2 May 2021
Ps Marius Engelbrecht
Please open your Bibles at Hebrews 11. We continue in the series on faith. We are looking together at what it means to live by faith. God teaches us in Hebrews 11 through a series of examples. Each one highlights an aspect of the faith to which we are all called.
We saw from the story of Abel that faith listens to God. We saw from the faith of Enoch that faith walks with God. Today we will see from the story of Noah that faith fears God. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.
“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet seen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this He condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7)
It seems that this verse speaks to a pressing question that faces us all in these difficult days. We are living at a time when believers are experiencing great sadness over revelations of the secret sins of some Christian leaders. Along with our sadness, we are also perplexed. How can these things be? Is there something missing? Have we lost something that we need to keep us on the right path?
I want to suggest, that one thing we may have lost is what we are told here. Noah lived with “reverent fear.” God “warned” Noah “concerning events as yet unseen.” “Noah, the world as you know it will soon pass away. It will be destroyed in a great and unprecedented flood. Noah believed the warning, and he feared.
This verse seems to be saying that faith can lead to fear. By faith Noah…in reverent fear constructed an ark. By faith he feared! Now someone may say – “Surely not!” Surely faith delivers us from fear. Isn’t the whole point of faith that we have peace and joy in believing?
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13)
That is true. But there’s more. There is a fear that faith relieves, and there is a fear that faith brings. God has given us warnings as well as promises, and the faith that rejoices when it hears God’s promises, trembles when it hears God’s warnings.
“All these things My hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2)
By faith Noah, being warned by God…in reverent fear constructed an ark (Hebrews 11:7). I want us to see today that the fear faith brings is a gift from God, and that it is vital for the pursuit of a godly life.
Seven Observations about Godly Fear
Godly fear is a gift from God
“I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of Me in their hearts, that they may not turn from Me” (Jeremiah 32:40)
God is speaking here about the new covenant, the relationship all of God’s people have with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. Notice that in this covenant, God is committed to doing us good. He says that He will never turn away from us. But then He says something else, “I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn away from me”.
Godly fear is the fruit of forgiveness
“If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared” (Psalm 130:3-4)
You would think this verse would say, “with You there is forgiveness, that You may be loved”. After all, the one who is forgiven much, loves much. But this verse says something else. “With You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared!” There is a fear that forgiveness brings. When you know that the forgiveness for your sins came at the cost of all that Jesus endured on the cross, you will have an awe of the gift that will cause you to fear sinning again.
Forgiveness brings you into the fear of the Lord: How could I sin against love like this? The fear of the Lord is a fear that only those who are forgiven can know. It is a fear born of a loving relationship that was bought at an infinite cost.
Godly fear is the fruit of forgiveness. This is confirmed by the fact that the wicked have no fear of God. In Romans 3, Paul describes the state of those who are far from God. He speaks about their lies, their venom, their curses, their violence. But his bottom line is this: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:18)
The fear that God puts into the hearts of His people is a fear born of love. It is birthed at the cross where we see what it took for us to be forgiven. “With you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared”.
Godly fear will keep you from sinning
“Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” (Exodus 20:20 NIV)
These words were spoken by Moses at Mount Sinai. When the presence of God came down, smoke covered the mountain. Fire erupted from the smoke and the whole of the mountain shook. Even Moses was trembling with fear. But Moses says to the people “Do not be afraid.”
The fear you know in the presence of God is a good thing. It is a gift, and as long as the fear of the Lord is with you, it will keep you from sinning. When you are tempted:
- Remember the fire and smoke on the mountain.
- Remember the terror you felt in the immediate presence of God.
- Remember who God is, and the fear of the Lord will keep you from sinning.
There are other motivations: Love for Christ, joy in Christ. But the power of temptation is so strong, we need every help we can get in our fight against it.
Fear is your friend in your fight against temptation. We need more than godly fear, but we can’t get away with less. The fear of the Lord acts as a brake on the impulse to sin that remains in the flesh of a Christian believer. A car without a brake is heading for disaster. And a believer without the fear of the Lord is heading for disaster too.
