Noah's Faith, Fear, Obedience, and Salvation
Written by: Spurgeon, C.H. Posted on: 03/31/2003
Noah's Faith, Fear, Obedience, and Salvation
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, June 1st, 1890,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"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 the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness
which is by faith."Hebrews 11:7.
THE APOSTLE COULD NOT AVOID mentioning Noah; for in him faith shone forth eminently. He has
placed him in due order of time after Abel and Enoch; but he had also another reason for the
arrangement. These three ancient believers are declared in Holy Writ to have pleased God. Of Abel, it is
said that God testified of his gifts. Enoch, before his translation, had this testimony, that he pleased God:
and Noah "found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Again, it was meet that Noah should follow close upon Enoch, as
one of two who are described as having "walked with God." "Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God
took him"; and we read in the sixth chapter of Genesis, verse eight, that Noah also "walked with God." These two
spent their lives in such constant communion with the Most High that they could be fully described as walking
with God. Oh, that we may, through almighty grace, be so pleasing unto the Lord that we may abide in fellowship
We may take pleasure in thinking of Noah as a kind of contrast to Enoch. Enoch was taken away from the
evil to come: he saw not the flood, nor heard the wailing of those who were swept away by the waterfloods. His
was a delightful deliverance from the harvest of wrath which followed the universal godlessness of the race. It was
not his to fight the battle of righteousness to the bitter end; but by a secret rapture he avoided death, and escaped
those evil days in which his grandson's lot was cast. Noah is the picture of one who is the Lord's witness during
evil days, and lives through them faithfully, enduring unto the end. It was his to be delivered from death by death.
The ark was, so to speak, a coffin to him: he entered it, and became a dead man to the old world; and within its
enclosure he was floated into a new world, to become the founder and father of a new race. As in the figure of
baptism we see life by burial, so was it with this chosen patriarch; he passed by burial in the ark into a new life. In
Enoch we see a type of those of God's people who will go home peacefully before the last closing struggle. Ere the
first clash of swords at Armageddon, such Enochs will be taken from the evil to come. But in Noah we see those
who will engage in the conflict, and bear themselves bravely amid backsliding and apostasy, until they shall see the
powers of evil trodden under their feet as straw is trodden for the dunghill. The fire-flood will devour the wicked,
and only the righteous shall inherit the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Let these few words stand as
the preface to my discourse; and now let us carefully consider Noah's faith, trusting that the Holy Spirit may bless
its teaching to our own souls.
I. First, notice that in Noah's case FAITH WAS THE FIRST PRINCIPLE. The text begins, "By faith Noah."
We shall have to speak about his fearbeing "moved by fear"; we shall also remember his obedience, for he
"prepared an ark to the saving of his house." But you must take distinct note that at the back of everything was his
faith in God. His faith begat his fear: his faith and his fear produced his obedience. Nothing in Noah is held up
before us as an example, but that which grew out of his faith. To begin with, we must look well to our faith. May I
pass the question round these galleries, and put it to you also in this vast area? Have you faith? Let each one hear
the question in the singular number. "Hast thou faith? Dost thou believe on the Son of God? Art thou resting in the
promise of a faithful God?" If not, thou art nothing as to spiritual things. Without faith thou art out of the kingdom
of grace, a stranger to the commonwealth of Israel. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter if thou hast no
faith. But if thou hast even a trembling faith, thou hast the root of the matter within thee. Even if other gracious
things be not in thee as yet, they will be ere long produced by faith. Faith is the acorn, from which the oak of
holiness will grow. Faith is that handful of corn, the fruit whereof shall shake like Lebanon. Without faith it is
impossible to please God, but with faith we become "accepted in the Beloved."
Notice, first, that Noah believed in God in his ordinary life. Before the great test came, before he heard the
oracle from the secret place, Noah believed in God. We know that he did, for we read that he walked with God,
and in his common conduct he is described as being "a just man, and perfect in his generations." To be just in the
sight of God is never possible apart from faith; for "the just shall live by faith." It is a great thing to have faith in
the presence of a terrible trial; but the first essential is to have faith for ordinary every-day consumption. Hast thou
faith in God as to thy daily bread? Hast thou faith as to thy children and thy house? Hast thou faith about thy trade
and business? Hast thou faith in the God of providence?faith in the God who answers prayer? Is it habitual with
thee to roll thy burden upon the Lord? If it be not so with thee, what wilt thou do when the floods break forth?
