Water Destruction And Covenant Salvation

Genesis 6:9-22 9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

11 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. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 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. 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 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.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

INTRODUCTION

In our passage for this morning we come to one of the more familiar stories in the entire bible. I’d guess that virtually everyone in the US has heard this story at some point in their lives. How many children’s books alone have been written about Noah and the flood (which, if you think about it, makes for a really strange children’s book—I guess everyone imagines themselves and their kids being among those on the arc)? And yet, the real story of Noah and the flood is a decent amount different than the popular retelling and children’s stories.

In the actual text we get a close look at Noah’s righteousness, the rest of humanity’s violence and corruption, the judgment and justice of God, Noah’s role in God’s just judgment and undeserved grace, and then the first explicit glimpses of the exclusive way in which God interacts with His people—through covenant. The main point of all of this is that although God would justly judge the earth on account of mankind’s complete corruption, he would also provide a means of preservation through Noah. The world, and everything in it would be destroyed by God through a catastrophic flood—everything except that which was brought safely through on a boat by the mercy of God.

Before we pray and get to these things in the text, though, I want to highlight three things. First, I want to name the elephant in the room. Noah’s story (to say the least) is exceptional. It is miraculous. It is unimaginably violent. It’s devastating. It is unlike anything any of us have ever seen. But is it real? Did the events described in this passage really happen at some point in history? Or is this whole story merely a fictional tale intended to teach a spiritual lesson? Or a parable?

In response to these questions, many people have looked at the story of Noah from every conceivable angle. Some have considered whether or not the kind of boat commissioned by God would have even been able to float. Others have studied whether or not it was physically possible to fit all of the animals on a boat with the dimensions given in this passage. Archeologists have searched for the arc itself to confirm its existence. Others still have studied the geological and fossil records looking for evidence of a worldwide flood. In their own way, each of these considerations would speak to the historicity of this account of the life of Noah. There’s a place for each of these types of investigations.

While I’m thankful for the different work of others in different disciplines, my main charge as a preacher of God’s Word, is to help you understand how the story is presented in the Bible. And from that perspective, the simple reality is this: every indication from every reference in the bible (including from this initial recounting of the story), is that God means us to take the arc and the flood and the timeline and everything else about the story as historical fact. Is it miraculous? Of course.? Is it hard to imagine? Absolutely. Is it outside of God’s power, personality, or prerogative? No way! We are meant to read this story as truly true. God’s word means us to understand it to have actually happened just as the text tells us it did.

The second thing I want to say upfront concerns the place of Noah’s story in Genesis. You may remember that each of the 10 main sections of Genesis are identified by the Hebrew word “toledot” (usually translated, “generations”). The generations of the heavens and earth (2:4-4:26), the generations of Adam (5:1-6:8), and now the generations of Noah (6:9-9:29) mark the first three key transitions in the Genesis story.

Thus, in vs.9-10 we read, “These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.”

And finally, I want to show you something about the structure of this account of the generations of Noah. As you might know, most of the people who first received the various books and letters of the bible only had access to them orally. That is, the vast majority of the Israelites and Christians were only able to hear the bible when it was read to them. They did not have personal copies or access to them. For that reason, the biblical writers often used different literary “tricks” to make their writings memorable (acrostics, rhymes, word plays, etc.). One such “trick” was in the way they structured their stories. The story of the Flood is a (very common) example of this.

(Taken from CB, Ross, 191)

    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 (17:17-24).
                        F God remembers Noah (8:1a).
                    E’ The flood recedes 150 days, and the mountains are visible (8:1b-5)
                D’ The earth dries (8:6-14).
            C’ God commands the remnant to leave the ark (8:15-19).
        B’ Noah builds an altar (8:20).
    A’ The Lord resolves not to destroy humankind (8:21-22).

The story of the Flood and its climax (God remembering Noah) would have been more identifiable, understandable, and memorable even for those who merely heard it read because of its “shape”.

1) This story is true, 2) It’s the third main section of Genesis, and 3) It’s structure is significant.

