Sunday, November 29, 2020 Brad Barrett
Rescues: Noah and the Flood
Monday evening before bed, I finished re-reading the trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s a long story of adventure and evil. Loyalty and treachery. The evil ruler Sauron is searching for his lost Ring of Power, the power to cruelly dominate Middle Earth. But others like Frodo, Gandalf, and Aragorn are determined to destroy the ring and so save all Middle Earth from an age of darkness.
At its heart, it’s a dramatic story of Rescue.
We love good stories of rescue, where good triumphs over evil and pain.
Why do we love those stories? In my opinion, we love them because they give us a taste of what deep inside we know we need. We sense some great need. Some significant future unknown terror, such as death. And we long for deliverance. We don’t always know accurately the danger. We don’t always know precisely who can truly save us. But we long for such things.
In comes the Word of God. The Bible, claiming to be the True, Eternal Words of the One True Creator God, gives us more than 2000 years of history of God’s interaction with mankind. And the overriding theme of this history is man’s desperate lostness and God’s merciful rescue.
We are in what has been called for centuries the Advent Season. Advent means “Coming.” Specifically it means the coming of Jesus Christ to earth. He came once as Savior. Rescuer. Deliverer. He came to rescue us from death. From the judgment on sin.
For the next four Sundays, we are going to look to the OT. To four stories of God’s heart to rescue his people. These stories typify what Jesus Christ as done for us.
Today our story is in Genesis 6. [Turn there at the front of your Bible.] This story is about God’s wrath and judgment on mankind, and also about his mercy and kindness. It’s the story of a man named Noah. The great event was the Flood. The drama of this story is of the most serious kind. God, in his holiness and justice, is going to kill everything on earth except one small family and a few animals.
Genesis 6:5–8 ESV The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
The great stories of Rescue in books and movies all have a crisis. For if there was no crisis, there would be no need for rescue.
Here in Genesis 6…is a crisis of the worst kind: an offense against the Holy Creator by all his creatures, those made in his image.
Vs. 5 is stunning: “The wickedness of man was great in the earth… every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Could we find more graphic, more specific, more all-inclusive words than these? The result of this was God was bringing judgment on mankind: Death to all.
One author said,
“If there was a vote to select the most devastating passage in the Bible, Genesis 6:5-6 needs to be a leading candidate.”
Perhaps even more shocking is the deeply personal nature of God. “The Lord was grieved….he had great sorrow.” This describes such heartbreak that we can imagine tears streaming from the Creator. Anguish and pain.
What could be so significant to evoke a response like this from the King of the universe? The condition of man (in vs. 5) reveals a personal betrayal of relational love. We men and women are made in his image. Set apart from all other creatures that God has made. There is some picture, some image of God in us. Something special about each one of us. He made us uniquely and carefully.
King David said centuries later in Psalm 139, “I praise you, Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” God set his image in us.
And He set his love on us. And he calls us in that love to walk with him, trust him, and obey him. Our first love—our highest love— was meant to be for our Creator. Jesus says that the first and greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36). So when we sin, every time we sin, we are rejecting that deep, intimate love. When we violate his law and his will—which is designed to give us life– evil thrives in a way like Genesis 6:5 describes.
Then in vs. 7, we see his severe wrath: ““I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land.” Humanity deserves the just and fair judgment of God. His judgment is severe because our rejection of our glorious Creator is so severe.
Genesis 6:11–14 ESV Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood…
First, let me state that I believe the Flood is a real, historical event. No fairy tale or fable. Not a parable or an allegory. The OT declares it a real event. It reads like an historical event. A global, catastrophic flood.
And the NT, including Jesus Christ himself, also speaks of Noah as a real person and the Flood as a real event. In the Gospels, in Hebrews 11, and 1st & 2nd Peter.
Now back to vs. 11-14. The condition of man is again repeated from vs. 5. “The earth was corrupt…. Filled with violence.”
And God’s ensuing judgment is so severe. He is determined to judge every person on the planet.
So man’s condition is severe.
God’s judgment is severe.
But we must say that his mercy is equally extreme, though obviously wonderful. God had the right to judge all, but he extended mercy to this one man. Humanity needed to be rescued. Someone needed to do for us what we could not do for ourselves and what we did not deserve: to save us from judgment and bring us into a glorious relationship with God.
Now skip ahead to Chapter 7 several months go by and the Flood is receding.
Genesis 7:21–23 ESV And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.
Sobering! And God is so emphatic about it that he had Moses (the human author) state the death of all four times in these three verses.
Let this sink in: The situation was so severe that God destroyed the planet. Completely wiped it out. This takes some reflection to feel the weight of it all.
Genesis 8:1 ESV But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.
I love these four beautiful words: “But God remembered Noah.” He had compassion on Noah. This is a beautiful declaration of mercy and kindness.
In these few chapters, the wrath of God is revealed. God’s wrath is severe….So severe that it should provoke a response from us. A response of shock. Of amazement, grief, wonder, and even fear.
What is just as startling is that the wrath of God promised in the future is no less severe. It is no less shocking and terrifying.
The NT Scriptures are quite clear of a coming day of wrath when the holy Creator God executes justice on the earth.
Honestly, it can be difficult for us to wrap our minds around this. God’s justice can seem harsh, at first. Unfair, perhaps. Even overly severe.
But when we view it that way, we fail to grasp it properly because our view of ourselves is too large. And our view of God is too small. We know too little of the greatness and splendor and glory and power and holiness of God. And we overestimate our own stature compared to him.
