It’s been a few weeks since we last studied the book of Genesis together. So let me outline briefly what we’ve seen so far. In chapter 1 we have the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth and how God transformed the earth which was once formless and empty and dark and made it into a place suitable home for us. In chapter 2, the focus was on the creation of Adam and on God’s kindness towards him, providing him with everything he needed including a wife. In other words, there was no reason for Adam to rebel against God and to disobey his commandment because the Lord had only ever been good to Adam. In chapter 3 we have the account of the fall. Adam should have kept the Devil out of the garden. But Adam didn’t stop him from entering the garden so that he was able to tempt Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. And so, sin came into the world. And with it came all kinds of misery and suffering in this life as well as death itself.
But we also saw God’s promise that one day, one of Eve’s descendants would crush the Devil. And Christians have always seen in that promise the announcement of the gospel and how Jesus Christ would one day come into the world to destroy the Devil and all his work and give his people the hope of everlasting life.
In chapter 4 we saw how sin spread quickly through the human race. Cain killed his brother Abel. And among Cain’s descendants was this man Lamech, who had several wives and who boasted about killing a young man.
Then, in chapter 5, we have the line of Seth, Adam and Eve’s third son. And though his descendants lived long lives, nevertheless the point is made again and again and again that every one of them died. And he died. And he died. And he died. And he died. One after the other. Everyone dies.
But, of course, there was one exception. Enoch — who walked with God — did not die; The Lord simply took him away to heaven. And so, by taking away Enoch like that, God was giving us a hint of the hope which the gospel gives to all who believe. In the middle of this long list of the names of men who died, here’s someone who did not die. God is teaching us that as well as this life there’s also the life to come. There’s this life, and then there’s the life to come with God.
And then, the last time, we spent our time on verses 1 to 8 of chapter 6 and the introduction to the story of the flood. Do you remember? God saw how great’s man’s wickedness on the earth had become. And he was sorry that he had made us. He regretted making us because of all the ways we have turned away from him. And so, though he gave the inhabitants of the world at that time 120 years to repent of their wickedness, nevertheless, he decided that if they did not repent by the end of those 120 years, he would send a great flood over the face of the earth in order to wipe mankind from the face of the earth. He was going to destroy every living thing.
However — and this is how we finished the last time — Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord. God looked with favour on Noah and decided to be gracious to him and to save him and his family from the coming flood. Noah did nothing to deserve it, but God was prepared to be gracious to him and to save him from the coming flood.
And, if you’re a believer today, and if you have the assurance of sins forgiven and the hope of everlasting life, then you owe it all to God and to his grace towards you, because we too are sinners who deserve nothing from God but condemnation. And yet, wonderfully, he does not treat us as our sins deserve. But he’s gracious towards us and he promises to save us from the coming day of judgment and from the condemnation we deserve for our many sins and, instead he gives us everlasting life through his Son.
Well, this evening we’re going to spend our time on the rest of chapter 6 and the whole of chapter 7. Let me outline it for you: In verses 9 to 22 of chapter 6 we’re given the reason for the flood and God’s command to Noah to build the ark. Then, verses 1 to 10 of chapter 7 record God’s command to Noah to enter the ark. Verses 11 to 16 describe how the flood started. And verses 17 to 24 of chapter 7 tell us how the flood covered everything and every living thing that moved on the earth perished.
So, that’s the outline of today’s passage. But rather than go through it, section by section, I want to pick out several themes and to consider them one after the other.
And the first theme to consider is: the corruption of the world. Look what Moses tells us about the world in verse 11 of chapter 6. He wrote:
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.
God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. The word for ‘corrupt’ here could also be translated ‘ruined’. So, Moses is telling us how the earth was now ruined in God’s sight. Now, back in chapters 1 and 2, God looked at all that he had made — the heavens and the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, the dry land and the sea, the fish and the birds, and all the animals, and Adam and Eve as well — he looked at all that he had made and it was all very good. But when God looked at the world again in chapter 6, he saw that the world that was once very good has now been ruined.
