Study 3 “The Ark of Obedient Faith” Hebrews 11:7
by Bob Burridge ©2020
The family of Noah was spiritually alone.
They lived in an age facing global judgment.
Genesis 6:5 “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
What a perverted and wicked age to be chosen to live in!
Genesis 6:9, “… Noah was a righteous man …” If we make the mistake of adding up the years in the Genesis 5 genealogy, other great men of faith would have still been alive at that time. But the genealogies weren’t intended to be added up that way. By comparing other genealogies we see that many generations are often skipped. They were to show ancestry, not to show every generation. “Begat” means “became the ancestor of”. “The son of” means “became the descendant of”.
In that time in human history, Noah and his family were spiritually alone! No one stood with them. There was no community of believers to pray for them, to be there for them. No sympathetic neighbors to visit or talk with. How alone he and his family must have felt! They lived in the midst of that wicked, unsympathetic world where they were a small minority of 8.
But to be spiritually alone in a wicked world was only part of the problem.
They faced a global disaster – God’s coming judgment. Noah was told to make an ark. There was going to be a great flood. It would destroy all other human life, and all air-breathing animals not rescued on his ark.
Judgment has hung over humanity in every era of human history. God doesn’t put up with rebellion forever. Justice is part of His nature. You can’t neglect God’s ways and expect that He won’t do something about it eventually..
While final judgment may seem remote, it’s going to come some day! Meanwhile lesser judgments occur repeatedly throughout history. There were invasions of foreign kings, the captivity of Israel and Judah, the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. Many nations and empires have fallen.
Noah and his family were about to face a serious crisis! It would be the loss of the whole world they knew: their town, their home, their fields, their neighbors, the places and things they had grown up with.
How should God’s people conduct themselves in times like that? The same question came to the Prophet Habakkuk many centuries later: The Lord answered in Habakkuk 2:4, “… the righteous shall live by his faith.”
It’s our continuing trust in God’s promises that stabilizes our lives. That’s the same verse the writer of Hebrews had just referred to in chapter 10, and that Paul quoted in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians. It’s the same message that kept Noah encouraged, “… the righteous shall live by his faith.”
Noah trusted God’s promises, and was encouraged. Genesis 6:8 says, “He found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:9 tells us that he was “a righteous man” who (like Enoch) it says, “Noah walked with God.” His righteousness wasn’t from his own works, but was from faith implanted into him by God’s grace. When he obeyed God and prepared the ark, it showed that his faith was sincere.
Noah showed the effects
of a living faith at work in him.
Hebrews 11:7, “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. “
His faith moved him to “reverent fear”.It’s translated as just “fear” in the KJV, “reverence” in the NASB. The Greek word “eulabeomai” (εὐλαβέομαι) carries both ideas. It means that Noah behaved cautiously out of deep respect for God’s authority. Noah was confident that God’s promises and warnings were to be loved, trusted, and obeyed, even though God warned him about things to come which no one had ever seen before.
He had no past experience to go by. Only God’s word.
– Never before had there been such a flood.
– Never before had such a huge ark been built.
– Never had there been a such broad judgment on human wickedness.
Some have presumed that it had never rained before the flood of Noah. That’s based upon a wrong use of a comment made in Genesis 2:5-6. “When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up–for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground–”
Those verses only tell us that it had not rained in the time before the creation of bushes and small plants. The implication in the context is that it was raining after the creation of these plants. Rain was probably as common to Noah as it is today. But this rain was to be more destructive than any in human history
The “ark” was more a “box” than a “boat”. It was designed to simply float out the storm and flood. There was no purpose in it having a rounded hull or a pointed bow. It was not going to be cutting through the water on a path to some destination.
The Hebrew word for “ark” in Genesis 6 is “tevah” (תבה). This word is never used to refer to a “boat” or “ship”. It’s the same word used to describe the basket Moses was placed in as a baby (Exodus 2:3). The “Ark of the Covenant” in Exodus was a box, not a boat. It was made by Aaron to store the tablets of the Ten Commandments. It was referred to in Hebrews 9:4 using the Greek word “kibōtos” (κιβωτός). The same Greek word is used in Matthew 24:38 referring to the Ark of Noah.
When a “boat” is mentioned in the Old Testament the Hebrew word used is ” ‘ăbârâh” (עברה). It’s used in 2 Samuel 19:18 referring to a ferry boat. When a “ship” is mentioned in the Old Testament it uses a few different words. [Proverbs 30:19 and Jonah’s ship to Tarsus in Jonah 1:3 is “onı̂yâh” (אניּה), Isaiah 32:21 “tsı̂y” (צי)].
