Continuing his look at Old Testament exemplars of faith, the author of Hebrews in today’s passage turns to Noah. In this ancient believer in the one true God, we find a remarkable illustration of authentic faith as defined by Hebrews 11:1, 6.
We noted in our study of Hebrews 11:1 that faith has particular reference to things unseen, for it is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Few believers have had to live according to the conviction of things not seen as Noah did. Genesis 6:1–7:1 is the key text to which the author of Hebrews is pointing us in Hebrews 11:7. As we see in that first book of the Bible, the Lord purposed to destroy life on earth by means of a flood on account of the wickedness of humanity. However, God preserved Noah, a righteous and blameless man, and his family, commanding him to build an ark where he and his family, as well as representatives from the animal kingdom, would be kept safe from the floodwaters.
Noah believed God’s warning of judgment and trusted the Lord’s promise to keep him and his family safe if he would build an ark, demonstrating that trust by obeying the Lord and constructing a seafaring shelter from the rains. This was no light undertaking. Noah had to collect and shape the materials to build the enormous vessel that was the ark. More significantly, the earth had never experienced a deluge like the one God warned Noah about, and Noah lived inland where the danger of a minor flood, let alone the threat of a worldwide flood, was minimal. Noah had no other reason to think that a flood would come except the word of God’s promise.
For Noah, however, that word of promise was sufficient. He understood the character of his Creator and believed that God would do what He had said. His faith was in the Lord and in the Lord alone. By this faith, which bore fruit in his building the ark, “he condemned the world” (Heb. 11:7). Noah’s trust and ultimate vindication when he did not die in the flood demonstrated the sinfulness of the people around him who saw him build the ark and yet did not believe that a flood was coming. His faith motivated actions also revealed him as an “heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” His actions proved his trust in the Lord’s Word, and on account of that trust, God regarded Noah as a righteous man (Gen. 7:1). Through faith in God’s promises alone, we are likewise regarded by the Lord as righteous (Rom. 4).