That’s one of the more lengthy introductions that I’ve given, and yet I really do think it’s important to have these things in mind as we spend the next few weeks looking at the story of the generations of Noah. With that, then, let’s pray that God would help us grasp his just judgment and covenant salvation, in order that we’d grow in our praise of God, humility under God, repentance before God, and pleas to the world about God—about His offer of mercy and grace through the righteousness of one man, Jesus Christ.

WATER DESTRUCTION AND COVENANT SALVATION

Last week’s text and sermon ended with the brief introduction of a man named Noah. In contrast to all the sin and death that had come before, in 6:8 we read a single line, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” Beginning in our passage for this morning we move past the introduction of the man to the story itself. And as I mentioned earlier, there are five key aspects of the story that make up the main point of this passage.

Noah’s Righteousness (9)

The first key for us to see is the character of Noah. There are three descriptions of Noah’s character offered in our passage. We find them in v.9. Kids, see if you can identify them as I reread that verse.

9 … Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

Could you find them? Noah is said to be “righteous” (9), “blameless” (9), and to have “walked with God” (9). That he was “righteous” means that he lived consistently with the covenant God made with him (more on that later). This is perhaps most succinctly stated in the very last verse of our passage (22), “Noah…did all that God commanded him”. That he was “blameless” means complete and without defect. This same language is used of the sacrificial animals that were acceptable to God (Ezekiel 43). In neither case (Noah or sacrificial animals) does this mean “perfect,” but it does mean that they both met the requirements of God. That he “walked with God” means, as we saw in Enoch, that he delighted in God’s presence, followed His lead, and trusted in His ways. Overall, this paints a picture of a man who had chosen to live as God had called him to. It describes a man who knew that he belonged to God and lived his life truly in light of that.

Remember, Grace, and this is crucial: that any of this was true of Noah was a gift of God. God placed his favor, his grace upon Noah (6:8) in order that Noah would walk with God in righteousness and blamelessness (6:9).

And in the same way, remember, Grace, if any of that is true for you and me (that we are walking with God with any measure of righteousness), it is only because God has given us His favor, His grace through Jesus Christ. In this knowledge find gratitude and humility. Be humble and praise God for whatever goodness you find in yourself.

Let me mention one more practical response to his as well. Have any of you ever had someone you admire compliment you in something? Maybe someone really good at a sport you play told you that you are pretty good. Maybe someone you look up to complimented you on something you were wearing. Maybe a boss really encouraged you for a presentation you gave. Maybe your favorite teacher recognized that you were really good in a certain subject. What happens when this happens? In my experience, it serves as a significant motivation to go after that thing (sport, clothing, presentation, subject) even more. The praise of others is powerful.

So here’s how that relates to this verse… God praised the righteousness of Noah. Let that be a great motivation for you to go after that which God praises. Pursue righteousness. Long for the praise of God and find it in living according to Word of God. We cannot be saved by our own righteousness, but we can delight God as we grow in it.

The Rest of Humanity’s Unrighteousness (11-12)

In contrast to Noah, however, we find that the rest of the earth was filled with corruption. That’s the second key.

11 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.

This was the point of last week’s sermon and so I won’t spend too much time on it here, but we simply cannot miss this description of creation. It was not mildly misguided or slightly sinful or remotely rebellious or kind of corrupt. It was “corrupt in God’s sight,” “filled with violence,” “all flesh had corrupted their way.”

That the earth was “corrupt” means that it had fallen into ruin; into destruction. And that it was “filled with violence” means exactly what you think it means—that mankind and nature were given to causing harm and even death. The main point of these words is to highlight the contrast with Noah and to describe how bad things were; how thorough creation’s rebellion against God had become.

The description of mankind’s sin was total and complete. It can be uncomfortable to hear this once. It can be overwhelming to hear it over and over. But looking at it with our eyes wide open is critical. Truly, if you are not willing to accept the fact that human nature has been entirely corrupted and that that puts us all in a natural state of rebellion against God and under the wrath of God, you will have no stomach for Genesis (or any of the rest of the bible for that matter).

