Build the Boat! Hebrews 11:7

Walking with the Giants

The Faith of Noah

Hebrews 11:7

Setting the Stage for Hebrews 11

Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians by an unknown author who apparently wrote with the intent to affirm the superiority of Jesus Christ and to encourage believers in their faith. Consequently, we may simply divide the book into two sections:

The superiority of Christ 1:1-10:18. Christ is superlatively compared to angels and the Mosaic law. The salvation provided by Christ is central to the discussion. The new covenant in Christ is described. Warnings are given about leaving the faith established by Christ.

A call to persevere in the faith of Christ 10:19-13:25. The “therefore” … “since” of 10:19, shows that living by faith is a reasonable outcome of the great salvation provided by Christ. Chap 11 cites examples of those who have lived by faith in the past and then chapters 12-13 urge the readers to do the same. One example of someone who lived “by faith” is Noah.  His example is described in Hebrews 11:7. 

  1. Noah constructed the ark

  1. Noah constructed the ark "by faith"
  1. The key tool in Noah’s toolbox was faith. Everything is framed and explained “by faith.” In a real sense the ark was constructed “by faith.” The term “by faith” is used 18x in this chapter. It is a powerful statement = “by means of faith”. Faith is the thing that carried the day for Noah and the other giants of God. 

Noah is an example of faith that acts based on things “not seen” (v1). From the moment the idea of an ark was introduced to him until the day he stepped off the ark about 120 years later, he acted “by means of faith”. There can be no other explanation. 

In fact, Noah’s faith became proverbial along with Daniel and Job.  {NAU  Ezekiel 14:13 "Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast, 14 even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves," declares the Lord GOD.}


  1. Everything else about the construction project is relatively unimportant.  We are not given the specs of job here; only that he “prepared” the ark. Genesis 6 gives some details: Wooden construction; dimensions - 450’ in length, 75’ in width, 45’ height; 3 enclosed decks with rooms and windows (much speculation re what the finished product looked like); this was a major project – more than 100 years (cf Gen 5:32 w/ 7:13) 

At one point, I leaned toward focusing on the specifications of the ark (or even the nuances of the flood). But I came to realize that the details themselves are not important per se. After all, God chose not include the details of Noah’s massive construction project in this Hebrews 11 summation of his life. 

Here is what is important – Noah built the boat! 

  1. Noah was prepped in advance for the construction 

Two things happened to Noah before he started building (aorist passive participles – “after having”).


    1. Noah was instructed about God’s plan and his role in it.. God chose to disclose his heart and his plan to Noah. The translation “warn” doesn’t quite cover that notion that God was revealing to Noah what was going to happen and was telling Noah how he fit into His plan and why. He was giving him a message, a divine communiqué, and in that sense “warning” him. 

This text only tells us that God instructed Noah generally about “things not yet seen.” As v 1 indicates these are faith matters. Consider that Noah had never seen rain – what is a flood (6:17)? It is also likely that Noah didn’t know much about boats (6:14 “ark” - word later was also the name of the chest that was central to Israel’s worship). He is told to build this boat miles from an ocean.

 It would be like God telling you to spend the next 10 years of your life building a “zeq” in your yard because he was going to destroy the earth with a “zoog”. 

God’s initial instructions to Noah are recorded in Gen 6:13-22. 

I surmise that Noah did not fully grasp the what and the why. These are big concepts – universal wickedness encompassing the whole created order; universal destruction except for a few animals and eight human beings.

Yet, despite the holes in his understanding of God’s directions, Noah built the boat! 

    1. Noah was instilled with godly awe. “In reverence”though this is also passive (something happened to him), the sense is that Noah’s response to God’s instruction was a holy fear or reverence that, by implication, produced obedience (eulabeomai, literally to take hold of well, thus to take care or act carefully). 

The term also describes Jesus, Hebrews 5:7 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Our responsibility is wrapped up in this term too, Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 

So, this holy awe was not merely contemplative; Noah undoubtedly chewed long and hard on his encounter with God! What was it that God said? What words did he use? Was there any hidden message I may have missed? Remember, Noah was God’s companion (he walked beside God, Genesis 6:9).

Rather, this holy awe had practical results. Genesis 6-7 record makes remarkable statements about Noah’s life of faith. Follow:

The contrast between Noah and his contemporaries in the opinion of God: Genesis 6:7 The LORD said, "aI will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the 1sky; for bI am sorry that I have made them." 8 But aNoah bfound favor in the eyes of the LORD.

A summary of Noah’s character: Genesis 6:9 These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a arighteous man, 1bblameless in his 2time; Noah cwalked with God. Two concepts rolled into one – Noah was a “righteous-perfect” man. That is, he conformed to God’s standard so that no essential quality of life was missing. 

Noah’s response to God’s specific directions re the ark itself: Genesis 6:22 aThus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.

God’s explanation re: why Noah got a ticket on the ark: NAU Genesis 7:1 Then the LORD said to Noah, "Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be arighteous before Me in this 1time.

