Little is told us of the parentage of Noah, yet sufficient is revealed to indicate that he was the descendant of believing ancestors and the child of a God-fearing father. Noah was the grandson of Methuselah, and the great grandson of Enoch who was translated to heaven. The name of his father was Lamech, and on the birth of his son we are told that "he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed" (Gen. 5:29). That Lamech was a man of faith appears from the fact that he attributed his "toil" and the condition of the ground to the Lord's "curse." Further, it seems as though God had revealed to him something of His future purposes in connection with Noah in that he looked on him as one that was to bring "comfort" or "rest."
The times in which Noah lived and the condition of the world then serve as a dark background to bring out in vivid relief the faith and righteousness of the one who was "perfect in his generations" and "walked with God." "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 man" (Gen. 6:5-7). What a terrible scene was here spread before the all-seeing eye of God, and how startling the contrast between it and the one on which He had looked at the close of the six days' work! There we are told, "God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). But here, the next time we read that "God saw" we are told that "the wickedness of man was great in the earth." How awful is sin, and how fearful its course when unrestrained by God!
But there is another, and a blessed contrast here, too. After we read of the greatness of man's wickedness and the consequent grief of God's heart, we are told, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen. 6:8). There was an oasis in the midst of the dreary desert, an oasis which the grace of God had prepared, and on which His eyes dwelt. When beholding the wicked we read only that God "saw," but when Noah is in view the "eyes of the Lord" are mentioned. A look at the former was sufficient; but something more definite and protracted greeted the latter. Before we study the Character of Noah, a word first on the one following the last quoted.
"These are the generations of Noah" (Gen. 6:9). Here a new section of Genesis commences. The Chronology of Genesis having been brought up to Noah's day in Genesis 5, the opening verses of Genesis 6 look backward not forward, giving us the history of the world and describing the character of mankind in the days which preceded the Flood. Verses 5 to 8 of Genesis 6 close the second main division of the book. Each new division opens with the words "These are the generations of," see Genesis 2:4; 5:1; 6:9, etc. The thought to which we would now call attention is that each of these divisions ends (we use the word relatively) with a picture that portrays the effects and results of sin. The first division (the concluding verses of Genesis 4, closes with the record of Abel's murder by Cain, and of Lamech's glorying over a young man whom he had slain. The second division closes (Gen. 6:1-8) with God looking down on the wickedness of the Antediluvians. The third division closes (Gen. 9:20-29) with the sad scene of Noah's drunkenness, the curse pronounced on a part of his descendants, and the patriarch's death. The fourth division closes (Gen. 11:1-9) by bringing before us the overthrow of the Tower of Babel. The fifth division closes (Gen. 11:10-26) with the births, ages, and deaths of Shem's descendants. The sixth division closes (Gen. 11:31, 32) with the death of Terah. The seventh division closes (Gen. 25:10, 11) with the burial of Abraham. The eighth division closes (Gen. 25:18) with the death of Ishmael. The ninth division closes (Gen. 35:29) with the death of Isaac. The tenth division closes (Gen. 36:8) with the departure of Esau from the promised land, the birthright to which he had sold for a mess of pottage. The eleventh division closes (Gen. 36) with a list of the descendants of Esau, and significantly ends with the words, "He is Esau the father of the Edomites." While the last division closes (Gen. 1:26) with the death of Joseph.
"But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen. 6:8). This is the first thing that is told us about Noah. Grace is the foundation of every life that is well-pleasing to God. Grace is the source from which issues every blessing we receive. It was the grace of God and not the graces of Noah which preserved him from a watery grave. Is it not beautiful to note that it is here this precious word "grace" is seen for the first time in God's Word! It was when the sin of the creature had reached its climax that Grace was exercised and displayed, as if to teach us from the onset, that it is nothing within man which calls forth the bestowment of Divine favors.
When God 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," it seemed as if He was about to make an end of the entire race. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. He was as a lily among the thorns, whose godly walk would appear the lovelier from contrast with that of the world about him. Humanly speaking it has never been an easy matter for the believer to live that life that brings glory to God, not even when he receives encouragement from fellow-saints. But here was a man living in a world of wickedness, where "all flesh had corrupted his way on the earth." Here was a man who was compelled to set his face against the whole current of public opinion and conduct. What a testimony to the sufficiency and keeping power of Divine grace!
