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Our Father in heaven, we need to hear from You. We come to You as a needy people. We’ve heard from so many voices this week and now we want to hear from You and so please speak clearly. May the sermon that I’m about to preach be by the work of Your Holy Spirit, an even better sermon as the people receive it and hear it, work through me, feeble and frail as I am, give me a humble heart, and give to each of us a humble heart, that we may receive Your Word and You will speak to us just what we need to hear. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
I wonder what sort of picture comes into your mind when you think about Noah and the flood, or someone says Noah’s ark to you. I imagine that for many of us we think immediately of a bright picture, a big boat full of cute animals, Noah’s family in long bathrobes, and there’s a nice rainbow in the background. It’s a kid’s story for many of us; it’s cute, it’s fuzzy, it’s warm, it’s cheery, it’s full of giraffes and bunnies and kangaroos. Maybe you have a wooden puzzle somewhere that puts together the pieces of the story, or you have a toy ark that you played with when you were a kid, or you have various stuffed animals that come together on the boat.
And on the one hand it’s good to present the story so kids can understand it, not telling you to be rid of all of your children’s books. And it is a happy ending, for those who are on the boat, for Noah’s family and the animals.
And yet, if we think about it for just a few seconds, we realize this is not a sweet, fuzzy, pastel-laden story.
Have you ever seen the engravings of the French artist from the 19th century Gustav Dore? Don’t do it now on your phones, but you can Google it later, D-o-r-e. And he did 250 some engravings for the Bible, and there are several for the great flood, and he presents a picture that is terrifying, horrifying, gruesome. In one engraving there is what looks to be a husband and wife in the water pressing up onto the last rock in sight, their children, and there’s a tiger with her cub there already and there’s some children and you see bodies already in the water as mom and dad frantically try to get their children to dry land.
There’s another one of his engravings that has dozens of naked bodies wrapped around limbs of trees and scrambling up the sides of rocks as there are already bodies in the water and animals floating as the flood ravages the earth.
He has another one where the ark is resting, and it’s all dry land, so this is after the waters have abated, and in the background is the ark, looking rather magnificent, but in the foreground are corpses, men, women, children, animals, there sprawled, strewn among the ground. It’s almost as if Noah and his family will have to step over carcasses in order to leave the ark. As the waters recede, they see the devastation that God has initiated on the earth.
No doubt this story of Noah and the flood is one of the most sobering and honestly one of the most horrifying stories in the Bible. It’s a story of judgment. It’s a story that tells us the depth of human depravity and how offended God is by our sin. It’s a story of God’s holy hatred for sin. And so we must not sentimentalize it, minimize it, cartoon-ify it.
And yet the story’s about death and destruction, but that’s not all it’s about. It’s also about life and re-creation. It’s also a story of grace and mercy, as much as it is a story of sin and judgment. These chapters, in other words, are not just about devastation, they are about re-creation. They’re not just about God’s thundering judgment, they’re about God’s undeserved mercy.
Here’s what I want to do with this text. It’s a long one, it’s two and a half chapters. I’m going to read it through because the sermon is not inspired, but the Word is, and so the most important thing may be that you simply hear the Word, even if it takes several minutes to read through. I’m going to read through and I’m going to stop at several places to give some commentary and try to explain what’s happening and then once we’ve read through the whole passage, we’ll look at three main themes: The theme of divine judgment, the theme of de-creation and re-creation, and then the theme of divine grace.
So follow along then as I read from Genesis chapter 6, beginning at verse 9.
“These are the generations of Noah.”
So right there you see this is one of the toledoth sections, there are 10 of these, and that’s the Hebrew word for “generations.” We had the toledoth of creation, the toledoth of Adam, and now here’s the third, 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.”
“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 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. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits.'”
Now you see a little note there that a cubit, as best as we can figure, is about 18 inches, a foot and a half, half a yard, so this is 450 feet long, this is longer than a football field. Over one and a half million cubic feet, displacing 43,000 tons with deck space over 95,000 square feet. This is a bit boat.
By modern standards, it’s the size of a small cargo ship. Still big, but not unheard of. There are bigger ships today, but certainly for the ancient world this was a massive undertaking and a massive boat.
