Chris Baker, Pastor, Centralia First Baptist Church
You’re familiar with the story. It’s one of the most famous stories in Scripture, though it’s often relegated to a children’s tale. God sends what Scripture describes as a global flood event that wipes out all living creatures of the earth over a period of at least five months. But Genesis 8 tells us that God remembered Noah and his family and they
were spared. The ark held, the flood waters receded and Noah and his family and all the animals that found rescue on the ark stepped out onto dry land as the only people remaining. Noah understood the gravity of what had just happened and he built and altar and worshiped God. God makes a promise to Noah after the flood and establishes the rainbow as the sign of that promise.
That, in short form, is the story of Noah and the flood. That’s the ‘what’, but we want to do more in this Big Story series than give you the ‘what’ of Scripture. We want you to understand the ‘why’ as well. I think the ‘why’ will show us that the flood narrative really isn’t about the flood at all. The is one of the most known but least understood stories in history.
The flood teaches us a great deal about on thing: God’s righteousness.
In the beginning God created a perfect world. It was pure and undefiled. But that purity did not last. When sin entered the world it became corrupt. God was the author of a perfect creation and in this text he becomes the author of a purifying de-creation. There are a number of parallels between Noah’s story and the creation narrative. Between Adam and Noah, even. Both walk with God according to the text, both receive a promise of blessing, both are caretakers of creation, and both father sons whose wickedness makes accursed.
God resolved, Genesis tells us, to blot out man from the face of the earth. You may struggle with this. In fact, I hope that you struggle with this. You should struggle with the idea of divine judgment. That a good God who is holy and righteous can pour out his wrath on the whole of creation and destroy all living humans save eight people. I want you to wrestle with that in your own heart. Because God acts in accordance with what is right, and he has established for all of creation what his standard or ‘right’ is, he must respond to actions that violate that standard. For him to not do so would make him unrighteous.
When God does not punish sin, it seems to indicate that he is unrighteous, unless some other means of punishing sin can be seen. This is why Paul says that when God sent Christ as a sacrifice to bear the punishment for sin, it “was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3: 25– 26). When Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins it showed that God was truly righteous, because he did give appropriate punishment to sin, even though he did forgive his people their sins.
All sin is punished. That should be some odd mix of comforting and heartbreaking for you, believer. Comforting in that you know no one gets away with anything, ever. Sin will either be punished in eternity or it was punished on the cross of calvary. There are no other options. It should be heartbreaking for you to know that your sin played an active role in Christ’s suffering. And if you sit here today and are not a believer it should be terrifying. Just as it would have been terrifying when the waters started to rise as God sent this life-destroying flood.
Judgment is an aspect of God’s righteousness. In fact, the two Hebrew words are essentially the same. When Moses speaks of God’s righteousness he’s speaking of God’s judgment and when he speaks of His judgment he’s speaking of His righteousness.
The other side of the coin, the opposite of God’s righteousness is Man’s Wickedness. I started to just call this man’s unrighteousness, but that sounded too clean. That was passive. Man wasn’t passively unrighteous in the days of Noah. Man was actively wicked.
Genesis 6:5 gives us the greatest window into the plight of humanity in these days that we can get. Moses writes that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. There was no good left. Moses chooses words that give us the feeling of absolutes: every, only, continually. Man was totally depraved.
If God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right, then man’s wickedness is the total opposite. Moses is telling us man always chose evil.
I don’t think the flood is the point of this story. Here’s why: it doesn’t cure man’s wickedness. God restarts creation, but the curse is still in place. Man is still wicked. Look at 8:21: 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.” This is post-flood and God is stating that the intention of man’s heart is STILL evil.
God’s judgment upheld His goodness, but it did not cure man’s wickedness. For things to be made right, we need something else. We need God’s Grace.
God’s Grace is another attribute of His being that is active in this story and, really, I believe it to be the primary focus. His righteousness is clear, man’s wickedness is clear, but God’s Grace really is what this story is pointing to.
We see it from the moment Noah is introduced: 6:8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Noah is described as a righteous man, but we already know that all of humanity has been indicted as wicked. So how was Noah different? Only by the grace of God. He was a man of great faith, but shortly after the ark event he will remind us that he has the same fallen nature as the rest of mankind.
Noah was saved by his faith. 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.
God’s judgment and His grace are inseparable.
What does all this mean for us?
Well, we are left with an incomplete story. The problem that caused the flood, man’s sin, is still present at the end of the story. Noah doesn’t solve the problem. But one greater than Noah was still on His way. Jesus is the ark that will save for eternity. Members of Noah’s family were spared the flood. They didn’t suffer God’s judgment that day. Members of Christ’s family will be spared the penalty for our sin for eternity.
God’s patience continues today. He is patiently, graciously waiting for His people from every tongue, tribe, and nation. He has provided an ark that has taken the flood of God’s wrath for us.
Are you on the ark? Jesus Christ took the wrath that we earned for ourselves so that God now sees us, those who have placed our faith in Jesus, as righteous. We are now clean in His sight because of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. This faith that saves us produces in our lives joyful obedience to our savior.
The salvation offered by the gospel is not just for one family, like the ark was for Noah. God has provided means for all who call on the name of the Lord to be saved. And He has chosen His church to proclaim that message to those who are unaware.