by Earnshaw Smith, Keswick, 1930
“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 xi. 7.
THERE is nothing more convincing than sight. You say, “I saw it with my own eyes, and therefore it must be so.” To man, seeing is believing, but the trouble is we are so shortsighted that there are things we do not see; like the people in Noah’s time we only see the things of this life, things close up against us, the little plans we have made for to-morrow; and disregard the things that really matter. With God believing is seeing. “Said I not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe thou shouldest see the glory of God?” The Christian has the evidence of things not seen. On the day when there is going to be an eclipse of the sun you see everywhere people with smoked glasses gazing up into the sky. Why? Because they have read about the eclipse in the newspapers. They are quite certain that there is going to be an eclipse, because they have read about it. But Noah needed no astronomers to warn him; he was warned of God, and he prepared an ark for the saving of his house. Would to God that we believed the Word of God as we believe the word of man!
The first thing I would draw your attention to is Noah’s Telescope and what he saw. Noah had a telescope whereby he could see the invisible; there is a glass for everyone whereby we may see the things not seen as yet. Faith brings the unseen near. Noah had great faith. Believing God’s Word, he gazed up into the cloudless sky and saw the black clouds of judgment already looming on the horizon. I want you to remember that he saw it only by faith. As Noah looked up into the vault of Heaven it was as cloudless as it had ever been, but he believed God’s Word. I would remind you also that Noah had no precedent to go upon. There had never been a flood before; and it did not seem likely that there ever would be one; there had been no great judgment of that sort on the world before, but he believed the Word of God. And Noah had no supporters. There may have been uneasiness when Noah first went on the streets with his tremendous message of judgment to come. I suppose there were some who said, “Well, what if God should punish sin? We have got into a very bad way; the world is in a terrible state.” But I expect that concern soon turned to ridicule and mockery and derision. They probably worked it out. In Genesis ii. 5- 6, it says, “the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth There went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” And when Noah proclaimed his message possibly the scientists of that time said, “The thing is impossible; there cannot be rain, or anything of the sort.”
Noah would be put down as a fanatic, but he believed in spite of what the world said. He looked through the telescope of faith and saw the heavens black with impending judgment; he believed the Word of God in spite of the laughter and the sneers of man. Faith brings the unseen near. What can you see tonight? Lift your glass and you see old age, far away, perhaps, yet surely drawing near. Turn your glass again and you see death. You do not like to think of it, you know that some time you have got to die. You, at least, believe the Word of God, and that “it is appointed unto men once to die.” You turn the glass again, and as you look through it, you see, “after that the judgment.” Old- fashioned? yes, and yet a law of nature.” God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap: he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Judgment is inevitable: “The wages of sin is death”: it is a law of nature, and a law of life, as well as being in the Word of God. As you see these things drawing nearer— old age, death, judgment— you say, “They are far, far away. It does not matter yet.” Noah preached for one hundred and twenty years while judgment was drawing nearer and nearer; and you won’t live half that time. Like a trumpet across four thousand years there sound the words, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” “Not always”; there is coming an end to this glorious day of grace; the day of judgment will one day dawn, the Day of the Lord will break. Will you look through the telescope of faith before it be too late?
Noah’s Faith in God
The next step in the story is Noah’s Faith, and what he did. In the Bible faith and works are joined together, Believing is doing. It is no use saying you believe if you do not do. Faith is proved by immediate action. Being warned of God, Noah prepared an ark. If I go into your room at night to tell you that the house is on fire and you believe me, you will prove your faith by getting up at once. Faith is always proved by action. You cannot persuade me that you believe if you remain still and take no notice. Many of you say, I believe; but what have you done? Have you turned to Christ? Have you closed with Him? Have you laid hold on eternal life? Have you believed unto the saving your soul? You will notice two things that Noah did. First, he prepared the ark to the saving of his house. It madness to believe in coming disaster and yet not to prepare for it. It madness to say we believe the Bible and yet not prepare ourselves for the tremendous Day when we shall stand before the great White Throne of God You have not got to prepare an ark! Praise God! long ago God prepared His Ark of Refuge. “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might he saved.”God never pronounces judgment without drawing attention to the glorious provision of salvation and deliverance. “Come thou and all thy house into the ark,” says God. Do not get hard ideas about God. God Who decrees judgment has prepared an ark, His own blessed Son. “I am the door,” said Jesus Christ” by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved.” But you have got to enter. Leave the crowd; step out across the threshold, and you will find yourself in the ark of salvation. Are you shut in with Christ, rejoicing in His salvation to-night, or are you shut out? What kind of a faith is it that leaves us outside when Jesus Christ spreads before us the glories of His forgiveness and the gladness of His service? What are you going to do?
And the second thing about Noah is that he became a preacher of righteousness. For one hundred and twenty years he preached, but he was what you might call an unsuccessful evangelist. How few people responded, but yet he kept on. He had God’s Word to deliver. Do not be downcast or discouraged. The devil cannot snatch you from the Saviour’s hand; but if he can make you discouraged he will take the fire out of your testimony, and the edge out of your sword. Noah was in a minority; one against millions. For one hundred and twenty years he preached, whilst the long-suffering of God waited. And all the while any man who heard Noah preach might have stepped over the threshold, and put his hand into Noah’s hand and said, “Noah, I will believe your word, I will go with you.” But they did not. And then in a moment God’s patience ended. And so will it be in the end. If these things are so, Christian friends, ought we not to be up and doing, warning men, persuading men, knowing in our own hearts something of the burden of a Christless world, hearing “the thud of the Christless feet on the road to hell”? Should we not follow in the footsteps of Noah who became a preacher of righteousness? What are you doing to win others?
