It is a dark and horrifying scene that is painted for us in Genesis 6. Genesis 6:5 records that human wickedness is great on the earth. Everything they think or imagine is constantly and completely evil. The wickedness is so great that the Lord regrets making humans and he is deeply grieved (6:6). Verse 11 tells us that the earth is filled with violence. Please imagine this world. Not only is everyone only thinking of doing evil, but God looks and see his earth that he made for humans to reflect his image being full of violence. The picture is that the earth has been ruined by humans. The earth is corrupt and all people have corrupted their ways. In verse 7 God declares that he will wipe out the creation because of this corruption. Judgment must come because no one is fulfilling their God-given purpose. But there is one sliver of hope. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord (6:8). As we ended with in the last lesson, we need someone to gain God’s favor to bring us rescue.
Listen to what God tells Noah in Genesis 6:13. God tells Noah that he going to make an end of all flesh because the earth is filled with violence because of them. God will destroy humanity with the earth. Look at verse 17. God says that he will bring a flood of waters on the earth to destroy all flesh. “Everything that is on the earth shall die.” In our culture today we have a hard time believing that God would judge the world. We have a hard time believing that God would put an end to all flesh because of sinfulness. We have a hard time believing that God would bring a destroying judgment through flood, fire, famine, plague, or famine. But we need to see what God is saying. He is brokenhearted by people’s sins and there must be a judgment for these sins. There must be justice. Evil cannot continue to run rampant. A loving God must stop people from hurting and harming others and must stop people from dishonoring him. So the declaration is given that all the earth will be judged and destroyed by water.
But Noah is different. Noah is described like Enoch. Noah walked with God (6:8). He is a righteous and blameless man. Noah is set apart from the rest of the world. Rather than following the inclinations of his heart and continually doing evil like the world, Noah walked with God. So God tells Noah that he is going to destroy the earth and all that is on it. Imagine God telling you these words. What a sinking, horrible feeling that must have come over Noah to hear that the earth is going to be destroyed. However, look at verse 18. God promises to make a covenant with Noah and his family. God gives the directions for Noah to build an ark and Noah and his family will enter the ark, along with two of all living creatures (6:19). What does Noah do? Because Noah walks with God, we see Noah do everything just as God commanded him (6:22). In fact, this is a key statement throughout chapter 7. The text tells us that Noah did all that the Lord commanded him (7:5,9,16). This is an important message being given to us: those who walk with God do precisely what God says to do. Those who walk with God do not alter or argue with God’s words. Those who walk with God do exactly what God says to do. The writer of Hebrews says that Noah prepared the ark by faith. Noah obeyed and it did not matter that he was at odds with the world. Noah did not conform with the thinking of the world. Noah was different because he walked with God and not the world.
Further, it is important to consider what God does here. In God’s promise of life and salvation for Noah and his family, God does not promise an escape from the judgment but preservation in the judgment. Noah is not going to be unaffected, put in a bubble, and watching from the sidelines. God does not rescue his people from judgment. Rather, God preserves his people through his judgments. We are not immune from when God judges a people, a nation, or the earth. We will go through judgments. In fact, how we go through the judgment determines our faithfulness. God makes a way of deliverance for his people who walk with him. Chapter 7 records that the flood waters rose over all the earth, covering all the high mountains (7:17-20). Verses 21-22 records sad words: everything that moved on the earth died. “Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark” (7:23).
Covenant Renewed (8:1-9:17)
Genesis 8 opens with God remembering Noah. When the scriptures say that God remembers, it is not that God forgot and now suddenly remembers something. Rather, God remembering means that he is now going to act on a covenant that he made earlier. God made a covenant with Noah and now it is time for that covenant to be acted upon. God is remembering his promise that he made. So chapter 8 records the receding of the flood waters until the land returns. God now makes some important promises.
First, we see a new start given to the earth. God tells Noah and the living creatures to be fruitful and multiply (8:17; 9:1; 9:7). In many ways, Noah is symbolized as the new Adam. Noah is told to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. Noah is given rule over the creation (9:2-3). This flood event has given a fresh start for humanity. Rather than violence, God instructs for life to be respected and honored (9:4-6). If you take a life, your life is to be taken.
