Bible Studies on the Real Heroes of the Faith Hebrews 11
Part 4: Noah's perseverance in a world gone wild!

By I Gordon

Noah. What do you think about when someone mentions Noah? It goes without saying that it is a big boat, a lot of water, and months of non-stop mooing, barking and clucking. Noah is the next character in the heroes of the faith series as mentioned in Hebrews 11. We’ve looked so far at Abel and Enoch. Abel taught us about the first step – how to be accepted by God. Enoch taught us about the next step and that is walking with God. Noah... well he is a different story. Noah was given one big do-it-yourself construction assignment and speaks to us about persistence in what God calls us to and standing apart from this world.

So we’ll start in Hebrews 11 and look at the one verse there before jumping back to Genesis to look more closely at the character of Noah and the conditions on earth in his day. Finally we’ll look at how the writers of the New Testament use Noah and the flood to parallel events in the last days. As we will see, Noah will encourage us to walk in the ways of God even when there is opposition all around. He’ll encourage us to press on in the faith being faithful no matter how long it takes.

Noah –One who acted today in view of what was coming tomorrow

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

What we see here is that Noah was commended because he was one who acted today in view of what was coming tomorrow.Foran overview, consider briefly the story of Noah. Here is a man who, at around 500 years of age, believes that he has heard from God. Of all the things to hear, God wants him to build a boat. Why?Because God is going to send a great flood upon the earth. Hebrews tells us that Noah was warned about things not yet seen. It is likely that he had never even seen aflood and it’s possible, as some Bible teachersbelieve that it hadn’t ever rained at all up until this point. At all! The Bible says that there was a canopy of water vapour above the earth and that the ground was watered from a mist that came up from below the surface of the earth (Gen 1:7, Gen 2:6). The pre-flood conditions on earth were considerably different to those today and many believe that it was like living in a massive greenhouse with far more consistent weather patterns and temperatures. This may in part explain the life spans recorded in the Bible of those living before the flood.

So here is Noah. Possibly never having seen rain, nor a flood, and probably living in the Mesopotamia region far from any oceans... and he is asked to build a boat! And not just any boat. We’re not talking a small dingy or family fishing boat. We’re not talking about a build that was a labour of love for a few months. No... We are talking probably about a 70 year construction. [1] No power saws. No nail guns. No chainsaws. No cranes. As people started to contemplate what he was doing, you can only imagine the thoughts, looks, mocking and abuse he would have received. The days became weeks and the weeks, months. Then years.Then decades.Still going.He is still going, along with his sons, when the half century mark comes up. Everyone... I mean everyone... would have thought that old Noah is an absolute crazy loon. He’s a nutter. Too much work out in the hot sun;too many boards falling down and hitting him on the head. He’s not right in the noggin. You can imagine the conversations - “Oh, a great flood is going to come you say? Right... and what exactly is that? Oh... you think God is going to judge us do you Noah? And how long exactly have you been saying that for? 20 years? 40 years? 70 years? And what has actually happened? Nothing!Nothing! Everything continues just as it was. Talk about a broken record Noah! Oh, we should get ready now should we? Yeah sure, Noah.You’ve been skipping on your medication and hearing those little voices again haven’t you? Oh, and you are going to rescue all the animals you say. And how exactly are you going to get them all? Oh, the Lord is going to bring them to you without you doing anything. Right... well, good luck with that Noah.”

But with each tree cut down... with each nail [2] hammered in... with each covering of pitch, Noah, this preacher of righteousness, spoke. With unrelenting faith in the promise of God he pressed on. He could be rejected, abused, shamed and ridiculed. But he couldn’t be ignored. The size of what he is attempting was just too great. He is building an absolute gigantic vessel. [3] Here is a picture of what it may have looked like:

As you can see, it is very crowded and clearly someone better stop those beavers pretty soon... That’s not going to end well and poor old Noah is tearing what’s left of his hair out! Ok, you got me. It’s not the real ark. That picture was taken from an atheist’s website but it is the type of thing they like to portray to try and ridicule the whole thought of Noah’s ark being real. The ark would have looked something more like this:

In 2014, with Hollywood’s movie called Noah about to be released, a group of master’s students from Leicester University set out to see whether Noah’s Ark would have been able to float - especially with all the animals. They studied the exact dimensions of the Ark, set out in Genesis 6:13-22. Their conclusion-- They are confident it would have handled the weight of 70,000 creatures without sinking.

