VIDEO Understanding the Sabbath

Sept 20, 2009 by John MacArthur

Well, it was some months ago when we were in the gospel of Mark early in the summer that we covered the end of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3, in which Jesus violated the sabbath by the standards of the Jews.  And when they confronted Him, He said two things.  He said, “Man was not made for the sabbath, but the sabbath was made for man.”  Which was to say that the sabbath was not to be a burden which men had to conform to, but the sabbath was to be a delight which men could enjoy.  The Jews had turned it in to an almost unbearable burden.

The second thing He said which, was even more shocking was, “The Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath,” and thus He declared His sovereignty over the sabbath.

How are we to understand the place that the sabbath plays, if any, in the life of the people of God?  Turn in your Bible for a moment to Exodus chapter 20.  This is the Decalogue, the ten commandments.  And near the middle of the ten commandments is the 4th commandment.  We begin to read about it in verse 8.  “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servants or your cattle or your sojourner – ” or stranger “ – who stays with you.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”

There is no question about the other nine commandments being permanent and binding.  We are to have no other gods.  We are never to make an idol.  We are to worship only the true and living God.  We are never to take the name of the Lord in vain.  We are not to dishonor our father or mother, but rather give them honor.  We are not to murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet.

Those are all moral mandates, moral commands, with the exception of verses 8 through 11, the fourth command regarding the sabbath.  And the question that is often posed is a simple one.  If all the other commands are permanent, is not this one permanent, as well?

There are people who believe it is and we might call them strict sabbatarians.  They fall generally into two categories.  One would be Seventh Day Adventists.  I think we’re familiar with them.  I think it’s legitimate to consider Seventh Day Adventism as a cult because they believe that the writings of Ellen G. White are inspired by God and could be put alongside the Bible.  But they identify themselves as faithful to the fourth command.

There are also Seventh Day Baptists, a smaller group that interpret the commandment as permanently binding, as well.  Not quite so strict, you could also identify what you would call Christian sabbatarians.  They have decided that as Christians, we must keep the sabbath, but it’s not any longer the seventh day, it’s the first day.  So they shift the command in Exodus from Saturday to Sunday.

This is a classic view among reformed theologians.  This was the view of many, if not most of the Puritans.  In fact, if you go back to the 1689 Baptist Confession, you will find a Christian sabbatarian article in that Confession, that Christians are to treat Sunday as a new sabbath, and they are to follow, generally, the prescriptions and limitations that were placed upon the old sabbath.

And the question before us tonight is are they correct?  Is it correct that we should be observing Saturday, the old sabbath, or perhaps Sunday as a kind of new replacement sabbath as a holy day, set apart from all other days?

Well, to answer that, we need to go back to Genesis chapter 2.  So let’s do that.  Genesis chapter 2.  The chapter opens with the indication that creation is over.  And we read these words, “Then the heavens and the earth were completed and all their hosts – ” everything that occupies them.  “By the seventh day, God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”

You will notice in verse 3 the word “sanctified.”  That word is essentially the word “holy” and this is the first time the word “holy” is used in the Bible.  The root means “to separate,” or perhaps better, to turn that into a vertical concept, “to elevate.”  It is a separation that elevates or exalts.

So here, for the first time, we come across the idea of something being separated by being elevated.  That is, God designates this seventh day as an exalted day, a day lifted above all other days.  And God makes it holy, and declares it to be so for three reasons.  The three reasons are basically connected to the three verbs that make up the text.

First of all, it is a day that is unique because the heavens and the earth were completed and all their hosts.  That’s the first verb, the whole work of creation was finished.  This work of creation was done in six essentially 24-hour days by God, and since that close of the sixth day, there has never been any further creation with the exception of those divine miracles that we have read about occasionally in the Old Testament, and the flurry of miracles through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, in which He creates wholeness and wellness within the midst of His now fallen creation.

Apart from that, creation ceased on the sixth day.  It didn’t go on for thousands of years.  It didn’t go on for millions or billions of years.  After six days it was finished, it was completed.  And so, this is a special day because it signals that God’s entire creation is finished.

Secondly is the verb “rested.”  When it says in verse 2 that “by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested.”  And then in verse 3 again, “He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”  This is a unique day because the creation being completed, God stops and rests.

Does not imply weariness.  The Lord does not grow weary, Isaiah 40:28.  The Psalmist says He doesn’t slumber or sleep.  He rested only in the sense that He ceased from work, not that He had to replenish His energy.  But what it tells us when He rested is really that He was satisfied.  And that takes you back to 1:31, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”  It was a perfect work, and it was the rest of utter satisfaction.

And by the way, there would be no more creation, and for a little while there was no more work for God to do.  God didn’t go to work again until the 3rd chapter of Genesis, not very long, when Adam and Eve fell and God had to go to work.  And what was the first thing that God did?  3:21, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.”  And then He drove them out of the garden.

God did no work between the end of creation and the fall of man.  And with the fall of man, God’s work began again.  God had to preserve as Hebrews 1 says, He had to “uphold by His power His creation” because it was now subject to decay.  And so, He went to work to preserve the universe that He had made, the creation that He has made, and He also went to work to fulfill all aspects necessary in the redemption of that creation.

Now, you do not hear in those three verses anything about people resting.  There’s nothing here about man resting, nothing here about Adam resting, and because he was without sin and a perfect man in every sense, there was no depletion of his energies when he was doing whatever the simple tending of the garden called for.  There’s no need to have a day of rest for man.  What would he rest from?  He’s living in a paradise with no labor, and no sweat, and no expended and lost energy.

There’s no sabbath law given here for Adam, none at all.  Nothing is said about this day being a day of worship.  It doesn’t say anything about that.  It doesn’t prescribe anything for anyone.  It is isolated completely to God.  He completed His creation, satisfied with it, He ceased, which is constituting rest, and the third verb in verse 3, “He blessed the seventh day.”

He designed that that seventh day would be a special memorial to His creation and its original perfection.  This is so important for you to understand.  This is a day to be elevated above all other days as a memorial to remember the glory of God’s perfection in creation.  Every seventh day from here on out would be a reminder that God in six days created the universe in perfection.

Have you ever asked yourself why we operate calendars all over the world in sevens?  It seems an odd number, does it not?  There certainly is no rational reason for coming up with seven, then designating weeks, and months, and years to be in sets of sevens.  It’s actually kind of an awkward way to do things.  It might be simpler to do them in tens.  And yet it is universally adopted across the world, and it is unique, and it is designed to be unique because every seventh day is a reminder of the power and the glory of God expressed in the magnificence of six-day creation.

To reject God as Creator, to reject God as Creator in six days is to unbless the seventh day.  To say that somehow God used thousands of years, millions of years, billions of years is to desanctify the seventh day.  There’s a reason why we live in seven-day units, and man has always done so, and it is because every seventh day provides for us a reminder that God is the Creator who created in six days the entire universe.

In Revelation chapter 14 there is the testimony of the gospel – well, I won’t read it to you – the angels flying through heaven, and the testimony of the gospel is to acknowledge God as the Creator.  It is the everlasting good news that God is the Creator.  Every seventh day that passes should stand as a testimony to the Creator.

Every Saturday, America, the western world with its Christian influences work toward a five-day work week.  Part of that was the underlying sense that Saturday was a day to enjoy the creation.  Saturday is a perpetual witness to God as Creator.  Sunday, on the other hand, is a perpetual witness to God as Redeemer.  We’ll talk more about that next time.

So, when you go back to Genesis chapter 2, there’s no mention of sabbath being a law, no mention of sabbath being a day of worship.  The next time you even run into the word is in Exodus 16.  Hundreds of years have passed.  Patriarchs have come and gone.  None of them worshiped, as far as we know, on the sabbath.  That was designated for them.  It was not prescribed for them.  It was not mandated for them, not Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and the rest of the people of God.

The first time the sabbath is mentioned in some significant way is in the 16th chapter of Exodus when God feeds the people manna from heaven as they wander in the wilderness, and the manna comes every day except the sabbath day, and the day before they get enough for that day so that they don’t have to work on that day.  And that gives them a little preview of what’s coming because in the 20th chapter you have the ten commandments, and in the ten commandments, which I just read to you, prescriptions are given that do set down laws for the sabbath day.  This is the first time any such laws have been given by God.

This is very important so that we understand that the sabbath was not instituted for man in Genesis.  It was instituted officially in Exodus in the law of Moses.  A further understanding of that comes from Exodus chapter 31.  You might want to look at it for a minute.  The Lord speaks to Moses in verse 12 and He says to him, “As for you, speak to the sons of Israel saying, ‘You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.  Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you.  Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.  For six days work may be done but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death.  So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.  It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; – ”  Why? “ – for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased; and was refreshed,’ ” or rested.

Here we find that sabbath is a sign.  It is a sign.  That is to say, it points to something else.  It is a symbol, if you will.  It is placed in the middle, or near the middle, of the ten commandments because it is a symbol connected to the Mosaic covenant.

Let me see if I can help you with that.  When God made a covenant with Noah, He promised Noah that He would never destroy the world again and God identified a sign.  What was the sign of the Noahic Covenant?  Rainbow.  When God made a covenant with Abraham, He made that covenant with Abraham and He designated a sign, and the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, participation among the covenant people Israel, was the sign of circumcision.

And here you have in the Mosaic Covenant another sign, and the sign this time is the sabbath.  It was only a sign.  Observing it with a duplicitous heart gained nothing.  In fact, Isaiah 1:13 says, “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me.  New moon and sabbath.”

The prophet Hosea pronounces a similar judgment on their hypocritical sabbaths.  “I will put an end to all her gaiety, her feasts, her new moons, or sabbaths.”  It didn’t mean anything to observe it outwardly without a heart of love and devotion to God.

But what was the symbol for?  What was the sign for?  Why this sign?  I think you’ll understand this when I explain it.  The sabbath was a reminder of creation.  The sabbath was to remind the people of Israel that they had forfeited paradise, that man had forfeited paradise.  The law said to them, “Obey this law and you will be blessed.”  God said that repeatedly, “Obey this law and you will be blessed,” to show them that righteous behavior would restore a taste of Eden’s paradise.  Righteous behavior would also point to a future, a future kingdom when paradise would be regained.

So the sabbath, every sabbath that went by when they rested, they were reminded of a perfect creation, a paradise of God dominated by righteousness, which had been forfeited by sin and could only be regained again by righteousness.  God then institutes the seventh-day system, not for everybody in the world.  In fact, specifically it says for Israel.  Verse 17, “A sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever.”  Every seventh day was a reminder that they were living in a fallen world.  Every seventh day was a reminder that they had lost paradise.  And the only way to regain a taste of paradise was obedience to God, righteousness.

And they therefore were to consider the importance of obeying the ten commandments.  They were to consider the importance on that seventh day of examining their own lives and looking at how they were measuring up against the law of God.  Recognizing sin was the objective, and bringing them to repentance.

So the first seventh day identified God as Creator, but the institution of the sabbath in the Mosaic economy identified God as the law-giver.  The first view was to produce gratitude for the wonder of creation.  The second, to produce repentance for the forfeiture of all that is right.  And so, the sabbath took on a new meaning.  Yes, it still is a reminder that God created, but it’s a reminder that the creation of God which was originally perfect is now marred, and we are marred, and the realm of His creation is stained by sin, and we are stained by sin, and the creation, as Paul puts it, is groaning, and we are groaning, as well.

The sign in the middle of the Abrahamic Covenant of circumcision was a way to say, “You need to be clean.  You need to be cleansed.”  And the sign here, the sabbath, in the middle of the ten commandments, essentially said the same thing.  You need to recognize that you have forfeited paradise, and the only way to regain it is to be righteous.  Obviously they couldn’t keep the law, but they were to be driven in penitence to plead with God to be merciful to them as sinners.

So we understand that this was unique for the people of Israel.  And as I said this morning, when Jesus came, everything changed, everything changed.  You remember that I told you this morning that what He did was not a cleansing of the temple, it was an abolishing of the temple?  He didn’t just want to eliminate the bad priests and keep the good priests.  He eliminated the priesthood.

He didn’t just want to clean up the people’s attitudes as they gave their sacrifices, He obliterated the sacrificial system because He brought an end to Judaism with all its ceremonies, all its rituals, all its sacrifices, all of its external trappings, the temple, the holy of holies, all of it, including the sabbath, including the sabbath.  The sabbath observance went away with all the rest that belonged to Judaism.

We begin to understand this by watching Jesus and how He treated the sabbath.  How did Jesus treat the sabbath?  I’ve said this before, any way He wanted, absolutely any way He wanted.  He is the mediator, we know, of a new covenant, a better covenant.  It’s important to notice that just as He obliterated the sacrificial system, He obliterated the sabbath system.

Now you may recall that we looked at this in specifics in Mark, but let’s look at several other passages to consider this because this is the heart of our message to you tonight.  Look at Matthew 12:1.  “Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, His disciples became hungry, began to pick the heads of grain and eat.”  By the way, there was actually no Old Testament law forbidding them to do that.  In fact, it was allowed.  But the Jews had added endless restrictions to the Old Testament.

“So when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, ‘Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.’  He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did?’ ”  You think this is bad?  “ ‘When he became hungry, he and his companions, entered the house of God, and ate the consecrated show bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?’ ”

I’ll even give you something worse.  David and his men ate the show bread.  “ ‘Or have you not read in the law, that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and are innocent?’ ”  You all make a big issue out of not working on the sabbath.  Guess what?  While you’re not working, all the priests are working, carrying out all the offerings and all the sacrifices.

Which reminds us that this law is not moral, it’s symbolic.  So Jesus, rather than acquiescing to their concern over a violation of the sabbath, points to other violations of the sabbath.  In verse 8, He says, “The Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”  He can do anything He wants with the sabbath.  He can institute it.  He can make commands for restrictions.  He can require death for violation of those commands, as in the Mosaic law, or He can set it aside totally.  He can abrogate it.  He can nullify it.  And there is the transition that is taking place in the New Testament.  As Jesus arrives, everything that is part of the system of Judaism is coming to its end.

Look in Luke chapter 14, Luke chapter 14.  Again it’s in verse 1, “It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely.  And there in front of them was a man suffering from dropsy.  And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath or not?’  But they kept silent.  He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away.  And He said to them, ‘Which of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a sabbath day?’  And they could make no reply to this.”

They thought healing someone was a violation of the sabbath.  Jesus appears to have chosen the sabbath day for His healing purposely because it struck a blow at this symbol.  Jesus is announcing the end of the sabbath.  By the way, healing was no violation of sabbath law, the Old Testament doesn’t indicate that.  But then again, healing didn’t happen.

In Mark chapter 2 – let’s go back to that chapter where we first began to look at this recently – He is passing through a grain field on a sabbath.  His disciples begin to make their way while picking the heads of grain.  The same account is in Matthew.  Pharisees say to Him, “Look, why are they doing this?  It’s not lawful on the sabbath.”  Then He goes through the illustration of David and et cetera, and comes down in verse 27 to, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.  The Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath.”

God designed the sabbath to be a blessing, to bring rest, to bring a day in the week when you could thank God for the glory of His creation and also be made aware that paradise had been lost.  It was a day to show gratitude for the creation and a day to repent, to seek forgiveness.  It was right in the middle of the law, because they lived in violation of that law if not actively, in their hearts.  As Jesus said, “If you do these things in your heart, it’s as if you’ve committed these sins,” in the sermon on the mount.

So our Lord has given the sabbath to be a blessing to man, to give him rest from his work, a taste of Eden where all was rest before the fall, to give him an opportunity to thank God for the creation, and then to examine his life against the law.  And seeing the sin there, seek for forgiveness and mercy, and the result in joy and peace and salvation.

Again, He is Lord of the sabbath.  He is greater than the sabbath.  The sabbath will be whatever He desires it to be, whatever He designs it to be, nothing more and nothing less.  It is not moral.  It wasn’t even given until the time of Moses and abrogated in the time of Christ.

Turn to John 5.  Opposition to Jesus is smoldering under the surface at this time, but this particular healing brought it out in the open.  There’s a feast of the Jews.  We’re not sure exactly which, but we could call it a festival or a sabbath feast.  “There is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes.”  And then it says, “In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, withered, waiting for the moving of the waters;”   Some dispute over the authenticity of this particular portion there.  “An angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool,” and so forth.  Part of verse 3 and 4 may have been added later.  That’s why they have little brackets there.

But in verse 5, this picks up the original text.  “A man was there who had been ill for 38 years.  When Jesus saw him lying there, He knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, ‘Do you wish to get well?’  The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’ ”  This was probably some kind of a superstitious idea that the first one in the water when the ripples came got healed.  “And Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.’ ”  Very light straw mat could be rolled up under his shoulder.  “Immediately the man became well – ” in verse 9 “ – picked up his pallet, began to walk.”  Here’s the rub.  “Now it was a sabbath that day.”

Old Testament law didn’t forbid walking, didn’t forbid carrying your pallet from one place to another.  But rabbinic tradition had formulated, I don’t know, some say nearly 40 different forbidden activities.  You see them in the Mishnah, one of which was carrying your mat.  So Jesus had him violate the sabbath.  He didn’t have to heal the man on the sabbath.  He didn’t have to command the man to do something that violated their sabbath sensibilities.  But He did it, and He did it purposely.  Verse 15 says, “The man went away, told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.  For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the sabbath.”

Jesus would never violate the ten commandments.  Jesus would never violate the law of God.  He is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.  But Jesus did anything He wanted on the sabbath, and in the sight of the leaders in the doing of it, because it was part of bringing down that whole system.

In verse 17, He goes even beyond that and defends what He did by saying this, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”  Wow.  This is a claim to be deity.  My Father and I are doing our work before your eyes.  We are working.  “For this reason, therefore – ” verse 18 “ – the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”  He was calling Himself – He was calling, I should say, God His Father, and continually involved in activities that violated sabbath law.

The Pharisees charged Jesus with breaking the sabbath law, making Himself equal with God, and this led them to kill Him eventually.  Jesus never attempted to fit His activities into the sabbath law of the old covenant.  He established His own authority as one with God and as Lord over the sabbath.  The Pharisees were strict sabbath keepers.  They followed the old covenant and embellishments to the letter.

And yet they missed the whole point of the sabbath.  They found no rest from their endless works efforts at salvation.  They found no real honest repentance.  The sabbath laws were mere shadows of hope, a weekly reminder that there was a paradise to be regained and it was through the means of righteousness.

There could be a rest from the endless struggle and the horrible burden of trying to earn your salvation.  When Jesus came, He brought the rest, the true rest.  The child of God is now a new person.  Under the new covenant we are healed, and washed, and found, and accepted.  We have entered into rest with none other than the Creator Himself.  We have been given righteousness.  We rejoice in that gift.  We cease all effort to earn our salvation.  Jesus literally did away with the sabbath.

What about the rest of the New Testament?  What does the New Testament say to the church regarding the sabbath?  Let’s look at Hebrews 3.  There’s a lot more to be said about this.  I’m just trying to give you the highlights.  And next Sunday night we’re going to look at the Lord’s Day, Sunday, and see how that fits in the purpose of God.

But there are a few definitive passages.  Hebrews 3:7, probably a good place to start.  “The Holy Spirit says, ‘Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for 40 years.  Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, “They always go astray in their heart, and they do not know My ways;” and I swore in My wrath, “They shall not enter into My rest.” ’ ”

God’s true rest didn’t come through Joshua.  God’s true rest didn’t come through Moses.  God’s true rest comes only through Jesus Christ.  Joshua led the nation of Israel into the land of their promised rest, and that it was nothing more than a temporary earthly rest, merely a shadow of the final ultimate heavenly rest.

My rest.  This is the promise of salvation that God gives to those who put their trust in Him.  Verse 12, “Take care, brethren, that there be not in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, ‘Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.’

“For who provoked Him when they had heard?  Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?”  The whole generation died in the wilderness.  “And with whom was He angry for 40 years?  Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?  So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.”

The kind of rest that is important for us is the salvation rest that comes by faith, by faith in God.  Unbelief forfeits rest.  The rest that the New Testament writers are concerned about, even the emphasis in the book of Hebrews, which is a very Jewish epistle, is not upon a sabbath observance, but upon a spiritual salvation rest.

Look at 4:1, “Let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any of you might seem to have come short of it.”  The rest that the New Testament concerns itself with is not a day of the week, it is salvation.  “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.  For we who have believed have entered that rest.”