And why had the world become ruined? Well, Moses goes on to tell us. It was ruined because all the people on the earth had corrupted — or ruined — their ways. And isn’t that what we’ve seen in the previous chapters? Think again of how Cain killed his brother. And then afterwards, when God said that, from that time on, Cain would be a restless wanderer on the earth, Cain was afraid. And he was afraid because he thought that the people he would meet in the world will be just like him and they’d be prepared to kill and to destroy him just as he been prepared to kill and to destroy his brother.
And then we read about Lamech who killed a young man for hurting him. And instead of being ashamed of what he had done, he boasted about it.
And then, there was God’s assessment of humanity in verse 5 of chapter 6 which we studied the last time. Remember? God saw that every inclination of the thoughts of our hearts was only evil all the time. Every inclination of our thoughts was only evil all of the time. The human heart had become a house of horrors, full of all kinds of sinful thoughts and desires and inclinations so that, all of the time, we were inclined to do evil. We had ruined our ways. And we had ruined the world which had once been very good.
But that’s not all that Moses tells us about the world. He added in verse 11 that the earth was full of violence. The word for ‘violence’ can also be translated as ‘lawlessness’. So, the world was full of lawlessness. People just did whatever they liked. And when there’s lawlessness, there’s also violence, isn’t there?
Of course, we don’t really need to turn to the Bible to know that the world is full of lawlessness and violence. We all know this is true from personal experience and from the things we have seen. I was even thinking of this recently while watching the rugby on TV and it struck me how easily the players get frustrated with one another and angry with one another, and they grab hold of each other and start a fight. Or I was telling someone the other day how I used to do RE lessons in the local primary school down south. And at the end of term, we’d have a quiz. It was meant to be a bit of fun. But on one occasion a boy was in tears because he got a question wrong and his classmates turned on him. A game of rugby gets spoiled because we can’t control our temper. A quiz, a bit of fun, is spoiled because we can’t control what we say. In our families, a dinner is spoiled, a day-out is spoiled, a quiet night in is ruined, because we get mad with one another; we lose our temper; we say something mean; we’re unkind, and we’re even cruel, to the people we love most in the world. In the days of Noah, the world was full of violence and lawlessness. And it’s still the same today.
The purpose of the flood
Well, the second theme for us to consider is: the flood itself. And we need to think about the purpose of the flood. Why did God send it? And we need to think about the extent to the flood.
So, first of all: the purpose of the flood; or the reason why God sent it. And here we need to look at verse 13 of chapter 6 where God said to Noah:
I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.
When God said that he was going to put an end to all people, he’s using the same Hebrew word as he used before in verses 11 and 12. In other words, in verse 13 God announced to Noah that he was going to ‘ruin’ both the people on the earth and the earth itself, because the people on the earth had already themselves ruined their ways and they had ruined the earth.
Think of what we do with something that has been ruined. Something we wear has been ruined by a stain or a tear. A flower has been ruined because some insect has eaten it. It’s ruined. And so, what do we do with it? Well, we throw it out.
And that’s sort of what God is doing here. The people in the world have ruined themselves and they’re ruined the world because of their sins. So God decided to remove them from the earth by sending the flood.
And look now at verse 17 of chapter 16. God is being as clear as he can be: he’s the one who is sending the flood upon the earth. He’s the one who will send the floodwaters. And the reason he’s going to do this is in order to destroy all life under the heavens. It didn’t happen by accident. It didn’t happen by mistake. It wasn’t just an unfortunate and unforeseen event: God deliberately sent the flood upon the earth with the intention of destroying all of life because the people had ruined themselves and the earth.
The same point is being made in verse 4 of chapter 7. The Lord said:
Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.
Do you see? Who is going to do it? God said:
I will do it. I will wipe them from the earth.