Second, God makes a promise. In Genesis 8:21-22 God says that he will not strike down every living creature on the earth again. While the earth remains there will be day and night, summer and winter, and it will not stop (8:22). God says this again in Genesis 9:11. All flesh will not be destroyed by flood waters again. God then gives a sign of this covenant to not destroy all people as long as the earth exists. In verses 12-17 God says that he will put his rainbow in the sky as the sign of the covenant between him and us. The picture is that God has hung his war bow in the air, showing that it continues to not be in his hands. The rainbow is a sign of God’s mercy because humanity deserves judgment. But God will see the rainbow and will maintain faithfulness to his covenant.
Now the story of Noah and the flood is not intended to be a cute children’s story. Noah and the flood stands a picture for what God is going to do in the future. First, there must be another judgment to come. Turn to 2 Peter 3:6-7 and notice what the apostle Peter says. Peter notes that people will following their sinful desires today believing that there is not going to be judgment (2 Peter 3:3-4). But the problem is that they forget that God did judge the world before (2 Peter 3:5-6). They forget that the world has been judged by water in the past. Now the earth is ready for judgment by fire (2 Peter 3:7).
Now I want us to think about the fact that God says that there must be another judgment. Every human agrees that there must be a judgment. There is not a single person who does not believe that there must be another judgment of justice. We just disagree on who should receive that judgment. There is surely near universal agreement that a person like Hitler must receive judgment. No one would argue that Hitler is in heaven with the Lord. No one would argue that a mass murderer who slaughtered innocent people is in heaven with the Lord. Those kinds of people must surely receive judgment. We all agree that there must be judgment. But unfortunately we think we get to define the standards of judgments. We think we get to be the judge and determine who is in heaven and who is not. We think we get to declare who should have eternal life and who does not. Essentially, we want to say that people who are going to be judged are people who are worse than us. We like making ourselves the standard for justice.
But there are some big problems with that. First, think about how many people you have hurt or wronged in your life. Think about how many times you have done something hurtful or wrong toward another. Should there not be justice for that? This is why the scriptures tell us that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). This is why the scriptures say that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Everyone agrees there must be judgment. But God says everyone must receive this judgment because all of us have done wrong. This is why the scriptures teach that Jesus did not come to condemn the world (John 3:17). He did not have to because we are condemned already. We just have to think about what we have done and realize that this is true.
So we need a rescuer. We need someone righteous who can deliver us from the curse of sin. The apostle Peter also gives us a picture of this in 1 Peter 3:18-22. Peter uses Noah as a picture. Peter first says that Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for all of us, the unrighteous, so that he could bring us to God (3:18). Now Peter uses Noah to show God’s patience. God was patient as Noah built the ark and eight people were saved through the water. Look at verse 21. What happened with Noah corresponds to baptism in Christ. Just as salvation was offered through Noah through the water, so now salvation is offered through Jesus through the waters of baptism. Baptism is how we obey God’s command and make our appeal to the Lord for salvation.
Let us put this picture altogether now. God destroyed the world in the past and through Noah there was salvation. God made a promise that as long as the earth remains, he will never destroy all flesh like that again. The rainbow is the sign in the sky that we can look at to remind us of God’s covenant love to us. However, there is another judgment to come. Judgment must happen again because there is no one who does not deserve judgment. We may think we are not that bad and other people are worse. But we have sinned. We have violated God’s will. We have not fulfilled our purpose as God’s image bearers. We have hurt and harmed others. That judgment to come is not going to be a flood, but a judgment of fire. But it will not be Noah who will save but Jesus. Noah was a picture of Jesus who would come and save us from judgment. Are we to be saved by building an ark? No, we make our appeal to God for cleansing our conscience through the resurrection of Jesus by walking with God like Noah did. In this case, we are also saved through water because this is our obedience of faith. Baptism is one of many ways that we show that we believe there is a coming judgment that we need to be saved from. Noah built an ark to show that he believed there was a coming judgment that we needed to be saved from. Another way we show that we believe that there is a coming judgment that we need to be saved from is by living holy and godly lives (2 Peter 3:11-12).
Think about how different our lives should look knowing there is a judgment. Right now we face the prospect of a virus that causes sickness and has made many people fearful. Think about how different we are living our lives right now because of the coronavirus. We know the virus is imminent and so we change everything in expectation of it. We must do the same regarding the coming judgment of God. Look at the rainbow and let it remind each of us that there must be a judgment. So how different should our lives look as we await its arrival?