Friday, June 17, 2016
The Vision (6.17.16): Noah Condemned the World
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday morning’s sermon on Hebrews 11:7.
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith (Hebrews 11:7).
There have been many fanciful imaginings of Noah’s conversations with his neighbors while building his ark. Most are largely extra-scriptural.
There is however, this brief note that Noah “condemned the world” and Peter’s brief description of Noah as “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). From these we get the sense that Noah attempted to warn his fellow men of the wrath to come. He identified the sins of the people, and he called for repentance. Noah was willing to be an unpopular preacher preaching an unpopular message.
We don’t know how long it took Noah to build the ark. Some have suggested 120 years. Even the lowest guesses have suggested it took decades. Noah preached and warned for years. John Owen observed: “And there is no doubt but that before, and whilst he was building the ark, he was urgent with mankind to call them to repentance, by declaring the promises and threatening of God” (Hebrews, Vol. 7, p. 3). But at the end of that time, when the door of the ark was closed and the flood began, he had not won a single convert outside his own household. We hear of pioneer missionaries like Carey in India and Judson in Burma who labored in preaching for years before seeing their first converts. Noah labored for years, but apparently saw no fruit!
The Canadian writer Roy Daniells wrote a poem titled “Noah” in which he imagined Noah’s opposition:
They gathered around and told him not to do it.
They formed a committee and tried to take control.
They cancelled his building permit and they stole
His plans. I sometimes wonder he got through it.
He told them wrath was coming, they would rue it,
He begged them to believe the tides would roll,
He offered them passage to his destined goal,
A new world. They were finished and he knew it.
All to no end.
And then the rain began.
A spatter at first that barely wet the soil.
Then showers, quick rivulets lacing the town,
Then deluge universal. The old man
Arthritic from his years of scorn and toil
Leaned from the admiral’s walk and watched them drown.
[From Garrison Keillor, Ed. Good Poems (Viking, 2002): p. 90.]
Though we are told that Noah condemned the world, we can assume he took no joy in it. Compare:
Ezekiel 18:23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?
It is said that the Scottish preacher Robert Murray McCheyne could hardly preach to his people about hell but with tears pouring down his cheeks. Perhaps that is also the way that Noah preached about these things, and the way we should too.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle