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The Flood: A Great Rescue

God’s Big Story (3) The Flood: A Great Rescue Genesis 6.5-22

Wembdon 25th January 2015

Reading: Genesis 6.5-22

Introduction – two sides to the character?

Dating and job interviews have a lot in common: in both cases the candidate is trying to present their strengths and conceal their weaknesses. And in both cases, those doing the asking want at all costs to avoid an unpleasant surprise of discovering that the nice exterior hides a nasty interior.

That is why one comic suggestion I came across has a lot of merit. In order to see what someone is really like, arrange a game of rounders, and then blatantly and unjustly call them out. See how they react. Or a modern equivalent, put them in front of a computer with slow internet! That will reveal their true character. (I’m rather glad neither Christa nor St George’s did that to me, I don’t know how I would have fared).

I mention this because for many people, Christians included, reading the Old Testament feels like discovering that God has two sides to him. The caricature reading is that in the NT he is a God of love and peace, and in the Old he is full of wrath and war. This morning’s passage is one of many (indeed the whole OT) which blow that myth apart. We see instead that God is gracious and faithful all the way through Scripture: to be sure that grace is revealed more clearly in Jesus and in the New Testament, but if we cut open the Bible’s story at any point, we can see that every part contributes to the one, Big Story.

Recap the story so far.

If you’ve just joined us, we’re on a year-long study of PPP ICONGod’s Big Story, following the story-line of the whole Bible. We began with God’s Creation: he made a beautiful world, he made us; and he loves everything he has made. In the Beginning there was God’s People in God’s Place enjoying God’s Blessing.

All that changed on one PPP ICON2Terrible day, commonly referred to as the Fall of Man, although it was not an accident so much as a deliberate rejection of God and his loving rule. The man and the woman’s rebellion changed the world forever and  spoiled their relationship with God; their relationship with each other; and their relationship with the natural world.

As a consequence, they were banished from the Garden. God’s People are now separated from God, banished from his Place, and rightly under his judgement and curse.

The rest of the Bible is the story of God’s Big Rescue to reverse the effects of Sin and restore his people to himself. And the story of Noah shows us the character of God’s rescue.

I should add that the recent film Noah bears little resemblance to the biblical account. It is based on and inspired by the biblical story but the details are different. If you watch the film, don’t think it will tell you the story! Here are the key elements from the first chapter:

God’s Grief at Man’s sin (v5-7)

The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.  (Genesis 6:5–6)

Verses 11-12 show how man’s sin affects every element of creation:

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people [lit. All flesh] on earth had corrupted their ways.  (Genesis 6:11–12)

The word translated as ‘all the people’ in verse 12 means ‘all flesh’ and includes animals. The whole creation is infected and affected by sin. We must understand that sin is not just ‘a mistake’: it is a rebellion that spoils everything. Do you remember a year ago when the floods hit the Levels, how Sam Notaro tried to build a defence around his house: but once it was breached, the floodwaters entered and everything was affected. Flood waters bring dirt and put it absolutely everywhere. That is how it is with sin: all flesh on earth had corrupted their ways.

God’s reaction shows us what he is really like:

So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”  (Genesis 6:7)

First, God is grieved at the mess. Does it mean that God made a mistake? I don’t think so because elsewhere in the Bible we have verses that show us he knew this is what would happen: Peter tells his readers that Jesus, the Rescuer, was chosen before the creation of the world (1 Pet 1.20). God knew it would be like this, and still sin grieved him. He was grieved at sin then, and he is grieved at sin now.

Second, God will act against evil. He must and he will judge it because it corrupts the world and it grieves and offends Good.

So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”  (Genesis 6:7)

Two comments at this stage:

You may not be convinced about the truth of the flood at all. I could talk about the archaeology that supports an ancient flood in Mesopotamia, and how other cultures besides the Bible have a flood account (and that’s true). Instead I’ll ask you to suspend your disbelief long enough to listen to how this this book, the Bible, experiences and describes the flood. Certainly Jesus and the disciples spoke of the flood as something that happened.

Second, I want us to consider God’s attitude to sin described here, and ask to what extent you share his feelings: do you grieve over sin, and know how it grieves him? When God sees injustice and harm in his beautiful world, it does grieve him. He is not impassive in that sense. He sees and he cares.

If he sees sin in the world and grieves over it, he also sees your sin and grieves over it. There is such a thing as godly grief, in which we weep as God weeps over our own sin.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.  (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Sin grieves God and us because it must be punished. The judgement will mean the destruction of all living things because they are all corrupt. The rescue of Noah shows us God’s ultimate purpose is to save and not to destroy

God’s Grace in the face of evil (v8-10)

But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD.  This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.  (Genesis 6:8–9)

God’s way to deal with sin is that, in the midst of judgement, there will be rescue. It’s what he does with Noah:

So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. (Genesis 6:13–14)

Verse 14 is a big ask! Noah lived far from the sea: his neighbours almost certainly laughed as he built: A flood!? Destruction?! It’s never happened before. An Ark!? It’s never been needed before! Noah, you’re mad. And the Ark was big!

It took great courage from Noah to believe God. Hebrews calls it faith:

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 11:7)

Peter calls Noah a ‘preacher of righteousness’ (2 Peter 2.5) because his actions show he believes God will judge evil, and has provided a way out.

=> Noah is a model for us too. We say, in the Creed, that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead; we live as those who believe God will judge sin and has provided a way out. Godly sorrow leads to holy fear – living today in the light of God’s promises.

God’s Great Rescue (8.15-17)

So the rains come down and the waters come up until all creatures on the earth perish: people, animals, the whole lot. Only when God’s judgement at evil is fully satisfied do the waters recede, and the land appears. The Ark settles and we join the story as they emerge:

Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.”  (Genesis 8:15–17)

Here is a fresh start for the animals. In the beginning God told them to be fruitful (Gen 1.22) and here he repeats the command. So too with humans, in the beginning told to be fruitful (Gen 1.28) and now

 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” (Genesis 9:7)

God has wound the clock back to Genesis 1.  Or has he?

The recent film Interstellar is a beautiful but overcomplicated Sci-Fi tale of humanity looking for a new world. The old earth has been spoiled by human greed and cannot sustain life for much longer: an expedition is launched through a ‘wormhole’ to explore some new worlds. At one point an astronaut wonders, ‘Will these new worlds have greed on them? The answer is ‘only what we brought with us.‘ Crucially, that is their undoing: those few explorers were unable to leave behind the corruption that ruined the earth.  

That’s what happened on the ark. Noah found grace, but even he was unable to leave behind the sin that spoiled the world. When he stepped off the ark, sin stepped off it with him.

Has God given up?

The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma [of Noah’s sacrifice when he stepped off the ark] and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.  (Genesis 8:21)

God has not given up. He will reverse the effects of sin, but he can’t do it only by judgement. Sin remains in the heart and only a new heart will allow a new earth.

And like the flood, it will come by salvation through Judgement. Jesus warns us of the coming judgement:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:37–39)

Jesus tells of a greater judgement. He also brings a greater rescue.

God’s Even Greater Rescue

Noah’s ark gives us the pattern for Jesus’ Rescue – justification by faith. It’s the heart of the Gospel, the good news of how God restores sinners – you and me – to become God’s People in God’s Place enjoying God’s Blessing. It follows the pattern of Noah’s rescue in the Ark. He is saved by Grace, through Faith, in the Ark; we are saved by Grace, through faith, in Christ.

Saved by Grace

Grace means that salvation is God’s idea.

  • Whose idea was it to build an ark? It was God’s idea. Noah didn’t come up with a plan and ‘pitch’ it to God. Noah found grace and was told to build an ark. His faith is that he trusted God and built the ark.
  • Whose idea was it to send Jesus to die for sins? It was God’s idea. We didn’t come up with the plan (indeed our corruption means we could never have come up with anything that good) and pitch it to God. Jesus came to die for sin, and because he was faithful and without sin, he died for sin once for all. Salvation is by grace because God makes the first move.

