What are you afraid of?
According to research done earlier this year, 74% of American adults are afraid of public speaking. 31% are afraid of spiders. And 11% are afraid of the dark. In the UK people have been diagnosed with a fear of trees (Hylophobia), the colour yellow (Xanthophobia), cheese (Turophobia) and belly buttons (Omphalophobia)!
Apparently researchers recently discovered that over half the British population suffer from Nomophobia, - the fear of being without mobile phone coverage!
What are you afraid of? What are the things that keep you up at night? What are the things that make your chest tighten, and your breath quicken? Fear is a powerful thing isn't it? I'm sure you know the feeling. When you're struck with fear and there's nothing you can do. And fear can be perfectly rational, or completely irrational. But either way, fear can control you. We talk about being gripped by fear. Frozen in fear. Paralysed with fear. Fear itself, being afraid, feeling afraid…is frightening.
But there is another kind of fear. The Bible tells us that there is actually a good kind of fear. Psalm 110.10, for example, tells us that…
The fear of the LORD… is the beginning of wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 12.13 tells us to…
Fear God and keep his commands, for this is the whole duty of man.
And Psalm 147.11 says that…
The LORD delights in those who fear him.
It is good, it is right, the Bible says, to fear God. But what does that mean?
Last week, if you were here, we saw through Enoch that Faith is the love language of God. This week, what I hope we'll see through Noah, is that… Faith (is) – The fear of God that sets you free
If you've not been with us in an evening service yet this term, then what we're doing is going through Hebrews chapter 11, learning about faith. We're looking each week at a different example of faith from the Old Testament. And this week we're looking at the faith of Noah.
Noah's faith meant that he feared God. And the first thing I want us to see this evening is that…
Fearing God Means Believing His Word Not Trusting Your Eyes.
In Genesis 6 God appeared to Noah and said
I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But 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.
And then we read, in v.22
Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
Noah trusted God. Noah believed God's word. He believed that things were going to turn out exactly the way that God said they were going to turn out, and so he "did everything just as God commanded him." Part of fearing God is believing that he is who he says he is, and that he will do what he has said he will do.
Which means that part of fearing God does mean being afraid of him. Fearing God means believing that sin is serious, that God will be our judge and that therefore we are in trouble.
God told Noah that judgment was coming, and Noah believed him. And so, as it says in v.7…
In holy fear (he) built an ark to save his family.
Noah feared that judgment was real. He believed that God was going to keep his word, so he built the ark. Now it doesn't tell us in Genesis how long it took Noah to build the ark. But it was big. 450 feet is about 30 meters longer than a football pitch. (if that helps!) And as far as we know it was just Noah, with maybe some help from his sons. And they had no power tools (!) So I'm guessing it took years to build. And all that time, the only thing that kept Noah going was his faith in the word of God.
There was no one else helping him. No-one else who had heard God's word, who could encourage him in what he was doing. He couldn't go to church on Sundays and homegroup on Wednesdays and meet up with other believers who were building arks for the LORD! There was no-one else following the LORD urging him on. In fact, as we see later on, it's probably safe to assume that the people around him were doing the opposite.
But that's not all. We're given very few details about how the ark was built in Genesis. But one thing we are told is that the rain didn't come until Noah had finished the Ark and gathered everyone inside. On the day they went inside, Genesis 7.13, on that very day, the floodgates opened and the rain began to fall.
Do you see what that means? Before that time…before then, there was no hint in the weather that God was going to keep his word. God didn't appear to Noah when it was pouring with rain and say, 'You'd better build an ark because this is going to last a long time'! Noah didn't spend the weeks and month and years that it must have taken to build the ark, each day marking the high tide on the sea shore and seeing that it was steadily going up the beach. There was nothing. No evidence that Noah could see with his eyes that the flood was coming. In fact everything his eyes could see told him that life was going to carry on as normal, just as it always had done. Can you imagine Noah, out there sawing away and hammering away, sweating like anything in the blazing sun, day after day, doing what?... Building a boat for the end of the world! Day after day, week after week, year after year, preparing for something that there was no sign would ever come. Nothing Noah could see told him that the flood was coming. Only the word of God. And that was enough. Faith means fearing God. And fearing God means believing his word not trusting your eyes.
Now why is that important, for you and me today? In Matthew 24 Jesus is talking to his disciples about the end of the world, when he says this...
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
And in 2 Peter 3.3-7 it says…
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 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.
I wish we had time to dwell on this more, but do you see what it's saying? Ever since Jesus left 2000 years ago, we've been waiting for his return. Every promise that God ever made in the Bible has come true, except for one. And that is that Jesus will come again, and that when he comes it will be the end of this world and the beginning of the next.
