“In his book, Faith That Endures, Ronald Boyd-MacMillan tells the story of a number of conversations he has had with Wang Mingdao, one of China's most famous church pastors of the last century. The first time he met this famous—and persecuted—Chinese pastor, they had the following interchange:
‘Young man, how do you walk with God?’ I listed off a set of disciplines such as Bible study and prayer, to which he mischievously retorted, ‘Wrong answer. To walk with God, you must go at walking pace.’
The words of Wang Mingdao touched me to the core. How can I talk about the Christian life as walking with God when I so often live it at a sprint? Of course, we ‘run with perseverance the race marked out for us,’ but we may fail to run with ‘our eyes [fixed] on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith’ (Heb 12:1-2). Jesus is inviting me to walk with him. Too often, I find myself running for him. There's a difference!
On another visit, Boyd-MacMillan asked Wang Mingdao about his twenty-year imprisonment for proclaiming Jesus in China. That cell became a place of unchosen unhurried time for Mingdao. There was nothing to do but to be in God's presence, which he discovered was actually everything. Boyd-MacMillan summarizes what he learned from Wang Mingdao:
One of the keys to the faith of the suffering church: God does things slowly. He works with the heart. We are too quick. We have so much to do—so much in fact we never really commune with God as he intended when he created Eden, the perfect fellowship garden. For Wang Mingdao, persecution, or the cell in which he found himself, was the place where he returned to ‘walking pace,’ slowing down, stilling himself enough to commune properly with God.”
Source: Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, Faith That Endures (Revell, 2006), p. 307; Allan Fadling, An Unhurried Life (IVP, 2013), pp. 13-14.
Running instead of walking
Leading up to Easter and now preparing for the revival services, I am keenly aware that I am running for God, instead of walking with Him
Over the past several years, the Lord has been prompting me about a Sabbath rest
It’s different than a day off
It’s a day, each week, where I spend time reflecting on God and sitting in His presence and perhaps walking with Him
I must confess that I’ve yet to accomplish a weekly Sabbath rest
Satan wants nothing more than for me to be distracted and running for God
When I’m doing that, I’m not really communing with Him
Our culture is such that we are distracted, even as followers of Jesus Christ
We are so busy doing, doing, doing, that we aren’t even thinking about being with God
We’re not really walking with God
We’re not pursuing holiness and righteousness
Our family, friends, and coworkers would probably not characterize us as blameless
Noah stood out in his culture. He was different. His neighbors and the Lord recognized his character. He was not influenced by the culture of his day, but tried to influence them. We have to ask ourselves the question that Noah probably asked himself . . .
BIG QUESTION – Am I influencing others or being influenced by them?
GOD (Genesis 6:9-12)
Noah’s faith (vv. 9-10)
This is the third toledot (origins of/account of) in Genesis
It is the account/origin of Noah’s line
It encompasses four chapters and is pretty significant, because it covers the flood narrative
After the introductory “origin” statement, we see Noah’s character before God and with others
This is the first time this Hebrew word is used in the Bible and it’s only used of Noah in Genesis
It can also be defined as faithful
Hamilton states that he was “habitually righteous” [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17, 277]
That speaks of his character, it was who he was (mind, body, and soul)
He wasn’t someone different at home and in the public square
He followed the Lord in every area of his life
He was concerned about honoring God and following His commands [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 72]
“Noah’s righteousness didn’t come from his good works; his good works came because of his righteousness. Like Abraham, his righteousness was God’s gift in response to his personal faith. Both Abraham and Noah believed God’s Word ‘and it was counted to [them] for righteousness’ (Gen. 15:6; see Heb. 11:7; Rom. 4:9ff; Gal. 3:1ff).” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Old Testament, Genesis-Deuteronomy, 44]
God is the One who called Noah righteous, it wasn’t Noah who claimed that description for himself
Noah had faith that God was real and that he needed to serve, honor, and follow Him
His faith in God affected every area of his life
It affected his thought life
It affected how he dealt with his wife
It affected how he raised his children
It affected how he conducted business
It affected how he related to other people
His relationships with other people were blameless
It means perfect, whole, complete, sound, unblemished, having integrity, free from defect, moral uprightness
I’m reminded of the requirements for a sacrificial animal as it pertains to the word blameless
The same Hebrew word is used in Exod. 12:5; Lev. 1:3, 10; 3:1, 6
Exodus 12:5, The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.