There is never a command in the New Testament to keep the sabbath.  All ten commandments are repeated in the New Testament some numerous times except the fourth command.  It is never repeated in the New Testament, not one single time.  It was in the midst of the moral law a sign and a symbol to lead the people to rest and repentance.  But when you come to the New Testament, there’s never a repeat of that command.

The rest that the New Testament is concerned about is the rest that comes to the soul from hearing and believing the good news preached.  That’s the rest the New Testament offers.  Verse 9 says, “There is a sabbath rest for the people of God.  For the one who has entered His rest has himself rested also from his works, as God did from His.”  That’s so remarkable.

What does that mean?  There’s only two possible concepts about getting to heaven.  You work your way in or it’s a gift, right?  To the Jews, they were working.  But when you enter the rest of grace and the rest of faith, works cease.  The day you came to Jesus Christ, you ceased trying to earn your salvation, right?  You entered into permanent rest.

This is just a magnificent New Testament emphasis.  The Mosaic sabbath, the symbol, the sign was a dim reflection of the true rest.  Look at Romans for a moment, chapter 14.  Since this is true that the rest the New Testament calls for is a spiritual rest, salvation rest from the works approach to righteousness, you can no longer make anything out of the sabbath.

Listen to Romans 14:5, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike.  Each person is fully convinced in his own mind.  He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord.”  There were Jews who had come to faith in Christ and had a hard time letting go of the sabbath.  It was pretty much ingrained in them.  They thought they were still obeying the Lord by maintaining old covenant sabbath law.  They observed it for the Lord.  “He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, he who eats – ” following the dietary laws “ – does it for the Lord, he who gives thanks to God; he who eats not, for the Lord he doesn’t eat, and gives thanks to God.”

In other words, as verse 5 says, each person is fully convinced in his own mind does what he thinks is right.  It really doesn’t matter.  Verse 8 says, “If we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord.  Therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”  Don’t make an issue out of the sabbath.

As he says back in verse 2, some people are concerned about dietary laws.  Some people are concerned about sabbath observance.  Those things are part of a passing scheme.  And there’s instruction in the New Testament elsewhere to let these people develop their understanding of their freedom from these prescriptions.  Don’t force them against their conscience.  Jewish believers still felt compelled to observe sabbath law, dietary law.  Let them do that until they come to the fullness of their freedom.

What is remarkable about this is there’s no command here to do that.  This would be a perfect place to say, “And those of you who aren’t doing it, shape up.”  It doesn’t happen.

In Galatians 4:9, “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?  You observe days and months and seasons and years.  I fear for you, perhaps I have labored over you for nothing.”  You have no obligation to go back to the calendar prescriptions of the festivals and the sabbaths of the Mosaic economy.

Turn to Colossians chapter 2.  This is perhaps the most definitive because it pulls two signs together, the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, circumcision, and the sign of the Mosaic Covenant, sabbath.  And in Colossians chapter 2, of course we know that circumcision has been completely abolished in the new covenant, totally abolished.

Galatians 5:2 says, “If you receive circumcision, Christ is of no benefit to you.”  If you receive circumcision, Christ is no benefit to you.  It doesn’t matter.  “In Christ neither circumcision or uncircumcision means anything, it’s faith working through love.”

And so here in Colossians 2:11, “In Christ you were circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;” you had a far more dramatic surgery, and it was internal.  You were “buried with Him in baptism, and you were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.  You who were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.”

Set aside circumcision.  If you hang onto circumcision, you make Christ of no effect.  The sign of the Abrahamic Covenant is gone.  That Covenant passes away because that Covenant cannot save.

And then in verse 16, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”  Don’t let anybody hold you to a sabbath.  And that’s referring to the weekly sabbath, because the other festival sabbaths are covered under the term “festival and new moon.”

Don’t let anybody hold you to the sabbath.  It was part of the system that included the temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices.  It’s gone.  It was only the shadow, not the substance.  It only pointed to the fact that God was the Creator, that paradise had been lost, that you had come under the terrifying judgment of the law and needed to repent and come to God and seek righteousness and mercy and grace at His hand.

But it didn’t provide that.  That is provided in Jesus Christ.  Paul is saying you no longer need the shadow, you have the substance.  You have the rest, the true rest.

More can be said about this.  Just some final thoughts and we’ll let you go.  There’s not one New Testament command to keep the sabbath.  All the ten commandments are repeated in the New Testament except the one about the sabbath.  It is never quoted in the New Testament.  There are no prescriptions or sabbath rules anywhere in the new covenant.  There is no instruction about behavior on the sabbath anywhere in the New Testament.

In Acts 15, when the Jerusalem Council decided what would be required of Gentile believers in the church, they did not require them to observe the sabbath.  The apostles never commanded anybody to observe the sabbath.  They never chastise anybody for not observing the sabbath.  They never warned believers about sabbath violations.  They never encouraged believers to hold to the sabbath.

It is gone, with one exception.  We can go back to that original Genesis 2 chapter, and we can be reminded that every seventh day that goes by is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the greatness of our Creator.  We can bless that day by in it acknowledging God as Creator.

And then, as I said – and this is for next week – first day is where we acknowledge God as Redeemer.  We don’t ever really celebrate a sabbath in the Mosaic sense because it’s a ministry of death.  But we can celebrate a sabbath in the Genesis sense as we celebrate God as our Creator, and then on the first day of the week, as we celebrate Him as our Redeemer.

Now next Sunday night with just that overview, I want to transition to how we view Sunday.  Is there something important about it?  Is there something unique about it, special about it?  And what does Scripture say?  And I think you’ll enjoy knowing what the Lord wants us to know and how to respond to that as we consider that next time.

Father, we thank You for a wonderful day.  We thank You for the consistency of Your truth.  We thank You for the Word which opens up our understanding to all things.  We’re so unendingly thrilled at the glorious truth of Scripture that comes clear and unmistakable to us.  We thank You that we’re beyond the shadows, and the signs, and the symbols.

We live in the reality of rest.  We have rested forever from works righteousness, efforts at self-salvation.  We have entered into the rest of the gospel.  We have a taste of paradise even now in this rest, and one day we’ll enter into that glory of heavenly paradise.  But You’ve given us a taste of it now.  Every day for us is a sabbath, because every day we rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. We give Him all the praise.  Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-379/understanding-the-sabbath

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VIDEO Noah: A Preacher of Faith

 

Hebrews 11:7

All right, let’s turn to Hebrews chapter 11…Hebrews chapter 11 and we’re going to look at Noah and the work of faith, the great story of Noah is summarized in one verse, verse 7 of Hebrews 11, “By faith, Noah being warned by God about things not yet seen in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household by which he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”

Now one of the things you would note from that is you just read a Bible verse that condenses Genesis 6, 7, 8 and 9…in that sense, it is a very cryptic verse, it assumes that you know the story. And that’s a fair assumption because after all, this book was written to whom? To whom? Hebrews. They knew the story, they were extremely familiar with the story. In fact, the whole chapter is cryptic, the references to Abel, brief. The references to Enoch, brief. The references to Noah, brief. A little more detail with regard to Abraham and Sarah, references to Moses relatively brief, references to others, brief. And in verse 32, you just have names, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets.

