I’m excited to set up a new series that will be ongoing over the course of this year. Much like the “Prayers Of The Bible” blogs from 2019, I wanted to initiate early on something we could come back to from time to time in 2020. This series is called “Profiles In Courage.” It’s really meant to highlight those Bible characters who stood up for their faith despite being surrounded by an unbelieving and often, wicked generation. I recognize that their context is really not that much different than ours today. Rebellion against God abounds. Society is dominated by “everyone doing what is right in their own eyes” (a prevailing attitude in the Book of Judges). People are quick to criticize, slow (if ever) to forgive, and easily offended by the words and actions of those who proclaim the truth of Christ.
The examples from our Biblical ancestors can guide us through these days. We see the character they exhibited and the testimony of their faith and we are emboldened as we also take a stand. We see the hearts they are described as having (righteous, pure, enduring) and ask “Lord, give me a heart like that.” We see them willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of Christ and we pray for the same willingness to be poured out…even if it costs us our reputations, our livelihoods, and at the very worst, our own lives.
We begin this series with Noah. Noah seems to be a compelling starting place because he arrives very quickly on the scene in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Once sin came into the world, mankind’s natural bend was to do evil and Adam & Eve’s desire to “be like God” never goes away. Noah’s generation was the case in point: given enough time, man will descend into chaos and turn away from God: And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. Genesis 6:12 Contrasted to all of this, as an obedient and righteous man Noah stood out from the crowd. He is our first “profile in courage” in the Lord.
1. Noah’s righteousness made him stand out before God
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. Genesis 6:5
Noah comes onto the scene in Genesis as a stark contrast to the people around him: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” Genesis 6:8. After all God has done in creating man and establishing the earth, He is grieved at the state of mankind. The wickedness, violence, and corruption has reached an all-time high and rather than contending with man further, He sees the only solution as making Noah the new starting point for humanity. While Noah builds and prepares an ark, the rest of the population seemingly goes about its business staying in error and persisting in its sin. We don’t know because the Bible does not say, but we can assume many had questioning looks and stares at Noah: a man building a huge boat for no apparent reason.
When we see society outright rejecting the Gospel and scorning those who follow God, we realize the days of Noah are in full view once again. Many do not understand nor care to know the ways of Christ. They see it as “foolishness” and have seen faith as simply a “crutch” or as one philosopher stated “the opiate of the masses” (Karl Marx). These attitudes separate out those who follow Jesus and those who reject Him. When we are committed to not bending the knee to the false gods of society, we immediately set ourselves up for rejection. When we build arks on dry ground, we must be willing to hear and see the backlash, just as Noah most assuredly had felt.
2. Noah was obedient despite not knowing everything
Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him…And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him. Genesis 6:22, 7:5
When reading through Genesis 6 and 7, I come away with 2 main characteristics that accompany Noah: he is obedient and he is righteous. Noah gets a command from the Lord that must have seemed ludicrous even in his own mind. “Get ready. Build an ark. I am going to flood the earth and all flesh is going to die.” Did Noah question and ask for a second opinion of the Lord? No. He sets to work building the ark despite not having all the details. It must have taken months, if not years to complete such a monumental task. Yet he does it knowing this is what God has commanded and it is his job to obey.
How often do we second guess God and fail to step forward because we lack obedience? I’m just being honest, but if I were in Noah’s shoes, I would have struggled to carry out the task. And that is because obedience is often an inch deep in my heart. In Noah’s heart it was much deeper. It had to be in order to do this thing which was so much bigger than him. When God lays a command on our lives, we have to develop the faith to trust Him despite not having all the answers. This is one of the hardest parts for many of us in following Christ. Truth be told, it’s one of the parts that causes many to fall away. But we can’t lose hope and we can’t forget the promise hidden behind the command. It’s for our good.
3. Noah’s righteousness leads God to spare his life
Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.” Genesis 7:1
Noah and us are not righteous on our own. Noah was still human and made mistakes. We in our humanity mess up and sin. But it is the blood of Jesus Christ that covers us and when God looks at us, He doesn’t see our sin. He sees Jesus’ blood. For that reason, we are saved. Noah had a righteousness prior to Christ that pointed to His eventual sacrifice. And the flood was God’s means to show that He is both loving and just: He loves Noah and spares His life. But His wrath could not be put off forever; mankind’s rejection of truth would be punished.
The end result of all of this is that Noah’s family line is the vessel God uses to repopulate the whole earth. And the animals saved in the ark were used to reestablish creation. Noah is given one overarching command following the flood: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. (Genesis 9:1). In other words, through you I am going to rebuild humanity. Through you, nations and countries will rise and come into being. Through you Noah and your family, all of mankind will once again come into being. One man in his obedience is given an even larger task than building an ark: you must now fill the earth.
To boil Noah and the flood/ark story down to our level seems a bit far-fetched but I don’t think it is meant to be. At the end of the day, Noah is just a guy living a normal life, serving and loving his God. He stands out because there weren’t any others in his time that took a similar stand. And life can seem that way at times. Being the only Christian at your job. The only family that goes to church in your neighborhood. The only one who prays before your meal in the school cafeteria.
But I assure you that Noahs are needed today as much as ever. Even in standing out, you are taking a position that tells the rest of the world there is a God and He is grieved over our sinfulness. There is a God and although He is righteous, He offers a means of redemption because He loves us. One day we will face the reality of eternity based upon the choice we have made to either chose His means of grace or reject it. The grace God showed Noah is again displayed at the cross in the sacrifice of Christ. If you haven’t accepted this gift, will you do so today? If you have, will you being willing to be a Noah in these days?
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17