Noah - The Preacher of Righteousness        

A Sermon

Noah and the Ark is not just a funny Sunday-School story, "The animals went in two by twosy ..."!
We should not be surprised that God included it in the Bible to say something vitally important.
What does he say?   And Why?  
What did God see in the world that so concerned him?

Wickedness and Violence.
      "The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become,
       and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time."   (Gen 65)
James asks why.
       "What causes fights and quarrels among you? ...
        You want something but don't get it. (So) you kill and covet ..."  (James 41,2)
Doesn't this reveal the truth about the natural heart of all men and women.
Aren't most wars about trying to take by force something that belongs to someone else.
Every year we want and expect more and more. It's our right!
Today's economy is built on ever increasing consumption, and debt.

"The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose."  (Gen 62)
Sex has always been popular, but they and we are obsessed with it!
25% of all babies born are illegitimate.
25% of babies conceived are killed by abortion.

Embezzlement, false appearance c.f. truth, honesty, reality.
O that there were more men like Nathaniel whom Jesus described as a 'man without guile'.
Many smile and pretend that all is well.  
Packaging is designed to deceive.  UK advertising in 1989 = £7,340 million.

So we see that today's wickedness is "As it was in the days of Noah".   Just as Jesus said it would be!
But what was God doing?  Did it concern him?
The Bible tells us ...
      "The Lord was grieved ... and his heart was filled with pain."   (Gen 65,6)
God was weeping.
We don't often think of God, the Almighty God, the Lord of Glory, weeping.
But he was.
On earth no one saw it. And no one really cared!  Except one man - Noah.
Tonight what fills our hearts?   Do we ever weep with God?   Do we care?

This man Noah was different from all others.
       "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God."   (Gen 69)
In the previous verse it says that 'Noah found favour with God.'   
How? How can anyone please God?
First let it be clearly stated that Noah was not righteous because he was obedient.
       He was obedient because he was righteous.
Noah hated the wickedness in the world and in himself.
He knew he was a "ratbag" - do you?
With regret I am still a ratbag - some of you may have noticed!
Occasionally my good wife tells me so - and she is right.
Noah cried out to God, as Paul would do years later:
"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. ...
What a wretched man I am! (not was, please note!)
Who will rescue me from this body of death?"   (Ro 715,18,19)
Jesus Christ!
He, and he alone will continue this rescue operation until the day I die.
I look to the day of Jesus when he died and triumphed at Calvary;
      on him alone rests my hope for forgiveness and salvation.
Noah also looked to the day of Jesus Christ.
He looked forward in faith just as we look back.
We each hear the word of God, "Your faith has saved you - go in peace."
Noah was made righteous by the blood of Jesus, and as he walked with God, he cried,
      "O to grace how great a debtor
       Daily I'm constrained to be."
But there was something else that made him weep: the great wickedness that surrounded him everywhere he looked.

He did not know what to do, but God revealed his plan to Noah's aching heart.
He would destroy all the earth by a flood!
So Noah, you must build a boat, a big boat - 150m long, 25m wide and 15m high.
And Noah set to work - no design office, no timber mills or chain saws.
No sheet metal or welding, not even any nails!
If the planking were made from tree trunks 18m long and 1/3m diameter,
      then split in two, it would require >1000 trees.
      That is one tree every 2 weeks for half of the 100 years it took to build.

Noah stuck to the task God had set him.
No doubt he was ridiculed, but that did not discourage this "preacher of righteousness."
      For that is how Peter describes him.  (2 Pe 25)
But when he preached no one raised their hands.
No one came forward. No one cared.
They were all too busy enjoying themselves, eating and drinking.
Making their homes more comfortable.
Creating bigger and better self-images.
But the ark gradually neared completion.

And the days for Noah's greatest sermon were about to begin.
Like the dumb Ezekiel in Babylon who would much later preach
for over a year using a model of Jerusalem.
Noah's sermon wasn't a few minutes on Sunday affair.
It went on for weeks, months.
Noah built a fire under a large clay pot he had made.
He filled it with some local tar, for God had told him to "pitch it inside and outside with pitch"
Remember that the size of the ark was some 150m x 25m x 15m
        i.e. like a row of 30 terraced houses each 5 stories high!
The Noah's of this world, "don't spoil the ship for a ha'peth of tar!"
Each day he would tar a bit more.
First all the inside and then all the outside.
Day after day exactly as God had told him.