Faith will not come to thee all of a sudden, in the dark night, if thou hast shut it out through all the bright days.
Faith must be a constant tenant, not an occasional guest. I have heard of Latter-day Saints, and I do not think
much of them: I far more admire Every-day Saints. Thou needest faith this Sabbath-day: have it, and come to the
communion-table with it. But thou needest faith on Monday, when the shutters are taken down to begin another
six days' trading. Thou wilt need faith the next day; for who can tell thee what will happen? To the end of the
week thou wilt need to look to the hills whence cometh thine help. Thou needest faith anywhere and everywhere.
A man of God alone in his chamber still needs faith, or solitude may be a nest for temptation. When the servant of
Christ is at his ease, and has no work pressing upon him, he has need of faith to keep him, lest, like David, he fall
into temptation, and commit folly. Rest days or work days, we alike need faith. By faith Noah did everything
before he entered the ark. This is an important observation, though it may appear a very simple one. I could not
omit it; for I feel that a practical work-day faith is what we most of all need. Men think that they need faith in
building a temple; but faith is also needed in building a haystack. We need faith for ploughing, for buying, for
selling, for working, quite as much as for praying, and singing, and preaching. We want faith on the market as well
as in the prayer-meeting. We wish everywhere to please God, and we cannot do it anywhere unless we have
unfeigned faith in him. The Lord teach us to have faith seven days in the week!
Note, next, that Noah had faith in the warning and threatening of God. Faith is to be exercised about the
commandments; for David says, "I have believed thy commandments." Faith is to be exercised upon the promises;
for there its sweetest business lies. But, believe me, you cannot have faith in the promise unless you are prepared
to have faith in the threatening also. If you truly believe a man, you believe all that he says. He who does not
believe that God will punish sin, will not believe that God 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 into heaven. If we
doubt God's Word about one thing, we shall have small confidence in it upon another thing. Sincere 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. Only that is true faith which believes
everything that is revealed by the Holy Spirit, whether it be joyous or distressing. Noah had, in this case, received
a promise; but, as the dark background to it, he had listened to the terrible threatening that God would destroy all
living things with a flood: his faith believed both the warning and the promise. If he had not believed the threat, he
would not have prepared an ark, and so would not have received the promise. Men do not prepare an ark to
escape from a flood unless they believe that there will be a flood. 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, child-like faith which God will accept and honour. "By faith Noah, being
warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark." With solemn awe believe the bitter
word of judgment, that the word of mercy may be sweet to you.
Furthermore, Noah believed what seemed highly improbable, if not absolutely impossible. There was no sea
where Noah laid the keel of his ark: I do not even know that there was a river there. He was to prepare a
sea-going vessel, and construct it on dry land. How could water be brought there to float it? O mad old man! how
canst thou play the fool on so huge a scale as to build a three-decked vessel of vast dimensions where no waters
can ever come? Yet he was bidden of the Lord to do it, and he was persuaded that the Lord's command involved
no blunder. The floods would fill the valley, rise up the hills, and prevail above the tops of the mountains. He
believed all this, although it did seem an unlikely thing. That faith which believes in the probable is anybody's faith:
publicans and sinners can so believe. The faith which believes that which is barely possible is in better form; but
that faith which cares nothing for probability or possibility, but rests alone in the Word of the Lord, is the faith of
God's elect. God deserves such faith, "for with God all things are possible." Not probability, but certainty, is the
groundwork of faith when God has spoken. Noah believed firmly, and therefore prepared his ship on dry land,
quite as cheerfully as he would have built it by the sea.
At times you and I are assailed as to our faith in the Bible, by people who say, "How do you make that out? It
is in the Scriptures, certainly, but how do you reconcile it with science?" Let your reply beWe no longer live in
the region of argument as to the Word of the Lord; but we dwell in the realm of faith. We are not squabblers,
itching to prove our superiority in reasoning, but we are children of light, worshipping our God by bowing our
whole minds to the obedience of faith. We would be humble, and learn to believe what we cannot altogether
comprehend, and to expect what we should never have looked for, had not the Lord declared it. It is our ambition
to be great believers, rather than great thinkers; to be child-like in faith, rather than subtle in intellect. We are sure
that God is true! Like Noah, we stagger not at the Word of God, because of evident improbability and apparent
impossibility. What the Lord has spoken he is able to make good; and none of his words shall fall to the ground.