Leviticus 3:1, “If someone’s offering is a fellowship offering, and he offers an animal from the herd, whether male or female, he is to present before the Lord an animal without defect.
“Blameless denotes to abstain from sin, not to be without sin.” [Waltke, Genesis A Commentary, 133]
We know that Noah was not sinless, because he was human (all humans are born sinners)
His neighbors could not find anything to accuse him of, that would point to unrighteousness, evil, or corruption
He probably would have been labeled a “goody two-shoes” (uncommonly good)
“His righteousness and blamelessness is in comparison to the people of his time . . . [it] do[es] not generally indicate one’s absolute righteousness or blamelessness relative to God’s standards but indicates one’s status on the human scale.” [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 311]
Because Noah was righteous in God’s sight and his conduct was blameless with his peers, it was evident that he walked with God
Walked with God
“His righteousness and integrity were manifested in his walking with God . . .” [Kiel & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 89]
We see the spiritual legacy of Seth’s line through the phrase “walked with God”
We know that Enoch “walked with God” (he was Noah’s great grandfather)
In fact, Enoch’s “walk with God” was so profound that he escaped death
Noah’s “walk with God” meant that he would escape the judgment of the flood
While nothing is said about Methuselah (Noah’s grandfather) and Lamech (Noah’s father) walking with God, it’s apparent that they passed down the spiritual legacy, since Noah walked with God
We see this incredible spiritual legacy down through Noah, then the next generation is identified
Noah’s sons were Shem, Ham, and Japheth
These three guys are going to be responsible to repopulate the earth after the flood – that’s pretty significant!
The order in which Noah’s sons are listed is based on their importance for biblical history and not their birth order
Japheth is the oldest, Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was Japheth . . . (Gen. 10:21)
Shem was the middle son
Ham was the youngest son, Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside . . . When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” (Gen. 9:22, 24)
In chapter 11 of Genesis we will see the origins of Shem (the beginning of another toledot)
It’s through Shem’s line that Abraham is born
We know that through Abraham’s line, Jesus is born
Noah’s faith is a valuable model for us as we relate to God and others
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when His people live in a right relationship with Him and others.
Relationship with God
It most cases, if I asked someone if they are good with God, they would probably answer “Yes!”
If I asked them if they were going to heaven, they would most likely say, “Yes!”
When asked by what standard they believe they are good with God or going to heaven, it inevitably centers around them being a good person and God being loving
Certainly God is loving, but He’s also just
Isaiah 53:6, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
This is the human condition – we are sinners, wanting our own way
The Good Person test lets us know that we are not really good people according to God’s standard (liar, thief, blasphemous, adulterer, murderer at heart)
Romans 3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Jeremiah 31:3, The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
God’s great love for us compelled Him to provide a way for us to overcome our human condition of sinfulness
His plan was to send His one and only Son, Jesus Christ from heaven to earth to take our punishment for sin
1 Peter 2:21-22, To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
Jesus came as the perfect sacrifice for sin
He willingly died on a cross, so that we could be free from the debt of sin
Romans 3:23-26, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
Noah was saved from the impending flood, because of his faith in God – there wasn’t anything he did to earn it, it was God’s gift to him, because of his faithfulness
He wasn’t being influenced by those around him, but attempted to influence them
We can be saved from eternal death (hell) by having faith in Jesus Christ and His blood shed for us on the cross
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Accept God’s grace gift of salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ.
We can’t live in a right relationship with God without Jesus and the same is true concerning relationships with others
Relationships with others
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have the Holy Spirit living in us to help us in our relationships
Read Philippians 2:12-16
Selfishness is perhaps the key to every sin, and selfishness hurts every relationship we have
Take a moment to think about the last conflict you had with someone (spouse, child, neighbor, coworker, etc.)
If we’re truly honest with ourselves, the conflict probably happened because one or both people involved wanted their own way – the sin of selfishness
James 4:1-3, What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James spells it our clearly – we have desires that battle within us (selfishness)
I recently watched a video of a YouTuber and his wife who shared that they had been alcohol free for around two years. They talked about how the consumption of alcohol is culturally accepted and perhaps encouraged (if you aren’t drinking alcohol, then there must be something wrong with you). They realized that the times they experienced conflict in their marriage was when they were drunk. So, they eliminated the thing that was causing conflict. They are teaching their children what they have learned through this.
Are you currently struggling in a relationship with someone? (family, friend, coworker, etc.)