When Joseph was tempted, it was the fear of the Lord that protected him. “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 37:9). The fear of the Lord will keep you from sinning.
What happens if a person loses the fear of the Lord? In Psalm 36 we read that,
“Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart, there is no fear of God before his eyes.” (Psalm 36:1)
You hear about someone who commits a terrible sin, and you wonder, how could he or she possible do that? How could sin worm its way so deep into a person’s heart that he or she could do what they did? The answer, “There is no fear of God before his eyes.” The fear of the Lord will keep you from sinning.
“By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.” (Proverbs 16:6)
Godly fear will foster your pursuit of holiness
“So, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10)
Notice why we make it our aim to please the Lord. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. One day I will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and I will give an account of the way I have lived my life. There’s no avoiding this. So, I cannot live to please myself. And I cannot live to please other people. I must make it my aim to please Him.
This is not our only motive for pleasing the Lord. We make it our aim to please Him because we love Him because we are thankful to Him because we find joy in him. These are higher motives for sure. But there will be times when your love burns low. There will be times when you struggle for joy, and God gives you this motive that we should not despise: “We make it our aim to please Him. For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”
Godly fear will sustain you in faithful service
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each on may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others…” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11)
Paul experienced tremendous opposition in his work as an apostle. How did he keep going? He knew that something of overwhelming consequence lies ahead of every person. “We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. So how can I sit back and do nothing? How can I remain silent when I know this to be true? Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others”.
Now, again, there are other motives: He says in verse 14, “For the love of Christ controls us”. We are sustained in ministry by the love of Christ, by joy in Christ, by our desire to see people receive the blessing of Christ. But godly fear will keep you faithful in serving the Lord.
Godly fear will keep you from abandoning the faith
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:26-31)
There was great pressure on the Hebrew believers to whom this letter was first written to abandon their faith in Jesus. This letter of Hebrews offers robust encouragement. You have faced great pressure on account of your faith, but if you abandon Jesus, you will have something much worse to face.
Jesus is the one and only sacrifice for sin. If you walk away from faith in Him, you have no other way of finding peace with God. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, So, don’t even think about abandoning your faith in Jesus.
Godly fear will deliver you from other fears
“Blessed is the man who fears the LORD…His heart is steady; he will not be afraid” (Psalms 112:1,8)
If you have this godly fear, your heart will be steady. Godly fear will put strength into you. It will enable you to face and overcome other fears.
Fear Him, you saints and you shall then have nothing else to fear. It seems to me that in losing the fear of God, we have been overwhelmed by an epidemic of other fears. Fears about health about money. Fears about the future. Fears about not measuring up. Fears about what other people think.
Lose the fear of God and other fears run rampant. Learn the fear of the Lord, and you will find strength to face your other fears.
Do you see what a marvellous gift this fear of the Lord is?
It is the gift of God.
It is the fruit of forgiveness.
It will keep you from sinning.
It will foster your pursuit of holiness.
It will sustain you in faithful service.
It will keep you from abandoning the faith.
It will deliver you from others fears.
The more we look at these Scriptures, the more we are convinced that in large measure, we have lost sight of something vital to the pursuit of an authentic Christian life.
“In reverent fear” Noah “constructed an ark.” So, what are we to do?
What are we to do?
- Believe all that God has revealed
“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark …” (Hebrews 11:7)
Faith trusts God’s promises and it believes God’s warnings. Something within us wants to believe the promises and ignore the warnings. We want to believe that God will pardon sin but not punish it. We want to believe in heaven, but not so much in hell.
C.H. Spurgeon said, “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 judgement, faith in our own taste.”
Faith does not pick and choose what it likes in the Bible. Faith believes all that God has revealed. The warnings and the promises because we need both. When God warns, faith believes Him and fears. When God promises, faith trusts Him and rests. Listen to how Paul puts it in Romans,
“Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness. (Romans 11:22)
Take note, consider, behold the kindness and severity of God. God is good to those who seek Him. And terrifying to those who defy Him. We are not to dwell on God’s kindness alone. We are not to dwell on God’s severity alone. We are to dwell on the kindness and severity of God together. Both have their place in forming a faithful Christian life. And when some part of the truth gets lost, some part of the life gets distorted.
