The continuity of faith
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.
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 this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
There is a striking continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Sure, we all have to eventually figure out how the Old and New relate and how the OT laws function in our day and what the relationship between Abraham and his people is to the church. Even with all these things in mind, there is an amazing continuity that the author of Hebrews draws out. He talks about the OT sacrifices (which ended in the NT). There is a continuity in the necessity of faith. Whether you lived before the flood like Noah or Enoch or you live after Christ, faith, or we could say trust, in God’s words describes anyone who worships Yahweh.
When we speak of faith we have to actually be a little more specific because ever since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, death and the corruption of sin has spread to every one of their descendants. Every human is predisposed to sin, it is an inevitable relationship in same way that if a person falls off a 100 foot cliff, they will die. There is no other option because every part of a person is touched by or tainted with sin. Thus faith always is tied with repentance. In a sense they are two sides of the same coin: repentance is to acknowledge your sinful nature and sinful actions and to turn from them, and put your trust in the word of God and his gospel. So Noah is praised for his faith, but we also see Peter in his sermon in Acts 2 (potentially an ironic contrast) recall the story of Noah’s flood. God blotted out the earth and all that lived on it in the flood, and then Peter proclaims in the temple courts that we can avoid God’s judgment by having our sins blotted out, if we repent of our sins and put our faith in Christ. Noah’s (Noach) sacrifice was a restful, refreshing (Nichoach) aroma to God, and through Christ’s sacrifice and the blotting out of sin, times of refreshing have come.
So to properly worship God, we must have a right relationship with him. Of ourselves, we are like the generation destroyed by the flood: deserving of destruction and enemies of the good and just God of creation. But in repentance and faith we are no longer enemies but friends, sons and daughters. To ensure God’s justice, Christ endured death on our behalf. Noah was an heir of righteousness because he renounced his sins and trusted in God and his word. He prayed that the intent of his heart would be forgiven. Although he didn’t know Christ, the sacrifice given once for all, he knew the need for burnt offerings which signified the cleansing for sin.
So we too must also respond likewise. The necessary human response to seeing the evil intent of human hearts in the world is to look at ourselves and repent of our own sin. The problem comes in that we do not easily count ourselves as a part of the same human family that everyone else is a part of. Somehow we think are distinct in that we are just a bit better than most of the people we know. This is a lie, and we must, even as we see sin all around us, acknowledge the sinful intent of our own hearts. To see is not the end though, in fact we can sometimes live happily enough just seeing our sins. We must repent of our sin daily and put our faith in God who has the authority and power to forgive, cleanse, and sanctify us. And even this faith is a gift of God. So when we come to the point of crisis, God provides the path of resolution.
Finally, in repenting and believing there is a necessary humility that a Christian has. A Christian is baptized in water to publicly proclaim his or her submission to God’s word. Those of us who have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit say, ‘I have died to my own passions, and I commit to live for God.’ We always remember the place of sin and death from which we came, and we look with compassion on those who are lost, on those who are learning, and on those who are struggling. It is easy to become a cynic or proud when we think that of our own accord we have gotten this faith or this righteousness. It would also be easy to shame others or condemn them without any ecclesial backing. Instead, we look on those hurting with compassion, knowing that they are lost in their sins, and hope that God might use his word through his church to transform this sinner in the dark into a child of God. Which we will consider just a little more next week.