“‘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. 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.'”
So this certainly seems like a global catastrophe, not isolated to just that region, but the entire world is flooded.
“‘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 time in the Bible we have this all-important word “berith,” covenant. And notice, and we’ll get to more about the covenant in chapter 9 next week, but the covenant is made first with Noah but the covenant relationship and the covenant blessings extend to his family. It’s not just for Noah; his family reaps the benefits and the blessings of this covenant arrangement.
“‘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. 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. 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.’ Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.”
“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.'”
Now when we think of the flood, we think of the animals coming in twosies by twosies, coming in with pairs, but here it says you bring seven pairs. Well, it’s not an inconsistency. In chapter 6 the instruction is really saying “at least you’re going to bring in a pair of every animal,” and then chapter 7 further clarifies “you’re going to bring in one pair of the unclean animals and seven pairs of the clean animals. The clean and unclean laws have not yet been codified, but they’re obviously already operative in some way, and the reason that he needs to bring seven pairs of the clean animals is, as we’ll see at the end of chapter 8, Noah is going to sacrifice the clean animals. So already, whether Noah realized it or not, God is thinking on the other side of this flood there will be life after the storm, and in that new life, your first act will be to sacrifice animals to Me.
And then we’ll see him chapter 9 that God gives them then to eat of the flesh of animals, and so some of those were going to be food for them before the rest of the animals could reproduce. That’s the reason for the seven pairs of clean and the two pairs of the unclear.
“‘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.”
Note, this is history. Moses wants us to see clearly this is not a fable, this is not a myth. He’s giving an exact date. It happened on this day. He remembers, okay, Noah’s life, it happened here on this particular day in his life, and what we’ll see throughout these two chapters is a number of times where it marks the events according to the year in Noah’s life. He wants us to see that this is history, this is fact, this happened in time and space.
So it happened in six hundredth year, in the second month, on the seventeenth day.
“And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.”
That’s a lot of rain. We’ve had a lot of rain. It seems like it rains here a lot. I’m not blaming any of you, it just is often wet. Now we’ve had sunshine and no rain for several days now, but when we have one of those hurricanes, even if it’s in the area and it brings rain for days on end, it only takes a day or two or three and you begin to go a little stir crazy and wonder “will it ever stop raining, everything is so wet,” and this happens for 40 days and nights.
Think about the rain we had a couple of weeks ago, that one morning, just torrential, and it only takes that sort of rain for hour, or sometimes even for minutes, and streets are washed out and your backyard is beginning to flood, and all sorts of bad things happen around town. Well, imagine that sort of downpour, not for minutes or for hours or for a day, but for 40 days and 40 nights.
If you know your Bible, you that the number 40 often indicates a time of trial and testing for God’s people. So it rains for 40 days and 40 nights. They’re going to wander in the wilderness under Moses for 40 years. Goliath taunts Israel for 40 days before he fights David. Jesus is in the wilderness, tempted by the devil, fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. Forty is the number that says God’s people are in trial and in testing.
“On the very same day,” verse 13, “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.”
You can almost sense the drama, what that must have been like, the door sliding shut, only knowing that it’s raining and it’s going to continue to rain and not knowing when they will ever be able to open that door again.
“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.”
“But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.”
Like I said, they often are giving these demarcations according to Noah’s life of when the events happen. Now if you try to do the math, you’ll get a bit confused because it’s not always clear what days are inclusive of other days. For example, the 40 days it rained is probably included in the 150 days when the waters were prevailing on the earth. So you can’t just add up all the numbers and necessarily get the right sum, but we see here that the waters finally abate and the tops of the mountains were again seen.
“At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.”
“In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’ So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.”
So how long was Noah in the ark? How long was Noah in the ark? Well, if you go back to chapter 7, verse 11, remember, six hundredth year, second month, seventeenth day. Year 600, second month, 17th day. When do they come out of the boat? Chapter 8, verse 13 and 14, year six hundred and first, verse 14, second month, twenty-seventh day, so one calendar year and then, if you count from 17 inclusive of the 27th, that would be another 11 days. It’s actually very easy to remember because they would have been operating according to a lunar calendar, and the lunar calendar has 354 days, so if you take 354 days plus 11, that’s the 17 to the 27, you have 365. They were in the boat one solar year.
