A grandchild sitting on her grandfather’s lap listening to the Bible story of Noah’s Ark, asked "Were you in the Ark, grandpa?" He chuckled and replied, "Why, no I wasn’t." There was a pause, and the child looked up at him quizzically and asked, "Then why weren’t you drowned?"
Someone once wrote an article that said, “Everything I need to know about life I learned from Noah’s Ark.” Here are the 11 things the author had learned: 1. Don’t miss the boat. 2. Remember that we are all in the same boat. 3. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark. 4. Stay fit. When you are 500 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big. The corollary to that is that in God not in the retirement market! 5. Don’t listen to critics, just get the job done. 6. Build your future on high ground. 7. For safety’s sake, travel in pairs. 8. Speed isn’t always an advantage, the snails were on board with the cheetahs. 9. When you stressed, float a while. 10. Remember the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic was built by professionals. 11. No matter the storm, when you’re with God there’s always a rainbow waiting.
A couple of weeks ago I began a series entitled “A walk through Genesis.” We looked first at the story of the first sin and we learned that Satan doesn’t always come at us like a roaring lion. Sometimes he comes to us as a very subtle, cunning snake, or even an angel of light. We learned that sometimes his strategy is not to jump all over you, but to very patiently draw you into doubting and mistrusting God and to make sin look very attractive and innocent. That was the first lesson we’ve learned so far.
One of the most widely known stories of Scripture is the story we’re going to look at tonight. Even people who have never read a verse of Scripture have heard the story of Noah’s Ark. It ranks right up there with David and Goliath, Daniel and the lion’s den, and the three Hebrew children. It’s one of the all-time favorites of many children. There’s something neat about an old man who built a huge ship on dry ground to house two of every kind of animal in preparation for the greatest rain storm ever seen. There’s something spectacular about that. There’s something memorable about “40 days and 40 nights.” There’s something about a ship that landed on the top of a mountain that sticks in your mind. It’s a great story of Scripture.
The good thing is that this story isn’t just a story. It’s not just some made up fairy tale. And it’s isn’t a nice little legend to tell the kids. The story of Noah’s Ark is completely true. And it is a story that has a lesson for adults. In fact, I believe there are several lessons that we can learn from the story, not the least of which is the lesson of complete obedience. Can you imagine being 500 years old and hearing God say, “OK, get up and build a boat. I know there is no water anywhere near here, but it’s going to rain. I know you’ve never seen rain before, but there’s going to be a lot of it.” Most of us would be like what Bill Cosby said… “Yeah.” Another lesson we could gather is that of complete faith. Can you imagine not only agreeing to build a boat at the age of 500, but also continuing to build that boat for 100 years in the midst of ridicule and scoffing? “What are you building a boat for fool? There’s no water. Rain? What’s rain? You think that thing is going to keep you safe from a bunch of water that’s supposed to flood the whole world? Yeah.” Noah was a great man of obedience and faith.
But this evening I’m not going to direct our focus to those things about this story. But I want to direct your attention to one short verse towards the beginning of this whole story. And I want to talk about an aspect of this story that maybe we haven’t said a whole lot about when it comes to Noah’s ark. I want you to look at Gen. 6:9. Here, I believe, is a verse that summarizes what Noah is all about. Let me read it to you. Starting in the middle of the verse it reads: “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.”
There are three things in this verse that tell us a great deal about Noah. And in this short, little sentence I believe we can gain a deeper understanding of how we should live.
I. Noah’s Commendation
First of all, I believe this verse shows us Noah’s commendation. It tells us that Noah was a just man. Did you realize that Noah was the only figure in the entire Old Testament to be referred to as a just man? Obviously, there were many others who were. But I think it’s quite interesting that Noah’s the only one referred to as just. Noah was also called a perfect man. That’s quite a compliment. That’s quite a commendation.
Now, I don’t want to open a can of Christian perfection worms; that’s for another time and sermon, sermon series probably; but what does it mean that he was just and perfect? Does that mean that he had achieved a level of never failing? Does it mean that he was completely faultless? Does it mean that he never sinned? No, it doesn’t mean that. For since the fall of Adam there has only been One who was completely faultless; only One who was unfailing; only One who never sinned, and that was Jesus Christ. Noah was human. He wasn’t mistake free, and I have no doubts that he had committed sin at some point in his life.
You know, in our holiness circles where we believe that a person can and should live above sin (and, just so you know, that is a doctrine I believe firmly in), but I think it’s easy for people who just get saved to have false expectations. There are a lot of young Christians who get awfully discouraged spiritually and are maybe even tempted to quit trying to be a Christian all because they have this faulty notion in their minds that once they get saved they are all the sudden going to be perfect. They think that once they’ve been saved they’ll never have to struggle with sin again. They think that since they’ve been saved they are beyond Satan’s reach. They’ll never have to worry about falling or failing again. And that’s a completely false notion. I think there are even those who are seeking entire sanctification or have been entirely sanctified who feel that they won’t even have to worry about being tempted anymore.
But those are completely wrong ideas. Getting saved, or sanctified for that matter, doesn’t make you infallible; it doesn’t make you untouchable; it doesn’t make you incapable of sinning again. You are not made perfect in the sense that you are unbreakable now. You are not made just in the sense that you are completely faultless.
So, what does it mean to be just and perfect? Well, to be just in the sense that Noah was is to be lawful, right, correct; or righteous in your conduct or character. John Wesley said that Noah had right dispositions and principles implanted in him. He was righteous in his lifestyle. He was an upright and blameless man. He was perfect in the sense that he was sincere in his desire and in his efforts to please God. He was perfect in the sense that he loved God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength; and he loved his neighbor as himself. And as we talked about this morning, he allowed that love to direct his conduct.