Note well, that Noah believed alone, and preached on though none followed him. There were no other
believers, if you except his wife and his sons and daughters. There were eight in all; but I am afraid that some of
these rather believed in father Noah than in the living God. Noah shone as a lone star. He stood like yonder
solitary column in the midst of a ruined temple. He believed with an unbuttressed faith. How pleasant it is to
associate with our fellow-believers! It is a great refreshment for a solitary Christian to get into a large congregation,
and to feel in unison with the child's hymn
"Lord, how delightful 'tis to see
A great assembly worship thee!
At once they sing, at once they pray,
They hear of heaven and learn the way.
I have been there, and still would go,
'Tis like a little heaven below."
But how would you fare if you were alone, or were surrounded by those who called you a fool for believing in the
Lord? To dwell where everybody is sceptical is as injurious to faith as for a man to live where the yellow fever is
raging. To have your faith pulled to pieces, and held up to ridicule, is an ordeal which some cannot stand. What if
you should be like Noah, a preacher of righteousness; how stern the duty of being a solitary witness! He preached
for one hundred and twenty years, and at the end of it not one person was ready to go with him into the ark. His
own family was saved, but nobody elsenot a solitary one. What a trial! How it has made my heart glad, during
the month of May, to see and propose for church-fellowship no less than sixty-nine! But if I had to preach for a
year with no converts, what should I do? I hope I should persevere, in the name of the Lord God; but what a trial!
What if life were prolonged for one hundred and twenty years, and after all that preaching nobody believed your
word! That would be an infliction indeed. Many people may have been converted under Noah, and may have died
before the deluge came; but he had not one convert in the ark with him. His wife had not even a servant to help
her in domestic work, and his sons' wives had to wait on themselves. There was not even a boy to clean the
shoes, or help feed the animals. Many were called, but only the eight were chosen. Noah had preached apparently
in vain, and yet he believed with none the less of dogged resolve. The old man was not to be moved. That ark of
his would float; he knew it would. The world would be destroyed; he was sure of it; as sure as if he had seen it.
"Things not seen as yet" were to his faith substantial and evident.
Noah believed through a hundred and twenty solitary years! It was a long martyrdom. Our life is quite long
enough for the trial of faith. Even if a man lives to be eighty, and has sixty years of that life spent in the exercise of
faith, it is only by almighty grace that he holds out. Noah lived two of our lives in this way. If a little flood had
happened and moved his ark a little, he would have had some evidence for his faith; but there was no flood at all;
and his ark lay high and dry for a century and a quarter! How few could endure this! Yonder dear friend has been
praying for the last six months, and the Lord has not heard him, and he begins to doubt whether the Lord does
hear prayer at all. You are not much like Noah. You can hardly believe for one hundred and twenty days. "Alas!"
says one, "I have prayed for my husband these twenty years!" It is a long time to wait; but what would you do
with a hundred added on to it? Years made Noah's faith more mature, and not more feeble. This grey father of the
age went on with his preaching, went on with his intercession, and, without a doubt, waited for God in his own
time to justify his servant before the eyes of men.
Once more: Noah believed even to separation from the world. See Noah and his family entering the ark! I do
not think I should have selected the ark as a place of residence myself, nor would you have chosen to live in a
place pitched within and without with pitch, with only one door and one window to it, and a great menagerie of
birds, and beasts, and reptiles inside it. Whether that window ran all round the top just under the roof, so as to let
light into the whole structure, I cannot tell; but I have no doubt that the jeering world said to Noah, "Well, old
man, you have built a prison for yourself, and the sooner you go inside and shut yourself in the better; for we have
had enough of your preaching!" When the good man and his family went in, and the Lord shut the door, they
were dead to the world. Had Mrs. Noah been like some of you she would have said, "The girls cannot go out to
any more parties, and our sons are shut out from all society. We are out of the world, and shall soon be
forgotten." Yes, yes, and Noah was glad of it, since it was the Lord that shut him in. When the Lord shuts you off
from the world, you are best alone. Nowadays professors have not faith enough to dwell alone. They want two or
three doors in the back of the ark, so that they may slip out every now and then, and do a little pleasuring with the
world, and then glide back again and look like saints. As to being shut in with God and separated from the
worldreligious and irreligioushow few will endure it! How little is ever heard of that cry"Come out from
among them, and be ye separate!" "You might as well be dead," cries one, "as be out of society." Exactly so: and
that is what the child of God looks for. "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." "Buried with him by
baptism into death." "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the
world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." That separatedness which Noah took upon himself so willingly
was involved in his salvation; for if he had lived with the world, he would have died with the world. Only in
separation is salvation.