That’s a long time. I mean, some of you are going to be with your family for hours on Thanksgiving, you’re going to be ready to open the roof, ready to go out no matter the weather.
“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.'”
So He promises no more judgment. He’s not saying no judgment for any reason or no final judgment, but rather no judgment like this. No, no judgment that will wipe out everyone and everything from the earth. As long as the earth remains, you can count on days and nights and seasons until the final end is here.
So let’s look, then, at these three themes.
First, there is certainly a theme of divine judgment. Notice we cannot blame God for the flood. We’ll miss the point entirely if we sort of fold our arms and say, “What sort of God is this who wipes out everyone with the flood?” The emphasis here is upon the wickedness of man.
Verse 11 of chapter 6: The earth was corrupt, the earth was filled with violence. God saw the earth. It was corrupt. All flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.
Remember from chapter 6, verse 5, the Lord saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
So they deserve what they get. That may be hard for us, but until we understand that sin is an egregious offense against a holy God, the Bible will not make sense to us. The Bible will not make sense to us, unless God is unimaginably holy, and our sin is breathtakingly offensive to him. If you get those two things, big, big God, big sinners, the Bible starts to make sense. Without that, you have all sorts of questions.
Notice here that creation suffers because of man’s sin. The animals, now He says the birds of the heaven, that animals on the earth. He doesn’t say the animals under the earth, that’s the third category, but thankfully they don’t have to get the fish and the sea creatures because they have plenty of water.
But the animals, creation, is wiped out. We see just the reverse of it in Romans chapter 8 where it says all of creation is longing to be set free from their bondage to decay and enjoy the freedom that the sons of God have experienced. In other words, God does not first of all deal with creation and then look at us because we’re a part of creation. Don’t think God’s primary relationship is with trees or with birds or fish or mountains or rivers. His relationship is with human beings, and because of their sin on the earth, creation suffers. And because God redeems men and women, creation itself will be renewed. God deals first with man.
Gustav Dore captures, in his engravings, something of the horror of the flood, and rightly so, but it’s striking as we read these two and a half chapters, the Bible doesn’t dwell on the blood and the guts and the gore. It says nothing about a dramatic Hollywood sort of presentation of the last gasps for breath. In fact, the Bible never even mentions drowning, though they certainly drowned.
The emphasis, rather, is on God’s judicial action. Not so much upon the drama of every human life being snuffed out, but upon God’s righteous judgment upon sin.
Look at chapter 7, verse 21 and 22, and notice the all’s and the every’s: And all flesh died, all swarming creatures, all mankind, everything on dry land.
Verse 23: He blotted out every living thing.
All, all, every, every. Just as He had promised in chapter 6, verse 7, now He delivers in chapter 7, verse 23, to blot out on the face of the earth every living thing.
And don’t think that this is God waking up on the wrong side of His cosmic bed one day and He’s feeling really ornery and He decides to start throwing down lightning bolts of judgment. Remember God had patiently waited.
Remember from chapter 6, “My Spirit will not abide in man forever. His days shall be 120 years.” And we took that to mean that the days of man on the earth will be 120 years. In other words, I’m giving you 120 more years to repent.
Just like Jonah says 40 days and Nineveh will be overturned. He’s giving them a warning, 120 years. I mean, do the math. It’s 2020, that means if God came in 1900, that’s a long time ago, in 1900 and said “bad stuff is coming in 2020, you better get ready.”
But they didn’t listen. No, God was unbelievably patient. In fact, 1 Peter 3:20 speaks of God patiently waiting in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared. No, don’t that God flies off the handle in a fit of rage. Patiently waiting, enduring, long-suffering with man’s evil on the earth. And enough is enough.
It will go a long way toward forming your worldview, and a proper biblical world view, if you ask yourself this one simple question: Did this really happen? Did it really happen?
Because if the flood really happened, you say yes, what the Bible tells us here is true, then it means that there is a God of massive and unrivaled power and majesty. It means that our human sinfulness is worse than we think. It means that God’s wrath is justly poured out upon sinners. It means that we ought to call one another to repentance and righteousness and it means that not all will be saved.
