Sunday, September 9, 2007

And He Walked With God

I don’t know about you, but I find Noah to be one of the most fascinating people in the Bible. Noah was a man who lived in the most wicked time in all of history, the Bible tells us in Genesis 6:5 “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” and yet, in Genesis 6:8 we see that Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Why? Verse 9 gives us the answer, “ Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God”(emphasis mine). I think many times we hear the story of Noah and we focus only on the ark and the flood, but there is much more to this than a Sunday School Bible story to tell our children. I think there is a lot we can gain by looking at the story of this man who walked with God.

I think that in the life of Noah we can see at least two characteristics that we can apply to our own lives; two things that are indicative of a man (or woman) who walks with God. The first one is a belief that results in an uncompromising obedience to God, and the second is a Trust that manifests itself as an unquestioning faith that believes whatever God says will happen will in fact happen, just as God has said it would.

Let’s look at this first characteristic in Noah which is found in Genesis 6:22. “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did”. Think for a minute what God had asked Noah to do. In a world where it had never rained, God told him to build a boat. From what we can tell, Noah didn’t live at the beach either. He was told to build this boat on dry ground. This was not a little boat either; this boat was 450 feet long 75 feet wide and 45 feet high, this is not the kind of thing that you can hide from the neighbors. Imagine how you would feel if you lived next door to Noah and he started to build this boat. You would probably not be real happy about what it was going to do to your property values. Add to that the fact that Noah was one of only eight righteous people on earth, and they were all in his own family, and you will begin to se the kind of opposition that Noah faced. But not only did Noah obey God, he never tried to compromise or change what God told him to do in any way. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that Noah questioned God or that he attempted to alter the plans for the ark. He never said, “but God, this will take up my whole back yard, and I wanted to put in a pool.” We never hear Noah complain, “What will the neighbors think?” He never said, “I’m 480 years old, I should be relaxing, not building a boat”. He also never said, “this looks OK, but I think I could we put another window over here?” or “this is pretty long, I think it would work just as well if I make this just a little shorter?” No, the Bible says he did all that God commanded. Obeying God takes humility, and Noah had to humble himself and trust that what God said was right, and that it was true.

I think many times we look at what God says and we think, this can’t be what God meant, I have a better plan. This is nothing but pride. We may not think this consciously, but our actions speak differently. There are several examples in the Bible of others who have had to humble themselves and do something that didn’t make sense to them, or to those around them, in order to be obedient to God. Let’s take a look at one.

Joshua is first one that comes to my mind. You remember Joshua, he was the one chosen to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land after the death of Moses. He was told by God that the city of Jericho had been delivered into his hands, but contrary to all human military logic, he was not going to attack the city, he was going to march his troops around the outside of the wall, play trumpets and shout. (See Joshua 6) Imagine if you were the president of a country that was at war and you just told your generals, “we are not going to attack, we are going to walk around the city for seven days and on the seventh day we are going to walk around it seven times and then, instead of attacking we will just shout. God told me that if we do it this way we will win”. Do you think this would take humility and a trust that God knows what is best and that He will do what He said He would do? If you are wrong, your career, and maybe even your life, is over. This is what Noah did when he built the ark. He put his reputation on the line because he believed that what God said was true. He believed God.

The second characteristic that I see in Noah that is another evidence that he walked with God is this. Noah believed what God said even when it didn’t make sense. In Genesis 6:14 God appeared to Noah and told him to build an ark. This may not seem altogether odd to you, but remember, Noah lived in a world that had never seen rain. We read in Genesis 2:5-6 For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth...but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground. Think about the faith Noah had to have to take God at his word and take action when everything he had ever experienced told him that this couldn’t possibly happen.

Hebrews 11:7 tell us “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”. There are a couple things in this verse that each of us should look for in our own life as evidence that we walk with God. First, is the phrase “By faith”. Noah had nothing to base his conviction on, except his faith in God. This is the starting point for anyone who walks with God. In the verse preceding this we read “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) Here we see that in order to please God we must believe that He is; we must believe that He exists, and we must have faith that He will reward those of us who seek Him.

