Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Flood: God Kills People

Once again we will be watching God at work. And once again we’ll have some questions to ask.  And, I hope, once again we will see things that the Father wants us to consider and respond to.

I’ll be using those three questions again: What is God doing? Why is He doing that? What difference does this make?

Let’s start by reading Moses’ account of what happened.

Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him. Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the Lord shut him in. The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days. Genesis 7

So, God is at work. And what is it that He is doing? There are quite a few things that attract our attention. God is rescuing some people. He’s using an odd boat to do that. He’s also rescuing animals, some clean, some not. But here’s something that God is doing that most folk don’t say much about. God is killing people. That, after all, is the point of the flood. And that is what God is rescuing Noah from. God is killing people. It sounds kind of harsh when you say it that way. But how else can we say it? That is, after all, what God is doing. And this killing isn’t an unfortunate side affect of something else. It is what He intended to do. He even said so.

For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.

The answer to our first question is pretty obvious. What is God doing? He is killing people.

Now, for our second question. Why is He doing that? There must be a good reason. I mean, He’s killing people. Why? Reflect just a bit on important themes in the Scriptures, and the answer is clear. God has holy expectations. There is a right and a wrong. And He expects us all to do what is right. But the fact of the matter is that when He considered what was going on in His creation that wasn’t what He found. Remember this from chapter 6?

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.

God called for holiness. But what He got was evil. His expectations weren’t met. So, He responded to what He found. He killed people. And this killing was not some temper tantrum. It was an act of justice. The holy God responded to the evil of humanity with justice. God killed them.

There are plenty of people who have a problem with this. Many of them think that God’s expectations are just too high, completely out of reach for the average person. So, God should cut us a little slack if we blow it. After all, no one’s perfect. But I think it’s clear that God disagrees. He thinks that His expectations are appropriate. He thinks that His justice is fitting. He sent a flood that killed people.

It helps to remember that the flood didn’t come out of the blue. Peter writes this about those who died in the flood:

… they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared …  1 Peter 3.20

God patiently waited before He sent that flood. And how long did God wait? Back in chapter 6 God had said,

My Spirit will not remain with mankind forever, because they are corrupt. Their days will be 120 years.

Once God saw the evil of mankind He waited 120 years before He caused the flood. And what was happening during that time? Noah was doing more than carpentry. Peter calls him ‘a preacher of righteousness’. Noah spoke to the people about God’s holy expectations. And while Noah preached, God waited. So, you see that though God had holy expectations and a sense of justice that was uncompromising, He was not cruel. He warned the people through Noah, and He gave them plenty of time to repent. But they didn’t. So, He responded justly.

Here is something else to remember. Yes, God sent the flood. It was no accident but something sent specifically to kill all those people. But this was not something God liked doing. He was not sitting in heaven enjoying the sight of all those people drowning. Listen to what He says through one of His prophets.

As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die…?

If the people had repented and avoided the flood, the person who would have been the happiest would have been God.

The flood happened a long time ago. But God has not changed since then. His holy expectations of His creatures and His sense of justice are still the same. God still kills people who do not meet His holy expectations.

Now we’re ready for that third question. What difference does this make? Consider what I have done today. I’ve talked to you about the God whom we worship. Last week I told you about something that our God has done that kind of makes no sense. This God has obligated Himself to us - to us! - by covenant. By this covenant He has granted to us His very great and precious promises. Why would He do a thing like that? But He has. This sets Him apart from all the gods of the nations. He really is an amazing God whose love for us goes above and beyond any reasonable expectation.

But there is more to God than His amazing grace. Half the truth presented as the whole truth becomes a lie. So, this week I’ve reminded you that this same God has holy expectations. And He is so serious when it comes to enforcing those expectations that He kills people who fail to meet them. We cannot choose the qualities of God that we will believe in and ignore the rest. We are to believe in the one true God in all of who He is.

It’s all well and good to say that we need to know about and believe in the whole God. But is there some benefit to this beyond just knowing? I mean, today’s topic can be depressing.

Yes, there are benefits. For one thing, as we grasp how serious God is about His holy expectations that motivates us to likewise be serious about His holy expectations. Each week during worship we read together something from God’s Law. This isn’t just something to read through. God is serious about our obeying whatever it is that we are reading. He has holy expectations of us.

Now, there are those who think, ‘But does that really matter? All of my sins are already forgiven.’ And any person who thinks that way doesn’t understand what the Bible has to say about the fear of the Lord. Here, I would remind you of Ananias and Sapphira. They lied to the Spirit. God killed them. Don’t assume that they are now enjoying heaven. Their death would then have been a blessing and not the curse that it was. God really does have holy expectations of us. And it really matters that we take those expectations to heart.

And as the reality of those expectations become clearer, we understand better the need for sincere repentance. Both Peter and Judas failed in tragic ways when Jesus was arrested. Both felt bad for what they did. But only Peter sincerely repented. So, God made sure Judas died. God killed him. Sincere repentance is more than feeling bad for what you do. And it’s more than just turning away from what you did. It’s also turning toward what you should do. It’s working to meet God’s holy expectations.

As a result of all of this, there is another benefit. The Gospel becomes more precious to us. As we take God’s holy expectations more seriously we find that we are worse sinners than we thought. We find that there is less and less that would separate us from all those people whom God killed in that flood. And as that becomes clearer to us we are struck with the thought that we won’t die. God won’t kill us. As we take refuge in Jesus - by a sincere repentance and a hard working faith - we won’t die. God promises that by His covenant with us. And the Gospel becomes more precious to us. We become more amazed at the God who obligates Himself in the Gospel.

I’ll close with this verse:

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

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