Noah’s response to God’s directions re cargo: Genesis 7:5 aNoah did according to all that the LORD had commanded him. This sounds like a broken record, doesn’t it! But one not often played toady!

So, we should not be surprised to learn how Noah acted on his encounter with the holy God: Noah built the boat!

  1. The ultimate climax of the construction project demonstrates both God’s goodness and severity

    1. Noah and his family survived the flood. 

I first note that, physical rather than spiritual deliverance is in view. Spiritual deliverance is the divine act of rescuing people from the eternal damnation due to them because of their sin against the holy God. This is only possible because of the payment of that sin by the death of Jesus Christ. Every human being needs spiritual deliverance. In contrast, physical deliverance, even though sometimes miraculous, is merely rescuing from a bad or even catastrophic circumstance.

And here is a question: Was Noah the reason God spared his family too? Nothing is said about their character, good or bad at this point (Genesis 6:8,9; 7:1). We do learn some disturbing things about this family in chapter 9.

 So, were family members spared because of their individual righteousness or because of Noah or for purposes of propagation following the flood? We would only be guessing at this. 


b. Everyone else perished

We are reminded of how wicked culture was: Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that aevery intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Apparently, there were no restraints on natural inclinations. Thus, everyone was as bad as they could be! Demon possession was rampant (Genesis 6:1-4). We have no sense of this today.

The Genesis account highlights both God’s grace and wrath. His longsuffering with wicked men finally came to an end (NAU Genesis 6:3,7 Then the LORD said, "aMy Spirit shall not 1strive with man forever…for I am sorry that I have made them.").  Yet he allowed ample time for repentance during the building of ark (NAU 1 Peter 3:20 who once were disobedient, when the apatience of God bkept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of cthe ark, in which a few, that is, deight epersons, were brought safely through the 1water.). 

But the Genesis account also gives insight into the utter hardness of man’s heart – no one repented! God gave them time and opportunity. In fact, the gospels indicate that society arrogantly thumbed their collective noses at God’s message right up until the end. NAU Luke 17:27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

But again, why did only Noah and his family survive? Obviously, the answer is hidden in the mind of God. And obviously, everyone deserved to perish. So why? At the end of the day the answer is somehow wrapped up in two realties: Noah’s genuine faith and God’s mysterious grace.

Well, we may not know precisely why Noah and his family got a ticket on the boat, but here is what we do know: Noah built the boat!

B. In constructing the ark, Noah condemned the world

“By which” probably refers to the construction (“prepared”) of the ark. Day in and day out, this building project grabbed people’s attention; and probably their derisive scorn and laughter. Noah became the laughing stock of the community. Can you imagine the water cooler conversations? Or the editorials? Or the neighborhood talk? 

But in the end, Noah had the last laugh! However, this is a strong statement – he (Noah) condemned the world. What does it mean? 

Clearly only God has the authority and capacity to condemn human beings. And he does! (2 Peter 2:6 and if He acondemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an bexample to those who would clive ungodly lives thereafter;… 9 (then) the Lord knows how…to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgement.”

Now it might be that we are to assume that God used Noah to condemn wicked men. But, God himself really did the condemning (immediate v ultimate causality). 

However, there might be another answer. Namely, Noah did actively condemn the world as a system, but he did not condemn individual people. Yet, he still preached to human beings, not to trees! 

So, Noah judged pagan culture everyday by obeying God publicly. His radical behavior was both cursing the darkness and shining a light. 2 Peter 2:5 calls Noah a “preacher of righteousness.” I’d love to be privy to what he said! Whatever, Noah opened his month for God. He didn’t only let his carpentry work do the talking. 

Though Genesis 6:17 is clear that God shared with Noah his plans for total annihilation of “everything that is on the earth”, one must wonder if Noah really grasped the enormity of what he was doing (condemning the world). 

No matter, Noah built the boat!

C. In constructing the ark, Noah was changed 

  1. He received God’s promise – he became an “heir”. An heir is someone who eventually gets a promised blessing from another. Ultimately, we must say that he did not earn this. It was granted to him by lot  - “heir” = klhrono,moj
  2. He was given righteousness – he became an heir of righteousness. What we have here is two sides to the same coin. We have already seen that Noah was righteous; he stood out in a wicked generation – that is what caused God to give him a ticket! Yet here we are told God gave him righteousness. Which is it? Well, it is both. 

However, I believe the emphasis is on Noah’s life. The phrase is literally, “and he became an heir of the according-to-faith righteousness.” In other words, God does not make a man righteous apart from faith. He gives both righteousness and faith. It is a faith-righteousness. Everything comes back to faith in the chapter.

So, Noah lived a faithful life because he was righteous; and he became righteous because of his faith. 

No matter, the one thing about Noah we must remember – Noah built the boat!  

Concluding Great Lesson

The last chapter in Noah’s life is uglyNAU Genesis 9:20 Then Noah began 1farming and planted a vineyard… 21 He drank of the wine and abecame drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent.

 I see some encouragement in this depressing scene – God has room in his boat for imperfect people!

If you don’t remember anything else from our study today, please remember this: Build the Boat!!

© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2017. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.