So the assumption here is that these people know the Old Testament. They’re familiar with these characters and their stories. And certainly every Jew was familiar with the astounding story of Noah. Noah is the next in the list of faithful men, men whose lives were marked by faith. I remind you that James said, “Faith without works is dead.”What he meant by that is true faith is supported by action. And Noah is certainly the classic illustration of that fact in the Old Testament. His action of faith is in some ways more remarkable than anyone else. The Bible everywhere and always teaches that men come to God by faith alone and then go on to live in faith, that simply means to take God at His Word and trust in that Word as true. Never by works or self-effort, or ceremony, moral achievement do you reach God.. You always come to God by faith. It has always been so, it has never been any different.

But when the gospel of grace and the gospel of faith came along, being preached by Christ and the Apostles, it seemed to the Jews of that day like a new message because Judaism which, of course, originally was a message of salvation by grace through faith had been corrupted into a system of works. The Hebrews had been exposed their whole lives to a kind of Judaism that taught that you attain salvation by your efforts, your moral efforts and your religious efforts. And while there were some godly believing Jews, they were but a remnant. And the Jews in general had been taught that salvation comes by works.

God hated that, as He always does. But the Jews had placed their hopes in nationality, circumcision, possession of the Law, conformity to the Law, observance of ritual, all the externals. And maybe the model of that, the most well-known model of that would be the Apostle Paul, right? He was circumcised the eighth day of the tribe of Benjamin, a zealous Jew as measured against the Law, openly blameless, a traditionalist…which he thought was gain to him. But when he found the true gospel of faith and grace through Christ, he said it was nothing but rubbish.

The theme of salvation has always been grace. And that’s the whole point of the chapter, to say to these Hebrews,“This is not new, this is old,” and the lead in to chapter 11 comes, as you’ve noted if you’ve been with us, in verses 38 and 39 where the writer of Hebrews quotes from Habakkuk 2:4, “The just one shall live by faith.” Faith has always been God’s way. It has never been any different than that.

So the gospel of grace and faith is not new. And the rest of chapter 11 makes the message crystal-clear by giving us a list of all those who can be classified as men and women of faith. The means of righteousness, both in the New Covenant and the Old Covenant was faith.

Now we have seen the example of Abel and the life of faith. We’ve seen the example of Enoch and the walk of faith. And now we come to Noah and the work of faith. Noah’s story is really amazing. And in verse 7 you just get a very brief summary.

The writer of Hebrews knows they know the story. Most of you know the story, but some of you may not know and the story really needs to be told in its fullness, or you’re not going to know what this verse is talking about because there aren’t any details here. The only detail here is that he prepared an ark. We don’t even know for what. It refers to things not yet seen. What things not yet seen? And how did he condemn the world? And how did he become an heir of righteousness?

So in order for us to get the full account of Noah’s faith, we have to go back to the great story. Now what begins the verse is the first thing to be known. “By faith, Noah being warned by God..” He had nothing to go on but what God had said. He had nothing to go on but the Word of God. And God told him something was going to happenthat had never happened in the history of the world. Was Noah going to believe this? Was he going to be committed that what God said was in fact true.

Let’s go to the story back in Genesis chapter 6. It is, in some ways, the most remarkable Old Testament illustration of faith and one of the most remarkable in all of history because of what it involved. Now let’s go down to chapter 6 and verse 13…Genesis 6:13.

“Then God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me for the earth is filled with violence because of them and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.”

God comes to Noah and tells him He’s going to destroy the entire earth. About 1500 or more years have passed since the creation, the story of man on earth had just gotten worse and worse and worse and worse since the Fall.Sin is frankly running rampant. It is an ever-increasing escalating offense to God and so God delivers a decree that He’s going to destroy the whole earth and then goes on to say specifically by water He is going to drown the human race, sparing only Noah and his family and no one else. As in verse 18, “I will establish My covenant with you and you shall enter the ark, you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.”

Now this is the most remarkable judgment event in the Old Testament, the destruction of the entire human race,with the exception of eight people. History tells us that God will judge sinners. The Bible tells us that God will judge sinners. And He does and He judges every sinner one at a time. It is appointed unto man once to die and after this, the judgment. Every sinner faces the judgment of God, one sinner at a time. But periodically there are these massive judgments. For long periods of time, God leaves sinners to their own devices and the fulfillment of their own desires, and then suddenly and devastatingly intervenes in human history in cataclysmic fashion. This in human history is the greatest of all cataclysmic judgments. It is the second most astounding event in the Old Testament, the first and most astounding event in the Old Testament is the creation, the creation of the entire universe in six days. This is next to that as a monumental event.

Now we don’t have the time to go through all the detail. We have done that in a study of Genesis and you can get a hold of that, you can download that, if you want, on an MP3 file or you can get the CDs or whatever you want from Grace To You and go through the details of this judgment. But for us, for this time, we’re just going to look at what God said He was going to do, what He asked Noah to do an dhow Noah demonstrated his faith.

What brought about this judgment by God? Let’s go back to verse 5…Genesis chapter 6 and verse 5. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He made man on the earth and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things to birds of the sky, for I am sorry that I have made them.’”

That was what did it. God saw that the iniquity, the wickedness of man was great on the earth. It was so sweeping that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. This is chronic rather than spasmodic.Every thought, every idea, every motive, every imagination and therefore every deed, the result of every thought was an expression of the fallenness of man, the depravity of man.

Verse 11 adds, “The earth was corrupt in the sight of God and the earth was filled with violence.” By the way, the Hebrew word for violence is chamas, used of abuse of people and general rebellion. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, translates that as adikia, unrighteousness.

Verse 12, “God looked on the earth and behold, it was corrupt for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.” You’ve probably noticed the onlys and the alls, there’s a sweeping condemnation of judgment.

Verse 6 tells us that the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth and He was grieved in His heart. This is a kind of anthropomorphic statement. God doesn’t undo anything He does and He doesn’t do things that He wishes He hadn’t done in the truest sense, but this is to express an anthropomorphic emotion that God regretted what He had done…similar to the statement our Lord makes about Judas. “It would have been better for that man if he had never been born.” This is a kind of Hebraic way to express consummate grief.

So verse 7, the Lord says, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land from man to animals to creeping things to birds of the sky for I’m sorry I made them.” Blot out…that is a very strong Hebrew word,machah, precise, graphic language, it is a word that expresses the idea of erasing something. That is to say, removing it all together. I will erase man from the planet, a promise of wholesale death and destruction.

Now that gets us back to verse 13. God then speaks to Noah and tells him, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. Behold, I’m about to destroy them with the earth.”

There’s one incident in the beginning of this chapter, the opening four verses, that tells you how bad it was, that people literally welcomed demons to come into them, men welcoming demon-possession, cohabitating with women and the fruit of that was satanic alliances, horrendous children that carried on the wickedness to its extreme levels.

