Obedient Noah

Obedient Noah from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

I get to stay in some rather exotic hotels in my travels. I think my favourites would be the Paraa Safari Lodge at Murchison Falls in Northern Uganda, or the Jacir Palace in Bethlehem.  My most forgettable stay would have to be the Continental Inn, Bweyale in Uganda where running water and electricity are optional. I tend to rate hotels on the thickness of the towels, how often the sheets are changed and the quality of the toilet paper, if provided.

My most memorable stay must be the YMCA in Hong Kong. It doesn’t exactly look like a hotel. Overlooking Tsing Ma Bridge on Ma Wan Island, Noah’s Ark is the only life size replica in the world. More profitable that the nearby Disney World, Noah’s Ark has five levels including a bio-diversity and environmental centre, a museum exploring expeditions to find the original Noah’s Ark and when you are hungry, a restaurant. But on the top deck, above the animal quarters, is a hotel. Each room has a patio on the top deck that looks out over a biblical garden. Picture yourself building a boat the length of one and a half football fields and as high as a four-story building.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Noah and his Ark – probably too familiar and we lose sight of the challenge God gave him. The story of Noah’s life involves not one, but two great floods. The world in Noah’s day was flooded with evil. Eugene Paterson in the Message translates Genesis 6:5-7:

“God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil – evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart. God said “I’ll get rid of my ruined creation, make a clean sweep: people, animals, snakes and bugs, birds – the works. I’m sorry I made them.” (Genesis 6:5-7)

Of all God’s people, only Noah and his family were left. God’s response to the severe situation was a 120-year-long ‘last chance’, during which he had Noah build a graphic illustration of the message of his life. Nothing like a huge boat on dry land miles from the sea to make a point. Now let’s pause here and consider what is going on. God has informed Noah that He regrets having created mankind. As a result He is going to wipe mankind along with the animal kingdom off of the face of the earth. God then informs Noah that He is going to preserve He and his family if, and here’s where the vision begins, if Noah will build an ark 450’ long, 75’ wide and 45’ high.

Now why in the world would God ask anyone to build an enormous ship hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean? God was giving anyone who would pass by this unmistakable structure a second chance. When Noah’s neighbours took their dogs for a walk in the evening, as they passed by his house on the way to the golf club, as they returned from a hard day at the office, they had to make a choice.  Either they believed Noah’s message, that there was a God in heaven to whom they were accountable, or they believed Noah was a madman in need of their pity.  The replica in Hong Kong took 17 years, the services of a major Chinese construction company and significant investment from a couple of evangelical billionaires.

For Noah, on the other hand, obedience meant a long-term commitment to the project spanning 120 years. Many of us have trouble sticking to any project for more than a few weeks, whether or not it is directed by God. Isn’t it interesting that the length of Noah’s obedience was greater than our lifespan. The only comparable long-term project is our lives. But perhaps this is one great challenge Noah’s life gives us—to live, in gratitude of God’s grace, every day of our lives in full obedience to Him. How did Noah do it? Noah had received a vision of God’s character and therefore a mission for his life. God gave him a purpose for living. If we want to experience life as God intended, then we need to know why God has put us on this earth too. Vision gives us purpose. Vision drives us to persevere when life gets tough. Vision enables us to live with meaning and purpose whether the sun is shining or its raining cats and dogs.

Principles of Vision
1. A vision is a view of the future that already exists in God’s purposes but not yet on earth – Noah believed what God promised he would do.
2. A vision always brings change – Noah’s relatively happy, peaceful life was changed irrevocably.
3. A vision keeps you awake at night – its consequences will very likely outlast you.
4. A vision involves risk and will invite criticism – Noah was laughed at and ridiculed regularly.
God gave Noah a vision, a God-driven vision that gave him meaning and purpose and sustained him for 120 years.

What is your vision? If you are not sure, for Summer reading, I’d recommend John Ortberg’s new book, “The Me I want to be” or Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life.

God used Noah in a mighty way. Why? I invite you to observe four reasons God was able to use Noah – four ways Noah developed a sustainable vision that secured the future of humankind.

1. Noah Walked with God
First, we learn that in order to receive God’s Vision for our lives, we must walk with God. There is no substitute to a daily walk with God. Listen to how Genesis 6:9 puts it:
“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.” The message translates the verse like this:

“Noah was a good man, a man of integrity in his community. Noah walked with God.” Noah is one of only three, along with Job and Daniel, who are declared as righteousness in the Bible (Ezekiel 14:20). And Noah and Job were the only biblical characters who were known as blameless.

John Ortberg wrote a superb article in Leadership Journal recently, entitled “The “We” We Want to Be” . He says:

The number one “vision problem” with churches today is not (as is widely held) leaders who “lack a vision.”  The real problem is when our primary focus shifts from who God is (a vision that alone can lead to the peace of Christ reigning in our hearts) to what we are doing.”