The third point to be observed is Noah’s obedience, and how he condemned the world. Jesus Christ took this history concerning Noah and used it as an example, “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark. And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matt. xxiv. 37– 39). What are you expecting to happen to the world? Are you expecting the world to grow better and better, or are you expecting a sudden catastrophe? They knew well enough, but they did not believe it. Many of them had said, “Some day,” but they did not believe that the day was really going to dawn.
These people had been hearers of Noah’s preaching. Gospel preaching melts or hardens; the sun melts wax, but hardens clay. You have heard very often the preaching of the Gospel of the grace of God. You have heard the appeal again and again, but you have not surrendered. These people had been subjects of Noah’s prayers. In Ezekiel xiv. 14, we read that Noah was a great man of prayer, as well as a preacher. And there are ministers who have prayed for you, Sunday School teachers who have prayed for you. But that won’t get you into the ark -unless you yourself make a move.
These people had been helpers of Noah’s work. A great number must have been associated with Noah in the work, and many must have laboured for him during those one hundred and twenty years, toiling at the great beams of the ark, making the ark quite safe, but never stepping inside, and probably laughing at Noah as he paid them their wages. You know there are people like that to-day; there are people who are even taking Sunday School classes, people who are taking some part in Church work, but they have never stepped into the ark themselves. And every one outside the ark will perish.
These people had been viewers of God’s wonders. They had seen mighty wonders; they had seen that great multitude of animals going two by two into the ark, and they must have said— “Is there something in it, after all? Noah has said that God has fixed the time. Is it really going to happen?” You have seen wonders too. There are friends of yours who have been converted. Their lives have been changed by the power of Christ. And you have wondered— “Is there really after all something in it?” but you have not come in yourself. There came a day when God called Noah into the ark, “Come thou and thy house into the ark,” What a little company it was that went in, and yet with what joy Noah welcomed them as they left all and stepped in by faith! I believe that was a great test of faith to Shem and Ham and Japheth. When they went into the ark there was no sign in the sky of a storm. There was a mocking crowd outside, but they passed one by one up the gangway into the ark, and then the great doors swung slowly to. And it may be that Noah, appalled with the awful sense of finality, turned once more to appeal to the men he knew, but, lo, the door was shut. God had shut him in, the acceptable year of the Lord had come to an end, and the day of vengeance was begun.
The Day of Vengeance
Seven days before the flood came, the crowd outside went on thinking that all was well, and laughed at those who had gone into the ark. Don’t be discouraged when the world laughs at you. There are some terrible words of God in Prov. i. 24-31. ” Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand and no man regarded.. . I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.”
On the seventh day there was a strange phenomenon. The sky that had been blue and clear before, grew black with the clouds that swept across it; and the multitude outside said among themselves, “What means this? What if Noah be right, after all? Then came the first drops of rain. The windows of Heaven were opened the fountains of the great deep were broken up; the waters began to rise on every hand. Frantic crowds beat upon the door of the ark, “Noah, open to us,” but if he heard he could do nothin. I believe in coming judgment. I believe that one day God will judge the world in righteousness, and there is no time to waste. Noah entered into the ark seven days before the flood came. Oh, be in time! The invitation comes to you to-night. But there are some of you who want to make the best of both worlds, and you say that at the end of life you will give these things attention. But will you be able to? I believe there are many men and women who speak like that but in the last years of their life they find that the door is shut. They have not the desires and the longings they once had. God calls you to-night. Don’t delay.
I would ask you then to turn the telescope of faith upon the Hill of Calvary. Noah turned it forward one hundred and twenty years, and saw judgment coming. We turn it back nineteen hundred years, and look at that hill outside the city wall. How near it seems after nearly two thousand years. It is nearer than Skiddaw, nearer than all the hills around, the hill where Jesus died.
See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down?
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown ?
Can you see it? Can you hear Him as He cries in triumph through His agony, “It is finished”? He died to save you there. What does it mean, this tremendous picture that lives in our memory in spite of our worldliness and Christ-rejection? We cannot somehow get away from it. What is the meaning of the picture of Calvary? It means that sin is damnable. Sin nailed there the holy, righteous Son of God. We need to flee to Him from sin, if ever we are to be saved. He was made sin for us upon that Cross of shame. When I see Him there I realise the awful power of sin. It means that the doom of the impenitent is awful. Sin has caused the death of the spotless Lamb of God. Was this merely an example of how to die? A thousand times no! It was absolutely necessary that He should die, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. And to turn our backs on that scene means awful judgment.
God’s Infinite Love
It means that God’s love and pity are infinite. For “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” “He spared not his own Son but freely gave Him up for us all.” If only you could see Him with outstretched arms upon the tree. It is the ark of His love that I proclaim to you to-night as your only refuge. Will you come? This word of judgment is no more a mockery than it was when Noah preached. God is surely going to judge the world. Sin will shortly bring forth its harvest. Where are you tonight? Jesus said, “I am the Door.” Are you inside that door? We do long that you might turn to Him. We would do anything to help you to find Him, but you have got to take the step for yourself and to say, “just as I am, I come.” I have turned the telescope of faith upon that great judgment day that is coming. I have also turned it upon the infinite love of Calvary. In the light of that love and in the light of certain and awful judgment do not any longer spurn the Lord Jesus Christ and tread Him under foot, but step out upon Christ’s glorious invitation, “Come thou and thy house into the ark.” “I am the Door, by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved.”
Whosoever cometh! Need not delay;
Now the door is open, enter while you may;
Jesus is the true, the only living Way,
Whosoever will may come!