Will you willingly take time to do some self-evaluation to determine if you are wanting your own way?
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Ask the Lord to reveal any selfishness I’m experiencing in any relationship and then confess that before Him.
Conflict can be resolved when we acknowledge the part we’re playing in it
It can also be resolved when we pray for the other person(s) involved
It’s also important to go to that individual and ask them to forgive you for being selfish
There’s another principle from these two verses that is important
PRINCIPLE #2 – Faith is possible even if it’s done alone.
We come to God and are saved by faith alone, but there are times when it feels like we are living out our faith, alone (in a void)
Noah certainly experienced that as he remained faithful in a corrupt and violent world
He had to determine if he would influence others or be influenced by them
The same is true for us
It may seem like everyone around you is choosing the things of this world
Perhaps you’re struggling to find other people who are pursuing holiness like you are
There are family members, friends, coworkers, and fellow church attenders who act a different way depending on the crowd they’re hanging out with
I want to encourage you to remain faithful!
It’s possible to remain faithful even when everyone else isn’t
It doesn’t matter what age you are, what gender, what race or nationality
Every one of us, as followers of Jesus Christ, has the Holy Spirit living in us to empower us to remain faithful
You are not alone!
Story of Elijah
Read 1 Kings 19:9b-19a
Notice that Elijah felt like he was living out his faith, alone
God shared with him that He had reserved 7,000 in Israel who had remained faithful
Then God directs Elijah to Elisha
God provided someone to walk together with Elijah, so that he didn’t feel isolated and alone
Noah had the support of his family (wife, sons, and daughter-in-laws)
If you are feeling like you are living out your faith alone, be encouraged that there are others who are feeling the same way
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Ask the Lord to connect me with at least one other person who is remaining faithful.
Noah was righteous and blameless, but the rest of the earth was not
Earth’s folly (vv. 11-12)
It’s used three times in these two verses
The people were obviously corrupt and their corruption and violence had corrupted the earth
God had to destroy both the animate and inanimate objects because of the corruption
This word is used three times in these two verses to highlight how bad it had become
Last week we learned that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time (Gen. 6:5)
“Humanity has devastated the earth by filling it with violence or violation (ḥāmās; 6:11, 13). It is the first use of the verb ‘fill’ since 1:22-23, 28. God had commissioned human beings to fill the earth, and they had filled it all right, but not as commissioned.” [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, 141]
The violence that’s being identified here involves threatening other people and probably physically hurting them too
It was all motivated by selfishness
History repeating itself
Every generation is looking forward to Christ’s return
Every generation is convinced that the time is drawing near, based on the corruption and violence we see
Over the past couple of years, it seems like corruption and violence are running wild in our culture
The protests and violence have continued to happen across our nation is difficult to comprehend aside from understanding Biblical history and the end times
The political unrest is greater than I can remember in my lifetime
The social unrest is hard to watch and hear about
The “cancelling” of our freedoms is alarming
But don’t be disheartened, there is hope
Jesus is coming!!!
Read Matthew 24:36-41
Corruption and violence will cover the earth
People will be thinking about evil all the time
How is your relationship with God and others?
Are you remaining faithful?
We need to remain faithful, even if we have to do it alone
We have to ask ourselves, “Am I influencing others or being influenced by them?”
“In Executive Edge newsletter, management-consultant Ken Blanchard retells the story of a little girl named Schia (which first appeared in a book titled Chicken Soup for the Soul). When Schia was 4 years old, her baby brother was born.
‘Little Schia began to ask her parents to leave her alone with the new baby. They worried that, like most 4-year-olds, she might want to hit or shake him, so they said no.’ Over time, though, since Schia wasn't showing signs of jealousy, they changed their minds and decided to let Schia have her private conference with the baby.
‘Elated, Schia went into the baby's room and shut the door, but it opened a crack--enough for her curious parents to peek in and listen. They saw little Schia walk quietly up to her baby brother, put her face close to his, and say, 'Baby, tell me what God feels like. I'm starting to forget.’’ Have you grown older and forgotten God? It's not too late to return to the one who created you. Jesus taught that to enter the kingdom of God, we must simply receive it like a little child (Mark 10:15).”
Source: Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 3.
The longer we’re alive and the longer we’re a follower of Jesus Christ, we can run the risk of not remaining faithful (forgetting what God feels like). We can recapture those feelings and remain faithful by slowing down our pace and walking with God.