Noah, An Example of Saving Faith
"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. 11:17
We are to find the assurance of our acceptance with God in his written promise, not in a happy flight of feeling. Were we to ground our hope upon joyful emotions, there are many of God's true people who would be without assurance. There are in the fold of Christ not only the sheep, that he leads into green pastures, but the lambs, that the Shepherd gathers in his arms and carries in his bosom. Jesus cares for the weak and feeble in their simplicity, and would quicken their life by his own heart beats. If all had strong assurance, in what would the babe differ from those of more advanced experience? The word of God is rich in pearls of promises; but there are weak and trembling souls, who dare not venture to think that they are bringing forth fruit meet for repentance, and who fail to appropriate the promise; yet they are precious in the sight of the Lord. Mary Magdalene was very near to Christ, yet she stood weeping and lamenting, crying, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him."
It would be the ruin of many a soul always to have unclouded assurance in joyful feelings that they are accepted to God. Without feeling we must learn to lean upon his word. We must learn to grasp the promise, because we can never perish if we come to the feet of infinite Love. The absolute assurance will be ours when we hear from the lips of the Master the welcome words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." We shall have trials of faith, but they will only tend to increase our spiritual sinew and muscle; for we shall have to exercise faith, and put forth our trembling hand to lay hold upon a "Thus saith the Lord." But in this way we shall bring honor and glory to God. The doubts and fears against which we have been called to struggle are the precious trials of our faith, God's workmen that work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Again and again we must raise our eyes to Him who has been lifted up upon the cross. "Look and live," were the words that were echoed throughout the encampment of Israel when the brazen serpent was erected. This required an act of faith on the part of the suffering victims who had been bitten by the fiery serpents, but they were assured that if they did look, they should live. We also are to look and live.
While there are many counterfeits of faith in the world, there is a genuine faith, and it is this faith which works by love and purifies the soul. God in his providence set forth Noah as a representative of what true faith would do. The Lord designed that Noah in his life and character should present before the antediluvian world a marked example of the results of believing the word of God. He did not walk in sparks of his own kindling. He obtained all his discernment, all his power, all his strength, from the source of all light; for he held communion with God. It was because he had faith in God, because he was a man of prayer, that he was a man of power. He kindled his taper at the divine altar, that he might be a light to the world. He had a message intrusted to him from God. In his day there was so fearful a departure from God and his ways that hatred of God's law, contempt of truth and righteousness, was well nigh world-wide. The wickedness of men was very great, yet there was hope for them if they would turn from their wickedness, and the Lord made Noah his messenger to proclaim to the inhabitants of the Old World their sins, and to set before them wherein they had provoked the wrath of God. He told them what God proposed to do in the world. He declared to them the word of God. "And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man; for that he also is flesh. Yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. . . . And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. . . . But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord."
"Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God." "The earth also was corrupt before God; and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth."
"And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee. . . . Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he."
Noah had faith in God. His position was a trying one; he had to fight the good fight of faith at every step. One hundred and twenty years of probation was granted to the inhabitants of the world, and Noah was to live through that generation. Everything around him was in confusion. On all sides was sin and wickedness, disregard of God and his holy law; but he was to live among men, and not be a partaker of their wicked works, but to be an example of righteousness, and faith, and entire obedience to God. Amid world-wide contempt of God, he was a faithful preacher of righteousness, exemplifying to the world what a man's life could be by reposing confidence in the sure word of God, by rendering obedience to all his commandments. Nearly the whole world was against Noah; yet there were many who had not had light in regard to the redemption that had been promised to our first parents. The significance of the sacrificial offerings had been perverted, and they no longer shadowed forth to the people the method of the atonement.
The message given by Noah, the building of that strange boat, called forth questions, just as God designed it should, and excited the curiosity of the people. Crowds of people came from all parts of the world to see the strange and wonderful structure, and heard the message of condemnation and the promise of deliverance. The words that had been spoken to Adam were rehearsed,--that sin and Satan should not always triumph. There was to be victory for those who feared God. When his voice was lifted in warning of what God was about to bring upon the world in judgment because of the wickedness of men, great opposition was manifested against the words of the messenger. The opposition, however, was not entirely world-wide; for some believed the message of Noah, and zealously repeated the warning. But the men who were accounted wise were sought, and were urged to present arguments by which the message of Noah might be counteracted. And as the world was at peace and not at war with the prince of evil, they were glad of any excuse to set aside the "Thus saith the Lord" and to listen to the philosophers of the age, who presented the impossibility of such a change taking place in the forces of nature as Noah predicted. There is no enmity between fallen man and fallen angels; both are evil through apostasy, and evil, wherever it exists, is in league against God. Fallen men and fallen angels were united for the dethronement of God.