So here God speaks in verse 13 for the first time personally to Noah. He will speak to him three more times,chapter 7 verse 1, chapter 8 verse 15, chapter 9 verse 1. And the message that He gives to Noah is this message of massive, massive judgment.

You know, it must have been so staggering for Noah to hear this. There were millions of people in the world by this time. We can’t know the exact number but I’ve heard everything from eight million to a hundred million. I mean, the world is densely populated. In the first place, people lived for nine hundred plus years and you can produce a lot of children in that amount of time. Just to believe that this is actually going to happen is certainly an act of faith. There must have been something in him that would sort of parallel the skeptics that Peter tells us that when they hear about the Second Coming say, “That’s never going to happen, all things continue as they were from the beginning.” The same kind of skepticism must have existed in the mind of Noah, at least at one point when he talked to himself, but everything goes along normally the same way. How can this possibly be?

And if that’s hard to swallow, try this on. Verse 14, “Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood. You shall make the ark with rooms and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.”

Now God hasn’t told Noah how He’s going to destroy the world yet, right? He just says in verse 13, “The end is coming. I’m going to destroy the whole human race.” Noah doesn’t know how. So He gives him a command without an explanation. The explanation doesn’t come until verse 17, “I’m bringing the flood of water upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life from under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall perish.”

So at the beginning, God says to Noah, “Build a big box, ark, tebah in Hebrew. The word is used throughout the flood narrative and it really means box, or chest. It’s not shaped like a boat, it’s not shaped like a ship. It has no propeller. It has no pilot. It has no sails. It has no rudder. It has no captain. It has no navigator. It’s a box. And, by the way, it’s only used this word one other time in the Old Testament and it is used in Exodus chapter 2:3 through 5 to describe the box that baby Moses was put in, to float down the Nile. God used a box to save Moses so he could save Israel. God used a box to save Noah so Noah could save the human race.

In both cases, the box was a refuge from death t o provide a future in one case for Israel, and another case for the human race. The Ark of the Covenant is a different Hebrew word all together.

Now God then says, “Make a box,” back to verse 14, “make it of gopher wood.” We don’t have any idea exactly what that is. There’s some suggestions as to what it is. It appears nowhere else in Scripture. It may have been a kind of a cedar pine which was plentiful. Now remember, Noah was not a ship builder and this wasn’t a ship, this was a box. This is an immense task, he can’t do it on his own, very likely, even with three sons helping him. He would have to had to hire multiple carpenters and design people to effect this thing and to move around the pieces of this giant box. And He says, God does, “You shall make rooms, compartments, or dwellings.” Likely they numbered in the thousands. “And then cover it inside with pitch.” And that is a kind of calking substance. Pitch, by the way, is related to the Hebrew verb to smear, smear it, seal it so it doesn’t leak.

Then verse 15, it gets very interesting. “This is how you shall make it.” Now if he’s thinking of a box just for him and his family, hey, that would be an 8 by 10 would do. He doesn’t know what the box is for. “This is how you are to make it. The length of it is three hundred cubits, the breadth, or width is fifty cubits and the height is thirty cubits.” That’s 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, 45 feet high. This is not a design for speed. This is not a design for easy guiding. This is a design for stability. It is the largest vessel ever built until the nineteenth century when giant ships were built because steel was used, iron was used. The largest ship ever built was launched by the P. & O. Line, it was called the Himalaya. It was 240 feet long. That was t he largest ship in history.

Later that year, in 1858, they built the Great Eastern which was almost 700 feet long, a massive ship. And when that ship was built, historians say it was five times the tonnage of any ship before it. So big that it was bigger even than ships that were built after it was built.

So when you back all the way back thousands of years to the time of Noah, this is far larger than any ship anyone would have ever imagined or conceived of…unheard of to build a box this big. In 1844 Brunell built the Great Britain which was 320 feet by 51, by 32. What’s interesting is, the people who study the ratios of ships understand that all these ratios are similar. When you come to modern ship building in the nineteenth century, the ratios are the same as the ratio for the ark. At a ratio of about six to one, length to width because God knows about stabilityand later ship builders even today will tell you six to one to eight to one is required for stability.

The ark then is way ahead of its time. Nobody would have understood this kind of design, another indication of the divine nature of Scripture. Its length is six times its width and keeps it stable in the midst of tossing seas. As a rectangle it has more stability and because it’s a rectangle and doesn’t have pointed ends and then rounded sides,it is one third larger in capacity than a similar sized ship with a hull. The gross tonnage, 1415 thousand tons. The internal space, a hundred thousand square feet. The volume, 1.5 million cubic feet. It’s a massive boat.

Some have calculated that the capacity is equal to five hundred and twenty-two boxcars. And each boxcar can carry 240 sheep so you could carry in this box a total of 125 thousand sheep. The reason people calculate that with sheep because sheep would be a sort of average sized animal…some smaller, some larger. So it could handle as many as 125 thousand animals.

Thousands of compartments are built in this massive box to house, at this point, no one knows not what, but it’s certainly sufficiently large to carry what the Lord finally tells him it’s going to carry, two of every species of animal in the world. And then enough space for Noah and his family and some additional animals for sacrifice and food.Only supernatural revelation could so design a ship of that size, of that dimension to contain that population of animals.

Now when God gives Noah the command to do this, it is 120 years until the Flood. This is what you would call a long-term project. Did he start building immediately when God commanded him? Well it’s very likely he started thinking about building, and then he had to figure out how to build. And then he had to try and find some people who could design a building like that, a box like that. We don’t really know how long it took to build it but the assumption could be he probably started very early and began to put the design together and thoughts togetherand then to assemble the components and begin to build.

There are people who think that the Flood story is a fictional invention. It’s pretty hard sell because of the precision with which the dimensions of this ship are designed. Now what God told Noah to do was to build a flat-bottom barge with no rudder. And you would ask yourself, “What in the world would I be doing that for?”

Well God gives him more detail. “You shall make a window,” verse 16, “for the ark. Finish it to a cubit from the top.”Now the best way to understand that is probably that the roof overhangs the box and just below the roof there’s an opening all the way around for much needed ventilation…as you would imagine. The origin of the word used here for window, tsohar, is very obscure but it seems to connect with sources that mean light. The thing would be dark if there wasn’t some light coming in. Though it is very likely that below the overhanging roof there was an opening between the beams that held the roof up. An opening 18 inches wide between the roof and the sides of the ark just under the roof and interrupted only by the posts, providing ventilation and light, set back under the roof so that the rain wouldn’t come in. Set the door on the side of it, he is told. “Set the door on the side of it andyou shall make it with lower and second and third decks.” One door.

Now in this box, Noah doesn’t know it, he’s going to spend a year. He’s going to spend a year floating over a drowned planet.

This is a cruise without a stateroom, without a porter in the most primitive conditions imaginable. This is a year in a stable. But there’s enough room here with three different floors and thousands of compartments for everything.

