Course: 52 Major Stories of the Bible
Lecture: The Flood
Let’s pray. Father, we sit in our nice comfortable chairs yet we are reminded that the world outside can be dark and ugly. It can be dark and ugly right here as people who are living among us are hell-bent and headed straight for destruction. It can be dark and ugly in areas of the world where people are not allowed to gather yet, Father, in those dark areas You show Yourself as God. Even with all the unbelievable might of the Chinese government, You still have drawn 60-70 million of Your people to Yourself. These are staggering numbers, Father. In the midst of sin You redeem Your people. Father, may we leave here encouraged and challenged to see You both as the judge of sin and as the Redeemer of the righteous. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Well, we left the story in Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve starting to feel the effects of their sin and the consequences of their eating and their expulsion from the garden. Then in Chapter 4 through the middle part of Chapter 6 in the book of Genesis we start seeing that sin and its consequences continue to grow. In Chapter 4, Cain kills his brother Abel. In a mere eight generations, we meet Lamech, who brags that he has married two women, thus breaking the injunction in Genesis 2, and then bragging that he has killed someone. Sin and its consequences have continued to grow darker and darker, and if you just add up the years in the genealogies, we are at least 15000 years away from the time of Adam.
God As Judge
Then we come to Lamech’s son, Noah, and we read the story of Noah and Flood. We are picking the story up in Genesis 6, starting at verse 5. Moses writes, “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. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth and it grieved Him to His heart. 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.’” Now, obviously, when the Bible talks about God being sorry it does not mean that God made a mistake. That is the Bible’s way of saying that God is about to do something. And creation, human creation has become so bad, so bad that the only avenue open to God is simply to destroy it. Notice the repetition in verse 5, “every intention of the thoughts was only evil continually.” The point is being made that the sin that started in Genesis Chapter 3, as we have seen grow through Chapters 4, 5, and 6 has come to a head as far as God is concerned. Everything is wicked and God means to do something about it.
Theology of Sin
If you pick up a theology book and look at the doctrine of sin, you will find this particular passage occurring over and over and over again because this is one of the strongest passages in all of the Old Testament to describe human sin. We go to this passage and we talk about original sin. Original sin is the doctrine that when Adam and Eve were created they did not have the tendency to evil, that when they ate of the fruit of the tree it was a clear choice. But because they sinned, it allowed sin to come into the world. The doctrine of original sin teaches that what it means to be human has been changed such that you and I are not born morally neutral, but that you and I are born with a tendency to sin. The theologians talk about the inherited sin nature. I do not believe that we are born guilty of sin, but I do agree with most people that we inherit a sin nature. This is one of those passages that talks about the effects of original sin, that it has taken over and everyone, up until verse 7 that is, has succumbed to sin. We also get our doctrines of total depravity out of this passage. Total depravity is the doctrine that every aspect of our being is tainted by sin. Our mind, our heart, our will, every aspect of who I am and who you are has been affected by sin. We see in this passage totally depraved people, that every intention of their hearts is only evil. “Wicked” is what Paul says in Romans 3. He says, “No one is righteous, no, not one.” This is one of the more important passages in the entire Bible when it comes to theology. We are by nature and by choice sinners. The point that the passage is trying to make is that times are dark. This is not good. Times are dark and sin has overwhelmed God’s creation. But there is something else about our doctrine of sin, our theology of sin that is in this passage that I want to make sure we see. In verse 6, the Lord was sorry that He’d made man on the earth and it grieved Him. Sin grieves God’s heart. It grieved God’s heart when Adam and Eve ate. It grieved God’s heart when Lamech took two wives. It grieved God’s heart when society agreed that murder was okay. Sin grieves God’s heart. This is one of those things, I think, where you have to step back and think about it for just a bit to let it really sink in. That the God of Genesis 1 has opened His heart to you and to me and is giving you and me the ability to grieve Him, to hurt Him. Did you ever do anything wrong? Did you ever hurt your parents? I am not only talking to young people. I have. And I did things that were wrong and Mom and Dad disciplined me, for which I am thankful. But there were a few times when I did things where there was something different about it, and I can remember grieving my parents. It went past discipline and it hurt them so deeply that they were not able to respond. But they did not have to because I could see it in their eyes. I did something one Friday (I still don’t remember what it was) and I did not call Dad to ask him permission. I looked in my father’s eyes and I knew I had done something really wrong. I did something different from my normal misbehavior. I grieved my father and saw it in his eyes. I woke up Saturday morning and had to find my dad. He was playing the organ in a church the next Sunday. I didn’t know what church he was playing in, so I was driving all around Bowling Green looking for my dad so I could apologize to him, and I finally found him. See, I grieved my father; I did something that went so deeply into his heart that he did not even respond in anger, he did not respond in discipline, but it was written all over his face, it was in his eyes.
