Thursday, February 4, 2010

Knowing God: Noah

Have you ever been disappointed greatly in life? Have you ever disappointed someone else? Maybe a friend, an employer? Once when I was working in landscaping, I worked for someone who wanted a lot of plants all in one place. When we arrived, my crew had not brought a few peripheral items because someone thought they weren't important. I remember how upset and disappointed my boss was at that. It was a very big event, and we had to hurry in order to get things where they were supposed to be. I remember disappointing someone I respected. His expression is in my mind.
I also remember times when someone has been extremely impressed with what I have done. Do you? You went above and beyond and were recognized?
Noah, in Genesis 6, fit into the latter category of greatly impressing God, when everyone else around him fit into the first category of disappointing God.
We know the story of Noah because of the Flood, the Ark, and the animals. Noah's Ark is a common theme for nurseries and baby rooms. That is a big part of what happens with Noah and his family. But more importantly, it is what happens before the Ark that matters to God, and in light of our theme--Knowing God. It was because of who Noah was before the Flood came that he was in the Ark and trusted with the responsibility of these animals. It was because Noah found favor with God, because Noah was righteous in God's eyes, that he was used by God to preserve life on earth.
We're looking at the story of Noah and what it means to be favored by God. Adam knew God as provider, righteous Judge, Hope of salvation in the Last Adam, and Enoch walked with God and had a close relationship with God, and God took him. Those who know God through Jesus Christ will experience God's mercy. Noah has another lesson on Knowing God.
In chapter 6 verse 8, before it says "This is the account" which shows it is a new section in Genesis. The previous section ended with God saying, "I will wipe mankind whom I have created from the face of the earth, men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air, for I am grieved that I have made them." How terrible! What would make God to be grieved that He had made mankind? As we get closer to the end times events--by the way we are closer now than we have ever been before (am I going too fast?) :) Jesus said in Matthew 24, that this is what it will be like, as it was in the days of Noah before the flood, so it will be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man. Violence. God says in Genesis that "I will not endure with man forever." Then verse 8 comes on the end of that, "but Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord."
Have you ever been the only one who did what was right? You're the only one and everyone is pressuring you to do the wrong thing. The "everybody's doing it" crowd is pushing you to be one of them? This is Noah's environment, where he stands out like a needle in a haystack as the one who serves and follows God. The Bible says in 2 Chronicles 16 that the eyes of the Lord wander to and fro throughout the earth seeking to strengthen the hearts of those who are loyal to Him. God is working and moving, and He has a plan, and He's looking for people where He can say, ". . . but her, she found favor in my eyes." or ". . . but him, he found favor in my eyes." Or ". . . but that little boy, he is more righteous than anyone else of his time."
This is an important part of knowing God, and we learn from Noah that it is possible even when life is disintegrating around us and there is chaos, and it is dark, foggy, things are going bad, continue to serve God. Keep on doing what is right. The same old thing is still good enough. The same old Gospel does work, is great news, and does need to be told to people.
The word for favor is a word meaning "popularity," or "to find favor." Genesis 39:21, "The Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer." The same word for favor is also in Exodus 11:3, "The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, furthermore the man Moses himself was greatly esteemed in the land of Egypt, both in the sight of Pharaoh's servants, and in the sight of the people." This word is used of Esther, in Esther 5:2, when she comes in boldly to the king's chamber and the king raises the scepter because she found favor in his eyes.
Joseph, Moses, Esther. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord! God is looking for these kinds of people--this kind of person. D. L. Moody used to always say, "The world has yet to see what God can do with someone who is fully committed to Him." D. L. Moody heard it from a man named George Mueller, who, at his own expense, started an orphanage, and many, many kids had a home because of his ministry. He said, "I don't know how this is going to happen, but I'll do it." He tried to be that man that the world has not seen yet, and D. L. Moody tried to be that man, and said, "by the grace of God I'll be that man!" He wanted what Noah had--to stand out!
Later on, Ezekiel said God would judge a certain people, and said even if Noah was in that group, God would still judge them. In other words, Noah had a reputation as a righteous man.
In Haiti right now, people are looking for food, clothes, medicine, relatives, and they are desperate. In the same way, God is looking desperately for people who are going to be righteous, and holy, and blameless; people who would be spared from judgment. What an extreme there!