Student Thomas Morris, 22, from Chelmsford, said: “You don’t think of the Bible necessarily as a scientifically accurate source of information, so I guess we were quite surprised when we discovered it would work. We’re not proving that it’s true, but the concept would definitely work.” Thanks Thomas. This modern day “doubting Thomas” was quite surprised it would work but He needn’t be! [4]

Back to Genesis – A closer look at Noah

So let’s take a closer look at Noah because right from birth he was marked as someone special.

Genesis 5:28-29 Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of a son. (29) Now he called his name Noah, saying, "This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed."

So Lamech, Noah’s dad, didn’t leave it very long to have his first child...at the age of 182 his wife gave birth to their firstwee baby boy. He called him Noah. Noah means ‘rest’ or ‘comfort’ and it seems right from the start that Lamech knew that this was going to be a special boy. Even at this stage it seems that people were tired from the curse that was upon the earth and they looked for deliverance. It may be that Lamech thought that Noah might be ‘the One’. Arnold Fructembaum believes this, stating in his commentary on Genesis that “Lamech made the same mistake that Eve made. When Cain was born, Eve thought that he was the Messiah. When Lamech sired Noah, he recognised that Noah was going to play an important role in human history. But he misinterpreted that role, and Lamech thought that Noah was the Messiah and would remove the Adamic curse from the earth. So Lamech recognised that Noah was a special person in the will and plan of God but made the wrong application.”

Nevertheless, this boy did grow to be a very, very, special man of God. By the time he was an adult, we read:

Genesis 6:8-9 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. (9) This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.

Out of the whole earth, one found favour with God at this time – Noah. It is said that he was a ‘righteous’ or ‘just’ man, blameless among the people of his time. This doesn’t mean that he was sinless. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But here was a man that, like his great grandfather Enoch, had a real heart for God. In fact the same phrase is used of these two men alone: they “walked with God’. This word blameless or ‘perfect in his generations’ (KJV), is often translated ‘unblemished’ elsewhere and some believe it speaks of Noah being uncorrupted by Satan’s attempt to defile the human race through fallen angels taking human wives (more on that later). There would certainly be some truth there but taken alone it is not the complete picture. Noah, in his character, was a godly man. In Ezekiel, when the nation of Israel was exceedingly sinful and at the point of judgement, God said that even if three specific men were pleading for the nation they could only save themselves and not the whole nation. Surveying human history, God lists the top three characters in terms of their walk and righteous life: Noah, Job and Daniel are selected. Noah makes the top three! And what conditions on earth this man had to walk in!

Conditions on earth at the time of the flood

Genesis 6:1-11 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, (2) the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. (3) Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." (4) The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. (5) The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. (6) The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. (7) So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth-- men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air--for I am grieved that I have made them." (8) But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. (9) This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. (10) Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. (11) Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence.

Even a quick reading of the above passage leaves us in no doubt about the horror of those days. Let’s look at what was going on while Noah faithfully prepared the ark – God’s means of salvation. But be warned that it doesn’t make for nice reading!

Activity

Reference

Notes

Demonic influence and sexual immorality

Gen 6:1-2, 4

The ‘sons of God’ took wives from the daughters of men. The term ‘sons of God’ is used exclusively of angels in the Old Testament (see Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7). When the 70 Jewish scholars worked on the Septuagint, they translated it as angels. In other ancient books such as the book of Enoch it is said to have been fallen angels. Despite this being a strange thought to our minds, this is the only explanation that does justice to the text and accounts for the New Testament’s references in Jude 6-7 and 1 Pet... It talks about the Nephilim being on the earth at that time and also afterwards. The word Nephilim means ‘fallen ones’ or ‘giants’ and they seem to have been the result of the union between these fallen angels and the women they desired. Satan is always trying to destroy the plan of God. [5]

Great wickedness, both externally and internally

Gen 6:5

There was great wickedness on the earth. Wickedness abounded where ever you looked. God starts with the outward before tracking this evil back to its source - the heart of man. And His assessment is damning. Mark these words -‘Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.’ It doesn’t get any worse than that.

Violence and Corruption

Gen 6:11

They were violent days. That is always the case when there is large scale demonic activity. Today we see a glimpse of this with the atrocities that ISIS is committing.

Unresponsive resistance to God

Gen 6:3

The Spirit of God was contending and striving with man, always trying to show him the path to walk. But man would not have it. There was a stubborn resistance to the work of God. There always comes a point where God say ‘enough’. Here a deadline of 120 years is announced. But it is not done lightly.