That’s the approach so many take under the banner of Christianity today. So many are so uncomfortable with this kind of doctrine that they are forced to rewrite these stories. I had someone come up to me at the farmer’s market last summer. Holding the “Gospel for Kids” booklet that we give out, they said something like, “You don’t really believe that kids are sinful and deserve to be punished, do you?” (the second point of the gospel). They couldn’t wrap their minds around the kind of doctrine we find in this passage.

But if we have no stomach for the bible’s teaching on the depth of our sin and rebellion against God, we will never be able to make sense of either the severity of the judgment of God or the amazingness of the grace of God. As simply as I know how to say it: Knowing the depth of our sin is a prerequisite for knowing the justice of God’s judgment and the greatness of grace of God. Noah’s story is a great help for all of that. Likewise, it was with that understanding that King David wrote Psalm 14 for the people of God to sing.

Psalm 14:1-7 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. 4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD? 5 There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. 6 You would shame the plans of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge. 7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

The Judgment and Justice of God (13, 17)

Once again we’re left with the question of what specifically God would do in response to this kind of treason. We saw in last Sunday’s passage (6:1-9) that because of the wickedness of mankind (the same wickedness described here) God would “blot out” man. In this passage we find out exactly what God meant by that.

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.

17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.

The judgment of God was equally clear and severe. God determined to “make an end of all flesh,” “destroy them with the earth,” “destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life,” and that “everything …on earth shall die.” What’s more, the means by which he would accomplish all of that, we are told, was through a great flood upon the whole world. To understate that is to be floored. That’s intense. That’s not messing around.

The question we must all ask ourselves is whether not this is a fair (a just) response from God. Sure, things had gotten bad; but was destroying the entire earth really a proportionate response? If we’re honest, it feels a little excessive, doesn’t it? It sort of seems like punching someone in the face because they forgot to say “excuse me” when they sneezed; or like cutting off someone’s leg because they stepped onto your property.

That’s the conclusion that people like the one who came up to me at the farmer’s market must come to. Since we aren’t that sinful, this type of divine judgment is way out of whack. And so they’re forced to rewrite more of the story.

But how do we make sense of this? How does a right reading of the text cause us to conclude that this is a just punishment? To this point in Genesis we’ve already encountered the two keys we need to understanding the justice of God in this severe judgment. The first key is in the nature of God and the second key is in the nature of mankind. We’ve already seen that God is the Creator-King and Righteous-Judge of the world. God made the world and so he has complete dominion over it. He is perfectly holy and so all of his judgments are right. Likewise, we’ve also already seen (several times) that mankind had fallen into total rebellion and treason. There was no compromise in the holiness of God and no compromise in the sinfulness of man. When we bring those two things together we cannot miss the fact that there is no judgment that God could pronounce that would be too severe for man’s crime.

Let me say that one more time in a slightly different way. Because God is infinitely glorious, falling short of that glory by any measure (much less the total measure we encounter in Genesis), warrants (deserves), infinite consequences. If anything, then, the flood wasn’t severe enough. The flood by itself was only a temporal, finite punishment while sinners truly deserve eternal, infinite punishment for crimes against an eternal, infinite God.

Grace, we’ll never be able to live rightly in this world, rightly with each other, or rightly with God if we do not get our heads around this: every minute that we are not in hell means that we are living in a situation that is better than what we deserve. I’m becoming increasingly convinced that this is the great dividing line between genuine Christ-followers and those following the impotent religions of today. Do you know deep in your bones that no matter how bad things are in your life, they are better than you deserve (and that’s in no way meant to minimize how bad things can get)? If so, you are truly free to live life in the kind of peace and joy that Jesus offers; the kind that isn’t tied to your circumstances.

There’s a clever word-play employed in v.13 that drives home the fact that this promised judgment of God is truly an act of justice (that it is fair; that it is, in fact, giving mankind what he deserves). The word translated “corrupt” (or “corrupted”) three times in vs.11-12 is the same word translated “destroy” in v.13. In other words, it is because mankind had become corrupt that God would give him over to his corruption. Or, because mankind had destroyed himself, God would destroy him. God was only giving to mankind what mankind brought upon himself.