The character of Noah is described in Genesis 6:9 where three things are told us about him: "Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God." first, he was "just." He is the first man so called, though not the first man who was so. The meritorious ground of justification is the Blood of Christ (Rom. 5:9); the instrumental cause is faith (Rom. 5:1). The just shall live by faith, hence we find Noah among the fifteen believers mentioned in the great faith chapter (Heb. 11). The faith by which Noah was justified before God was evidenced by him being" moved with fear" and in his obedience to the Divine command to build the ark. Second, he was "perfect in his generations." Here the reference seems to point to Noah and his family having kept themselves separate from the moral evil around them and preserved themselves from contact with the Nephilim. The Hebrew word is "tamim" and is elsewhere translated in the Old Testament "without blemish" forty-four times. It is probably the word from which our English "contaminated" springs. Noah was uncontaminated in his generations. Third, he "walked with God." It is only as we walk with Him that we are kept from the evil around us.
The faith of Noah is described in 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 which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." In this remarkable verse, remarkable for its fullness and terseness, seven things are told us about Noah's faith, each of which we do well to ponder. The first thing we learn here of Noah's faith is its ground, namely, God's Word—"being warned of God." The ground of all faith which is acceptable to God is that which rests neither on feelings nor fancy, but on the naked Word. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). Simon and his partners had fished from sunset to sunrise and their labors had been in vain. The Lord entered their ship and said, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught," and Simon replied, "Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down the net" (Luke 5:4, 5). Once again: for many days the ship in which the apostle was journeying to Italy battled with stormy seas, until all hope that he and his fellow passengers should be saved had disappeared. Then it was, when everything to the outward eye seemed to contradict, that Paul stood forth and said, "Sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me" (Acts 27:25). A faith that does not rest upon the written word is mere credulity.
The second thing mentioned in connection with Noah's faith is its sphere. His faith laid hold of things "not seen as yet," that is, of things which pertained to the realm of the unseen. Believers walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). As Noah labored at the building of the ark, doubtless, the world looked upon him as an enthusiastic fanatic, as one who was putting himself to a great deal of needless trouble. What was there to portend such a calamity as the Deluge? Nothing at all. All things continued as they were from the beginning of creation. History furnished no analogy whatever. Not only had there never been any previous flood, but even rain was then unknown. What then could induce Noah to act in the way he did? Nothing but the testimony of God. Here then is an exemplification and demonstration of the nature of faith. Faith is the eye of the spirit. It is that which visualizes the unseen; it is that which gives tangibility to the invisible; it is that which makes substantial the things hoped for.
In the third place we learn here of the character of Noah's faith—it was "moved with fear." Faith not only relies upon the precious promises of God, but it also believes His solemn threatenings. As the beloved Spurgeon said, "He who does not believe that God will punish sin, will not believe that He will pardon it through the atoning blood. He who does not believe that God will cast unbelievers into hell, will not be sure that He will take believers to heaven. If we doubt God's Word about one thing, we shall have small confidence in it upon another thing. Since faith in God must treat all God's Word alike; for the faith which accepts one word of God, and rejects another, is evidently not faith in God, but faith in our own judgment, faith in our own taste." Noah had received from God a gracious promise, but he had also been warned of a coming judgment which should destroy all living things with a flood, and his faith believed both the promise and the warning. Again, we need the admonition of Mr. Spurgeon —"I charge you who profess to be the Lord's, not to be unbelieving with regard to the terrible threatenings of God to the ungodly. Believe the threat, even though it should chill your blood; believe, though nature shrinks from the overwhelming doom, for, if you do not believe, the act of disbelieving God about one point will drive you to disbelieve Him upon the other parts of revealed truth, and you will never come to that true, childlike faith which God will accept and honor."
