how much do you believe?

December 28, 2016

Noah’s ark has lost none of its fascination. Despite political difficulties, not to mention severe logistical problems, expeditions still endeavor to climb the icy slopes of Mt. Ararat on the borders of Turkey, Armenia, and Iran in the hope of finding the fossilized remains of Noah’s masterpiece. Whether or not they will be successful is open to question; in fact there is some doubt if they are even looking in the right place since some scholars suggest that the mountain we know as Mt. Ararat gained its name relatively recently.

The extent of the flood has also been subject to much debate. Was it a universal catastrophe or a local inundation covering parts of Mesopotamia? The language of Genesis certainly lends itself to a “universal” interpretation. We read: “All the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. And all flesh died … and every man … only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive” (Gen 7:19-23). Yet this interpretation is by no means trouble free. If the writer of Genesis meant that the waters reached a depth of fifteen cubits over the peak of Mt. Everest it is estimated that the water required to achieve that end would be eight times the normal water content of the world. Where all this water came from and where it disappeared to is a mystery to many people for which no satisfactory answer has been found. Furthermore it has been pointed out by geologists that while there is considerable evidence for numerous floods there is no uniform evidence for a flood of universal proportions. There are at least ten traditional arguments for a universal flood but there are an equal number of responses from those who hold to a local event (see Ronald Youngblood’s treatment in his book, How It All Began ).

Whatever conclusion we reach concerning the geographical extent of the flood, we should not allow the debate to obscure the facts of God’s judgment and grace which are powerfully demonstrated in this traumatic event. Neither should we overlook the remarkable life of the central figure—Noah. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with Godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:7). There is much to learn from his faith life.

Faith—A Response to Revelation

We know that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17), but there are few more striking examples of what that means than Noah. Out of the blue he was told about a cataclysmic flood and he believed God. He was informed that the end of all flesh was at hand, and he believed that, too. Told to build an ark the length of one and a half football fields and to fill it with animals because all the animals would be destroyed, he believed it! And when he was invited by the Lord to “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation” (Gen. 7:1) he took what must have been a very difficult step out of all that was familiar and understandable into a situation which was incomprehensible except to the eye of faith.

Faith—A Relationship of Trust

When Noah took his big step of faith into the ark, “the Lord shut him in” (v. 16) suggesting that Yahweh was gently but firmly assuring Noah that he had done the right thing and that he was indeed secure. But Noah’s faith had already been in evidence for a considerable period while the ark was being constructed. And his faith had to persevere during the year-long flood because strangely there is no record of God speaking to Noah during that period. He had to go on trusting through thick and thin, whether he could see and understand or not.

Faith—A Readiness to Obey

James reminds us that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). By faith Noah set to work building a mammoth ark. He gathered “seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth” (Gen. 7:2-3). If the flood was universal then the task of gathering animals from all parts of the globe is mind-boggling, not to mention feeding and cleaning up after them! One ancient writer solved this problem by asserting that they all hibernated so they only needed feeding once! If the flood was local then the task was not as great but was still immense. Neither was Noah overwhelmed with the responsibility thrust upon him. He took that in his stride of faith too. And he was clearly not at all deterred by the apparent incongruity of what he was doing. In other words, his faith worked!

Faith—A Release of Blessing

The blessing Noah’s faith released in his own life (in a very real sense he was saved by faith) also spilled over into his family’s experience. “Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive” (v. 23). The faithful expression of his faith as he preached righteousness to his contemporaries “condemned the world” and that was a blessing, because the people were exposed to truth even though they chose to ignore it. Then there is the benefit we receive from his faith as we read the account and are led to examine our own faith. Like Abel, “he being dead still speaks” (Heb. 11:4).

Faith—A Resource of Power

Noah’s power to live triumphantly among his unbelieving contemporaries was a triumph of grace and faith. No man could be expected to find in himself the resources to live as he lived. He had the power to take decisive action as his society drifted toward self-destruction. He exhibited the power to make incisive declarations to those who did not heed what he was saying. He kept on saying it nevertheless. He had the power to show an alternative attitude to that which prevailed among the people of his day. He walked a lonely road. Many years ago I saw a magnificent tapestry in a home for recovering alcoholics in Germany. It was a picture of a stream with a shoal of fish heading one way and a solitary fish swimming in the opposite direction. Underneath were the words: “Any dead fish can float downstream—it takes a live one to swim against it.” Noah through his faith had resources of strength to be a live one!