The Ark of Noah was huge! It was 450 feel long, that’s about the length of one and a half football fields not counting the end-zones. It was 75 feet wide, that’s almost half the width of a football field which is 160 feet wide. It was 45 feet tall, that’s a little higher than a four-story building. This means it had an interior of 1,518,750 cubic feet. It had 3 decks, a roof 18″ above the structure, a door in the side (closed by God before the flood), and at least one openable window which Noah used to send out the doves to show the flood had ended. No water craft of this size was ever made before. God told him how to build it.
Noah’s faith produced obedience. Even though he stood alone, and the scholars and leaders of the community mocked him, Noah made an ark exactly as God told him to make it.
God gives solemn warnings to his loved children to keep his commandments. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Paul warns, “you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin which leads to death, or of obedience which leads to righteousness” (Romans 6:16). John wrote, “by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3).
Noah’s testimony reminds us that even when we stand alone and many are against us, we need to believe God and obey what he tells us to do, and not to do.
His obedience testified about God’s warnings.
1. There was an unpopular message for the unbelievers. God had condemned them. Noah’s obedience in building the ark was a testimony of faith and of the judgment that was coming. He wasn’t deterred when there were no converts, just plenty of scoffers.
The rebellious didn’t see judgment falling yet, so they thought they were getting away with their behavior. They were confronted with God’s truth, but refused to accept it.
Today we live in a world growing in sin while rejecting God’s promises and the work of Christ. Our responsibility is to obey God by being humble but faithful examples in our work and lives. When the world turns away in arrogant unbelief and rebellion against its Creator, we’re to keep on being obedient and spreading the truth as best we can, and doing it God’s way.
Maybe God’s judgment is going to fall on apostate and rebellious nations very soon. Puritan John Owen said that the Bible indicates, again and again, that when faithful preaching becomes ineffective, its a sign of “approaching desolations”.
Noah’s ark should be a symbol to warn our country, our culture, that God’s longsuffering has its limits! It should also encourage us to be faithful witnesses even when we don’t see many accepting God’s messages.
2. Noah’s obedience spoke to the righteous. It encouraged Noah and his family. His faithfulness encourages God’s people in every age. God’s promises assure his true children. When judgment falls, God will deliver his people.
Throughout church history, back to the crucifixion of Christ, back into Israel’s captivities and in the days of her wicked kings, back to the time of the judges, even in the wilderness wanderings, God has always preserved his people by grace.
God blessed Noah and his family The flood was an example of judgment and redemption. While those who don’t heed God’s warnings are judged, those who do listen and respond with humble repentance and obedience are promised inward peace, joy, and hope. God delivered Noah and his family from judgment in the great flood.
How do we live in the midst of wickedness?
How do we cope with all the spiritual opposition around us today?
1. We diligently learn God’s promises and instructions for us that are preserved for us in Scripture. Like Noah, we need to know what God’s said.
2. We trust in and appreciate those promises, because God can’t lie! He’s to be trusted without question. No matter how bad things get around us, God will always preserve his people in the end.
3. We obey those promises, and cling to his spiritual provisions. We live the way God tells us to live because we love the God who spoke them. We know that those promises and ways are a sure hope, our only hope.
Fallen minds scoff at the warnings of coming judgment. They see nothing wrong with their immoral lives, and their failure to honor the God who made them. Foolishly the fallen nature drifts lazily in the currents of sin, while the tidal-wave of judgment is sure to come.
I once found a small green glass ball on a beach in one of the outer Bahama islands. I was told they come from fishnets off the coast of Portugal. When broken lose they become caught up in the same currents that brought Columbus to the Americas. Every year thousands of loose floats cross the Atlantic and end up on those island shores.
Like the glass floats from Portugal, the currents of God’s plan always lead to the same shores. God’s judgments fall on those who ignore God’s warnings and commandments. They foolishly continue feeling secure in their rebellion against their Creator. God’s blessings fall on those who repentantly admit their sins, and trust in the work of their Savior. They are humbly thankful for the undeserved Grace that clothes them with the righteousness of Christ. This is always the flow of God’s dealings with those he made.
Like these heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, like Noah, we need to trust, love, and obey God’s word. Our faith ought to be the kind that counts on, loves, and lives by what God has promised, said, and done.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Hebrews 11 index: “Faith and What Flows From It“