The world is getting wiped out, but because of your faithfulness to me, Noah, I'm going to spare you and your family. I bet Noah said to himself, "Boy, it's a good thing we've been obeying God all these years. Man. It's a good thing we still serve the Lord."
What was it that made Noah get God's attention? Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. What made him find God's favor? Before the whole building of the Ark, Noah is righteous.
There aren't that many times when the Bible calls someone a righteous person. There are only four people that the Bible calls righteous. Noah was the first person the Bible calls a righteous man. Simeon was the second one, in Luke 2.[1] The Bible says Simeon was a righteous man, waiting for Jesus the Messiah, and prophesied about his life. Later on, in Acts 10, Cornelius is called a righteous man, and God sends Peter to his house. This man was seeking God, and Peter told him about the good news of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 11, finally, calls Abel a righteous man. Those [five] people.
So, aside from God, Jesus the Messiah (prophesied or in person), there is a small number of righteous people. Job is spoken of highly later on. I think righteous refers to Noah's faith in God, because later he's called blameless in his time, which would refer to his works and his actions. Genesis 15:6 tells us Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Noah believed in and followed God, a righteous man. God is looking for this type of person, even in 2010, even in Darlington, even in this church! And as we say all kinds of things about vision, planning, and what to do, we can't say as a Christian "that's somebody else's job to be a righteous person." "It's somebody else's job to know God more. Don't we pay staff members to pray and read their Bibles all day? Isn't that what they're supposed to be doing? Let them be righteous and blameless." No! This is for everybody! This is walking with God and knowing God! Everybody's job is to be more like God!
Noah is such a role model of this. He did things that caught God's attention. Have you ever tried to get someone's attention? When I was dating my wife, I tried to get her attention. It worked the second time. The first time was--a long story.
Look how old Noah is at this time. God comes to Noah, and he has his sons, and 5:32 told us Noah was 500 years old when he became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, so if you're saying I've walked with God for a year, and nothing happened, you've got 499 to go. In other words, it's not on my time table, but God's. My job is to be righteous, faithful, and trust God that He's going to do the best thing for me, and I may see a reason not to believe, but can't be discouraged. Keep on following Him. You may have too much month at the end of your money, but keep on being faithful to God and trusting in Him. Maybe you have a terrible relationship with one of your parents. Keep on serving God and being blameless. You take responsibility for your actions and serve Him. God eventually will honor that. Look at Noah--500 years of walking with God. Wow!
Noah would have looked at some of you in your 80's and said, "That's just a spring chicken." "I was a reckless teenager in my 80's. Didn't have children until I was in my 500's."
We can't say I've arrived at a point where I no longer need to do all this stuff. We can't say church is for kids, isn't it great to see the kids' program? Let's just talk about the kids, and support them. Isn't it great to see the teens? Let's just talk about the teen program and support them. But it's about you and me too! All of us! Our whole goal with the kids and teens is to teach and train them so they will serve as adults. Can you imagine what God can do with one person completely sold out to Him. Anyone in here can be the person who says they will serve God like that. Can you imagine if everyone in the sanctuary today said in unison "Yes God, we will be those people! You just say the word, and we'll do it!"
It's scary! God may say, "I want you to move to Haiti, and I want you to build an orphanage there, because I have many people who will trust in me, and they need a home!" But you say, "That's not God speaking! Is it? God will never ask me to do something like that." Yes, He might. I think sometimes that's our fear, that if we sell ourselves out to God He might get us out of our comfort zone. Well, the only way you can grow is to get out of your comfort zone. Take that as a challenge. Noah was out of his comfort zone, in a time of people who were not blameless, in a time that was so bad--worse than what we're experiencing most likely--so bad, that God wanted to wipe them all out. And Noah still was righteous, and blameless in his time.
I hope that hits you! How Noah stood out, and how God favored him.
This word for blameless also--Noah was the first of three people in the Bible who were called blameless. Job in in Job 1:1, and King Asa in 2 Chronicles 15 finish the list. Wow. Wouldn't you love to be in that number. "Nate is also called blameless." That would be awesome. Wouldn't I love for God to say, "Look, there's Nate, he's also righteous." Wouldn't you love to be able to put your name on that list?