That this makes sense does not mean that it is easy. It isn’t. It is a hard doctrine to accept. And yet, as we saw earlier, knowing the glory of God and the depth of our sin against Him is a prerequisite for knowing the just judgment and great grace of God.

Noah’s Role in God’s Just Judgment and Great Grace (14-22)

What’s really interesting, and the fourth key to understanding this text, is that God determined to use Noah as part of both His distribution of just judgment and great grace. That’s the point of vs.14-22.

14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 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.

17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.

19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 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.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

God would flood the earth to destroy everything on it, but he would rescue Noah, his family, a pair of every sort of animal, and every sort of food. Noah was to make a boat of deliverance. And the construction of that boat would simultaneously be (1) a declaration of condemnation to the watching world and (2) the means of deliverance for God’s elect. That is, Noah would play a role in executing God’s just judgment and His great grace.

We see this in passages like Hebrews 11:7 “By 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.”

I’d like to draw your attention to a very practical aspect of this for you and me. Noah’s participation in God’s judgment and grace is a picture of us every time we engage in evangelism. Biblical evangelism always includes participation in the just judgment of God over the world and God’s undeserved grace for the world. That is, whenever we truly share the gospel with others we must tell them that the same judgment found in the flood stands over them; for the same sin and wrath that brought about the flood has consumed them. Likewise, whenever we truly share the gospel with others we must also tell them about the means by which we can be delivered from their sin and condemnation; of the saving grace of God that can be theirs through Jesus Christ.

The NT teaches this explicitly in passages like 2 Peter 3:5-13 (take a look at it later if you have the chance). The story of Noah is a living picture of the gospel—of the salvation of those who are in Jesus (just as it was a picture of salvation for those who were in the boat). And it is a living picture of the fact that all who trust in God, by God’s grace alone, will be rescued by God through the means provided by God. God chose to bless his family and preserve the human race through one man in Noah, just as God chose to eternally bless and preserve his family through one man in Jesus (Romans 5:19). This is what Jesus meant when he said that all of the law and prophets spoke of Him. What an awesome reality, Grace. In Noah we get a glimpse of salvation in Jesus. And that leads us to the last key of this text and the last point of this sermon.

Let the weight of that wash over you, amaze you, and then compel you to join with God in His saving work!

The Covenant of God (17-18)

Right in the middle of all of this is one of the most important lines in Genesis; indeed, in the entire bible. Its importance is in the fact that it explicitly introduces a concept that drives the rest of the story line of the bible.

17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.

This is the first explicit mention of covenant in the bible. Because the idea of covenant is so critical to rightly understanding Scripture, over the next few weeks I’m going to finish working through this section of Noah’s story (6:9-9:29), and then I’m going to spend a couple of weeks preaching on covenant in the bible. For that reason, I’m not going to say much about the Noahic covenant here other than these two things: 1) A covenant is “an oath-bound relationship between two or more parties. In divine covenants, God sovereignly establishes the relationship with His creatures…in which God binds Himself by His own oath to keep His promises.”, and 2) God determined to deal with his people exclusively through covenant relationships. This is the first explicit glimpse we get of this, but it continues on throughout the entire bible to the New Covenant in the NT, under which we now live.

CONCLUSION

There’s a lot in here, of course, but once again, remember this: although God would justly judge the earth on account of mankind’s complete corruption, he would also provide a means of preservation through Noah. The world, and everything in it would be destroyed by God through a catastrophic flood—everything except that which was brought safely through on a boat by the mercy of God. And in the same way, the world and everything in it will one day be destroyed by God through fire—everything except that which is safely brought safely through in Jesus Christ, by grace through faith. Look to Him today, then, Grace and find deliverance from the just judgment of God, and then walk in the righteousness and blamelessness that his favor provides and compels. Amen.