What we may think of as a cute, furry, Sunday school story for kids is actually a major part of thinking God’s thoughts after Him and looking at your life and the world correctly. There’s a lot of theology in this familiar story.
Some of you may know that other cultures in the ancient Near East had their own flood stories. You look at Sumerians or Acadians or Babylonians. The most famous is the Gilgamesh epic. You can read those stories. We have nothing to fear as Christians to say that other cultures also had similar flood stories. In fact, far from saying, “well, I guess the Bible isn’t really true,” you should conclude the fact that so many peoples in history had a story about the flood suggests that maybe it happened, there actually was a flood and peoples had stories and explanations of why it happened. And you can read the other stories and compare with the biblical record and you’ll see more differences than similarities.
In those other stories, the gods send the flood because the noise is too much, sort of a cosmic Grinch, “noise, noise, noise,” a really bad parent, or because there’s overpopulation. And then when the flood is unleashed, one epic says “the gods cowered like dogs, they’re scared of what is happening, it’s out of control.”
Well, the God of Genesis is obviously not like that at all. He’s sovereign, He’s pure, He’s measured, He’s patient, He’s utterly and always in control.
And if you’re tempted to think, “Well, Old Testament God mean, but New Testament God nice, I’ll take the Jesus God instead of this Old Testament God.” Well, you can’t take Jesus without taking the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus Himself draws inspiration from the flood story, to say there is another judgment that is coming.
Matthew 24: As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus says. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark. So it will be with the coming of the Son of Man.
In other words, Noah is building this ark for year upon year upon year, people going about their lives, saying, “What’s that guy doing? That’s ridiculous.” They’re having fun, they’re working, they’re eating, they’re playing, they’re getting married, they’re having children. They’re going about their lives and then it rains. And you wonder the first day, did they say, “Mom, it is really raining.” “Sure is.” Second day: “Boy, I’ve never seen a storm like this before.” Then day three and day four, “I wonder what’s going to happen to our crops? What’s going to happen to our home?” Day six, day seven, day eight, they wonder, “Will we ever see a day when it’s not raining?” And for all but eight persons on the earth, the answer was no.
Jesus says there is a day of judgment coming, so if you believe this happened, and you believe what Jesus says, you believe that a day is coming and it will be like the flood, people will be eating and drinking and playing and going about their life and work and happiness, and judgment will come, and the question will be whether you are ready or not. That’s Jesus’ point. In an instant everything will change.
Now I’m not trying to suggest here with this analogy that the pandemic is like the flood or even that it’s necessarily God’s judgment, though I think we’re right to ask that question, but I think we can relate. I mean, you think back even to the beginning of 2020, it seems like an eon ago, February, you sort of heard there was something about coronavirus beginning in March, people, maybe we shouldn’t shake hands after a service. I doubt very much any of us imagined what the rest of the year would be like, or that we would still be under these circumstances well into almost 2021. You were going about your life, you were doing your work, you were making your plans, you were thinking of conferences and where you’re going to go on your trips, and then all of a sudden there’s an NBA game canceled and Tom Hanks gets sick. What just happened? And everything shuts down and here we are.
There is another judgment coming, Jesus says. And it will be as real as the flood. Will you be ready?
Here’s a second theme. It’s the theme of de-creation and re-creation. See, this is not just about a massive thunderstorm for 40 days and 40 nights. This is very deliberately showing us how God’s creation is coming undone and then He is going to start a new creation out of the watery ashes.
So first the world must be undone. Look at chapter 7, verse 11. Easy to remember, 7-Eleven. Look at how the rain is described. It doesn’t say, well, and it started raining, or it rained cats and dogs. It says “on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens were opened.” Now I think the experience of it was how we would experience torrential rain. The description of it has deliberate echoes of creation.
The great deep burst forth, so maybe that in addition to rain, there’s some sort of let loose of waters bubbling out from the earth. And then the windows of the heaves were opened.
Now remember at creation what we read. Look at chapter 1, verse 6: God said let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, let it separate the waters from the waters. And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. At creation, there’s this watery chaos and God separates the waters and He puts waters up here in the sky and puts waters down here in the deep.