Do you see? Our situation is exactly the same as Noah's! When we look at the world around us there is no sign that Jesus is coming back. There's no sign, nothing we can see tells us that this world will suddenly come to an end. But God's word tells us that it will. We set our alarms in the evening to wake us up tomorrow morning, We book our holidays months in advance, We save our money month by month for that dream house, or dream car or just for a rainy day. Never stopping to think for a moment that that day might never come. Next summer might never come. Tomorrow morning might never come. Our eyes tell us, 'Of course it will', it always does. But God's word tells us that one day, it won't. And Jesus will come back.
Faith means fearing God. And fearing God means believing God's word not trusting your eyes.
Well, how then should we live? How do you live life believing God's word that Jesus will come back, and that he could come back any day? Well, Noah shows us how to live. Because secondly we see that…
Fearing God Means Loving People Not Fearing People
Now what does that mean? What does it mean that "by faith Noah condemned the world" And how on earth does that show us that Noah loved people instead of fearing them!
Well we need to start by going back to Genesis 6. Do you remember, back in Genesis 6.5 we read…
The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
The whole world was wicked and evil. And God said that he was grieved that he had made mankind, and had decided to wipe them out, v.7 and then we read the most amazing words in v.8
But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD
Noah was no different to the world around him, he was as wicked and evil as they were. But out of his amazing grace God chose to love Noah. He gave Noah the gift of faith. Noah believed the truth, and chose to follow God, and so, it tells us, he became a righteous man. And I think it's safe to assume that one righteous man living in a world of wickedness and evil stood out. And if his new way of life wasn't enough to make him stand out, well then he began building the ark!
Now we need to be careful not to read between the lines of the Bible. But I think it's fair to imagine that people must have started asking a few questions. Word got around, 'Noah's got religion! He's building a boat for the end of the world. He thinks God's going to wipe us all out for being bad.' The people were wicked and evil. They weren't offering to lend a hand, or telling him, 'Good for you if that's what you believe.'
In 1 Peter 3 Noah is used as an example of suffering for doing good. The people hated Noah and his ark, because it was a great big reminder of the God they hated and that they were trying to run away from. Noah's righteous life showed up their sin all the more clearly. That's why it says in Hebrews 11.7
By faith (Noah) condemned the world.
His faith was met by their wickedness. But how did Noah respond? Did their jibes make him stop? Did their threats intimidate him? No. He didn't fear the people around him. And he didn't hate them. 2 Peter 2.5 tells us that he became a "preacher of righteousness."
He didn't fear the people around him, he loved them. He loved them so much that even though all of them rejected him, he kept on warning them of the truth of God's judgment and the truth that they could still be saved if they turned back to him.
Do you see? Faith means fearing God. And fearing God means loving people, not fearing them.
This week I read a quote from Penn Jillette, he's one of the magicians, Penn and Teller. He's an atheist and he's fiercely anti-religion. But when someone come up to him after a show and gave him a Bible this is what he said.
"I've always said…that I don't respect people who don't proselytize (that means trying to convert someone to your religion) I don't respect that at all. If you believe that there's a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life or whatever… And you think that, well, it's not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…How much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize?
How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that ever lasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you, and you didn't believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you… There is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that."
Faith means fearing God. And fearing God means loving people not fearing people.Finally,
Fearing God Means Being Ready Not Being Afraid
Noah trusted God. He put his faith in God and believed God's word. He recognised that man was sinful and that God is our judge and that judgment was coming. But he also believed that the only way to be saved from God's judgment was to turn back to God. To trust him, and follow him, and build the ark. Noah had faith, and his faith was counted as righteousness.
And so when the flood came and the wicked people of the earth were destroyed, Noah was saved. Judgment came, just as Noah knew it would. And he was safe, just as he knew he would be. Because he believed God's word.
Do you see? Noah feared God. He trusted his life, and the life of his family, into God's hands. He feared God…and so he wasn't afraid.
I think that one of the reasons we struggle to get our heads around this idea of 'fearing God' is that so often we read in the Bible God telling his children NOT to be afraid. Again and again and again, God's says to those who follow him, 'Do not be afraid.'
How can we live a life without fear of death? And without fear of judgment? And without fear of man?How? By fearing God.
There's an old hymn that says this…
Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then
Have nothing else to fear
What are you afraid of?
Are you afraid of man? Are you afraid of death?
The remedy, is faith, fearing God.
Fear Him, you saints, and you will then have nothing else to fear.
Learn the lesson from Noah.
Faith means fearing God.
And fearing God, is the fear that sets you free.