A Word for Today | Hebrews 11:7
Noah shares the distinction with Adam that every single human being is one of his descendants, since God re-started the human race through him after the great flood. The events of Noah’s life have great theological significance. The words righteousness and grace first appear in the Bible in his account. He gives us a great symbol of judgment in the flood. His ark provides a symbol of salvation (1 Pet. 3:20). The rainbow remains an enduring symbol of God’s covenant which never will fail. But, according to Hebrews 11:7, what Noah should be best known for is his faith: “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.”
Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is being “certain of what we do not see,” and Noah is a great example of such faith. There were two things Noah believed that were unseen: the great flood that God had promised and the salvation that would come by means of the ark. 120 years before the flood, God told Noah it was going to happen (Gen. 6:13-18) and up to that time, there had never been such an event, nor such a boat (Noah’s ark was stupendous in size, about the size of a modern battleship). That Noah built the ark shows his faith in what was not yet seen. Faith required Noah to stand alone in his generation, being scoffed at for believing God’s Word. In this way, “he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Heb. 11:1). Faith in the Lord will likewise require us to believe, even when the whole world stands against us.
Noah is also significant in showing us the relationship between faith and works, having “in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.” Noah’s “reverent fear” caused him to obey all of God’s many details in making the ark, just as we should carefully study and observe all that is taught in Scripture. He also shows that while we are saved by faith, apart from works, true faith always works. Why did Noah build the ark? By faith. Noah built the ark because he believed that what God said about the flood was true and that unless he built the ark he would be drowned with everyone else. What if Noah had not built the ark? What would we say about his faith? Imagine Noah insisting that he believed God if he was not busy chopping on trees, making diagrams, and putting the ark together. The same is true for us. If we believe God’s Word, we will repent and believe the good news, we will flee sin and at least begin chopping at the trees of our ungodly habits. It took Noah 120 years to build the ark and it will take a while for our sanctification. But if we believe, we will at least get to work now. There is no escaping the truth: faith and works are inseparable. As Alexander Maclaren put it, “If faith has any reality in us at all, it works. If it has no effect it has no existence.”
In Christ’s Love,
 Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 11 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI:Eerdmans, 1959), 10:116.