See, when the Bible says that sin grieves God, I think that is what it is talking about. We are given the option, as is true in any relationship, that when you enter into a relationship you are giving people the ability to cut into your heart. That is what God did with you and me. So when we sin, it grieves God’s heart. I do not want anyone to ever think of the story of Noah and flood again and think that sin is not a big deal. I do not want you to leave here trivializing sin. I do not want you to leave here thinking of the flood and going, “Well, that’s a nice story.” I do not want you to leave here thinking that, “Well, sin isn’t that bad.” Of course, if something is not that bad, it means it is not that good either. But when we approach sin that way, we trivialize God’s heart. We trivialize the pain that we can cause Him. Because when we trivialize sin, when we say it is not a big deal, we are saying that holiness only matters some of the time. Sin is bad enough, verse 7, to blot out all life. Sin is bad enough to grieve the very heart of God.
Is The Story of the Flood a Children’s Story?
Let me ask the question another way. Is the story of the flood a children’s story? We make cute little cutouts of rainbows and stick them up and sing those horrible “arky-arky” songs. (Only horrible the 150th time you hear it.) I think there is something inside of us that wants to make the flood a cute little children’s story. Well, this certainly is a children’s story in that they can understand it, but the story of the flood is one of the darkest moments in humanity’s existence. It was dark, it was ugly, and it was profound as God destroys His creation in order to punish the sin of humanity. That is a dark, dark, moment. There is a picture I wanted to show you but it was simply so dark that I was not comfortable showing it. Gustav Dore who drew a picture called ‘’The Deluge.’’ It is a picture of a large rock in the ocean with three children and a giant tiger standing side by side. Over in the sky are ravens trying to keep flying and in the water are bloated dead bodies and right in the front of the rock are the husband and a wife who are pushing up their fourth child at the expense of their own lives to get the child to the top of the mountain to try to save its life. You see why I chose not to show it to you. That is the message of the flood. It was the darkest moment in the history of the world up until that point. It was an X-rated movie. In fact, the only darker moment that I am aware of in all of the Bible are the hours of darkness before Jesus died on the cross. The flood and the cross are doing the same thing. The flood and the cross are both epics in human history where God judges sin. He judges sin at the flood, and He judges sin at the cross. Sin is always a big deal. It is always destructive and it is always punished. We must not trivialize it. Holiness always matters. That is the first half of the message of the flood. It is not a children’s story. It is a dark, dark story of a grieving God and his hatred of sin.
God As Redeemer
Now, aren’t you glad you slid here this morning to hear this? But the Garden of Eden in Genesis Chapter 3 was a dark moment, too. Of sacrifice and skins and expulsion from the garden, and yet what was also going on at the same time? God is showing Himself to be the Redeemer.