He quotes Dallas Willard who put it like this:

“It all begins with a vision. A Francis of Assisi or a John Wesley is gripped by a vision that will not let them go. But it is not a vision of what they’re going to do. It is not a vision of a preferred future. It is not a vision of human activity. It is a vision of what already is. It is a vision of God, and how good he is, and how wonderful it is to be alive and a friend of such a Being.”

So here’s the rub. Don’t get me wrong – The primary vision God gave Noah was of himself – his character. God’s plan to save them from the judgement to come, and Noah’s role in achieving that, first and foremost flowed from his vision of God.

It was his knowledge of who God is that gave Noah the stamina and motivation to please God and obey him.  It is not easy to maintain integrity, character and uprightness when people, the society, and even your family are surrounded, seduced and shaped by evil. But it is possible when you walk with God.  Three centuries ago, Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), who single-handedly influenced the Great Awakening, wrote a list of 70 resolutions over two years, in his own words, ‘to fight against the world, the flesh and the devil to the end of my life” Here are his 10 shortest resolutions:

(1) Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
(2) Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
(3) Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
(4) Resolved, to be endeavouring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.
(5) Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.
(6) Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.
(7) Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
(8) Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.
(9) Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find to abate my assurance.
(10) Resolved, never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity (truth).

How old was Jonathan when he wrote his 70 resolutions?

He was 19. The revival would occur twelve years later.
If you want a God-given vision you need to walk with God blamelessly and with integrity. Noah walked with God.

2. Noah Obeyed God
Second, we learn that when God gives someone a vision, he requires obedience to fulfil it. “And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him” (Genesis 7:5)

God wanted to use Noah to preserve the human race. He wanted Noah to build an ark and gave Noah specific dimensions. God then gave Noah specific instructions regarding animals and provisions. And, finally, God gave Noah specific instructions on when to enter and when to exit the Ark. God’s word is very specific about how we should live and what our priorities should be. God’s Spirit makes God’s word personal. God has created each of us uniquely, he has wired us differently – what we have in common is a God-given gift set with talents and abilities he wants us to use for him. If you want a God-given vision you’ve got to walk with God and obey God’s word.

3. Noah Trusted in God
Third, we learn that when God gives us a vision, He also empowers & equips us to see the vision through to completion. Noah had plenty of reasons to doubt. Noah had never seen rain. (Genesis 2:5-6 tells us that God watered the earth from underneath). Noah lived a long way from the sea. Noah had no experience of caring for large numbers of animals. Can you identify with Noah? Feel like you are being asked to do things beyond your experience? Beyond your comfort zone? Are there areas of your life where you need to trust God’s word, even though you cannot understand his reasons or comprehend his motives? “Trusting is an act of worship. Just as parents are pleased when children trust their love and wisdom” trusting God makes him happy” Also.  Isn’t it interesting that just before the writer to the Hebrews mentions Noah, he says “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6). The next verses reads, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” (Hebrews 11:7).

God smiled because Noah trusted him completely. Noah was not completely alone in his mission. He had three sons to help him, along with his wife and daughters-in-law. Most significantly, God Himself, will use His own power to make things happen. Remember who brought the animals to Noah? “Pairs of… animals… came to Noah and entered the ark.” (Genesis 7:8-9). The animals came to Noah.

Who shut the door after they had entered the ark? Genesis 7:16 says: “the Lord shut him in.” (Genesis 7:16). If you want a God-given, God-driven vision you must walk with God, obey God and trust God. Trust God with the future.

4. Noah was Sustained by God
Fourth, we learn that when God gives us a vision, He will sustain us throughout to its realisation. Noah and his family were in the ark along with the animals and birds for months. Can you imagine being cooped up with all those animals? Feeding them must have consumed most of their day, not to mention dealing with the waste products.

“But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water receded.” (Genesis 8:1).

Noah had a God-given, God driven vision that motivated him for 120 years and saved the world from extinction, humanly speaking, because he walked with God, because he obeyed God, because he trusted in God and above all, because God sustained him.  So what about us? The latest block-buster disaster movie 2012, with its Noah-like ending, just as much as previous movies like, “The Day after Tomorrow” and “An Inconvenient Truth” portray a bleak future.

What kind of Church family do we need to become to be ready for the challenges and opportunities that lie in the future?

In our Bible reading from 2 Peter we learn that our day is not very different from Noah’s:

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare…That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. (2 Peter 3:3-12)

God is going to cleanse this earth, he will purify it with fire.

5. How Then Should we Live?
“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?” (2 Peter 3:11)

5.1 Do not be afraid

“you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.” (2 Peter 3:3)

5.2 Tell others about Jesus
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

5.3 Live holy lives
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Peter 3:14)

5.4 Look forward to His coming
“You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” (2 Peter 3:12)

Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus.