Noah: Heeding God’s Warnings

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Hebrews 11:7

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called “Growing in Faith.” But before we jump into today’s message, let me ask you a question. We have been studying this chapter for four weeks now. How are you doing? Are you growing in your faith? Are you taking these truths to heart and growing in your faith in God?

For example, the first week we learned that faith means being certain of realities that you cannot see. Are you finding it easier to believe in present and future and realities that you cannot see with your physical eyes?

In week two we learned that true biblical faith is based on the word of God. God’s word is so powerful that he created the whole world out of nothing simply by speaking. Are you growing in your ability to trust what God says in his word?

From Abel we learned that one of the ways we demonstrate our faith is by giving God the first portion, the first and best of our lives. Did God challenge you about giving to him in faith? Are you following through?

And then, last week we looked at Enoch, and we learned that another way we demonstrate our faith is by believing God’s goodness – by walking with God and choosing his way over our way. Sin’s lie is that choosing sin over God will somehow satisfy you in ways that God does not, that sin will bring you a greater benefit than if you followed God’s way. When faced with temptations this past week, did you choose to believe God’s goodness over sin’s lies?

Remember, true faith always expresses itself in action. And each Old Testament person presented in Hebrews chapter 11 teaches us yet another way that we may demonstrate our faith in action. I would encourage you as we continue to study through this chapter to bring each of these aspects of faith before God in prayer and ask him, “Lord, increase my faith in this area, increase my faith in that area.”

Today we look at a very familiar person from the Old Testament: the person of Noah. People usually remember Noah for building the ark. Hebrews 11 remembers Noah for his faith. And from Noah’s example of faith we learn yet another way to demonstrate our own faith in God. One of the ways that you demonstrate your faith is by heeding God’s warnings.

Let’s look at Hebrews 11:7 together: By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Let us pray.)

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How do you respond to warnings? How do you like it when somebody warns you about this or not to do that? Are you appreciative? Or are you resentful? We often resent warnings in life because when somebody warns us about something, it means that they think they know something we don’t. And not only that, they think they know better than we do the right course of action to take. And we tend to resent that.

Now, of course, the reality is that often other people do know things that we don’t. And many times, they do know better than we do the right course of action. For example, how many of you would be in favor of abolishing the warning labels on bottles containing poison? Do you want to figure out for yourself what is safe to drink and what is not? Or would you prefer that someone who actually knows what is in that particular bottle take the time to warn you?

One of the ways you demonstrate your faith in God is by heeding God’s warnings. Now, God always knows more than you do, and God always knows the proper course of action to take. Only stubborn pride ever keeps us from believing that and benefiting from God’s warnings. So, this morning we will look at Noah’s example in Hebrews 11:7 and see how he demonstrated his faith by heeding God’s warnings.

I. Heeding God’s warnings begins with the right attitude towards God

The first thing we learn from Noah’s example is that heeding God’s warnings begins with the right attitude towards God.

   A. Understand that God’s warnings are meant for your good
      – 2 Timothy 3:16

And this right attitude begins with understanding that God’s warnings are meant for your good. This really shouldn’t be such a hard concept to grasp because so many warnings in life are meant for our good. “Don’t touch – wet paint.” “Danger – thin ice!” “Do not cross – bridge out!”

Unless we are pridefully foolish or foolishly proud, we will appreciate such warnings rather than resent them. Why? Because they are meant for our good. They are all meant to protect us from harm. I think about the two guys in a truck approaching an overpass with a sign that says, “Clearance: 8 feet.” One guy asks the other, “How tall is our truck?” He answers, “Nine feet.” The first one looks both ways, and then says, “I don’t see any police around. Let’s go for it!”

Of course, not all warnings that other people give us in life are accurate or well-intended. We need to use wisdom and common sense to evaluate the warnings we receive. One of the ways we evaluate the warnings we receive is according to whether or not we trust the person’s knowledge and motivation who is warning us. If we know they have good knowledge and we know they are motivated for our welfare, then we will trust the warning.

It’s the same way with God’s warnings. How you respond to God’s warnings really comes down to this. Do you trust God’s knowledge, and do you trust God’s motivation? Or, to put it another way, do you believe that God knows everything, and do you believe that God is on your side?

This, of course, ties in with last week’s message – believing God’s goodness. And the reason some people struggle with God’s warnings in Scripture is because they do not believe God’s goodness. They still think God is trying to take away all their fun. As we said last week, they view God as the cosmic killjoy, the divine spoilsport, the ultimate party pooper. They resent God interfering with their lives. Once again, such resentment really comes from pride. It comes from believing that we know better than God, and it comes from doubting God’s goodness.