Sadness and grieving

Gen 6:6

They were also days of sadness and grieving. And that from God! Verse 6 tells us that God was pained and grieved by the state of mankind. His judgement would come upon the earth but the verses seem to indicate that it comes through a broken heart, not a clenched fist.

So that, in part, was what it was like in the days of Noah. That is the environment that Noah lived in. Rampant demonic activity, sexual immorality, violence, corruption, unresponsive resistance towards God while mankind’s every thought was only wicked all the time. I know what you are thinking... ‘I’m glad those days are well behind us!’ Yep... so am I. Yet I can’t help but recall what Jesus said that ‘As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man’ (Matt 24:37). What was shall be again. This point is emphasised when we look at how the New Testament deals with Noah and the flood in general. Let’s start with this passage just quoted.

The New Testament’s use of Noah and the flood

Matthew 24:36-39 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (37) "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. (38) "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, (39) and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

The main point that Jesus emphasised about the days of Noah was that those outside of Noah’s family had no idea that the flood was coming. They had no idea that judgement was at the door. It was life as usual. Sure, those in the region knew crazy old Noah thought something was coming and was preparing for it but everyone knew he was mad! No, for everyone else it was life as normal – eating, drinking, and marrying... until the judgement of God came in the form of a great flood. Jesus says it will be the same as it approaches the day of His coming. I can only believe this is speaking of the rapture and not the second coming at the end of the tribulation. Those days, at Jesus’ second coming, are anything but normal. They come after a 7 year period of extreme judgements, earthquakes, wars and utter destruction. But the rapture is a sign-less event. The day of the Lord (His judgement) comes like a thief and when many say ‘"Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.’ (1 Thes 5:3)

Peter used a similar thought concerning Noah, the flood, and its link to the judgement in the last days:

2 Peter 3:3-12 ‘ 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. (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!’

Conclusion – Noah, ‘a preacher of righteousness’ - What can we learn from him?

Peter, in his first letter, calls Noah a preacher of righteousness. This got me thinking about this ‘preacher’:



[1]  An estimate based on the following: Noah was 500 years old when he first gave birth to his sons (Gen 5:32). When God tells Noah to build the ark, He mentions his sons and their wives. So we’ll assign 30 years for the sons to grow and marry (Gen 6:17-18). Noah was 600 when the flood came (Gen 7:6). So an estimate would have Noah starting the boat when he was 530 and the floods came when he was 600 – 70 years of ark building.

[2]  The Bible doesn’t specifically say nails were used but iron was around in the early days of Genesis as mentioned in Genesis 4:22 --And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron.

[3]  Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis is currently overseeing the construction of a life size replica. All 500 foot of it. The titanic was 883 feet long so it isn’t as long as that but we are talking about one large wooden vessel here.

See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCKqhOyVux8

It has been estimated that an Ark of the size mentioned in the Bible would have the capacity to house 125,000 sheep sized animals.

POST ARTICLE NOTE: In late 2016 I got to visit to Ken Ham's ark and it was amazing! Well worth visiting. It isn't just the physicaly structure itself that is impressive but all the information and displays they have inside that blow you away. Well worth it!

[4]  It is also interesting looking at the ‘flood’ stories that can be found in so many different cultures. Did you know there are over 200 stories from all over the world about a major flood? If a worldwide Flood never happened, then why are there so many stories about it? For example, in Hawaii there is a story of a man named Nu-u who made a great canoe with a house on it and filled it with animals. In this story, the waters came up over all the earth and killed all the people; only Nu-u and his family were saved.One of the Chinese legends explains that the flood was caused by an argument between a crab and a bird. Fuhi, his wife, three sons, and three daughters escaped a great flood and were the only people alive on earth. After the great flood, they repopulated the world. Interesting isn’t it that this Chinese story has the exact number of people surviving the flood that the biblical account has.

[5]  The promise had been given in Genesis 3:15 of a Saviour who would be born of a woman that would crush the serpents head. Satan’s response? We see the demonic corruption of the woman’s offspring. It is his way to try and thwart the purposes of God. It is always the way. At His first coming, Jesus said He would not return until the nation of Israel cries out ‘blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord’. Satan’s response? He attempts, and is still attempting, to annihilate the Jewish race. But all his plans will fail!

[6]  The message of the coming judgement and the need to be ready was also the same type of message that Paul gave the men of Athens saying: ‘In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent for he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31)