Why am I doing this? Verse 17, “Cause I’m going to bring the flood of water upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life; from under heaven everything that is on earth shall perish.” I love this beginning,“Behold, I, even I..” Supernatural judgment is coming. I’m doing this. I’m going to drown the world.

The word “flood of water” is a technical term, mabbul, that is used only in Genesis 6 through 9. It is as if God picked a word exclusively to describe the Flood. It has one other use in Psalm 29:10. His purpose is to destroy all air-breathing creatures, everything excluding those in water who will survive. Everything that is on the earth shall perish.

This is not a local flood. This is a worldwide Flood. And if we had time we can go through the rest of the story and see how it has to be a worldwide Flood because all humanity on the face of the earth dies. Chapter 7 verse 23,“He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the earth from man to animals to creeping things, to birds of the sky, they were blotted out from the earth and only Noah was left together with those that were with him in the ark.”

We also know that it was a worldwide flood because of the depth. It couldn’t be a local flood because it coveredMount Ararat and Mount Ararat is more than 17,000 feet high. Simple mathematical calculations will tell you that if the flood rises to above 17, 000 feet, it doesn’t go down like that. It spreads over the planet. We know it’s a worldwide flood because its duration is 371 days, a year. And it is the reason why I have on my desk a seashell found about two miles east of my house in Santa Clarita. What’s a seashell doing in Santa Clarita? What are sea animal artifacts doing all over the Grand Canyon? And why do you find a buried mastodon in the tundra in the northern edge of Russia frozen and when uncovered, dug up and the content of his stomach examined, his stomach is full of tropical plants? This is a universal flood.

By the way, I have a tusk from one of those mastodons, pre-Noah. Pretty neat. And by the way, the piece of the tusk that I have is carved by a man in a hut on the northern edge of Siberia and he carved it into a mastodon. The massive flood.

The Bible is clear when it discusses the theology of the Flood, that this is a universal flood because it compares it to the coming destruction. Second Peter 3 it tells us that in the way that God destroyed the world by water, He will destroy the world by fire. And that is a universal destruction in both cases.

So there’s lots of indications that this is a worldwide flood. And the most obvious one is that is exactly what the Bible says, only eight people survived. There’s a promise and I read it to you in verse 18, “I’ll establish My covenant with you,” this is the first time covenant appears in Scripture, it is a covenant with Noah and his family, to spare them. “And of every living thing and all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark.” Now he’s starting to get the details of why the box is so big. “Keep them with you alive, male and female, of the birds after their kind,of the animals of their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground of its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive.”

You know, that would be my first question when I heard the part about you’re going to bring two of every kind. You immediately say, “Just exactly how am I going to do that? How am I going to get two of every king of animal,bird, creeping thing into this thing?”

A little further information tells us that they will come…they will come. God is going to gather them. This is an astounding responsibility. This is a great opportunity to exercise a little doubt, wouldn’t you say? “ Are you kidding me? A flood? What is that?” There had never been one. “Rain? What is that?” There never had been any. Up to this point, a mist watered the earth, there was a canopy around the globe. It was all a tropical environment. There were no seasons as we know them. There were no ice caps on poles. It was one universal climate under a common kind of canopy, mist. And that’s why you find mastodons on the upper edges of the Arctic Circle with tropical vegetation in their stomachs.

What are you talking about, rain? What do you mean, flood? Here?

And by the way, Noah was living in a wilderness. There’s no water there. This is a remarkable opportunity for a little bit of sensible doubt, I would think. I suppose if it were any of us we would have said, “Could you go over that again? Rain? Flood? Float? Boat? Two of every kind of animal?”

That’s what makes it so remarkable in verse 22 when it says, “Noah did according to all that God had commanded him. So he did.” Folks, that is a monumental act of faith, an absolutely monumental act of faith. And because of that, of course, he was spared. Why him? Go back to verse 8, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”

Why did he find favor in the eyes of the Lord? Verse 9, “Cause Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time and Noah walked with God.” I think that’s pretty amazing because it was Noah, Mrs. Noah and the kids and their wives in the world. And you think living the Christian life is tough and you’re surrounded by all these folks stimulating you to love and good works? Can you imagine what it was like for Noah and his family to live in a world that was so corrupt, every other human being was drowned?

This is a remarkable man, not to be underestimated. This is a man who believed what God said was true, which tells me he believed in sacrifice like Abel did. Which tells me that he believed that he was a sinner and needed a sacrifice for his sin and he needed to receive grace and forgiveness from God. This tells me that he knew what it was. And it says it here as it did with Enoch, that he walked with God. He was in true righteous communion and fellowship with God. He was a righteous man and God made a promise. That’s what a covenant is to this man. And he head the promise and he obeyed the promise.

Now all of that sort of gets us to the point of Hebrews chapter 11. As I said, we don’t want to go in to a whole lot of detail, so let’s go back to Hebrews chapter 11 and consider what the writer tells us. And it’s a remarkable testimony of this man’s faith. “By faith, Noah being warned by God about things not yet seen.” What are things not yet seen? Cataclysmic world judgment, by means of, secondly, a flood, as a result of, thirdly, rain. Did Noah know the world was corrupt? Absolutely. Did he know that he was different than everybody else? Absolutely. Did he understand that God was holy and righteous and a God of judgment? Of course he did. He’s not living in the dark,by the way, folks. Not at all, you don’t want to underestimate this man. There was a lot that he knew. Remember now, we’re 1500 years into human history and God has revealed Himself and he knows his God and he walks with his God and he trusts his God.

So being warned by God about things not yet seen, he acted. Now I just want to tell you three things about his faith, okay? Just three things, they’re listed here. One, he obeyed God’s Word. He obeyed God’s Word when it was way beyond anything he could experience or conceive or comprehend. It says, “In reverence he prepared an ark for the salvation of his household…in reverence he prepared an ark for the salvation of his household for 120 years.” Over that period, he built a massive 15,000 ton ship in the middle of the wilderness, for one reason,because God told him to do it and God told him the flood would come and the judgment was inevitable and he obeyed.

This is the essence of faith. Faith doesn’t have to understand, it doesn’t have to comprehend. Faith reaches out for something that is beyond experience, beyond comprehension. I think we understand that a little bit. We walk by faith and not by sight, right? We’ve talked about that. We’ve entrusted our eternity to God. We’re living in faith,trusting Christ for a heaven we’ve never seen, to escape a judgment we’ve never seen. The Bible says that all sinners will go to hell. The Bible says that there will be a holocaust of divine judgment on the earth in the future by fire. We believe that, we have not seen that. But we live in faith and by faith we obey the gospel which is the ark of safety for us. God has provided for us an ark to rescue us from future judgment and we have gone into that ark, the ark is Christ.