And, of course, we should note the word ‘wipe’. What happens when there’s a mess on the kitchen table? You get a wet cloth, or a sponge, and you wipe the kitchen table clean. And that’s God’s purpose in sending the flood. He intended to wipe the world clean; to wash away all that has been ruined and to start again afterwards. Because we’d ruined ourselves and because we’d ruined the world, he was going to wash the world clean and start over.
In some ways, it’s as if God was taking the world back to the time when he first created the heavens and the earth. Do you remember what we read in Genesis 1:2? The earth, when God first made it, was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the what? The deep. The world, in the beginning, was covered in water. And then God began to transform the world in order to make it a suitable home for us. Well, God once again covered the world with deep waters so that he could begin again.
The extent of the flood
So, that’s the purpose of the flood. Now a word about the extent of the flood. Some scholars believe that the flood didn’t cover the whole planet, but was restricted to one particular area of the world. They say it was probably a local flood, rather than a worldwide flood. But it seems from what Moses says here that God’s intention was to destroy all of life under the heavens. For instance, turn to verse 17 of chapter 6. There it says that God was going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens; every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. All life will be destroyed. Everything will perish. He’s talking about a flood which would affect everyone and everything.
Well, in verse 11 of chapter 7 we see that the flood came in two ways. First of all, Moses says that all the springs of the great deep burst forth. He therefore seems to be describing some kind of tidal wave or something similar which caused the sea to flood the dry land. And, we’ve all seen now what a tsunami can do and how miles upon miles of land can be covered when a great tidal wave sweeps over it.
And then, secondly, the floodgates of the heavens were opened and it began to rain and rain and rain and rain, without stop for 40 days and 40 nights.
And in verses 17 to 24, Moses describes the flood and how the flood kept coming on the earth and the waters increased. He says the water kept rising until even the high mountains were covered up to a depth of 20 feet. There was no even one square foot of dry land anywhere.
And look at verse 21: every living thing that moved on the earth perished: the birds, the livestock, the wild animals, all the creepy crawlies, and all mankind as well. Everything on dry land died. Every living thing was wiped out: men and animals and the insects and birds. Everything died because of the flood which God had sent on the earth.
I’m always surprised how popular the story of Noah and the ark is. In a toy shop in Naas, I once was looking for a jigsaw for one of the children. And there on the shelf, among all the other jigsaws, was one which was a picture of Noah in the ark along with all the other animals. All smiling happily with the sun overhead.
And then someone once bought the children a little wooden ark and a little wooden Noah and some little wooden animals. They got it an The Early Learning Centre, I think.
And I’ve seen furniture with pictures of Noah and the ark on it. And it always surprises me because the story of the flood is a frightening story. Everything — apart from Noah and those in the ark — died. It’s a story about God’s judgment on us for our sin. And, of course, it anticipates and points forward to the day when Jesus Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. And on that day, all people will face the judgment of God and on that day, he will condemn and punish all people for their sins. In the days of Noah, he destroyed the world with a flood. Next time, he will destroy the world with fire. That’s what we read in 2 Peter. And only those who have repented of their sins and who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. The story of the flood points us forward to the coming day of judgment.
And so, let’s look now at how God saved Noah and his family. First of all, in verse 13 of chapter 6, God announced to Noah his intention to destroy the world and everything in it with a flood. But in the very next verse, he commanded Noah to make an ark. And in the following verses he described what it should be like: There should be rooms in it; and it should be covered with pitch to make it waterproof; it should be 450 feet long; and 75 feet wide; and 45 ft high; it should have a roof on it; and there needs to be a door; and there should be decks inside. And, verse 18, Noah and his family should come into the ark. And as well as that, God said that he would bring two of every kind of animal into the ark, male and female, so that they can reproduce and multiply once the flood was over. Later, you’ll notice, he instructed Noah to bring seven pairs of clean animals into the ark because some of the clean animal would be used for sacrifices once the flood was over. And God instructed Noah to take along enough food for all the creatures which would be in the ark.
So, it was God’s intention to save Noah and his family and these animals from the flood. And the ark was to be the means of their salvation.