Fourth, we see the evidence of Noah's faith he "prepared an ark." "Faith, if it hath not works is dead, being by itself" (Jam. 2:17), which means, it is a lifeless faith, a merely nominal faith, and not the "faith of God's elect" (Titus 1:1). To the same effect: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works" (Jam. 2:14). The Apostle Paul writes of the justification of believing sinners; James writes of the justification of faith itself, or rather, the claim to be in possession of faith. I profess to be a believer, how shall I justify my claim? By my works, my walk, my witness for God. Read through Hebrews 11 and it will be seen that in every case recorded there, faith was evidenced by works. Abel had faith. How did he display it? By presenting to God the Divinely preserved sacrifice. Enoch had faith. How did he manifest it? By walking with God. Noah had faith. How did he evidence it? By preparing the ark. And mark this also—faith expresses itself in that which costs its possessor something! The preparing of the ark was no small undertaking. It was not only a very laborious and protracted task, but it must have been a very expensive one, too. It has ever been thus; Abraham was the father of the faithful, and his faith found expression and resulted in that which meant personal sacrifice. To Abraham it meant leaving home, kindred and country, and subsequently the offering up of his well beloved son on the altar of sacrifice. What is it costing you to express your faith? A faith that does not issue in that which is costly is not worth much.
Fifth, we see the issue of Noah's faith—Noah "prepared an ark to the saving of his house." God always honors real faith in Him. The particular issue of Noah's faith deserves prayerful consideration. While it is true that there is no such thing as salvation by proxy, that no parent can believe to the saving of his child's soul, yet, Scripture furnishes many examples of God's blessings coming upon those who exercised no faith themselves on account of the faith of others. Because Abraham exercised faith, God gave to his seed the land of Palestine. Because Rahab believed the report of the spies, her whole household was preserved from destruction. Coming to the New Testament, we remember such cases as the man sick of the palsy, who was brought to the Lord Jesus by others—"And Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy: Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee" (Matthew 8:2). Because of the nobleman's faith, his servant was healed. Because of the Canaanitish woman's faith, her daughter was made whole. Noah's faith then issued in the temporal salvation of "his house." Is not this written for our learning? Is there no word of encouragement here for believing parents today who have unsaved children? Do we remember the word spoken to the Philippian jailor—"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house"—do we appropriate it and plead it before God?
Sixth, we learn of the witness of Noah's faith—"by which he condemned the world." In considering this clause we would first inquire into the nature of faith. What is faith? In Romans 14:23, we read, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Faith is the opposite of sin. What then is sin? The divinely inspired answer is found in 1 John 3:4 "Sin is lawlessness" (R. V.). Sin is more than an act, it is an attitude. Sin is rebellion against God's government, a defiance of His authority. Sin is spiritual anarchy. Sin is the exercise of self-will, self-assertion, self-independency. God says, "Thou shalt," and I don't; what is that but me saying "I won't!" God says "Thou shalt not," and I do; what is that but me saying, "I will!" But faith is in every respect the antithesis of sin. Faith is also more than an act, it is an attitude. Faith is submission to God's government, a yielding to His authority, a compliance with His revealed will. Faith in God is a coming to the end of myself. Faith is the spirit of entire dependency on God. There is a great gulf then separating between those who are members of the household of faith and those who are the children of the wicked one. We walk by faith, they by sight; we live for God's glory, they for self-gratification; we live for eternity, they for time. And every Christian who is walking by faith, necessarily condemns the world. His conduct is a silent rebuke upon the course followed by the ungodly. His life is a witness against their sin.
Finally, we learn here the reward of Noah's faith—he "became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." Faith brings a present blessing: it wins God's smile of approval, fills the heart with peace, oils the machinery of life, and makes "all things" possible. But the grand reward of faith is not received in this life. The inheritance into which faith conducts us is not possessed here and now. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob never did anything more than "sojourn in the land of promise." The children of God are "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ," but the entering into their inheritance is yet future—we do not say the enjoyment of it, for faith appropriates it and revels in it even now. The Son Himself has been "appointed heir of all things" (Heb. 1:2), and it is not until He enters into His possessions that we shall share them with Him. Meanwhile, we are, with Noah, "heirs of the righteousness which is by faith."