By the way don't ever think we are superior to men of the O.T.
"Poor chaps. They didn't know anything of Jesus nor the Holy Spirit."
Wrong, so very, very wrong!
Read Heb 11 and see how God honoured the men and women of faith.
They trusted his covenant to redeem, atone, forgive and make righteous.
And many heard God far more distinctly then we seem to!
For "Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord ... he did everything just as God commanded him."  (Gen 68,22)
Noah pitched the ark "inside and out with pitch".
And he preached righteousness to the men who mocked him.
"This tar," he cried, "is the very life blood of God."
"You're mad", they said.
"This tar will save me," Noah cried again, "It purges me from all sin.
It enables me now to walk with God. I tried and I failed, again and again,
       but God has provided this tar for atonement and to make even me righteous!"

Do you think I am mad?
Is this just my fanciful make-believe?   No way!
God specifically instructed Noah to use pitch.
But the Hebrew word 'Kaphar', translated as pitch here is used 88 times in the Old Testament.
       And on every other occasion it is always translated as atonement, forgiveness, pardon, cleansing etc
God told Noah, "Coat it inside and out with pitch, with atonement."
Noah had obeyed. The pitch represented the atonement of God.
Never would there be a more practical example of salvation.
The Ark covered with pitch would save Noah and his family from certain and deserved death.
Yes, Noah understood God's instructions.
He was so right when he said that the ark was his salvation
       that it was covered with God's atonement - the blood of Jesus.

Some might say Noah built the ark in blind obedience.
He couldn't have understood what he doing.
But Heb 117 says,
      "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."
God had told Noah what he was about to do, and how he would be saved.
Noah was wise and he obeyed.
How many respond to the warnings of God today?
How many earnestly seek Jesus Christ,
       the only one who can and will delight in saving all who call upon him.

And God said, "I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark ..."   (Gen 618)
It is the same covenant relationship that we enter by faith in the atonement of Christ.
The main difference is that while we look back in time and remember,
       Noah had to look forward to the day of Christ.
Naturally he didn't know that it would be the Romans who would execute a man called Jesus.
He wouldn't have known that they would use a cross to crucify him.
But like Abraham, and many others, he knew that one day, "God would provide an offering for sin."

Many men today know that there was once a man called Jesus, but they are not saved!
Knowledge of a few facts never saved anyone.
It is crying to God for undeserved mercy that saves - and Noah cried.
It is faith in Jesus Christ, God's provision for forgiveness that saves.
And Noah built the ark by faith and covered it with God's atonement.
It is not the man who says, "I thank God that I am not like other men, I decided to follow Jesus years ago,"
       but the man who cries,
"God me merciful to me a sinner" who is saved, and who goes on being saved.

Now the ark was pitched inside as well as outside.
The outside was for all to see that Noah was saved not by being righteous, but by the Atonement of God.
      It was a witness to the ungodly.
The inside was so that he might have the assurance of salvation.
It was a constant reminder of the new life that God had graciously given him.
      For God had created in him a new clean heart.
      The part which no one else sees - his inmost thoughts, and that too was covered with atonement and made righteous.
It is vital to know what God thinks of us, as well as what we think of him.
All the time Noah was in the Ark he needed the atonement.
His righteousness did not depend upon a decision to build the Ark years ago, but on the continuing abundant grace of God.
Every day as he walked with God and worked, he needed grace and mercy.
      Ratbags need daily atonement.

The baby Moses was laid in an ark by his mother.
That ark (or basket) was also covered with pitch.
But it is an entirely different Hebrew word = asphalt, tar.
Some 80 years later, Moses would also obey God and instigate the Passover;
       when the lintel and door posts would be covered with atonement.
He used the blood of a lamb, instead of pitch.
The blood of Christ, the Lamb of God.
Yes, Moses would also preach righteousness;
      God's righteousness, supplied by God and applied by men.