Everything in the Christian life begins with God: faith is responding to what God has said: holiness is responding to what God has made us in Christ; giving is responding to what God provided in the first place. The Good News begins with God because he is a Very Good God. He is, and has always been, the God of Grace.

Saved through Faith

Faith is trusting God and taking action. Faith is responding to Grace.

  • God told Noah about the flood. Noah believed God, built the Ark, and then boarded it. When God closed the door of the ark (Gen 7.16) he confirmed the responses: Noah and his family were on board because they believed God, and they were saved. Everyone else rejected God, and they perished. Noah was saved by Grace (God’s idea to build the ark), through Faith (he did what God told him).
  • We will see the same pattern in the covenant with Moses: God rescued the Israelites from slavery (Grace) and protects those who respond by faith.
  • Just as the door of the ark stood open for Noah and his family, so the door of heaven stands open for you today. And just as God warned Noah of the coming flood, so Jesus warns you about the coming judgement. God saves (or offers to save) you by Grace. But in order to be saved you must respond by faith. For Noah it means stepping aboard the Ark. For Christians it means stepping aboard Jesus Christ. FAITH can be spelled Forsaking All I Trust Him.

Saved in Christ

We are saved by Grace through faith in Christ (alone).

  • Consider how the ark saved Noah. The ark did not remove the judgement: the rains fell, the waters rose, all flesh perished. The judgement fell on the Ark. Noah and his family inside the Ark were safe because the Ark bore the judgement for them. They were saved by grace (God’s plan), through Faith (which they acted on) in the Ark (which bore the judgement in their place). God saves throughjudgement, by Grave through Faith.
  • We will see the same pattern in that other great OT rescue, the Passover (see 8th Feb and 1st March, Exodus 12).
  • All this points to our true salvation in Jesus. Just as the Ark did not stop the rains from falling, so Jesus does not stop God’s judgement on sin. All sin and evil will be judged. God’s offer of life is that if by faith you step onboard Jesus Christ and are found ‘in him’, then God keeps your safe through the judgement. Just as the waters fell on the Ark, so that the cross, the judgement falls on Jesus, who suffered in himself the punishment for the sin of everyone who is found ‘in him’. That is why you need to come to Jesus to be saved. God is grieved at sin: and graciously he has provided a way out. Come by Grace, through Faith in Christ alone, and you will be saved. Only then will God’s rainbow promise of an earth without curse be realised. He has promised and he will do it.

The nature of this rescue is that you need to commit to one rescue only: Noah and his family could only be rescued by the Ark, and they could either be on or off when the door was slammed shut. The children of Israel were saved from Passover only by the blood of the lamb: they could be either under the blood or not. And you are saved from judgement only by the death of Jesus: when it comes you either trust in his death, or not. Salvation is by faith in Christ alone because there is no other salvation from God’s judgement.

Application

What then has God put on your heart?

  • Grief: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) Think of instances where God has shone a light on your sin, and brought you to deal with it. God knows where you are: and he knows where he wants you to be. If there is godly sorrow at sin, then take it to repentance and life, and not in stubbornness and death. Our right response to sin is godly grief that leads to repentance. God was grieved and is grieved over sin: ask him to work the same character in you.
  • Grace: Noah’s ark illustrates God’s wonderful rescue. God is a gracious God and he has always been. There is no schizophrenia between OT and NT, it is one story of grace, faith and rescue.
  • Faith. Noah was saved from the floods by grace, through faith, and in the ark. Jesus points us to the great judgement: God is patient and while he won’t subject the earth to another flood, there is a time when he will wipe away all corruption. Will you be swept up in it? Are you ready?

The only place to be ready is to be in Christ now: step on board the ark even before God slams shut the door. Come to Jesus Christ as your only saviour.

Questions for discussion

How was Noah saved by grace, through faith, through the waters of judgement? How does this point to our rescue by grace, through faith, through Christ alone?

Why do we find it so hard to trust in Christ alone for salvation, and where do we tend to go for alternatives to believing that Christ’s work is truly enough to save us?

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) When is it right to pray for godly sorrow?


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