So his faith is, first of all, demonstrated in his obedience to God’s Word in a matter which he could not experience, or even conceive. Secondly, his faith not only showed up in his obedience but it showed up in his preaching. We could say it this way, he obeyed God’s Word and he announced God’s judgment. You might say, well he believed it but it was so bizarre he really didn’t say much about it because he was afraid people would think he’s crazy. But no, it says also in verse 7 that by his obedience in building this massive box in the middle of the wilderness because it was going to rain and there was going to be a flood the likes of which no one had ever experienced, he condemned the world…he condemned the world. That very act was a constant statement for 120 years that judgment was coming…judgment was inevitable. And that is why it says, “Noah was a preacher of righteousness, and God preserved him with seven others when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly.”Noah was a preacher of righteousness.

As long as he built the box, he was preaching coming judgment. He was declaring coming judgment. And God was so patient, right? A hundred and twenty years, 120 years of patience, as Genesis 6 says, God preaches this message through the building of the box. It must have been the topic of everybody’s conversation constantly. “Crazy Noah.”

Do you remember what we looked at when we were…and I’ll just review this because I think it’s worth to be reviewed, when we were considering Enoch back in chapter 5 of Genesis. We also saw the patience of God because, you remember, Enoch lived 65 years and became the father of …whom?…Methuselah. And I told you, Methuselah means “sent out,” “shot out.” The name Methuselah was a prophecy, a divine revelation was fixed in the name Methuselah. When that child was given the name “Shot out,” or “Sent out,” God was connecting that child with the time when His judgment would fall, when He would send His judgment. And the year that Methuselah died is the year the Flood came. And to show you the grace of God, Methuselah lived longer than any man, 969 years. The grace and the mercy and the patience of God.

People knew things. The institution of sacrifice had been in place since Abel. They knew that sinners need to come to God not offering their own merit, their own achievement, their own works, but recognizing their own sin and that they are worthy of death and understanding that God will provide a sacrifice in their place. They knew the seriousness of sin because they knew Cain. Cain’s life overlapped. He lived for centuries and the mark of Cain wentwith Cain and everybody understood the curse of sin, the horror of being cursed by God. Cain was a living illustration of how deadly sin is.

By the way, Adam lived 930 years and told his tragic story of the Fall probably every day of his life. And then there was the preaching of Enoch who was a preacher of righteousness, according to Jude 14 and 15. And then there was the ministry of the Holy Spirit, “My Spirit will not always strive with man,” which means the Spirit was striving with sinners, doing His work of conviction. And then there was the preaching of Noah. All these lives overlapping.As long as Methuselah lived, he would talk about his father who three hundred years after he was born, after Methuselah was born, took a walk with God one day and walked right into heaven. And how many people did Methuselah tell his story of a father who walked with God and lived in such a way that he didn’t even die? And Methuselah’s father, Enoch, was an illustration of what will happen to every believer who will some day enter intothe presence of the Lord and conquer death.

So the generation of Noah’s day had to spurn sacrifice and atonement, they had to reject repeated warnings and repeated messages of judgment and righteousness. Divine revelation had to be despised and rejected in this mad dash into corruption. And yet God waited and waited 969 years, in the case of Methuselah and 120 years in the case of Noah. But Noah’s faith is marked by his obedience in doing exactly what God told him to do and hiswillingness to be a preacher of righteousness and give the message that went along with the work he did,proclaiming the inevitable coming, devastating, worldwide judgment in the drowning of the human race. He was preaching that the only escape is righteousness. How amazing and how many converts did he have? None.

The third thing that is said about him is he obeyed God’s Word, he preached God’s judgment, he received God’s righteousness. He became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. Boy, that sounds like a Pauline concept, doesn’t it? That sounds so New Testament. He became an heir of the righteousness which is by faith. He believed God and because he believed God’s Word, God granted him righteousness, imputed righteousness to him.That’s what it means in verse 8 of Genesis 6, “Noah found favor, or grace, in the eyes of the Lord. He was a righteous man, blameless in his time, Noah walked with God.”

Chapter 7 verse 1, “Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time.” He is an Old Testament illustration of justification by faith. In covenant relationship with God, he believed God and God accepted his faith and granted him righteousness. He is a righteous man. He is blameless before God.

Is he perfect? Oh no, no, no. We know that, don’t we? When you get in to chapter 9 you find that he was guilty of a sin. He was caught naked and drunk. Noah’s not a perfect man before men, but he is a perfect man before God because by faith, righteousness was credited to his account.

We understand that as a New Testament truth but this is telling us it’s an Old Testament truth. If you read Romans, you will read in chapter 3 that by the works of the Law no flesh is justified. If you read Philippians 3, as I quoted it earlier, Paul says, “I went about to establish my own righteousness until I found the righteousness of God granted to me by faith in Jesus Christ.”

The great sweeping doctrine of justification is that to the one who believes God, in Noah’s case, he believed all that God had revealed. In our case, we believe all that God has revealed and that means that we believe the full message, all the way through His Son Jesus Christ. And when you believe that message from the heart, God will grant righteousness and cover you with his own righteousness and view you as blameless. And you will, having been captured into the ark of safety who is Christ, be delivered from all future judgment.

Peter understands this so very well. He understands that Christ is the ark of safety. Christ is the one who protects us from judgment. Peter wrote about that in his epistles. I won’t take time to get into it, but he uses that as kind of a warning for the future in chapter 3 when he says, “In the future there’s going to be another judgment, the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in which the heavens will pass away with a roar, the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, the earth and its works will be burned up.” There’s coming another holocaust of proportions like this and even greater. And the only ark is faith, faith in the Word of God all the way to the complete revelation in Jesus Christ.

Father, again Your Word has spoken to us with its clarity and its power. We thank You for its consistency, how it stands every test of scrutiny, examination, comparison. We rejoice in its truth while on the one hand like John, it is sweet to our taste, it is bitter to our stomachs, it must have been so for Noah. It must have been, in many ways, both a joy to know that he was to be saved and rescued from judgment and a horror to know that everybody around him would perish and thus there was a kind of passion surely in his heart as he proclaimed judgment and called people to faith and righteousness. So it is for us as we think about the future, on the one hand, grateful that we have found our way into the ark of safety who is Jesus Christ and we rejoice in that and yet at the same timewe sorrow over those who will perish in the devastation of that final judgment.

We thank You that when Christ comes in judgment, it won’t be as it was in the days of Noah in the complete sense. Yes, the comparison is made so as it was in the day of Noah, will it be in the coming of the Son of Man,people will be going about their business, marrying, given in marriage, doing all their daily tasks and they will be swept away in fiery judgment as they were swept away in a flood of judgment. But the difference will be, and we thank You for this, there won’t be eight souls saved, there will be many…there will be thousands, there will be millions, and we thank You for that hopeful promise and reality. May we be faithful as Noah was, to be preachers of righteousness to this generation, warning them of judgment to come and calling them to the gospel of grace and the righteousness which is imputed to those who have faith.

Thank You, Father, for the greatness of Your salvation, given to us though we are utterly unworthy. We give You praise in Your Son’s name…Amen.

 

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