Methuselah, who was Noah's grandfather was a preacher too.
He preached the longest sermon ever.
Methuselah means "In the day that I die it shall happen."
He lived for 969 years and died in the same year as Noah completed the ark.
The same year that God sent the flood to destroy the earth.
Every day of his life his name preached both God's grace and his judgement.
Every day that men either heard or spoke his name - God warned them,
"In the day that I die it shall happen" - but no one cared!
God warned them of the coming judgement for 969 years.
Such was his patience that he gave men every opportunity to repent.
But eventually the day came when Methuselah died - and then it happened.
The earth and all except Noah and his family, were destroyed.
God kept his word!
The day of opportunity had passed.  And for the vast majority it was then too late!

In Gen 7 we are told about that last day when Noah entered the ark with all the animals - no small task!
And at the end of verse 16 it says, "Then the Lord shut him in."
Noah was shut in to the atonement of God.
What greater privilege can any man be given?
For us whom the Lord has called, what greater gift can we receive?

But just think what it was like for those who were shut out!
Shut out by God, not by men!
Men say today, "Surely God wouldn't do that - he doesn't want anyone to perish."
That is true, he doesn't want anyone to perish.
But it does not mean to say that a man cannot by his own choice be shut out.

Jesus himself speaks of the 10 virgins, 5 wise and 5 foolish.
They all wanted to come to the wedding feast - who doesn't!?
But when the time came, only 5 were ready.
Then the door was shut.
5 were inside. But 5 were left outside.
"Sir, Sir," they said, "Open the door for us."
But Christ, the Bridegroom replied, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you."
For some it was then too late.
Many intend to repent at the eleventh hour, but tragically they die at 10.30

In Noah's day "the Lord was grieved and his heart was filled with pain."
Today, the Lord is grieved with this nation.
He weeps for us as he wept over Jerusalem.
His heart agonizes at the proud stupidity of men.
Remember? It was just a few days before Jesus was to be crucified.
He was riding a donkey and all the people were praising him.
God rejoices in the praises of his children.
Some criticised, but Jesus responded, "If they do not rejoice, then even the stones will do so."
They were all singing and dancing.
But suddenly the triumphal procession halted.
The crowd went silent.
For Jesus was weeping - alone.
Not just the British, slight moistening of the eyes,
       but a Jewish face creased up and filled with tears that flowed like rivers.
Jesus was looking down at Jerusalem; and he saw her future.
      "O that this day you knew what makes for peace", he wept,
       but today it is hidden from your eyes."   (Lu 1942)

Jesus and his Father still weep today over the city of Jerusalem and over the world they created.
God has not ceased to care about his world; bout all the people he has made in his own image?
How much do you care about those who will be shut out?
Do you feel anything of the pain that today, fills the heart of God?
Does your life preach righteousness to an evil generation?

Or maybe you need covering inside and out with the atonement of God?
To be assured of his forgiveness?
Have you heard the warning and gracious offer of God to save you?
What will you do with the word that God has spoken to you?
Will it be stolen?
Will it wither by neglect?  -  I must go and watch my favourite TV programme.
Will it be choked by the seemingly endless loads of washing or office work?
       or will it grow and bear much fruit?

Who cares ?
Who today will dare to ignore Jesus?
Who today will be a preacher of righteousness?
How blessed are the feet of them who bring good news!


Jesus! the name high over all,
In hell, or earth, or sky;
Angels and men before it fall,
And devils fear and fly.

Jesus! the name to sinners dear,
The name to sinners given;
It scatters all their guilty fear,
It turns their hell to heaven.

Jesus! the prisoner's fetters breaks,
And bruises Satan's head;
Power into strengthless souls it speaks
And life into the dead.

O that the world might taste and see
The riches of his grace;
The arms of love that compass me
Would all mankind embrace.

His only righteousness I show,
His saving grace proclaim;
'Tis all my business here below
To cry, "Behold the Lamb!"

Happy, if with my latest breath
I might but gasp his name;
Preach him to all, and cry in death,
"Behold, behold, the Lamb!"