‘By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith’ (Hebrews 11:7).
At this point in the narrative the writer of the letter changes the emphasis of faith slightly. The verses concerning Abel and Enoch illustrated what was achieved by the faith of those men: Abel’s sacrifice was more pleasing to the Lord than Cain’s; and Enoch’s faith meant that he was particularly blessed, because his lifestyle so pleased the Lord, that he bypassed death. However, the next examples show a slight change in the writer’s agenda. He wants us now to focus on the aspect of faith in the Lord concerning things that are yet to come. In Hebrews 11:3 the writer illustrates that belief in the Lord’s creative power – which these Jewish Christians had not witnessed yet accepted – was not so dissimilar to the belief in the promises that the Lord had made to his people of the past. This included promises of which complete fulfilment would only be realised in a more distant future. There is a sense in which Noah is slightly at odds with latter examples in that he witnesses the fulfilment of what the Lord had promised – namely, his families preservation and judgement on those around him! However, there is a very definite similarity which is why he is included as an example of what I have termed ‘change of emphasis,’ concerning the results of faith. Verse 7 highlights Noah’s faith in that he was warned by God of his coming judgement in sending a flood upon the Earth. This was shown in the action Noah took as he: ‘in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household’. The full story of Noah is found in Genesis 6:9-9:29.
Noah is seen as righteous by the Old Testament standard (Genesis 6:9). By this it would mean that he would have done ‘right by all’. If you had lent money to Noah you would have got it back on time with appropriate interest, or if you needed any help you would have got it! But the agenda of writer here, at this point is demonstrating faith. Noah took an immense step of faith in building an enormous box-like vessel on dry land, hence effectively preaching to that wicked and unbelieving generation that judgement was coming (2 Peter 2:5). Just think how: “crazy old Noah” would become the butt of all the jokes of those who lived round him (there is much in extra-biblical sources which suggests this). But faith in the Lord’s Word motivated him. He believed judgement was coming even if there was no other visible evidence to suggest it at that point! John Calvin sums up Noah’s attitude thus: ‘Yet Noah paid such respect of the Word of God that he turned his eyes from the contemporary view of things, and went in fear of the destruction which God had threatened as though it were present to him. Therefore, the faith which he had in the Word of God, prepared him for obedience to God, proof of which he afterwards gave by building the ark.’ And look at the results of this faith: his family was saved, and he: ‘became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.’ Once again, Noah is one of those: ‘people of the old’ (v2) who are commended because of their unshakable faith in what was promised but was unseen at that time! As such he acts as a wonderful example to believers today.
Want to listen to the sermon on this passage? What’s so Special about a Guy who Built a Really Big Boat?
 John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews and the First and Second Epistle’s of St Peter, Calvin’s Commentaries (Edinburgh, Oliver and Boyd, 1963), 165.