Faith—A Rebuke to Unfaithfulness

Noah was described by God as “righteous before Me in this generation” (Gen. 7:1). This was a delight to God but in all probability an irritant to Noah’s society. It is impossible to please God without sometimes displeasing those who are opposed to Him. Paul said, “We are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life” (2 Cor. 2:15-16).

My dad often used to observe, “Isn’t it strange that the same sun that melts wax, hardens clay?” He would hasten to explain to me that the sun’s properties do not change but the properties of the different materials on which the sun shines are revealed by its heat. In the same way Jesus showed that the same seed scattered on different places will produce entirely different results. Not because the seed alters but because the seed reveals what kind of soil it has landed upon. Whether it be the sun shining, the seed landing, the word being preached, or the glowing testimony of a believer the same rule obtains. There are those who will warmly respond to the vibrant testimony of a Godly man or woman, and there are others who will become infuriated by the same testimony from the identical person. This is a demonstration of what is inside the heart of the hearer and observer of the testimony and also an indicator of the spiritual destiny of those whose hearts are either warm or cold to the truth however presented.

All of us would much prefer being a “fragrance of Christ” rather than an “aroma of death,” but unfortunately we are not free to choose which we will be because this is determined by the reaction of others to what we say and do. By building his ark Noah offered salvation to those who would respond in faith. To those who entered with him it was a blessing and a delight, but to those who refused it must have been the most awful statement of loss and dismay as it disappeared into the mists.

Faith—A Reminder to the Faithful

The Lord Jesus said that in the days of Noah the people were “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (Matt. 24:38). In other words they were just getting along with their lives, ignoring the strange little man in their midst who was building a massive boat with nowhere to sail it. Perhaps they had grown used to seeing him working and preaching, and as nothing ever seemed to happen they had chosen to assume he was wrong about his dire predictions. But the judgment fell and as the Lord Jesus reminded His hearers, “so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:39). Noah’s faith and faithfulness are powerful reminders to God’s people to look for the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus. Noah still has something to say to God’s people when they are tempted to settle into lives just like the unbelievers!

So the righteous judgment of the offended Lord fell. But in the midst of the horror sailed a man and his family secure in the serenity of a faith which had released the resources of grace. So has it ever been throughout human history.

Many centuries after Noah’s voyage another man of faith set sail in very different circumstances. William Carey was a pastor and a shoemaker (presumably he thought that if tent-making was good enough for the apostle Paul, shoe-making was good enough for him). He had published a remarkable tract with the resounding title, “An enquiry into the obligations of Christians to use means for the conversion of the heathens,” and followed it with deeply felt sermons seeking to awaken the churches to the needs of the unreached peoples of the earth. He had been roundly criticized for his efforts by church leaders but undeterred he set sail for India on the premise that he should “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” He had very little formal education but this did not stop him from teaching himself Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Dutch, and French before setting out for India where he subsequently learned Bengali, translated the entire Bible into Bengali, and helped in producing Scriptures and related materials in no less than forty different languages and dialects. During his forty years’ ministry he buried his wife and all his children in India, but he persisted in his conviction that God had called him, that he should obey and trust Him, that he should use his God-given skills for the blessing of God and man, and that one day he would land safely on the shores of Glory as surely as he had previously landed in India and Noah before him had landed safely on Mt. Ararat.

One of the great advantages of men of faith like Noah and Carey is that they inspire others to learn what it is to trust and obey in order to discover the riches of blessing that are stored up for those who will launch out into the deep.

God bless from

2 Responses to “how much do you believe?”

  1. steveknife said

    Interesting blog. I always had my hands full with just a few types of animals, like cows and goats or horses. Can’t even imagine how you would have convinced wild animals. Pretty sure Noah had Divine help..

  2. imaging being cooped up all that time, it will be great to be in heaven and finally hear the rest of the story

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