So chapter 7:11 is showing us deliberately that that act of creation is being undone. The restraining wall between the waters above and the waters below will be removed. And now the waters are pouring forth from the heavens, and the waters are exploding forth from the deep. It’s a picture of creation coming unraveled.
And then there is a picture of a new creation. Look at chapter 8. Remember in Genesis, the earth was without form and void, darkness was over the face of the deep and the Spirit of God, the Spirit of God is hovering over what? Over the waters. The ruach, the spirit, the wind of God, hovering over the waters in Genesis 1.
Well, you read in Genesis 8, And God made a wind, a ruach, blow over the earth and the waters subsided. Just like in Genesis, here you have God’s ruach, His wind, His spirit, hovering over in the act of re-creation just as it did in Genesis 1 with creation.
And then verse 2 of chapter 8, the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed and the rain from the heavens was restrained and the waters receded from the earth continually. In other words, this act of separating the waters from the waters, it happened in Genesis, it’s undone in Genesis 7, and now it’s put back in place in Genesis 8. God is making a new land, a new earth, a new creation.
And just like in Genesis 1, animals inhabit the earth before man does. So here in Genesis 8, the dove, the animals, will begin to inhabit the earth as it finds a place to rest before man makes his home on the earth.
We’ll see more about this next week when we come to chapter 9, but there are all sorts of parallels between Adam and Noah. After the flood is creation 2.0 and Noah is like a new Adam. Both worlds are formed from watery chaos. Both Adam and Noah are associated explicitly with the image of God; we’ll see that in chapter 9, verse 6. Both are said to walk with God. Both rule and exercise dominion over animals. Both are told to be fruitful and multiply. Both work the ground. Both Adam and Noah follow a similar pattern of sinning; Adam sinned in eating, we’ll see that Noah sins in drinking. And the result of both of their sin is an exposure, humbling and embarrassing nakedness. Both have three named sons; Cain and Abel and Seth, and Shem, Ham, and Japheth for Noah, and both sets of sons divide into elect and non-elect, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Adam, first, and Noah, now, is a new kind of Adam on a new kind of earth. Creation, rebirthed and reborn.
You know that seven is the biblical number for fullness or completion. Eight is the number of renewal, or re-creation. How many people are in the ark? Eight. From these eight will come a re-creation, a new people on the planet. On what day were the sons to be circumcised? On the eighth day. And most importantly, Jesus, it say, rose from the dead on the first day of the week, that is a week plus one, on the eighth day, as it were. And you can look at the way the Greek is worded in the New Testament; it’s almost trying to make that statement, by not just saying on Sunday, but on the week plus one, on the eighth day. Eight is the number of re-creation, of renewal.
This is a new page in history. So much so that 2 Peter 3 describes the world that then was and the world that now is. The flood, before the flood and after the flood, is the great marker in history.
We have here a picture not just of divine judgment, not just of the devastation, but then of re-creation, the new world that God was making on the earth.
And finally, the third theme is the theme of divine grace.
Now first off we see that Noah is the sort of man to whom grace comes. Look at chapter 6, verse 9, or verse 10 and 9, there are three things that are said of Noah: He was a righteous man, first time this word “tsaddiq” is used. He’s blameless. Now when you hear “blameless” that doesn’t mean “sinless,” it means integrity, upright, exemplary, full of honor. And then third, he walked with God.
And also note how many times we heard in the refrain, “And Noah did as the Lord commanded.” Look at chapter 6, verse 22: Noah did this, he did all that God commanded him. You see in chapter 7, verse 5: And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him. Verse 9: As God commanded Noah. Verse 16: As God commanded him. Over and over again we are told that Noah did just as God commanded him. In fact, you notice we don’t, we don’t have any conversation from Noah.
What we see is what Noah does. He is simply obedient. He is, as chapter 7 verse 1 tells us, a righteous man in the midst of this crooked and wicked generation. He’s the sort of man to whom grace comes.
But if you leave it there, you might think, “Well, Noah was such a good person that God saved him.” But all of that about Noah’s obedience and righteousness and blamelessness is another way of expressing his faith in God.
This is the point that Hebrews makes, 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.
So Hebrews sees the lesson of Noah primarily as one of faith.
