5The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.
6And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
8But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord. 9These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. 10And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth.
13And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. 14Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. 21Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.”
22Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.
Over the next several weeks, our messages will be exclusively from the Old Testament. One of the biggest problems the Church faces today is being simply New Testament Christians. We can tell you a little about Jesus, we can quote some of Paul, and we can even entertain some coffee table conversation about Revelation because the world seems to be in an upheaval. But what about the other 2/3 of the Bible? What about how it began? What about how we got here? What about the saints who’ve come before us, the blessed ones who walked with God? We need to bridge the gap and recapture the whole story, not just part of it.
We are a people of one book, made up of two testaments, the Old and the New. We must understand that we can’t have the one without the other. If we have the old but not the new, then where is the redemption of the world and the forgiveness of sins? If we have the new but not the old, then who is this Jesus, where did he come from, why is he here, and what did he come to do? The old gives meaning and purpose to the new—the new fulfills the promises and hopes of the old. So we’ll be looking at some Old Testament stories and finding their New Testament application. Consider this your adult VBS for the next few weeks.
Our first story comes from Noah’s Ark, one of the most fascinating and remembered stories from our youth. Now, we spend a majority of our time asking how Noah got 2 of every animal on the boat and wondering why he didn’t just swat those two pesky mosquitos and do us all a favor. There really are lots of questions that come up in our reading of the Flood story—too many questions to really get into it all today. But the details of the flood account aren’t anything to get bogged down in. To be extremely brief, the account is recorded in order to tell us about God. You see, all of scripture—every event, every story, every character, everything—is meant to tell us about God. If we focus on the people, we will be disappointed. But scripture has God as its subject, all the time, letting us see him in imperfect people and less-than-perfect situations. God redeems, even in the very reading of the scriptures.
So what does this story say about God? Skeptics want to say that this scripture is about a God who destroys, a God who is about to wipe everyone out. But remember that this event is one event in the story of history. Is the question, “What is the meaning of wiping out an entire population?” or is the question, “What is the meaning of this event in light of the whole story?” Well, it’s both. God created the world and all that is in it out of love and relationship. Humanity was given a prize position as the crown of creation, meant to walk with God and to care for the earth. Now that the earth is filled with violence and evil, God must make the tough decision to begin again with a remnant that has the potential to see humanity become what it was created to be.
So I want to tackle the big-bad-scary question right up front. “What is the meaning of wiping out an entire population?” Why did a good and loving God do such a seemingly awful thing? To be blunt? The world had it coming. You see, the entire Biblical story is abo
ut intention, God’s intention. God’s desire is that his beautiful creation become what it was made to be. Evil and sin crippled creation from realizing its potential, but God in the goodness of his will is going to remedy the problem and give the people a chance to do right once again.
Leading up to this point, just as the text tells us, the world had become more and more evil in every way. I appreciate how Eugene Peterson treats verses 5 & 6 in the Message version, “GOD saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil—evil, evil, evil from morning to night. GOD was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart.”
It makes you wonder, what does it take to break the heart of God? Answer: It takes a people who are created out of Love to turn away from that Love and seek a different love. It’s infidelity, disloyalty, rebellion, that causes God grief. Our scripture tells us, “And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” So what did God do? He gave the world exactly what it wanted, a self-seeking life that they knew when lived apart from God would lead to death. And so death it was. The only one who had found favor in God’s sight was a righteous man named Noah. We don’t know anything about Noah, just like we don’t know anything about Mary, the mother of Jesus. But both found favor in God’s sight and both were charged with housing the world inside an ark.
Okay, now there’s an image. Noah takes his family—those who will give life to the world through continuing the population—and places them in an ark of salvation. Mary takes within her womb the Son of God, the one who will give life to the world and build the kingdom of God as an ark of salvation. Noah’s boat and Mary’s womb will both give birth to new life.
Noah is in effect taking creation into this ark for it’s physical redemption and renewal, just as Jesus will take creation into the ark of himself for it’s spiritual redemption and renewal, reversing Adam’s curse in the garden. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 8.19–25, “19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Do you hear the echoes of Noah? We hope as Noah hoped. We wait for the rain in the safety of the ark of Christ. The world may laugh at the prophet, but when the waters rise up, where will they be left standing? Will they stand on their own two feet or will they be standing aboard the ark that was built for them? The hope of Jesus is the same. As he came to proclaim the coming of the kingdom, so we wait in the shelter of his Son for the redemption of the world. Christ takes within his heart those who would be redeemed by him.
As for the big-bad-scary question of why God would do this, we must remember that the Flood was an act of judgment on the world. If God in his wisdom and his righteousness deems that the world is due it’s sentence, then the Creator is acting justly. Those who would argue with God’s decision are those that do not have God’s Will in their heart. God’s desire is that creation would be redeemed, that all would be saved and know the truth (1 Timothy 2.4). After all, I would say that the flood was almost an act of mercy given that our text says that every inclination of the thoughts of people’s hearts was evil continually. Can you imagine a world where goodness was found among only 1 man and his family? I would say the world isn’t such a terrible place in comparison and we need to praise God that we are living in a time when his favor rests upon many. We should give thanks that God has blessed the Church with the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to do every good work under heaven for the redemption of this world.
Remember: just as those who turned away from Noah’s warnings of the impending flood, so there are those who turn away from Jesus’ warnings to repent for the kingdom of God is near. Whether a physical flood or a spiritual flood, we need saving either way. Noah did his job and Jesus did his. The difference between the two stories may lie in the timing. The rain came down and waters rose up in the days of Noah. Soon enough, there was no more time. The question from Jesus’ message is this: how much time do you have? The waters of judgment are rising and it may be any day that they will be too high for you to stand and continue to live as you are living. Do not let the do
or of the ark close before you have come aboard. And so, what are you waiting for? If the ark of Christ has been made ready, then have you picked out a room? Have you, like Noah, taken your family on board and allowed salvation to spread throughout your household?
We would do well to follow Noah in v.22 when it says, “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.” The same is said about Jesus. He finished his work and did all that God commanded him. We are given the same charge in Ecclesiastes 12.13–14, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.”