The Bible is full of warnings, and every single one of them is meant for your protection and good. 2 Timothy 3:16 says this: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) So, one of the stated purposes of God’s word is to rebuke and correct. God largely does that through his warnings.

God’s warnings are always meant for your good, never for your harm. So, that’s the first step to a right attitude towards God – understanding that God’s warnings are meant for your good.

   B. Respond to God’s warnings in holy fear

And then, the second step to a right attitude towards God is to respond to God’s warnings in an attitude of holy fear. Look at Hebrews 11:7 again. “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” So, what does it mean to respond to God’s warnings in an attitude of holy fear?

      1) Take God’s warnings seriously

Responding in holy fear means first of all that you take God’s warnings seriously. Notice that Noah was “warned about things not yet seen.” The flood was not yet seen because it was still in the future. But just because it was still in the future did not make it any less real. God said it was going to happen, and therefore, it was definitely going to happen.

Remember, faith is being certain about things you cannot see. Noah took God’s warning seriously. He had a deep conviction or certainty about unseen realities based on the word of God. That, as we have seen, is true biblical faith.

God’s warnings in Scripture are the same way today. They speak about future consequences which are not yet seen. We need to take God’s warnings seriously because God always means what he says, and God always has the power to bring it to pass.

      2) Treat God with reverence, awe and respect
         – Genesis 6:13; Psalm 115:3; Luke 12:4-5; Galatians 6:7; Hebrews 4:13

Secondly, responding to God’s warnings in holy fear means treating God with reverence, awe and respect. In the original language, this phrase “holy fear” is a single word which means “to be moved with fear or reverence.” Why should you treat God with reverence, awe and respect? The Bible gives us many good reasons.

First of all, God is awesome. He is awesome in power, awesome in majesty, awesome in purity, awesome in holiness.
Secondly, God is sovereign. Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3) No one can argue with him; no one can stand in his way; no one can thwart his plans or his purposes.

A third reason you should treat God with reverence, awe and respect is because God is judge. Hebrews 4:13 says: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)

A fourth reason is because God rules the world in righteousness, and every action bears a consequence. Galatians 6:7 tells us: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7)

A fifth reason you should treat God with reverence, awe and respect is because God has the power to throw into hell. Jesus spoke these words in Luke 12: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:4-5)

And then a sixth reason you should treat God with reverence, awe and respect is because God is the giver of life, and he is the taker of life. So, when God warned Noah in Genesis 6: “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth,” (Genesis 6:13) Noah responded in holy fear. He took God’s warning seriously, and he treated God with reverence, awe and respect.

Heeding God’s warnings begins with the right attitude towards God. So, let me ask you. Do you have a right attitude towards God this morning? Do you understand that God’s warnings are meant for your good? Do you take God’s warnings seriously? Do you treat God with reverence, awe and respect? Heeding God’s warnings begins with the right attitude towards God.

II. Heeding God’s warnings means taking appropriate action

Now, just having the right attitude, however, is not enough. In order to heed God’s warnings, we must move from attitude to action. Remember, true faith always expresses itself in action. And so, we come to our second lesson from Noah this morning. Heeding God’s warnings also means taking appropriate action.

   A. Follow God’s instructions exactly
      – Genesis 6:22, 7:5

How do you take appropriate action in response to God’s warnings? A couple things here. First of all, you must follow God’s instructions exactly. The Bible is full of examples of people who got themselves into trouble because they didn’t follow God’s instructions exactly. Look at Hebrews 11:7 again: “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark.” Noah had the right attitude before God. And that attitude led him to take appropriate action. “In holy fear he built the ark.” Think about it. What is the appropriate action when God is about to flood the world? Building a boat sounds real smart to me!

Actually, the ark was God’s idea, not Noah’s idea. After God told Noah he was going to destroy the world, God gave him detailed instructions on how to build the ark. He told him what kind of wood to use. He told him to make rooms in it and to coat it with pitch inside and out. He gave Noah the precise dimensions of the ark: 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, 45 feet high. He told Noah to make a roof for it and to finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. He told him to put a door in the side and to make lower, middle and upper decks. And then, he also gave Noah detailed instructions on how to bring the animals into the ark.

Finally, after we read all of God’s instructions to Noah, we read the following in Genesis 6:22: “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” (Genesis 6:22) And then again in Genesis 7:5: “And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.” (Genesis 7:5) Noah did not leave a single detail out. He followed all of God’s instructions exactly.