Well, in chapter 7, we see how effective the ark was. They went into the ark when God told them to do so. And the Lord shut them in so that they’d be safe. And though it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and though the water rose and covered everything, Noah and his family were safe because the ark floated on the surface of the water. Do you see that in verse 18 of chapter 7?
the ark floated on the surface of the water.
And then look at verse 23. Moses describes the destruction outside the ark: Every living thing was wiped out: men and animals, and the creatures that move along the ground, and the birds of the air. All of them were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left and those with him in the ark.
God saved them by providing them with the ark. And, of course, the ark points us forward to the everlasting salvation which we receive from Jesus Christ alone. On the coming day of judgment, they will be nothing but condemnation for those who are outside of Christ and who never believed in him. But all who have come to Christ and who have sought salvation from him will be safe on that day.
And we should notice that God took the initiative here. God announced to Noah what he intended to do to the world. And he announced to Noah what Noah needed to do in order to survive the flood. He instructed him how to make the ark. And he even told Noah when to go into the ark. And once Noah and the others were inside the ark, God shut the door in order to keep them safe.
God took the initiative. All Noah had to do was to believe what God said and to do whatever he was asked to do. And, of course, it was God who took the initiative when it came to our everlasting salvation. He was the one who planned it all from all eternity. And he was the one who sent his Son into the world to die for us. He is the one who sends his Spirit to enable us to repent and to believe. He’s the one who takes the initiative and all we’re to do is to believe his promises and to repent and believe in his Son. So, just as Noah could look out at the flood waters and give thanks to God for saving him, so we too can give thanks to God because he is the one who saves us.
Well, so far we’re considered the corruption of the world. We’ve also thought about the purpose and extent of the flood. And we’re thought about the ark which was the means by which God saved Noah and his family. Let’s think briefly about the covenant which God refers to in verse 18 of chapter 6. God said to Noah:
But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark — you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.
A covenant, of course, is a promise and here God was promising to save Noah and his family from the flood. In other words, he was committing himself to saving Noah by a promise. And Noah could count on God to do everything necessary to save him from the flood. He could count on it because God had made him a promise. And God never, ever breaks his promise. So, Noah could rely on God to be faithful to his promise and to save him. And even though the rain fell heavily, and even though the flood waters rose higher and higher, nevertheless, Noah could count on God to keep his promise and to save him and his family.
And it’s the same with our salvation. In his covenant of grace, God has promised to deliver us from our sin and misery and to give us eternal life by his Son, our Great Redeemer. And though our sins rise higher and higher, though our conscience accuses us and though the Devil reminds us of our sins, nevertheless, we can count on God to keep his promise and to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness. We can count on him to do as he has promised and to save us because God always does what he has promised.
But why did God decide to save Noah and his family? Why Noah and not someone else? Well, look at verse 9 of chapter 6 which tells us that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people. And look now at verse 1 of chapter 7 where God said to Noah that he had found Noah righteous in his generation. And because he was righteous in the sight of God, he did not die in the flood, but he lived.
Well, here’s a question to consider as we close: How did Noah become right before God so that instead of being condemned in the flood along with everyone else he was brought through the flood?
Well, the writer to the Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 11 that Noah became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. In other words, Noah trusted in God and in God’s promise of salvation. And because he trusted in God, God pardoned all of Noah’s sins, and God graciously and freely accepted Noah as righteous in his sight. The moment Noah believed, he passed from death to life so that, though death and destruction lay all around him, he was kept safe from it all.
And all who follow Noah’s example of faith in God and in his promise of salvation through Jesus Christ are likewise pardoned by God and accepted as righteous in his sight for ever. The moment we believe, we pass from death to life so that we need not fear the coming Day of Judgment because we are no longer under condemnation, but have received the hope of everlasting life.
And so, we ought to give thanks to God and praise his name for his grace and mercy to Noah and for his grace and mercy to us and to all who believe because through faith we are no longer under condemnation but have passed from death to life.