This is the abbreviated text of the Pre-Synodical Sermon that Rev. Koole preached on June 8, 2015.
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”
A beautiful gospel word is this.
A brief and comprehensive summary of what constitutes faith and faithfulness in every age, but especially in days of mounting evil and apostasy.
The parallels between the days in which Noah was called to represent God’s cause and truth and our own age are simply too striking to miss.
As surely as Noah lived in days just prior to the end of his world bringing God’s judgments upon it, so we live in days that portend the return of Christ and the end of all things.
The sound of the running of the horsemen reverberates ever louder in society and in the very ground itself these days, does it not?
When the mighty Himalayas are being shaken, something momentous is afoot.
And as surely as Noah was called to be a preacher of righteousness and a witness to God’s truth in such momentous times, so are we also as churches.
And essentially our task is no different than that of Noah.
Noah was commissioned by God to build an ark to preserve the church when God’s judgment fell in his day. So we are called to continue building Christ’s church, especially in her institutional form, to be a haven of safety for God’s remnant in these last days.
How are we as churches to be of service to God as Noah was in his age? How else but by being characterized by what characterized Noah as he represented Christ’s church in his age, namely, by being numbered amongst those who yet find grace in the eyes of the Lord!
One more thing: pay attention to that word GRACE! If that is not the heartbeat of the gospel entrusted to our care for these past ninety years, what is?
The contrast between this text and the verses preceding it simply shouts at one.
In distinction from the society in which he lived, Noah found grace.
That does not mean Noah was the only one who knew God’s grace in his day. There was a remnant according to election, starting with his own family, which knew God’s grace as well.
But Noah does stand as representing the church of Christ still living at that time, standing as one whom the world itself identified as taking a lead in being identified with Jehovah God and His righteousness and truth.
Worthy of note is that this is the first time the word ‘grace’ is specifically used in the Scriptures.
At the very outset, let us note that our text describes grace as that which is personal, particular, and distinguishing. There is nothing common or general about this grace of God, as if grace is that which is somehow shared by all and sundry, that which somehow binds all mankind together, Seth’s line and Cain’s line, Christ’s church and the world.
Rather grace is introduced as a distinguishing, separating virtue. That is what is underscored by our text. Not grace as the basis for fellowship between the spiritual and the ungodly, but rather grace as the very reality that puts one in a unique category, namely, as being counted God’s friend in distinction from being counted with those displeasing to God.
A timely reminder: what gave rise to our churches ninety years ago, namely, the insistence on the particularity of grace and its distinguishing power, is clearly set forth in this text.
“But Noah…”—in distinction from that ungodly society described so vividly in the prior verses—found grace in God’s eyes.
Surely, for a son of Adam there can be no greater wonder, privilege, and honor than that!
Grace in the eyes of the Lord.
Note the phrase: the eyes of the Lord. The eyes of the One who observes mankind and assesses all they do. The great I AM; the Almighty, Eternal One, from whom all created reality came.
For the believer, it is a phrase that fills one with encouragement and comfort.
Not so those outside of Christ. For them “the eyes of the Lord” is a frightening and dreadful reality. It means, nothing done in secret will not be made known. Your sins will find you out. And you will give answer in the day of days.
But for the child of God, to have the eyes of the Lord upon you is assurance itself.
You may then be sure that no matter how great the blows of life may be, no matter how overwhelming the enemy that threatens one seems, you have not been overlooked or forgotten by God. You have the full attention of Almighty God.
And further, for the believer those ‘eyes’ mean that one is being watched as carefully as a child is by his father, and that it is the power of that Father (the Almighty One) that is at one’s disposal.
What have we to fear? His eyes are always upon us, watching and assessing, not in judgment and wrath, but rather in love and, in the end, approval.
“But Noah found grace….”
Grace! What a wonderful and astonishing thing grace is!
We commonly refer to it as God’s favor—favor undeserved, favor that we have not earned or merited.
While adequate, that does not go deep enough.
Grace for fallen mankind is not simply that we are not worthy of it, but that it is contrary to everything we deserve. What we deserve is just the opposite, namely, everlasting condemnation and wrath. “For the wages of sin is death” (). That is what we have earned.
Yet that is not what we have received! What we have received is life and favor and the promise of the everlasting inheritance—the double portion of the firstborn.
How is it that after ninety years we still exist as a manifestation of Christ’s true church? God’s wonderful grace. What else?
The beauty of God’s grace is that it is shown to a people ugly with sin, a people in themselves disfigured and deformed. The rotting leprosy of sin fills us with a terrible stench.
And yet God is attracted to such a remnant of mankind.
How can it be?