Do you know why Noah followed God’s instructions exactly? Because he took God’s warning seriously, and he treated God with reverence, awe and respect. Noah’s life and his family’s life were on the line here. If God said this is the way to build the ark, then this was the way to build the ark. Can you imagine if Noah hadn’t followed God’s instructions exactly? What if Noah decided to modify God’s plan? What if Noah had changed the dimensions, or decided to skip that part about coating the outside with pitch? The ark may have tipped over in the storm or fallen apart in the water.

God never tells you to do something without a reason. If God gives you a warning in Scripture, it is there for your good. And when God gives you certain instructions, he means for you to follow them. Taking appropriate action means following God’s instructions exactly.

   B. Noah built the ark; what action do you need to take today?
      – Proverbs 10:19, 19:18; Hebrews 13:4

So, let’s take a moment and apply this to ourselves. In holy fear Noah built the ark. That was the appropriate action for him to take considering the warning and instructions God gave him. So, what action do you need to take today? Well, it depends on what’s going on in your life right now. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

For example, are you tempted in the areas of dishonesty or deceit? Then you need to heed this warning from the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 10:19 says: “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:19)

Are you tempted to cheat on your spouse or with someone else’s spouse? Then you need to heed this warning from Hebrews 13:4: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4)

Are you failing to discipline your children and train them in God’s ways? Then you need to heed this warning from Proverbs 19:18: “Discipline your child, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (Proverbs 19:18) As we said earlier, the Bible is full of warnings, and all of them are meant for your protection and good.

You might say, “Well how am I supposed to know about all these warnings and instructions from God? How do I know what to do and what not to do?” That’s why we have the Bible. That’s why God gave us his word. I like the acrostic for the letters in the word Bible: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (B.I.B.L.E.). Read God’s word. Study it. Learn it, because God’s word will never steer you wrong. Instead, it will steer you clear of many heartaches and obstacles in life.

III. Heeding God’s warnings will make you stand out in the crowd

1) So, heeding God’s warnings begins with the right attitude towards God. 2) Next, heeding God’s warnings means taking appropriate action. What else can we learn from Noah’s example? Our third lesson is this. 3) Heeding God’s warnings will make you stand out in the crowd.

   A. Your faith in God condemns the unbelieving world around you
      – Genesis 6:9

Anytime you exercise faith in God, you are going to stand out in the crowd. And this is especially true when you heed God’s warnings and those around you do not.

Noah’s faith certainly made him stand out. You have to understand, building the ark took real faith on Noah’s part. Remember, when Noah started building the ark, the forty days and forty nights of rain had not started yet and would not start for years to come. The world had never seen a flood like this before and never would again. It is possible that the world had never even seen rain before, never mind a flood. And here’s Noah, miles away from water, and yet he is building a boat. It takes faith to build a boat on dry ground! No one else was building a boat. Noah definitely stood out in the crowd.

When you live by faith, your life will look different from those in the world. You will go to different places, you will speak different words, and you will make different choices – all because of your faith. You will stand out.

And that’s not easy, because when you live by faith, your faith in God actually condemns the unbelieving world around you. Look at the second half of Hebrews 11:7: “By his faith Noah condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” “By his faith Noah condemned the world.” What does that even mean?

Well it doesn’t mean that Noah was a harsh, judgmental or condemning person. Genesis 6:9 tells us that “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” (Genesis 6:9) So, Noah was not harsh or condemning, and as Christians we also should not be harsh or condemning.

What it does mean is this. Noah’s faith in building the ark stood as a testimony of judgment against the whole world, because those who saw him building did not similarly heed God’s warning.

When you make right choices in life, it only highlights the wrong choices of others. When you choose to heed God’s warnings against slander, bad language, dishonesty, adultery, divorce, drunkenness, sexual immorality and a host of other issues in life, your faith will stand out as a testimony of judgment against those who do practice such things. And in this way, your faith condemns the unbelieving world around you.

   B. The world will not treat you well when you stand for God
      – John 15:18-19; 1 Peter 4:3-5; 2 Peter 2:5

Guess what? The world does not like to be condemned, and therefore the world will not treat you well when you take a stand for God. I am guessing Noah took his share of abuse for building the ark. I am sure he was mocked and ridiculed mercilessly by those around him. “Crazy old Noah, still building the ark after all these years. Hey Noah, any sign of rain?”

Now, Noah would have told the people why he was building the ark. He wouldn’t have kept God’s warning about the flood to himself. The book of 2 Peter calls Noah “a preacher of righteousness,” (2 Peter 2:5) which implies that Noah had a verbal witness beyond just his actions of building the ark.

But either way, his faith in God and his actions arising from his faith still condemned the unbelieving world around him, and the world does not like to be condemned. The world does not like to be reminded about God’s warnings. The world does not like to be reminded of human accountability to God. So, when your faith reminds the world of these things, the world will lash out back at you.