Thus have I worked out the idea that the first principle which actuated Noah's heart was faith in the living
II. Secondly, FEAR WAS THE MOVING FORCE. Faith was the living principle, but fear was the moving
power; for the text puts it, "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear." Faith
moulded him, but fear moved him. How was this? "I thought," says one, "that perfect love casteth out fear." Yes,
fear of a certain sort; but there is another fear which perfect love embraces and nourishes.
Noah had no evil fear. He had not a servile fear: he was not afraid of God as a culprit is afraid of a judge, or a
convict of the hangman. He knew whom he believed, and was persuaded that he had a favour towards him. Noah
had not a careless fear, as some here have. Fools say, "We never shall be saved, and therefore it would be useless
to care about it. We may as well gather the rosebuds while we may. There is no heaven for us hereafter, let us
make the best of the present." No, Noah was a witness against such sensual carelessness. He so believed, that fear
came upon him, and that fear made him act as God bade him. Beware of the unbelief which enables you to trifle;
for trifling with eternal things is the suicide of the soul. Noah, on the other hand, had not a despairing fear, as
some have. They say, "There is no hope. We have gone too far in sin already to dream of pardon and favour. We
may as well let things take their course." Beware of the poison-cup of despair. While life lasts hope lasts; and we
beseech you not to lie down in sullen hopelessness. Noah was a stranger to this paralyzing fear: he bestirred
himself, and built an ark. Some allow a presuming fear: "If I am to be saved," say they, "I shall be saved; and if I
am to be lost, I shall be lost. I may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, and so I will have my fling, and go into
sin even as I please." Noah never spoke thus; for with his fear he had a good hope. He prepared an ark. He knew
that none could save him but God; but as God bade him prepare an ark, an ark he prepared, and thus he was
saved and his house.
What kind of fear was that of Noah? Well, Noah had a loyal reverence of God. He feared him as the King of
kings and Lord of lords, and when he went about through the wicked world Noah often said to himself, "I wonder
the Judge of all the earth does not destroy these rebels, who dare to be so vile and violent." When he saw their
gluttony, their infidelity, their lasciviousness, their oppression of one another, the preacher of righteousness had a
holy fear of judgment. Often his righteous spirit indignantly cried, "Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?" He
wondered how God could be so long-suffering. When it was revealed to him that God was going to destroy the
whole race from off the face of the earth by a flood, he said to himself, "I thought he would." He felt exceedingly
afraid; for he knew that when God once makes bare his arm for vengeance, the pillars of the earth must shake,
and the stars of heaven cease their shining. Thus the holy man of God passed the time of his sojourning here in
fear. Who among us would not fear if we were to consider at this time the holiness of God, and the provocations
inflicted upon him by our guilty race? What sin defiles this earth! Oh, the wrath to come! How awful will the
judgment be! It has not come yet; it may not come for years; but, when the Lord begins to deal with men in
justice, how will that day burn as an oven! "Who may abide the day of his coming?" Noah by faith heard the cries
of men and women swept from their feet by the torrent. He heard the cries of strong swimmers in their agony
yielding to the overflowing death, and sinking to their doom. Do you wonder that his heart sank within him, and
that he was moved with fear? He had a holy awe of God, and a solemn dread of the judgments which sin was
drawing down upon the giddy world.
Noah had a very humble distrust of himself. I wish we all had such a fear. Let us fear God because of his
greatness; let us fear ourselves because of our sinfulness. Let us fear lest we should fall into sin, and perish with
the rest of the sinners. Let no man say, "I shall never fall." Alas! those are the most likely to slip. Did you never
note that those who seem least likely to fall into a sin are the very people who commit it? You would not have
dreamed that sober Noah should be found drunk; nor that righteous Lot should commit incest; nor that David,
whose heart smote him when he only cut off the lap of Saul's garment, should be guilty of murder; nor that Peter,
who said, "Though all men should forsake thee, yet will not I," would have denied his Master with oaths and
cursing. Ah, friends! we may not trust ourselves; but we ought to stand in daily fear lest we be guilty before God.
Here was Noah filled with such a hol
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