Thus it was that the wise men of this world talked of science and the fixed laws of nature, and declared that there could be no variation in these laws, and that this message of Noah could not possibly be true. The talented men of Noah's time set themselves in league against God's will and purpose, and scorned the message and the messenger that he had sent. When they could not move Noah from his firm and implicit trust in the word of God, they pointed to him as a fanatic, as a ranting old man, full of superstition and madness. Thus they condemned him because he would not be turned from his purpose by reasonings and theories of men. It was true that Noah could not controvert their philosophies, or refute the claims of science so called; but he could proclaim the word of God; for he knew it contained the infinite wisdom of the Creator, and, as he sounded it everywhere, it lost none of its force and reality because men of the world treated him with ridicule and contempt.
Noah did not mix the soft, pleasing deceptions of Satan with his message. He did not utter the sentiment of many of his day who declared that God was too merciful to do such a terrible work. Many asserted that God would grant the wicked another season of probation; but Noah did not indulge them in the faintest hope that those who neglected the present opportunity, who rejected the present message, would be favored with another opportunity of salvation. God means that men shall not only love him, but that his fear shall be in their hearts. Noah's faith was mingled with fear; for it is written that Noah, being warned of God, moved with fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his house. His faith intensified his fear; for it was no cowardly fear that moved him. He dared not suppress the words of God for fear of men, or withhold his message in dread of the consequences that might result because of the opposition and hate of the wicked and unbelieving about him. He knew the power of God, and realized that God would fulfill his word. His fear of God did not separate him from God, but served to draw him closer to him, and to lead him to pour out his soul in earnest supplication. There were many who at first received Noah's message, but the fear of men was greater than the fear of God, and they turned away from the truth of God to believe a lie. As time passed on, and reproach and ridicule were heaped upon them, their hearts failed them, and they did not bear the test. It is the testing time that will measure professed faith and assurance in God. Courage and integrity cannot be estimated rightly by men until the day of trial puts them to the test.
The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; but it is a part of the Gospel to warn the sinner of the doom that awaits the unbelieving and unrepentant soul. The love of God has been manifested in the gift of his dear Son to the world, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life; but, while salvation is promised on condition of faith in God's Son, condemnation is pronounced upon those that believe not. "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." God has indescribable love for the sinner, but he declares, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; for it is his will that all men should have eternal life through faith in the Son of God.
The Lord promises a blessing to those who do his commandments, and declares that they shall enter in through the gates into the city, and shall have a right to the tree of life. But when God issues a command, he means that we shall obey him. Our circumstances, our surroundings, our financial prospects, are not to be considered in the matter, or made an excuse; for he will give strength to every one who sets about in sincerity to fulfill his word, because it is God that has spoken.
The long-suffering God bore with the inhabitants of the Old World one hundred and twenty years, but his patience, his long forbearance, was made an excuse for indifference and impenitence and abuse of his providences. No soul is ever deserted of God, given up to his own ways and doings, forsaken of heaven, as long as there is the least hope of his salvation. God follows men with entreaties, with warnings of danger, with assurances of compassion, until it is sure that further opportunities and privileges would be wholly in vain. Noah's light was to shine forth for one hundred and twenty years amid the moral darkness of people who were encompassed within a certain limit of years. Under Noah's direction his carpenters built an ark, and they were impressed day by day with the unwavering faith, the unswerving integrity, of the messenger of God. Every blow of the hammer, every advance that was made, was a warning to the world of the flood that swept away the unbelieving and ungodly. Noah's faith was a working faith; it was a saving faith, that moved him with fear, and led him to act in accordance with the word of God. This is the quality of faith that will save the soul. Is it yours?—Signs of the Times, April 18, 1895, par. 1-12