Now think about it. How long? I mean, did it take 120 years to build this ark? I mean, it took a long time. Some of you maybe have been to the Ark Encounter with the Creation Museum outside of Cincinnati in Kentucky. Life-sized replica of the ark. It took over 1000 people working a year and a half to build that ark. So I’m thinking that Noah and his family took a really, really long time. All of those years, all of those generations, all of those decades… “There’s Noah, crazy Noah. Nice boat, Noah. You got a big trailer to get that to the sea? Ya gonna do some fishing there, Noah?” He just kept building, kept pounding away. “Okay, God, I trust You. I trust You that there’s a judgment coming that I can’t see, there’s a judgment coming and everyone around me thinks it’s absolutely ridiculous. And it looks for most of my life like I’m the one who doesn’t have a clue as I trust this invisible God and this invisible voice about some invisible judgment to come.”
But Noah had faith. And if you are going to live your life believing in a God you can’t see and a judgment that isn’t here yet and a heaven that you haven’t been to, you’re going to have to have faith.
And notice God speaks to Noah when He tells him to build. He says, “I’ve determined to make an end to all flesh and I will destroy them, make yourself an ark,” and He gives him the instructions on how to make the ark. Once Noah gets in the flood, God doesn’t say anything. Once he’s in the boat, it would have been nice. “Okay, God, how much longer? What do I do now? When is this going to end?” Now he really has to live by faith. I’m in the boat, I’m safe, but now what? When does this all end? How does this all turn out?
You see the point is not so much Noah’s faith as it is what comes to the man of faith, what he experiences, what God will do for those who trust in Him. So the point is God’s mercy as much as it is God’s judgment.
Let me give you a good, a good seminary term that seminary students like to learn this stuff and nine times out of ten when you read it in the commentaries you should just ignore it, but here’s one where it actually makes a difference. Here’s the word: Chiasm, c-h-i-a-s-m. Chiasm. It’s so named because of the Greek letter Chi, which looks like an X. It’s a literary technique whereby the first half of the story sort of funnels into this point and then the second half goes out like this, repeating in reverse order the other aspects of the story.
So this happens all the time in the Bible, usually in very small, little ways. If I said “Kevin goes on a run, a run Kevin goes on,” that’s a chiasm. Kevin-run, run-Kevin. Very small one. Well, when you have, sometimes it’s just the way that the author is putting together the story, but often the meat is in the middle. The X does mark the spot. And what’s in the middle of that chiasm is meant to be a focal point.
And so you have it here. There is a number chiasm. You have certain sets of numbers going down the funnel, and then you have in reverse order the same sets of numbers going out the funnel.
Here’s what I mean. Look at chapter 7, verse 4: “In seven days I will send rain on the earth.” So there’s a seven.
Down to verse 10: “And after seven days, the water of the flood came upon the earth.” So seven, then a seven.
Verse 12: “And rain fell upon the earth 40 days and 40 nights.” Seven, seven, forty.
Go to verse 24: “And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.”
Again, the point is not so much you add these all up and you get your sum, because some of them are inclusive and some of them are referring back to the other, but you have these reckonings: 7, 7, 40, 150.
Now look at what comes out on the reverse side of the funnel.
Chapter 8, verse 3: “At the end of 150 days, the waters abated.”
Verse 6: “At the end of 40 days, Noah opened the window of the ark.”
Go to verse 10. This is when he’s sending out the birds: “He waited another seven days, and again sent forth a dove out of the ark.”
And then verse 12: “He waited another seven days and sent forth the dove.”
You see in exact numbers reverse order: 7, 7, 40, 150 and then on the backside 150, 40, 7, 7. It’s not secret Bible code, it’s just a literary technique. And in this case, the X marks the spot. What is in the middle of that chiasm? In the middle of those numbers? The literary thematic and theological center of the story is found in chapter 8, verse 1. That’s after the 150, before the next 150, chapter 8, verse 1: “But God remembered Noah.” That’s the turning point. That’s the X marks the spot. God remembered Noah.
God doesn’t remember like we do, that He forgot something, it slipped His mind. It mens He moved towards Noah. He was committed. He was mindful of Noah. He was ready to act on behalf of someone to whom He had made a previous commitment. He remembered Noah.