The second thing in this verse that we should emulate is that he “moved with godly fear”. In Proverbs 1:7 we read that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge...” and we would all be better off if we had a little more fear of God. I don’t know about you, but I have been taught that the word “fear” means to have reverence or respect for God, and that is true, but I also think that a case can be made for the fact that to a certain extent fear means just what it says, fear.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 “ And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” I think Noah had a great respect for God, but I think that Noah had some healthy fear as a motivation as well. Noah had to have something to motivate him and to keep working because the next time we see God talking to Noah is 120 years later. So think about this, when Noah was 480 years old God appeared to him and said that the world was evil and had turned away from Him, everyone did what was right in their own eyes and it grieved God that He had even made man on the earth. He said that He had to put a stop to this for the good of mankind so here is what He was going to do. God said, “I will send a flood that will kill every living thing on the earth, but I will spare you and your family because you are upright and righteous and you walk with Me. But the only way for you to be saved is for you to build a boat, here are the plans for it, and when you have finished it then I will send the flood. (Genesis 6:13-21, paraphrased)

The next time we see God talking to Noah is in Genesis 7:1, when He told Noah to enter the ark, 120 years after he told him to build it. There must have been times in Noah’s life when he stopped and wondered, “did I really understand what God was saying to me?” And if you think it took faith to build the ark, imagine this. In Genesis 7:1 God speaks to Noah and says “Come into the ark, you and all your household...” then in verse four He says, “For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth...” If you think the 120 years were a trying time, imagine what was going through Noah’s mind being shut up in the ark for seven days and nothing was happening outside. I am sure that Noah was ridiculed and teased while he was preaching and building the ark, and I cannot imagine that it stopped when he went into the ark. I think it probably got even worse as all the neighbors sat around outside the ark and took bets as to how long that crazy old man would remain in that thing with all of those animals. But Noah remained faithful and God rewarded him for his faithfulness. Seven days later the people were not asking when Noah was coming out, but if he would let them in.

Noah had been preaching for 120 years to these people that they should repent and return to God. God did not want to destroy the world, His choice has always been that men would seek Him and repent of their sin. Peter makes this point in his second letter, 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”. For at least 120 years Noah pleaded with these people to repent and now God’s patients had run out and it was too late to return. The Bible says that it is God’s will that all will come to Him, but it also teaches that a time will come when a person has ignored the calling of God and chosen to disobey Him for so long that God will give them over to their sin and it will be too late to repent. Two examples of this are Romans chapter 1 and Hebrews chapter 3.

Romans 1 says each of us instinctively knows there is a God, and that His invisible attributes are clearly seen in the creation He has made, but that some have chosen to worship His creation rather than worship Him. Then in verse 24 it says “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity”, and again in verse 26 it says “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions”. They chose sin for so long that God let them have what they wanted.

Another example of this is found in Hebrews 3:7-13.

Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS, WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED Me BY TESTING Me, AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS. "THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION, AND SAID, 'THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS'; AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, 'THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST." Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

In these verses we see that there came a time in the history of the nation of Israel when God said that they had gone too far in disobedience and their hearts were hardened against Him. As a result they were denied entrance to the Promised Land. This warning is then given as an example for us to be sure that we do not disobey God and harden our hearts against Him, because as the verses above say, it was God who said “they always go astray in their heart…they shall not enter my rest”.

This is what had happened in the days of Noah; Noah preached and the people hardened their hearts so God gave them over to their lust and passion and once judgment started it was too late to repent.

We each need to examine ourselves daily to make sure we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), confess our sins (1 John 1:9), obey God (John 14:15) and He will be our God and we will be His people (2 Corinthians 6:16). God has promised salvation and protection to all who obey Him, which is clearly illustrated in the story of Noah. This all rests on the faithfulness of God; it is not according to our good works, but according to His grace and His faithfulness. I think A.W. Tozer best sums this up in this quote from The Knowledge Of The Holy, “Upon God’s faithfulness rests our whole hope of future blessedness. Only as He is faithful will His covenants stand and His promises be honored. Only as we have complete assurance that He is faithful may we live in peace and look forward with assurance to the life to come”.

By looking at the life of Noah we are really seeing the grace, mercy, and faithfulness of God as He provides and protects one of His children. It is my prayer that one-day people will be able to look at my life and say, like they said about Noah, “and he walked with God.”

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