Look at verse 8, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, he was blameless in his generation, and Noah walked with God.” You see, in the story of the flood, Noah stands in stark contrast to everyone else in creation. The curse from Genesis 3:15 makes it clear that the offspring of Satan (the unredeemed) and the offspring of Eve (the redeemed) would bruise each other. The story of Noah shows this conflict between Noah (the redeemed) and everyone else in the unrighteous world (the unredeemed). Noah was wholeheartedly following God, wholeheartedly pursuing righteousness. We pick up the story in 6:14, after Moses has introduces Noah’s character, “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it. The length of the ark, 300 cubits; its breadth, 50 cubits; and its height, 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark and finish it to a cubit above and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life.” You can hear the language of Genesis 1 and 2 all the way through this. “Everything that is on the earth shall die, but I shall establish My covenant.” Here is the redemption. “ ‘I will make an agreement with you and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. These shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing on the ground according to its kind, two of every sort shall come into you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.’ And Noah did this. He did all that God commanded him.” In the very midst of punishing sin, God shows Himself to be the Redeemer of Noah who is righteous. And God the Redeemer tells Noah the Righteous about the coming flood in order to redeem him. God gives him the plans for the ark. We will see in Chapter 7 that He sends the animals and then in 7:16 we read that it is God who shuts the door. Although it seems like a passing detail, it is of extreme theological significance. God is the Redeemer and doing what only He can do. God the Redeemer never loses control of the flood. He calls it above the mountains and He tells it to end when His purpose is done. And when it is over, God the Redeemer is going to accept Noah’s sacrifice. Even in the midst of sin, and even in the midst of the consequences, God is at work redeeming those who are righteous. Those are the two themes interwoven in the story of the flood. What do the garden of Eden, the ark, and the cross all have in common? Each of these three are places of judgment of sin and places of redemption for the righteous. Even in the midst of God punishing our sin, He is always there to redeem. That is the message of the flood.
What Do the Garden, Ark and the Cross Have in Common?
Are you in he midst of sin? Are you in midst of the consequences of past sin and feeling like, to extend the analogy, the floodwaters have extended over your head? Then the message of the flood is that not only is God the judge of sin, but God is also the God who redeems in the midst of the sin. Just as He redeemed Adam and Eve, and just as He redeemed Noah and his family, so also He will redeem you. He has done it at the cross, and He will do it for you now. That is the message of the flood, that in the midst of judgment, God is the Redeemer.
Noah is a Man of Faith
The other thing that is interesting in the story of the flood is that Noah is a man of faith. Now, the Genesis passage does not use the word faith explicitly. It talks about Noah wholeheartedly pursuing righteousness, of Noah walking with God. But as you know, when you flip over to the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, Chapter 11, what is implicit in Genesis is explicit in Hebrews. The author of Hebrews starts 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Now if that is not Noah, I do not know what is. I mean, God tells him there will be a flood, to build and ark, and Noah believes Him. In fact, verse 6, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” and then in verse 7, “In faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” Noah was a man of faith. II Peter 2:5 says that he was a “herald of righteousness.”
Story of the Flood
Have you ever thought about how amazing Noah’s faith was? I mean, put yourself in Noah’s shoes. I am going to read a little bit between the lines here, but God comes to Noah and says, “Noah, I’m going to send a flood.” I do not know how Noah actually responded, perhaps He said, “What? What’s a flood?” There is no indication that anything like this had ever happened before. “Well, a flood’s a lot of water. So what I want you to do is build an ark.” “What’s that, God?” “Well, it’s a really long skinny floating barge kind of thing.” “Well, how long, God?” “Well, one and a half football fields in length.” (That’s 300 cubits.) “And then, make it 25 yards wide. And I want you to built it with three levels with 15 foot ceilings.” I want you to make this long, skinny ark so big that it’s going to take seven days for the animals to fill it up.” “Umm, okay God,” Noah might have responded, “How am I going to steer this?” God says, “You’re not. There’s no keel, there’s no rudder, there’s no sail. You will be at My mercy, Noah. Oh, by the way, Noah,” God says, “When you’re done building this big floating barge, get enough food in it to last you and all the animals for more than a year.” You can imagine, perhaps, what Noah may have felt at first. You can certainly imagine what Noah’s neighbors felt like. We do not know how long it took to build the ark. It may have been in the vicinity of 100 years, and you can imagine the ridicule. “What is that neighbor of ours building?! He’s blocking the view. I can’t see Ararat anymore. We need to get code in place here, we need to do something about this.” I mean, can you imagine what would happen if God asked us to build an ark in our parking lot? I paced it off last night, and it would take over a good deal of the grass and parking lot. Could you imagine if God asked us to build a three-tiered floating barge in our back yard? What would the neighbors think? Do you think we could get permission from the city? I doubt it.
