Last week we saw how the world was a broken one mired in deep sin, and God saw the world for what it was. Yet, despite all the brokenness, there were faithful men like Enoch and Noah who walked with God. In this passage, we continue to see how God does not stand by idly at sin, and judges, but also holds out hope and salvation.
(A) The God who commanded and the man who in faith obeyed (6:9-7:5)
The account of the flood begins with the sins of mankind as an introduction, and in contrast the righteousness of Noah in a sinful world (v.1-2). As we learnt last week, in verse 5 we saw the degree of sin (as God saw it) and it made Him grieve (v.6). But there was one righteous man – Noah who was not completely perfect, but was different in his generation. The world of Genesis 6 is not much different from ours. We too live in a culture that tells us to work and live for ourselves. In Gen 6:5, we see that the Bible defines sin as living for the self and not merely behaviour and keeping to some moral rules. The Bible makes it clear that sin is pure evil. When we read the opening verses of Genesis 6, do we see our sin, and do we grieve?
God responds to the sin of man. God said that He would destroy the earth because it was “filled with violence through them”. Violence is both a horizontal and vertical sin, as man crushed fellow man (v.13). God is determining the course of action and judging here. To us, it seems a disproportionate response and He appears to be overreacting. This can only mean one of two things – either God is unfair or that we do not understand the severity of the situation. If we read verses 5, 11, 12, 13 closely, we see that it is the latter reason. God sees and searches our hearts and knows the real thoughts of our hearts. It is a fair response and course of action.
Verse 12 tells us that before His promised judgment, He delivered a warning to Noah. Noah was told to build and boat and fill it up with animals (pairs, or sevens) and his family. This is a preserving, merciful and kind God. He would be perfectly justified and could very well have judged without prior warning. Yet, in His gracious mercy, he warned Noah and told him how to save his family as well as his creation. Once again, the God of the Bible and Genesis subjects himself to relationship with people, initiates relationships with people and allows Himself to be known. Later in the Bible in 2 Pet 2:5, Noah was referred to as a “herald of righteousness”. Noah could tell of coming judgment, and God was giving man another chance. What about you today? Do you know this God this way, as the one who continues to draw us to Himself, even today?
The text tells us plainly that Noah did all that God commanded him (v.22). There was no mention of Noah’s response (unlike prevent narrative accounts), and Noah simply obeyed, because God said it. This shows us that obedience and faith comes together (c.f. Heb 11:7). We often describe Noah as a "man of faith", and here we learn that his faith is not faith in faith itself, but faith in God. The goal of faith is not control, but trust in God, obeying Him and being certain that He can and will fulfill His promises. Faith is not anchored in the abstract, but securely fastened to a person. Noah obeyed though the circumstances were something that he had never seen before, and displayed faith at each step of the way, confident in the God with whom he had a relationship with. Does God’s command and character allow you to overcome your fears today? Or are you really placing faith in the circumstances and situations instead?
(B) The God who flooded the earth and the man who in mercy was delivered (7:6-8:19).
Look at the description of the flood in the table below (7:6-24). It shows us that the flooding was not random or haphazard, and sheds light on God’s sovereignty and control even in such an event.
7 days of waiting for flood (7:4)
7 days of waiting for flood (7:10)
40 days of flood (7:17a)
150 days of water triumphing (7:24)
150 days of water waning (8:3)
40 days of waiting (8:6)
7 days of waiting (8:10)
7 days of waiting (8:12)
Source: Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Vol. 1, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, TX: Word, 1987), p.157
The flood narrative also employs a chiasmus, and at the centre -- the highlight -- is verse 1 in chapter 8. It speaks of how God remembered Noah in the middle of it all. And in the same way, before we forget and gloss over it, God remembers us. He did not forget Noah then, and the same God who is the same yesterday, today and forever has not forgotten us.
A God resolves to destroy the corrupt race (6:11-13)
B Noah builds an ark according to God’s instructions (6:14-22)
C The Lord commands the remnant to enter the ark (7:1-9)
D The flood begins (7:10-16)
E The flood prevails 150 days, and the mountains are covered (7:17-24)
F God remembers Noah (8:1a)
E1 The flood recedes 150 days, and the mountains are visible (8:1b-5)
D1 The earth dries (8:6-14)
C1 God commands the remnant to leave the ark (8:15-19)
B1 Noah builds an altar (8:20)
A1 The Lord resolves not to destroy humankind (8:21-22)
Source: Allen P. Ross, Creation & Blessing (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker 1998), p.191
The idea of animals and their kinds was repeated again in God's instructions in 8:15-17. The flooding and receding of floodwaters is a picture of re-creating and creating again, as the waters re-covered the earth and subsided again. Through it all, all of life was preserved in that one ark. Noah was, thus, a “new Adam”.
There was also a mention of clean animals for worship (remember how Noah was told to bring extra animals, apart from the pairs...) Although it was not mentioned in Genesis what animals were considered clean or not, Moses, the writer of the book, would have an idea of the classification. Bringing extra clean animals meant that the practice of sacrifice would continue. The flood was meant to be a serious act of judgment, and though Noah and family were sinners and just as deserving of death, they were preserved by a gracious God. This would be worth a sacrifice at the end of it all.
(C) The God who made all things new and the man who in gratitude worshipped his Savior (8:20-22)
We read of Noah's sacrifice in 8:20, made with the animals that God told him to bring up the ark. In their sacrifice, they acknowledged that they deserved to die along with everyone else, and each animal sacrifice bore their sins. God kept them alive in spite of what they deserved.
Verses 21-22 also introduces us to the doctrine of common grace. This God continues to give life and goodness we do not deserve and delays judgment. Great is His faithfulness!
What is the purpose of this story in the book of Genesis? Is it just a cute story of a family saving the world by bringing pairs of animals into a large boat? This account shows us that God is present in this fallen world, but also judges this broken and sinful world. In this story, one man was chosen by faith, to build an ark of salvation The means for new life was contained within this ark. The occupants were not chosen because they any better than the other people, and emerged from the ark and repopulated the world with sinful individuals too. The problem of the human heart had not been resolved, because Noah and his family was not the promised solution of Genesis 3.
Years later, there came a man who lived in perfect obedience and became an ark of salvation, to be a refuge for all who believe in Him. God poured out the worst on Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, wholly innocent and undeserving of judgment, endured the storm of God's wrath on behalf of sinful, deserving sinners. Now in Him, all who believe will be safe and will be brought through the storms of life. Through Jesus, all things will be made new.
Let us, like Noah and his family, worship this Savior!