Sunday, May 1, 2016

Prelude to a Flood

We’re at the point of moving on to the next pivotal person in the history that Genesis covers. We’re going to talk about Noah and the famous flood that everyone associates with him. There are lessons for us here, lessons that will help us follow Jesus better.

Listen to how Moses sets thing up.

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. 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 regretted 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.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6.1-8

You know the story. God sent a flood. It’s in every children’s Bible story book, often accompanied by a picture of a large boat with a giraffe’s head sticking out of the top. And while the story is familiar, the details often aren’t. There are things to learn from the details.

So, let’s ask some questions. The first is why. Why did God send this flood? What does the text say?

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.

What an indictment. Moses doesn’t mince words. Wickedness. We’re talking about evil, evil that infects, that corrupts, that destroys. And it wasn’t that there was just some evil. What does it say?

the wickedness of man was great in the earth… 

But it’s also important that you notice the nature of this wickedness. When we hear about wickedness our thoughts often conjure up particular kinds of behaviors. But did you notice that that’s not how Moses described it. No, Moses talks about the heart.

… every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

So, consider. These just might have been people that you would love to have as next door neighbors: friendly, helpful, good citizens, hard workers. They could have very well been people who ‘behaved themselves’. It wasn’t their behavior that was the problem. It was what was going on in their hearts. There was much evil going on in there. Moses is describing a desperate situation.

That leads to another question. How did this happen? Back in chapter three God spoke about the offspring of the serpent. So, we know about Cain and his descendents. And it’s no surprise for them to be accused of great wickedness. But what about the offspring of the woman, those who were to stand against Satan and those with him? What happened to them? Listen again to the text.

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.

The sons of God married the daughters of men. That is, the faithful offspring of the woman married the evil offspring of the serpent. And what happened? The offspring of the woman was compromised. Bit by bit the faithful were turned away from their Lord until the world is filled with great evil. But note how it happened. It wasn’t by some direct conflict. It was much more subtle. Falling in love with the wrong person. What we end up with is a situation that Jesus talked about.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 

Moses is describing one of the many times that the Church has been overtaken by the world, times when the Church became the world. When this happens evil hearts can be hidden behind masks of upright, religious living.

But sooner or later, God acts. And that’s what happened in Noah’s day.

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.”

I will blot out. God will send a flood where every person, man, woman and child will die.

But this is another place where you need to look at the details. What else does the text say?

And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

God was grieved at the situation. Now, take a minute and ponder that. God was grieved. He felt sad. Or better yet, He was heart-broken.

I remember hearing about a Christian college group at a retreat some years ago. The theme of the week was about creation. So, in imitation of God, everyone was encouraged to create something. And they went at it. Some of the students invested much time and effort to create beautiful bits of art. After everyone had finished one of the leaders of the retreat got up and talked about the flood. He then told everyone to take their works of art and destroy them. Some refused. They had poured themselves into what they had created. And now they’re supposed to destroy them? And that is just a small picture of how God felt.

… it grieved him to his heart.

So, when you picture God sending this flood, condemning all those people because of their wickedness, be sure that you see the tears in His eyes as He does it.

That leaves one last detail.

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

God did not completely destroy everything. There was still this one man and his family. God was going to start over. There would be a new beginning, a new creation. God would redeem His creation.

So, what do we have here? Moses wrote about wickedness (a wickedness of the heart), the people of God being compromised by the subtle allure of the world, God destroying His creation but with tears, the hope of redemption.

So, what can we learn from it? Or to be a bit more specific, what does all of this reveal about God?

Here’s one thing. God is just. Because of that, sin will always be punished. Always. Now, it’s a sad fact that the justice of God isn’t a popular topic. How many new church songs are written praising God for condemning wickedness and those who do it? And yet, for God there is right, and there is wrong. Doing right is commended. Here, think about Noah. And doing wrong is condemned. Think about all those who drowned in the flood. God is all about justice. We need to remember to praise Him for that characteristic. After all, it’s part of His name.

Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!

Here’s something else that this text reveals about God. He does not enjoy condemning His creatures. It grieves Him. And so, He is reluctant to do it. This is where a detail I left out fits.

Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”

What’s this 120 years? It’s God delaying the flood for that long. He really is reluctant to condemn. This is why Peter wrote,

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God is patient - even with wicked people who despise Him. He hates the idea of condemning them. He would much rather they repent and live. And why is that? A familiar sentence from John fits here.

For God so loved the world …

You know how it ends. The just God, who really does hate sin, loves a world filled with evil people. So, He sends Jesus. Remember, sin will always be punished. The Cross is also about the justice of God.

And God delays and delays,

not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

This is your God. Get to know Him. As you do, you will find that there will be times to cry out for justice against the evil that you see around you and against you. So, with the Psalmist you just might need to cry out,

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help! Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers! … For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my life. (Psalm 35)

There are times to cry for justice.

But then, there are those times to cry for God to be a little more patient with these evil people. And what is this but an appeal to His love, an appeal to His tears.

Our situation is not all that different from that of Noah. Has there ever been a time when it has not been true that

the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

The end is coming. It won’t be a flood this time. But it will be as complete. There will be justice. Evil will be condemned along with those who do it. Jesus is coming. He comes to judge the quick and the dead. We need to have the same attitude as God did - and will. We need to grieve over the fate of so many. However, we are, as it were, in that time of delay. Justice is coming, but it is not here yet. There is still time for repentance. God yearns that many would do exactly that. And we should too.

Our grief should not overwhelm us. God is still working to redeem His creation. The Church is the new ark with Jesus as the true Noah. All that flee to it will not be destroyed by the coming flood of God’s justice. But we must be careful. The seed of the serpent is still busy trying to get the Church to compromise. And, sad to say, it has been too successful through the centuries. But our God is good, and He will protect us as we are look to Him. And the day will come when the plan of redemption will be completed and we will enjoy a new heavens and a new earth in the age to come.

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