But look at Noah’s response. He believes God and responds in obedience, Genesis 6:22, “Noah did this, he did all that God commanded him.” Genesis 7:5, “And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.” And it is repeated two more times in the story. That is the faith of Hebrews 11. That is the faith that looks at what is not seen and hears the Word of God and responds in righteous obedience. That is faith, is it not? I wonder how we would respond if God asked us to do something as silly as to build an ark. Well, Noah built the ark and Moses tells us the events of the flood starting in 7:11. The flood process actually lasted a year and ten days. There is a very powerful painting by a Quaker artists named Edward Hicks that is one of my favorites. The first time I saw it, I literally had my breath taken away because here are all the animals that God has sent and they are peaceful. They are standing in line and they are walking into the ark. The description of the painting I found has this as the last sentence: “The dignified old lion staring directly at the viewer focuses attention upon this lesson of God’s power to destroy and to redeem.” Noah enters when the raindrops began to fall on his head. Notice that he was 600 years old. It was the second month and the 17th day. 2-17, February 17th, is great day to remember, it is my birthday, which is why I can remember when the flood started. The waters came up from the subterranean cavities, they fell from the sky for forty days and forty nights, the flood waters arose until even Doré’s painting doesn’t apply because the very tops of the highest mountain tips are covered. Then in 7:21-23 we read that the flood achieved God’s purpose, “And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He (meaning God) blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground. Man and animals, 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.” Sin is always punished, right? Sin is always horrific.
Post-Deluvian Re-Created World
It took about five months, 150 days, for the waters to begin abating. 150 days later the ark is sitting on the top of the mountain range of Ararat. This is northeastern modern Turkey, southern Russia, and northwest Iran. After waiting about two more months as the waters subside, Noah sends out a raven that never comes back, and then the dove goes out, but it is not as strong as the raven, so it comes back. Noah waits seven days, sends it out again, this time it comes back with an olive branch in its mouth. Olive trees cannot grow at high elevations, so it was an indication that the water had dropped even in the valleys. Noah waits, sends out the dove again that does not return, but Noah still waits until God says it is okay to leave. Starting in 8:14, “In the second month on the 27th day of the month, the earth had dried out.” This is one year and ten days after the rains started. “Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out from the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh, birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth that they may swarm on the earth and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” Please read the rest of the story when you have time. Please read to see what this recreated world was like. The flood is every bit the message of recreation as the earth, as it was returned its Genesis 1 chaotic state and then recreated. In the next chapter we see that God’s purpose still stands. All of the sin and all of the physical destruction have not thwarted God’s plan and He still wants people to be fruitful and multiply. God also continues to be a redeeming God. Noah’s sacrifice is pleasing. While sin grieved God, Noah’s sacrifice is pleasing, 8:20-22. God then regulates sin and says that it is a capital offense to take the life of another, Genesis 9:6. Finally God does what he promised he would do to Noah at the beginning. He establishes His covenant with Noah, with all human beings and with all animals. Covenant is a tremendously important Old Testament concept. We will talk about it a lot more next week when we look at Abraham, but God institutes His covenant, He makes His agreement with his created order to never again destroy everything with a flood. Then He says, “I will set a rainbow in the sky as the sign of my covenant, so when you see it you will be reminded that I will never again destroy everything with a flood.” Perhaps the most important verse is in verse 21 because even with this punishment, people have not changed. Original sin is still in force; total depravity is still in force. Chapter 8, verse 21, starting in the middle, “I will never again curse the ground because of man,” and here I think the NIV translation is a lot better, “even thought the intention of man’s heart is evil from it’s youth.” God says, “I will never again curse the ground even though the sin that precipitated this curse has not changed.” People have not changed, you all. God killed everyone except Noah and his family, and people did not change, and we still need a redeemer. We still need the Redeemer.
The flood is not a children’s story. Please do not turn it into something cute that bypasses its message. When you see it rain, please agree with God that He hates sin. When you see raindrops, acknowledge that our sin grieves, cuts His very heart. He may delay punishment, He may give us time to repent, Romans 2:4, II Peter 3:9, but sin is always horrific, it is always destructive, it will always be punished. That is what Christmas is all about. Christmas is about the birth, not of a cute little baby, but Christmas is the story of the birth of the Lamb of God who one day will be made sin so that you and I can be made the righteousness of God. When we see rain and we think of the flood, we dare not forget the message of the flood. But when we see the rainbow, agree with God that he is pleased with righteousness. Agree with God that without faith it is impossible to please Him, that it is people whose faith leads to obedience who will be redeemed. That is the message of the rainbow, of the covenant that God has established because He is the redeeming God even in the midst of our sin and the consequences of our sin.