I don’t know how to realign those views properly except to know God as he is. To grow in our knowledge of him as he reveals himself in the Scriptures. That.. is a work of the Holy Spirit. And we will find him when we seek him with all our hearts.
The more we know him truly, the more we will know that his judgment is right and pure. And the more we know the rightness and even the glory of his just judgments, the sweeter his mercy will be to us.
Mercy is only mercy when judgment is true and right.
God is the Glorious, Holy Judge.
God is the Merciful, Kind Savior.
Jesus our Savior
So we’re here in this Advent season. This season to celebrate the Coming…the First Coming…of Jesus Christ.
How does this story from long ago in Genesis remind us about Christ?
First, our situation on earth today doesn’t seem that much different than in Noah’s day.
Mankind is Corrupt. Violent. And wickedness abounds. Man’s thoughts are largely evil. Read the news. Look around. It’s not hard to find.
Second, a coming judgment has been promised.
Both OT and NT proclaim this clearly and loudly. Judgment for rebellion against our holy Creator God is coming.
Third, like in Genesis 8:1, the Lord remembers us.
The Lord remembers us. He has not forgotten. And he has proven this by sending his Son and raising him from the dead, and then giving us his Holy Spirit.
For Jesus Christ came for one purpose: to RESCUE.
Matthew 1:20–22 ESV But as he [Joseph] considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet…
Jesus’ very name means, “the Lord is salvation.” The Lord is a Rescuer. A Deliverer.
An ark won’t save us. Jesus Christ will.
Romans 6:23 succinctly covers both our need…and our rescue.
Romans 6:23 ESV For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Noah and all the people faced death for sin. But God gave Noah a gift. The gift of an ark. Noah could not boast in his own ability to save himself. “I am such a great swimmer. I can make it through this water.” No, he simply walked by faith, built the ark, and got in.
Our story deviates from Genesis in one way: In Genesis God rescues just a few…. but today in Christ he offers deliverance to anyone who calls on him.
Romans 10:13 ESV “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
What a Rescuer we have in Jesus.
I want to make some applications to our lives today.
- We should revere God
Noah feared the Lord. He believed God would bring judgment.
Hebrews 11:7 ESV By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household…
He believed God would do what he said. He had faith that God would judge the world and save Noah’s family. He had a reverent fear of God. He was in awe of God. Therefore he obeyed.
And for us today, the Judgment of God that is still coming will be as severe as the Judgment of the Flood.
Jesus spoke of this. Read carefully.
Matthew 24:37–39 ESV For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
When Jesus comes again—the Second Advent—he will rescue all who have believed in him. People like Noah. And he will bring his severe judgment on all those who have rejected him as their Holy, Loving, Creator God. Just like in Noah’s day.
God will do what he says. And we should hold him in awe for his power and his justice.
- We should rejoice in God’s great mercy
Do you know what the first thing NOAH did when he exited the ark after 10 months of devastating flood?
He worshiped the Lord.
I suspect Noah was in awe of what God had just done. Destroyed the whole planet. Everyone and everything was dead. But Noah and his family had been rescued. They were the only humans alive on the planet.
Surely Noah had a combination of awe and joy. God had shown extraordinary mercy to him.
The First Advent of Christ is an advent of mercy. And if God had not sent his Son and drawn us to himself to save us, our outcome would be just like the thousands and thousands who perished in the Flood. Without hope and without God.
But now our joy should be inexpressible for the everlasting life we have been granted through Jesus. The more we understand this, the more we will smile. In Christ you will never die but will live forever and ever and ever and ever in glory.
Peter said it so well.
1 Peter 1:8–9 ESV Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Inexpressible and glorious joy is ours.
Rejoice in God’s indescribable mercy to give you life in his Son.
- We can trust God more because of the Advent of Christ
The First Coming of Christ—including his death, resurrection, and ascension—can give us great confidence in God today in any—I mean any—trial.
Last Monday my nephew, Micah, and his wife gave birth prematurely to a little boy. He’s doing fine so far, though he weighs only 3-1/2 pounds. Micah told me that this situation is testing his faith since it’s hard to reason his way through this. He wonders why this happened. Why didn’t his son go to full term.
He and I talked about Romans 8:32.
Romans 8:32 ESV He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
If God gave his Son— if he didn’t withhold him—if he gave his Son to die in our place—to RESCUE us— won’t he give us all other things we need?
Now, this is no guarantee of the outcome in the short term. But in the eternal sense, God will work even the most severe trials out for good for those who love him.
So when we consider God’s remarkable history of rescuing people like Noah and his family—and especially the Greatest Rescue of all in Jesus Christ—we can have a quiet confidence in any other trials of life.
So consider the trials you are going through right now. Do you have that trial in mind?
Now apply the First Advent of Christ to that, as described in Romans 8:32. If God didn’t withhold his Son for you, won’t he be gracious to you in all other trials of life??
For if Jesus died to bring us life that never ends, we can trust God in all the other pains and problems of life. For no problem we will ever face will surpass the problem of God’s judgment on us as we faced eternal torment.
Like with Noah, God remembers us. He will not forget us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He will not stop being gracious to us.
We can trust him more because he sent his Son.
Let me wrap up with this.
The Bible is filled with dramatic stories of Rescue. More dramatic than any book or movie could ever proclaim.
The very beginning of the Bible reveals one story in Genesis 6-8.
The very end of the Bible reveals another one in the Final Judgment in Revelation 20.
That final story is a terror if you have not met the Rescuer, Jesus.
But that same story is the greatest joy if Jesus has rescued you.