noah, to make fun of his creation, he used the opportunity to tell them what he believed and what God was saying through him. He urged them to change their ways, to repent and believe. But they did not listen, they made fun of him and his boat became a favourite topic of conversation in the taverns and the market place and wherever people gathered. Noah did not listen to the critics. He knew that they spoke from disbelief and had a vested interest in their life styles. NO doubt after a while people tired of talking about the ark and its builder - until he started buying provisions and collecting animals - especially the more exotic animals ......
As I said at the beginning of the sermon, the study of Noah reveals more about God than about Noah.
First, it tells us that our God is a covenant making God The 139th Psalms tells us of David’s insight “where can I go from Your spirit, where can I flee from Your presence? .... if I say ‘surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You; night will shine like the day......” God doesn’t just see the outward appearance but “He sees the thoughts and the intentions of the heart” (6: 5) Remember when Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to anoint the next king of Israel? .... God said to him “man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart.” Jesus said “it is not what goes in that make one sinful but what proceeds from the heart through the mouth.”
God sees, He sees everything. God knows everything - He is omnisient but He is still willing to make covenants with people. A covenant is not simply a legal agreement, it is one which is entered freely, willingly and involves a spiritual dimensions as well as a legal agreement. We speak of a marriage covenant - irrespective of the fact that the prospective bride and groom have in some cases, already made a prenuptial legal agreement. The marriage covenant is one stage further on which if respected would make the mutual agreement irrelevant. God made two covenants with Noah. The first was that if Noah would build the ark, God would save him and his family and secondly, after the flood waters had receded God promised that as long as the earth endured, seed time and harvest, summer and winter would continue and that never again would there be such and immense catastrophe. God made a number of covenants but perhaps the greatest is the one made through the Lord Jesus that “whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
Secondly, it tells us that God is a God of grace. Grace is that love which keeps on loving when all cause for love has gone. Grace kept Noah preaching all the time he was building and the people were mocking him ........ but more important, grace was that which, when the ark was completed and the animals and Noah and his family were inside kept the door open for another seven days. Can you imagine Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth and their wives waiting day after day, wondering if after all they had been deluded and all the time waiting, waiting, waiting .. Then, after 7 days, seemingly of its own volition the door of the ark swung shut. Those on the outside couldn’t get in and those on the inside could not get out.
Genesis 6: 11 - 22 Noah
But there is an end to grace. Isaiah says “seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while he is near, let the wicked forsake his ways and the unrighteous their thoughts and return to the Lord and He will have mercy and to our God for He will abundantly pardon.’ (Isaiah 55: 7) Note that it says “while He may be found.” There is an end to grace.
After Paul said that he was persuaded that God is able to keep all that we have committed to Him against that day and that day came for Noah when the door shut and the rain came on. Jesus told the story of the careless bridesmaids who failed to make preparations and when they arrived at the bridegroom’s house, knocked on the door and asked for admission, the bridegroom said “go away, I don’t know you.”
Years and years of teaching and exhortation followed by 7 more days of grace ................
He promises that whosoever believed in me shall not perish but have everlasting life, He invites us to come while the door is still open for when He comes again the door will shut.
So what does Noah have to teach us today?
There are two principal things here and many more if you care to continue the study.
The first is that if you are persuaded that you are called by God. It through prayer and study of the Scriptures and the advice of Godly friends and mentors that this is God’s call for you, ignore the critics. Noah continued to build and to pray and to walk with God even though ..... Noah, his wife and is daughters-in-law we safe within the ark .........
Secondly, don’t miss the boat. On the island of Colonsay in the Inner Hebrides, so the story goes, one of the large land owners and employers was frequently just on time or just a few moments late for the ferry which would take them to Tarbet on the mainland. Usually the grace period was extended to them - just a few minutes more. One day - perhaps the captain may have had a hang over or was just frustrated or had indigestion - when he came racing over the hill down to the key, the ferry was already under way. In spite of his impassioned pleas, the ferry continued on its way.
So the message from Noah is quite simple: hold fast to your faith and don’t delay.
God is still calling, still extending the days of grace.
There is still time.
So get on board.