Has God asked you to do anything really silly lately? Has He asked you to do anything for which your neighbors would just look at you and shake their heads and say, “What a goofus! I mean, what is wrong with that person, don’t they have any sense at all?” Is God asking you to step out in faith like He asked Noah when He asked him to build the ark? Is God asking you something silly like He asked Moses to return to Egypt to rescue His people? Is God asking you to do something silly as far as the world is concerned, like when he asked Hudson Taylor to ignore all conventional wisdom on missions and go to the inland parts of China? Hudson Taylor did that. Eric Liddell ignored his career in athletics and did it. And there are now 60-70 million Chinese Christians that need help. Is God asking you to do something silly like hate sin, not even toying with it, but to pursue holiness, to say that holiness always matters? If you pursue holiness, if you understand and I understand that sin grieves the very heart of God, we will be ridiculed, we will be laughed at. “Bunch of prudes! What’s wrong with you?” But is God asking you to affirm that holiness always matters. Is God asking you to do something silly like giving ‘’all’’ of yourself to Him, of not withholding anything, but being fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ? God, the judge of sin, offers His hope of redemption to every one of us and all that we have to do is agree with Him that sin is horrific, that it has separated us from God. We have to agree that at the cross He judged sin and provided redemption, that Christ’s death on the cross paid the penalty for our sins and we have to agree that the God of the flood deserves our complete and total allegiance as fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. That is what He is offering to you and to your neighbors, and to your co-workers, and to your extended family members. Wherever there are people going to hell who are going to be washed away in the flood, God offers the free gift of salvation. I invite you to respond with a faith like Noah’s. I invite you to believe what you cannot see. I invite you to have your faith show itself in righteousness and joyful obedience and to do whatever silly thing God is asking you to do, to hate sin, and to love righteousness. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” May we be Noahs in our day and age.
Let’s pray. Father, the story of the flood is a lot more fun in felt cutouts and cute little songs. But Father, apart from when You left Your Son on the cross paying the penalty for our sins, it was the darkest moment in humanity’s existence. It is a picture of Your hatred of sin, and it is a picture of our failure to do what is right apart from Your Son’s work on the cross. Father, may we hate sin. When we say to ourselves, “Well, it’s not that bad,” may we realize that it is not that good either, and that it deeply grieves Your heart. Father, for those among us who are in the midst of sin or in the midst of consequences of sin, may You bring the light of hope into their lives to know that You are a redeeming God who loves them deeply, who died for their sins and is holding out the free offer of forgiveness so that we can once again walk hand in hand with you as Adam and Eve walked, and as Noah walked. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- Adam and Eve walked in the very presence of God. Eight generations later, the entire earth (except for Noah) was devoid of anything good. How does that happen? Have you ever seen the decay into unrighteousness over even a few generations?
- So often God is seen as an unhappy, vengeful old meanie. How would you take the idea of sin “grieving” the heart of God to explain the necessity of punishment to someone?
- When was the last time you thought that a certain sin wasn’t that big of a deal (and I am not talking about speeding or not coming to a full stop at a stop sign)? Why did you feel that way? Has anything changed?
- How could you tell the story of the flood to your children and properly balance God’s judgment and redemption?
- This is a good time for a little role playing. One of you is God. One is Noah. Another is his wife (and perhaps children). The rest in your group are Noah’s neighbors. Tell the story and bring out the radicalness of Noah’s faithful obedience.
- How do you think Noah’s neighbors reacted when it started to rain. First day of rain, then the second day, etc.
- How can we learn to see rain as a reminder of God’s judgment? If any of you have experienced a full storm in the southern parts of the United States, tell the rest of the people what they are like, how horrifying constant thunder can be. Maybe it will help them visualize the Flood story better.
- What is God asking you to do right now that seems silly, especially to those around you, but you know that he is calling you to respond in faith? Can you think of any historical characters other than Hudson Taylor and Noah who found themselves in this situation?