Now that’s one commendation I want to receive. I want to be known as a man who loves perfectly; who may have slipped up at times, and who may not have achieved complete perfection; but who always loved God completely and loved my neighbor selflessly, and who always let my life be directed by that love. That’s the kind of commendation I want to receive when I stand before God at the last day. That was Noah’s commendation.
II. Noah’s Challenge
But not only do we see Noah’s commendation, we see his challenge as well. For that verse says that he was perfect in his generations. Now, I don’t know if you remember a lot about Noah’s generation, but it was not a good one. In fact, it was a wicked one. Let me just tell you how wicked it was by reading you the verses prior to our text. Verses 5-7…
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. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
Noah was living in an evil day. So you’d better believe it was a challenge for him to be an upright man when he was the only one to be that way. He had no benefits of going to church. He had no Christian fellowship to enjoy. He had no accountability or prayer partners. He had no BYF get-togethers to enjoy. He was the only one who was serving God, he and his family. There was no one else. You think that was easy? No way. Do you think he had no temptation to give up and just be like everyone else? Absolutely. Have you ever heard of peer pressure?
You know, psychology books are filled with studies that demonstrate the power of peer pressure. One classic study that I think really illustrates my point involved a classroom of teenagers. On the board in the front of the class were three charts with a series of lines of varying lengths on each. The teacher instructed the students to each raise his or her hand when he pointed to the longest line on each chart. What one student didn’t know was that the other nine had been instructed ahead of time to raise their hands for the next to the longest line.
When the teacher pointed to the shorter line and nine students raised their hands choosing it as the longest line, the lone student would glance around, put his or her head down, and most of the time he would reluctantly raise his hand, even though it was obviously the wrong choice. The same result happened about seventy-five percent of the time. It was the same with young children or other teenagers.
Peer pressure is a real thing. We don’t like to be the only ones who do something or don’t do something. And I think we’re dead wrong if we think that teenagers are the only ones who are susceptible. Granted, older folks sometimes have a high enough level of commitment that they are willing to tough it out. But I don’t think it’s easy for anyone. But Noah stood alone. In a world of wickedness, he stood as the only righteous man.
Again, John Wesley said, “It is easy to be religious when religion is in fashion; but it is an evidence of strong faith to swim against the stream, and to appear for God, when no one else appears for him.” How right he was. But the thing of it is, I believe sometimes we find it hard enough to stand up for our faith when we do have many others to stand with us. How many times have you been disappointed with yourself because you didn’t take a stand like you should have because you didn’t really want to look silly or to cause a controversy or whatever the reason may have been? We find it hard to stand sometimes, and we have many Christians surrounding us. But Noah had no one. That was his challenge. He was a just man. And he was the only just man in his entire generation.
III. Noah’s Characteristic
So how did he do it? What was the trick to his ability to stand when no one else was? I believe the answer to that question can be found in the last part of this verse in what I’m calling Noah’s characteristic. The last words of Gen. 6:9 say, “Noah walked with God.” The secret to Noah’s ability to stand blamelessly in a generation of wickedness can be summed up in those four words. He walked with God. His secret was found in his living relationship with God.
Do you want to know how you can live pleasing to God is such a wicked society as ours? Do you want to know the secret to walking blamelessly before God in a time such as this? Do you want to know how to be successful in your attempt to be found perfect in the sight of God? The secret is found in your communion with God. If you are ashamed of the way you have backed down from your call to be a witness; if you are wondering why you aren’t just struggling with temptation, but you find yourself consistently failing; if you can’t figure out why it’s so hard for you to be a Christian, ask yourself this question: Am I walking with God?
A relationship is something that takes time. It’s something that takes energy. If I really want to please my wife then I have to be willing to spend time with her each day and I must be willing to make the effort to find out what she would like from me. If I don’t spend time with her, if I don’t do what it takes to know her, then I am going to find myself wondering a lot about how I can make her happy. But if I do spend time with her and I am walking with her then I am doing what it takes to know her and I don’t have to wonder near as much. If I’m not building a relationship with her, it’s no wonder I don’t know what she expects and it’s no wonder that I’m not being a very satisfactory husband. The only way I can be a good husband is to walk with her.
And it’s the same thing with God. If we aren’t taking the time and putting in the effort that is necessary to know God then we will, no doubt, find ourselves coming up short of His expectations. If we aren’t building a relationship with Him then it’s no wonder we aren’t living blamelessly before Him and it’s no wonder that we aren’t standing for Him like we should. If we aren’t walking with Him it’s no wonder that we find it difficult to maintain our spiritual footing, it’s no wonder that we find it easy to fall.
You see, it’s in walking with God that we find our power; the power to overcome temptation, the power to do what God wants us to do, the power to stand in an unholy age. It’s in walking with God that we find our direction. It’s in walking with God that we find our purpose. It’s in walking with God that we find our safety.
Think about it, if Noah hadn’t been walking with God, he wouldn’t have recognized God’s voice telling him to build an ark. And as a direct result of that he would have perished with the rest of the world in the flood. But he had walked with God, and he had recognized God’s voice, and as a result he and his entire family was saved. There’s safety in walking with God.
The secret to our spiritual success; the secret to our being commended by God; the secret to our fulfilling God’s plan for us; the secret for our ability to stand in the midst of wickedness is found in walking with God. Noah walked with God.
This evening, I want to be someone of whom, when my life story is written, the author is able to say, “Ben was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Ben walked with God.” That’s the way I want to live my life. That’s how I want to be remembered.