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Faith and Hope

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by George Bentch
Noah was a man who had faith in God. When God told him that mankind was going to be destroyed by a flood, he be­lieved it. God gave him hope for survival by building an ark. Noah had the choice to build or not build. He had also both faith and fear. Hebrews 11:7 says, "By faith, Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house." God is not the author of the something-for-nothing philosophy. That ark was no small under­taking. Genesis 6:15-16 gives God's instruc­tions to Noah for building it. The word ark means box so I conclude it was not shaped as so many depict it.
Second Peter 2:5 tells us Noah was a preacher of righteousness. It must have been discouraging as he tried to convince those around him of God's intentions. He was only able to convince his three sons. Noah's faith in God's promise carried him through the years of construction. His hope was realized when God shut the door and the rain began.
When the Israelites left Egypt, they had faith in God. They believed Moses with God's directions would lead them to a land of plenty. Exodus 16:1 says they entered the wilderness of Sin. There their faith weakened and their hope dimmed. They began to murmur and complain. In Num­bers 21:4-5 we read, "The soul of the peo­ple was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God and against Moses." God was angry and sent fiery serpents among them. Even though they displeased him, God led them to the border of the promised land. There they lost both faith and hope. Ten of the twelve spies they sent out brought back an evil report concerning the land and its peo­ple. Numbers 32:9 says, "They discouraged the heart of the children of Israel that they should not go into the land which the Lord had given them." Hebrews 3:9 says, "They could not enter in because of unbelief." How could they doubt the power of God who brought them out of Egypt with signs and wonders? For their lack of faith, God sentenced them to wander in the wilderness for forty years until that generation per­ished. The next generation came to the border of the land of promise from another side. This generation had both faith and hope. These were strengthened when the flood swollen Jordan River ceased to flow, opening a path to the other side.
Once again, God is not the author of something for nothing. They had to fight for the possession of the land. Their faith and hope grew even stronger as the walls of Jericho fell and they were able to take the city. God told them to utterly destroy the inhabitants of the land. When they did not obey, they were told in Judges 2:3, "Wherefore I also said I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides and their gods shall be a snare unto you." Their tears were to no avail. They were guilty of disobedience. The sentence was given. Their beautiful prom­ised land would be polluted by the presence of idolaters. Their lack of faith caused them to become worshipers of idols by which they lost the land.
Paul wrote in Romans 15:4, "Whatso­ever things were written aforetime were written for our learning that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." From Noah's time, we learn that God is grieved by evil hearts and vio­lent acts. Genesis 6:5 tells us, "God saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." In verse 13 God said, "The end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence through them." Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. By the grace of God, salvation is offered. Paul wrote in Titus 2:11-12, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righ­teously, and godly in this present world." Just as God by his grace told Noah how to build the ark, by his grace we are told how to build a God pleasing life.
There was only one ark and only those inside the ark were saved. Their salvation did not come without labor and neither will ours. Hebrews 4:11 says, "Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest." In Matthew 20 Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard." Jesus Christ is here depicted as the owner of the vineyard. Labors in any vineyard other than his are in vain. Jesus came to this earth to build one church. He built it to God's specifications. Like as in the ark, only those in that church will be saved. Those in the ark labored many years in order to be saved. We must not be discouraged if our labors are long and difficult. Jesus said in John 16:33, "In this world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." It is our hope and faith that gives us strength to overcome. Noah stands as an example of faith, hope, and the fear of God because he fully obeyed God, he was blessed and so will we be likewise.
From the Israelites, we learn that in order to receive God's blessing, we must come out of the world of sin. As they left Egypt, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:2, "And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." They were free from slavery. In like manner we are freed from the bondage of sin by obeying God's Word. Paul wrote in Romans 6:17-18, "But God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin ye became the servants of righteousness." Even though they were free, they still had to travel through the wilder­ness of sin. That is where we live. Sin is everywhere. Our adversary attacks us daily with temptation trying to enslave us again. Peter warns us in 1 Peter 5:8, "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion walketh about seeking whom he may devour." His efforts will not cease till Christ returns.
Our promised land of bliss lies across the river of death. It is not visible to our mortal eye. Paul wrote in Romans 8:24-25, "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for: But if we hope for what we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." To keep our faith and hope strong we must fight against discouragement. In Num­bers 21:4 we are told, "The soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way." God was leading those people. They could look ahead and see the guiding cloud. We can open our Bible and find our directions. To deny self and take up the cross is not easy. Our Lord and Master led the way. First Peter 2:21 tells us, "For even here unto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow in his steps." He did no sin. Unfortunately we do. We can be thankful for the encouragement in 1 John 2:1, "My little children these things write I unto you that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Just as Moses interceded for the Israelites, our Lord inter­cedes for us. Hebrews 7:25 tells us, "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." The covenant God made for us is one of grace and mercy. Our faith in the covenant of promise gives us our hope.
Jeremiah 31:32 says, "Behold the days come saith the Lord that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant I made with their fathers." He­brews 8:6, speaking of Christ says, "But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry by how much also he is the media­tor of a better covenant, which was estab­lished upon better promises." The old cove­nant gave inheritance on earth. The new promises inheritance out of this world. First Corinthians 2:9 tells us, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things God hath prepared for them that love him." How do we prove our love for God? By obeying his com­mandments. The Jews did not understand that the new covenant was to replace the old. They had a carnal mind-set that looked for an earthly kingdom. Jesus explained it to them, but they did not understand. In Luke 17:20-21 he said, "The kingdom is of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here or Lo there! For behold the kingdom of God is with in you." We as citizens of the kingdom, are the kingdom. Our King is in heaven seated at the right hand of God. That is where our hope is. We are surrounded by false reli­gions just as Israel was. The command in 2 Corinthians 6:17 is, "Come out from among them and be ye separate saith the Lord and touch not the unclean thing and I will re­ceive you." When we hear the gospel, we are made to know where we are and that we are the servants of sin. Believing the gospel gives us hope of an eternal inheri­tance. First Peter 1 tells us how we are begotten unto a lively hope. Verse 4 says, "To an inheritance uncorruptable, and undefiled and that fadeth not away, re­served in heaven for you." The combina­tion of faith and hope gives us strength to break the hold of sin by repentance. We are separated from sin and sinners by baptism. We are still in the wilderness of sin. We must live in the world and yet be separated from the world.
Paul asked in Romans 6:21, "What fruit had ye then in those things where of ye are now ashamed?" Sometimes our former companions are a temptation for us. First Peter 4:4 says, "Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you." The problem is even greater when repen­tance means forsaking an erroneous reli­gion. Jesus warned in Matthew 10:35-36, "I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." Truly this can be a trial of our faith. This is where hope carries us through. The world may look upon us with disdain, even hatred. Jesus said in John 15:18-19, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." Some of that hate is because they feel guilty!
Even though we have freed ourselves from the guilt of previous sins, we are still in danger of sinning. Paul warned in 1 Corin­thians 10:12, "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." Trials and temptations may cause us sorrow. First Peter 4:12 says, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing hap­pened unto you." Our faith will be tried, but hope will carry us through. Hope looks beyond this world's suffering. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:18, "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen are eternal." Strengthened by faith and hope we can live God-pleasing Chris­tian lives. Then heaven will be our eternal home. -105 IV. Jefferson, Richland, MO 65556


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