This is all great, and many people here are saying "Amen," but its what happens tomorrow that counts. What happens tomorrow when what God wants us to do is not popular? Bill Cosby said, "I don't know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everybody." If you want to fail, just keep pleasing everyone around you. Sometimes we're looking for peoples' approval as well. Winston Churchill grew a mustache early in his political career. He had an aunt who disagreed with him about most things. His aunt one day said, "Winston, I don't like your mustache, and I don't like your politics." He replied, "My dear aunt, you will not need to come into contact with either."
We don't need everyone's approval or permission to obey God. God is probably working today and speaking to you about something, and I urge you to pray about it and ask what God wants to do with your life. Everyone who is still on this earth--God has a plan for you, even if you will only live another 30 days. My grandfather gets ill all the time and comes back. He's up there in age, but he prays. We think God has him here because he's a prayer warrior, and he can't physically do anymore, but he prays. I think it's perfectly normal for God to have someone just to pray. He takes the prayer requests and he's been in the church his whole life, and he prays for these people.
God has some purpose for us.
What is God's challenge for us? He wants us to be righteous, and looks for that needle in a haystack. If you've been watching American Idol, they look and search for the next American Idol! (Pants on the Ground).
How much more is God looking for that person who will be the next Noah. It doesn't matter where you come from.
I read an interesting story recently about recommendations. A Chicago bank was looking at a Boston man, considering him for their employment. This Boston investing house could not say enough about this young man. "His father," they wrote, "was a Cabet. His mother was from the family of Loathe (sp), further back, he has genes from the Saultinstalls, the Peabody's, and other of Boston's first families. We recommend him." Several days later the Chicago bank wrote back and said, "We are not contemplating using this young man for breeding purposes. Just for work." We get caught up in all of that sometimes. The thing that matters, is not the outward appearance, as Samuel said from God. It is the heart.
We can't go by the outward appearance, and don't be discouraged. You say, "But God I have a limitation! I have a handicap!" Moses said, "I can't speak," but God used him to speak to the people anyway. I always tell people, when they say "I don't have a spiritual gift," "Look, God could make Balaam's donkey talk and God used him. If God can use Balaam's donkey, God can use any of us!"
God can use you. What is God doing in your life. Noah was a blameless man, and God looks for that kind of person. What God does with Noah is amazing. He not only saves him and his family from the Flood, but God goes beyond that and looks to make a covenant with him in Genesis 6:18. "I will establish My covenant with you and you will enter the Ark, you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you." Then after the Flood, "I now establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you, the birds, the livestock, and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the Ark with you." And Noah, showed his righteousness and blamelessness after the Flood by coming to God with a sacrifice. And the Lord loved it and said in 8:21, "The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in His heart, 'Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every indication of his heart is evil from childhood, and never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease. And God tells Noah in chapter 9:12, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between Me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come. I have set My rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and earth."
So the rainbow is a reminder to Noah and God of this covenant.
God's covenant extends to those who are righteous in His eyes. The Bible tells us to be righteous is not just by what we do, but by Who we believe in, in Jesus. The sad thing is we can't be righteous on our own. But the good news is we can trust in the righteousness of another person, who was perfect, and Who did everything right, in Jesus Christ. We can have that status in God's eyes. That's the beginning. You need to come to faith in Jesus Christ. That's where God wants to meet us. Believe in Him and trust in Him.
Even today, if you're saying to yourself, "this thing about Jesus--I've heard it, and it's baloney, I don't accept it." Even for you who don't believe in God, God has a plan for your life! If you will come to Christ, you will see the beginnings of that plan, but you have to trust Him enough to put everything in His hands, all the eggs in one basket, and follow Jesus.
I love God's reaction to what Noah did, and the covenant He established with him. There is good news today in Jesus Christ if you will believe. If you have believed, what can you take away? It's possible to have favor in God's eyes. How? Maintain that steady course. Read your Bible. Pray. Even if you just mute the commercials and pray, that's a start. Even just five minutes a day, that is a start. Make an effort to know God more.
There is great news, that God has a plan for each of us, if we will just follow Him, if we will just walk with Him and be blameless.
I urge you who are reading to pray about being more committed to God. Know Jesus, and believe in Him. This is the beginning of knowing God. Jesus said in John 17:3, "This is eternal life: that they may know You, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent."

[1] I neglected to include Joseph, who Matthew calls a righteous person, making the list five people the Bible calls righteous. Thank my wife for catching that in my sermon and pointing it out to me!

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