These exhortations were given by me between 1999 and 2005. That was a long time ago, and I have grown a lot since then. They may not reflect my current beliefs.
Brothers and sisters, we are all weak, and we all know that we are weak. We wake up in the morning with the genuine desire not to sin, and so often we sin before the evening. Each one of us know that we are like that and it causes distress to all of us.
However, we are lucky that our God is a compassionate god. He is willing to forgive and he wants to forgive. This morning, I want to look at three men, three fallible men, from the Old Testament. I want to look at how their faith eclipsed their wrongdoings in the eyes of God. I want all of us to draw confidence from the fact that these three great men had their sins overlooked. The three men are Noah, Abraham, and David. We’ll start with Noah.
Noah’s sin was of course drunkenness. I’m going to read two verses from Genesis chapter 9. Its quite a short reading so you don’t have to look the passage up yourselves.
Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.
Can you imagine how you would feel if that was said about you? Its not the sort of thing you would want everyone to know about is it? You can just imagine the end of an ecclesial newsletter, can’t you? “Brother Bloggs was found unconscious, drunk and naked yesterday evening.”
In the world, an incident like that might be what people remember you for. You might feel that years of service to the ecclesia would be forgotten. Tongues would wag. Everybody would know you were a drunkard.
Although Noah’s drunkenness was wrong, God was prepared to forgive and forget.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:8)
In God’s eyes, Noah’s faith was the important thing about his character. The drunkenness was just a lapse. It didn’t overshadow what he had done in building the ark. Of course, we haven’t all done something as great as Noah did when he built the ark, but the ark eclipsed the drunkenness because of Noah’s faith, not because building the ark was in and of itself a particularly great thing. It was the faith that lead him to build the ark. We can’t all build an ark. Sometimes it is almost too much to go for five minutes without sinning. But we can all have faith, and it is the faith that matters. We can feel wretched and ashamed inside ourselves because of our sin, but having faith is what God wants of us. “Repent, then, and turn to God,” Acts 3 verse 19 “so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Repent then and turn to God is saying “Have faith.” Having faith means that our sins are wiped out.
The next man I want to look at is Abraham. I want to look at the time he was in Egypt during the famine. Genesis 12, verses 10 to 20:
Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, `This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels. But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, `She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
What Abraham did was a truly terrible thing. He lied about his relationship to Sarah, and he profited greatly from those lies. Not only that, but those around him, who believed his lies, unwittingly sinned and were punished by God because of that sin. This is a level above what Noah did. Noah himself sinned, but he didn’t draw others into the sin. Abraham sinned, and in his sin he caused others to sin, and they were punished for it. He was a man who God had already made a solemn promise to, almost the representative of God on earth. Yet not only did he fall, but he made others fall.
Although he was far from perfect, Abraham was faithful. The faith is the important thing. We are not required to be perfect. We are supposed to be faithful. “What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4 verse 3.
I am not saying that it was OK for Noah to be drunk, or for Abraham to lie. Both of these things were wrong. Noah’s faith and Abraham’s faith were the things that God ultimately cared about. That should be a great comfort for all of us. When we fall, as we so often fall, and feel ashamed of what we have done, all we need to remember is that God looks for faith, not perfection. We cannot achieve perfection. We can be faithful.
And so on to King David, the adulterer, the murderer, the man after Gods own heart.
We all know the story of David and Bathsheba. David committed adultery with her and had her husband murdered to cover up. Noah’s sin was the magnitude of sin that we probably all commit every day. Abraham did something worse, but it most of us will probably sin to that magnitude at least once. What David did, adultery followed by murder, was much much worse than what most of us would ever do. We can all be comforted when we fall, because even David was forgiven by God.
David had faith, and David acknowledged that he had sinned and David was forgiven.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13, verses 5 and 6)
Ultimately, this is all about God’s unfailing love. He knows that we are weak. He knows we will fall. But if we have faith, he will forgive us because his love is unfailing.
Noah sinned, and was forgiven because of his faith.
Abraham sinned and was forgiven because of his faith.
David sinned, and was forgiven because of his faith.
If we sin, and if we have faith, then we will be forgiven, no matter what we have done. We can trust in God’s unfailing love, his infinite compassion and his unlimited forgiveness. No matter how far we have fallen, no matter how much shame we feel, God will forgive us if we have faith.
The importance of faith is illustrated in a practical way in Matthew Chapter 8, verses 5 to 13:
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralysed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, `Go,’ and he goes; and that one, `Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, `Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.
The faith of the centurion lead to his servant being healed, and that was a wonderful thing. But his faith had more than just that short term benefit.
I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
The centurion’s faith was the quality that would get him into the Kingdom, as Abraham Isaac and Jacob will be in the Kingdom through faith. The centurion’s faith would lead to forgiveness, as it lead to forgiveness for Abraham Isaac and Jacob.
If we have faith brothers and sisters, we will have forgiveness, and we will have a place in the Kingdom. We don’t have to build an ark, or write Psalms, or do any great and mighty deed. We just have to have faith.
I’m not saying that what we do is utterly unimportant. Faith without works is dead, and we do have to act – or at least try to act – an a particular way. But because of faith we can be forgiven when we fail to act as we should.
When we fall, and we all fall at one time or another, we should never forget that God will forgive us, as he forgave Noah’s drunkenness, Abraham’s lies and David’s adultery and murder.
Before we share the bread and wine, I would like to have a short reading, from Romans chapter 4, verses 16 to 25:
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed–the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness–for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.