If you find yourself considering a sinful path, you should be gripped by a fear that will keep you from it. Without it you would be in great danger.
So, how do you get this fear of the Lord? It is a fruit of faith. It is an effect of believing all that God has revealed. If you believe, you will fear the Lord. We saw from the life of Abel that faith listens to God, so start listening to what God says in the Scripture. We saw from the life of Enoch that faith walks with God so start seeking God and like Enoch, you will find Him.
As you listen to God through His word and seek after God in your heart you will find that this godly fear begins to grow in your soul, and the fear of the Lord will keep you from sinning. The more you listen to Him, the more closely you walk with Him, the stronger you will be in the face of temptation.
- Rest in all that Christ has accomplished
“Noah…constructed an ark for the saving of his household” (Hebrews 11:7)
What does this mean for us today? Does this mean that there is something we can do to save our loved ones? No. Christ and Christ alone can save. And here, Noah is a “type” or a representation of Jesus Christ.
Think about a portrait. A portrait is not a person, but it shows a person’s features and you can see a person in their portrait. Noah is not Jesus, but you can see Jesus in him.
Think about the story of Noah as a picture of Jesus and what He has accomplished:
Who He was
Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord He was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. He walked with God.
“But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6:8,9)
Of Jesus, the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Jesus Christ is the Righteous One”. He was with the Father before the world began.
What He did
Noah… constructed an ark. Noah made the way of escape from the flood. He did this on his own. We do not read that anyone helped him. Singlehanded, he made the way in which people could be carried through the judgment of God and brought safely into a new world.
Jesus made the way in which we can be carried safely through the judgment of God.
Who He saved
Noah…constructed an ark for the saving of his household (Hebrews 11:7). The people who were saved were all related to Noah. He had three sons, and three daughters in law.
Matthew Henry says that it was well for these men that they were Noah’s sons, and it was well for these women that they married into Noah’s family.
God saved the family for Noah’s sake. They were saved because of who he was – a righteous man, and what He did in building an ark. Noah’s family entered into his ark. Noah did not get the family together and say “I want each of you to build your own ark. You can save yourself if you build an ark like mine. So, I’ll be the model. You do what I do. Then we can divide up the animals between us and each of us will be saved in our own little boat.” The world was not saved by a flotilla of boats! It was saved in one ark, built by one man. And those who were saved were all related to him.
Noah…constructed an ark for the saving of his household (Hebrews 11:7). He saved them by what he did. And all his family were saved because they were with him.
That gives us a wonderful picture of Jesus and what He has accomplished. Singlehanded, He has made atonement for our sins. He saves us by what He has accomplished, and he will save all who give themselves to Him.
Believe all that God has revealed, secondly; Rest in all that Christ has accomplished, and thirdly; Receive all that God has promised.
- Receive all that God has promised
“By faith Noah, …became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Hebrews 11:7)
An heir is someone who inherits. An heir receives something earned by another. It is freely given and freely received.
We are told that “by faith” (that is by believing what God has revealed, and trusting what God has promised), Noah became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
By faith, Abel was commended as righteous (vs. 4) By faith, Enoch was commended as having pleased God (vs. 5) By faith, Noah became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
How does faith make you an heir? Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ is the heir of all things.
“In these last days He has spoken to us by his Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom He also created the world.” (Hebrews 1:2)
- The reason we become heirs is that Jesus is the Heir, and faith joins us to Jesus.
- The reason we are righteous is that Jesus is righteous, and faith joins us to Jesus.
- The reason we are saved is that Jesus saves, and faith joins us to Jesus.
Faith joins us to Jesus, and all who by faith are in Him will be carried through the judgment of God, and brought safely into a new and perfect world. Rest in all that Christ has accomplished. Receive all that God has promised. So that as one who knows that you are accepted, loved, forgiven and safe forever in Jesus Christ, you will live always in the fear of the Lord.