So it’s not going to rain forever. Life will go on. The ark is a picture of salvation.
Chapter 7, verse 16: They are shut in, the eight of them. This remnant. In this box was all God needed to rebuild His creation, these eight people, and the animals, of course.
In fact, if we had time, we could show a number of verbal parallels between this chapter and the building of the tabernacle. There again with the building of the tabernacle the Spirit of God is with Bezalel and Oholiab. There you have the Lord spoke and it says and Moses did. It’s the same sort of language because the tabernacle is like an ark, the ark is like a kind of tabernacle or temple. It’s a place in which the holy are gathered, are safe, are protected by God.
Or if you like, it’s sort of like the garden of Eden in miniature, on water. Inside the garden there’s life and there’s blessing; outside there’s curse and destruction. It’s a sheepfold, it’s a tent, it’s a house, it’s a family. It’s God saying in here there is salvation, in this boat.
You can’t see it in the architecture of this church, because it’s such a big sanctuary, but in other churches that have a traditional design with pews going to the back and pulpit up front and not this big, you often will see wood paneling at the top and you’ll see some trusses and some supporting beams, but they’re also there to give a certain visual depiction, and you look at these in the rafters and see the wood, and this, is it convex or concave? Whatever one, it goes like this, and then goes down. Architects built these like that for a reason, that you would look up and you would have this sense almost of being in the hull of a ship with this ark of the wood above you.
Because the church, obviously not physically the walls, but what this represents is the place where God’s blessing is, where His favor is, where His mercy is known. To sail through an ocean of judgment, a world flooded with evil and to be kept safe and preserved here in the ark of God’s people.
Another little piece of Bible trivia. Do you know there’s one other place in the Bible where this word that’s translated here as the ark, one other place in the Bible where we have this same Hebrew word. It’s not the ark of the covenant; that’s a different Hebrew word. There’s one other place. It’s in Exodus with the basket that Moses was placed in when he floated in the Nile. That, too, is called an ark. That, too, was a vessel, a boat, that would be the means of salvation from watery destruction. Moses would be safe in that ark. The redeemer would be preserved and so God’s people are safe in the ark, to be preserved for the new creation.
You see, there’s much more about Noah and his family, they’re constantly repeated, than there is about the rest of humanity dying in the flood. The Bible doesn’t go into the sort of details we might like. Some of you want to know, “How did he build the ark?” Some of you want to know, “How did he handle feeding?” A lot of us want to know, “How did he handle the defecation?” There’s lots of things: “Well, how did that work?”
But that’s not the focus. The focus again is Noah, his three sons, and their wives. Eight of them.
And so it’s no wonder that when he leaves the ark, he presents a thank offering with the clean animals. Notice he doesn’t go out and build a house. He doesn’t build a tower. He doesn’t plow a field. He doesn’t make a name for himself. The very first thing he does when he walks on dry ground is he says, “We must give thanks,” and he presents an offering to God: “You have delivered us, we’re safe.” He presents a sacrifice.
But of course if you think about it from God’s perspective, He also made a sacrifice. It’s as if God was saying, “I will sacrifice everything to make a holy people on the earth, even it means sacrificing my beloved creation. I will wipe it all out that I might make for Myself a holy people on the earth.”
And how much more so do we see on the cross, the same thing. Even more. It’s as if God is saying, “I will sacrifice everything to make a holy people on the earth, even if it means sacrificing My beloved Son.”
So the ark is a picture of God’s mercy in the midst of judgment. Are you in the boat? Are you living by faith? Trusting in a salvation now for a judgment that is assuredly still coming. God has made a way, God has made a way for you and for me, if you will believe and obey and live in the boat.
And so perhaps in light of God’s sacrifice, in light of God’s mercy for sinners, perhaps the most fitting summary for the story of the flood is found in all of places the Song of Solomon: Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, for as much as You were angry with the inhabitants of the earth and rightly so, You also showed Your great love, Your steadfast love in remembering Noah. And so we count on that love. We who have life in Your Name, we rise up and we give You thanks for calling us, delivering us, preserving us, in the ark amidst the flood. In Jesus’ name. Amen.