This is what Peter spoke about in 1 Peter 4. Peter writes: “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans [or unbelievers] choose to do — living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:3-5)

Jesus put it this way in John 15: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

It’s not easy to take a stand for God and to heed God’s warnings when no one else around you is doing it. It’s not easy when you face opposition from the world because you choose to take a stand for righteousness. It wasn’t easy for Noah either. But eventually Noah’s world was condemned by the flood, and Noah’s faith was vindicated. The same will be true for you as you take a stand for God and remain true to Christ even in the face of opposition. And that brings us to our final point.

IV. Heeding God’s warnings will bring you great benefit in this life and the next

Heeding God’s warnings will bring you great benefit in this life and the next.

   A. Noah’s faith saved himself, his family and the future human race

Looking at Noah again, heeding God’s warning brought him great benefit in this life. Think about it. Noah’s faith saved himself, his family and the future human race. If Noah had not heeded God’s warning and built the ark, he would have drowned along with the rest of the world. His family would have drowned. And the entire future human race would have been destroyed along with them.

Have you ever thought about that? Noah has this in common with Adam. Every human being alive today is a direct descendant of Adam and of Noah. If Noah hadn’t built the ark, then the entire human race as we know it would not have existed. Now, God could have started over. He could have begun a whole new human race. But guess what? That would mean you and I would not be here, because we are descended from Noah.

Actually, God could have started over anytime he wanted after Adam and Eve fell into sin. But one of the reasons God didn’t start over is because he loves you, and he wanted you to exist. Before God ever created the world, God thought of you, he planned for you, and he made provision for your salvation through his Son, Jesus. That’s how much God loves you! Isn’t that awesome?

Heeding God’s warning brought Noah great benefit in this life. Noah’s faith saved himself, his family and the future human race.

   B. Noah became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith
      – Isaiah 64:6; Luke 17:26-27; Philippians 3:9

Noah’s faith also brought him great benefit for the next life. Look at Hebrews 11:7 one last time: “By his faith Noah condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”

Noah “became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” The Bible tells us there are only two kinds of righteousness in this world: “a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,” and “the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:9) So, there are two kinds of righteousness: one that comes from me, and one that comes from God.

There are two kinds of righteousness, but only one will get you into heaven. You can never enter heaven on the basis of your own righteousness. We looked at Isaiah 64:6 last week which tells us: “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) The only righteousness that will get you into heaven is Christ’s righteousness, and that righteousness comes not from yourself but from God. And it comes by faith in Jesus Christ.

Noah became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Noah received the free gift of eternal life, not because of his own righteousness, but because he had faith in God. Heeding God’s warning brought Noah great benefit both for this life and the next.

Heeding God’s warnings will also bring you great benefit in this life and the next. Heeding God’s warnings will spare you from many troubles in this life, and through faith in Christ you can also receive the free gift of eternal life. Perhaps the most important warning in all of the Bible is simply the warning to repent of your sins and to put your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

In Luke 17, Jesus spoke about what our world would be like at the time of his return. He said, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-27)

So, business as usual. The world hasn’t changed a whole lot since Noah’s day, has it? People are still eating, drinking, marrying, and going on with their lives as if there was no end in sight, as if there was no judgment coming.

But God has warned us! And God has given us instructions on how we may escape the coming day of judgment through Christ. Heeding God’s warning will bring you great benefit in this life and the next.

CONCLUSION: As we finish up this morning, I want to close with just a few comments about Noah’s ark itself. In many ways Noah’s ark serves as a type or a foreshadowing of Christ. I like how author Peter Lewis draws out some of the comparisons between Jesus and the ark in his book, God’s Hall of Fame. He writes:

“Christ Jesus is our ark now: big enough for the whole world, strong enough to withstand the shocks of life, the rising waters of death, and the upheavals of the last judgment. There is safety here in the Son of God, sent to be for us all the shelter, the salvation, that we so desperately needed; our ark and safe passage into the new world God has planned. From that ark we will emerge to inherit a new heaven and a new earth.” (Peter Lewis)

Noah and his family were saved in the ark. Today, our salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

If you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your savior, will you heed God’s warning concerning sin and final judgment and put your faith in Christ today?

If you are already a believer in Jesus Christ this morning, then let me remind you that all of God’s warnings in Scripture are meant for your good. Are you taking appropriate action in light of God’s warnings, or are you ignoring them to your own harm?

Yes, heeding God’s warnings will make you stand out from the crowd, and that is never easy. It takes faith. It takes a right attitude before God. But it will bring you great benefit, both in this life and the next. By faith Noah built the ark. What is God asking you to do by faith today?

© Ray Fowler

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