Behold the mystery of electing grace, the will of God to see us in Christ Jesus, determined from before the world began.
And the great beauty of God’s grace is that He will not keep it to Himself. He wills to share it with us. And by ‘share’ we mean, make it known to us and then work it within us as well. In this life already, grace working in a people ugly with sin to transform them into those having a spiritual beauty, the beginnings of the virtues of the great Bridegroom himself.
So it was with Noah, the object and recipient of this electing and transforming grace.
And so it is with us.
That we should yet be numbered with those who find grace in the eyes of the Lord has to do with the mystery of God’s sovereign and electing grace; a grace that has everything to do with God’s gracious provisions in Christ Himself.
That said, let it be understood that when our text declares that Noah found grace, it is not simply telling us that Noah was the recipient of grace, though he surely was. But the text is declaring that Noah found grace in God’s eyes because he also sought it. God’s grace and approval were above all things precious to Noah.
To be sure, that Noah sought grace is evidence of God’s grace working in him. Nonetheless, that Noah sought this grace in God’s eyes is exactly what pleased God and had His approval.
In this respect Noah was strikingly different from Adam right after Adam fell. Adam first fled and tried to hide himself from God. He was afraid of the eyes of God, what God would find in him.
But here is Noah, a redeemed son of Adam. He does not flee from God’s presence; rather, he seeks God out and looks up into God’s eyes. As it were, he says, “Tell me, Lord, what your thoughts are, and what I need to know about Thee and about myself. What is it that has Thy approval, and what does not!”
This is clear from what follows (v. 9). Noah is described as a “just” man, meaning ‘upright.’ And as “perfect,” meaning ‘spiritually mature and blameless before men.’ And as one who “walked with God.”
One who ‘walks with God’ walks in the direction God walks, meaning, exactly contrary to the way of the world. Noah was a ‘God-conscious’ man, willing, for the approval of God, to kiss friendship with the world ‘goodbye.’
So Noah found grace—favor and words of approval— as he sought it by his antithetical walk. And as he sought it by prayer.
One who walks with God converses with God in prayer.
Surely, Noah was one who prayed, “Lord God, I am a sinner. For all my spiritual aspirations and desires, I am yet a sinner standing in the need of grace. Need for the grace of forgiveness to be sure, but also, Lord God, I need the supply of grace to walk in Thy ways, or else I too will be swept away by temptation and sin. Lord God, I need the grace of Thy Holy Spirit. Withhold Him not from me.”
Such a man finds grace in the eyes of God, the smile of God’s approval, and the grace one needs.
Such was true of Noah. Is such true of us as a people? As officebearers? As delegates to Synod? Is this finding grace in God’s eyes what we are interested in and committed to in earnestness and humility?
Not just, has that been true of us for the past ninety years as churches. But is that what we still are committed to for ourselves personally and for the sake of our churches as well? Grace as the favor and approval of God, and that power of grace so necessary to walk in His ways.
And make no mistake. Grace in the eyes of the Lord, and knowing that grace, is not automatically ours by virtue of our having faithful forbearers. They found that grace as they persevered in seeking it in the way of life and prayer. We too must be committed to such seeking, lest we be cut off in our generations. God keep us from all presumptuousness.
Finally, note well when Noah found that grace in the eyes of the Lord.
He found it in days of great apostasy, days when only a handful of faithful remained, days of monstrous wickedness and of hatred of all that was right and true. As verse 5 states “And God saw that…every imagination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually.”
That certainly describes man’s depravity, but here especially man’s depravity as coming to full expression in boldness and defiance. Society was set on doing evils exactly because it knew these were things forbidden by God and contrary to His Word. They gloried in their shame and dared the righteous to rebuke them!
In such days Noah found grace in God’s eyes. He had the courage to live completely contrary to the prevailing current of his day.
But more than that, Noah spoke out against the unrighteous society of his day. Asstates, he was a preacher of righteousness! This means he had the boldness in the name of righteousness to preach against the unrighteousness of the world, calling society to repent or perish. Judgment draws nigh!
This too was pleasing in the eyes of God, commending Noah to God’s approval.
And so it must be with us in these last days, when evil sweeps as a flood across the land.
To represent God’s cause in such a day takes great courage—courage to walk against the current of a wicked, immoral society (thus calling attention to one’s self ), and courage to rebuke ungodly men by preaching and speaking truth, knowing it will stir up malice and even assaults in the end.
Such courage takes grace and more grace, grace that is found by prayer.
But it is exactly such a people upon whom the great Jehovah looks with favor and approval.
By His sovereign, covenantal grace God grant that we in our generations continue to be as ‘Noahs’—seekers of and recipients of God’s wonderful grace in these last days!