************ Sermon on Genesis 6:4-9 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on July 3, 2011

Genesis 6:1-9
Genesis 6:4-9
"Noah Found Favor"

I The Nephilim
A On this Preparatory Sunday, our Scripture reading begins with the Nephilim. Who or what are the Nephilim?

In verse 4, Moses indicates that the Nephilim lived both before and after the flood. He says, "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward ..." (Gen 6:4). So sure enough, we see the Nephilim in Numbers 13. The setting is the wilderness. The twelve spies of Israel have been sent to look over the Promised Land. The spies came back to the children of Israel with terrifying news:
(Num 13:33) We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.
Do you remember the response of the people when they heard these words?
(Num 14:1) That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.
When the spies mentioned the Nephilim the former slaves out of Egypt wept and cried. Telling us what? Telling us the Nephilim were well-known. And, telling us the Nephilim were scary scary enough to keep Israel from entering the Promised Land. Scary enough to force Israel to wander the desert for forty years.

B What else are we told about the Nephilim? Consider the words of the spies: "We seemed like grasshoppers ..." When they measured themselves against the Nephilim, the Israelites felt small and inconsequential. Something like some of our members felt two Sunday nights ago because Ralph Drollinger, a former NBA basketball player, worshiped with us. Ralph is over seven foot tall and a couple of our members barely reached his belt.

The Nephilim were a race or tribe of nine foot tall giants. They descended from Anak and, when they were driven from Hebron, they lived in Gath. Does any of this sound familiar? The Nephilim have a common ancestry and location with Goliath. Meaning that Goliath and his brothers and cousins were probably Nephilim (cf 1 Sam 17:4-7).

C Notice their name. They were called "Nephilim." This comes from a Hebrew word meaning "to fall." Some Bible critics interpret this to mean "those fallen from heaven" in other words, fallen angels. This is a little too fantastic to believe. It is the pagans who believe the gods come down from heaven and mate with humans and have children. Nowhere does the Scripture support this kind of thinking. A better interpretation is to understand "Nephilim" not as those who "fall from" but as those who "fall upon." In other words, they were a race of warriors, soldiers, invaders, attackers who fall upon unsuspecting villages and tribes and destroy them. So, not only were the Nephilim giants, but they were also blood-thirsty giants. They were quick to settle disputes with spears and swords rather than with reason and dialogue. No wonder verse 5 adds, "They were the heroes of old, men of renown" (Gen 6:5). "Heroes" is not a positive term here; the Nephilim were not like Superman or Green Lantern heroes who save the world. Rather, the Nephilim were heroes only to those who prize violence and death and destruction. Like Lamech and his sons, the Nephilim killed without reason (cf Gen 4:23-24).

Throughout the ages, different names struck fear into the hearts of people. In terms of name recognition and fear, the Nephilim ranked right up there with the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Romans, the Vikings, the Huns, and the Mongols. They were the boogeymen of old used by adults to frighten children into behaving.

D Notice where Moses mentions the Nephilim: in the context of sin and evil. Telling us what? Telling us the Nephilim were wicked men. We see this wickedness in Goliath. We are told that Goliath defied the ranks of Israel (cf 1 Sam 17:8-11). But in defying Israel, Goliath was also and especially defying the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel (1 Sam 17:45). The Nephilim, then, represent evil and sin and wickedness. They show what the earth has become in the days of Noah.

E Before the flood, the influence of godless people like the Nephilim resulted in the forty days and nights of rain. After the flood, the influence of godless people like the Nephilim resulted in forty years of wandering around the wilderness. Notice the repetition of the number "forty" that is not an accident. Almighty God wants His people to see that both before and after the flood life is filled with sin.

But Moses lets us know there was also another similarity. Moses says, "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days and also afterward." The Nephilim were present before the flood and the Nephilim were present after the flood. In other words, they faced the judgment of God once before and they will face the judgment of God again.

This is important. This is important for the original audience of Moses to hear. This is important for the children of Israel to hear as they travel from the slavery of Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land. Yes, the Nephilim are in the Promised Land. But God judged them once and God will judge them again. God destroyed them once and God is more than able to destroy them again. So, there is nothing to fear.

Caleb took this to heart. He was one of the twelve spies. He, with Joshua, was the only one who urged the people to go up and take possession of the land in spite of the Nephilim "for we can certainly do it" (Num 13:30). Caleb said this not because he had faith in himself but because he had faith in God. Caleb was a man of his word. Forty years later Israel entered the Promised Land. The Nephilim were still there. Caleb was given the pick of the land. He chose the area inhabited by the Nephilim. He was the one who forced the Nephilim to move from Hebron to Gath (cf Josh 14).

II The Wicked Hearts of Men
A This brings us to verses 5-7. We are told three things in these verses. First, in verse 5 we are told what God saw. Second, in verse 6 we are told how God felt about this. Third, in verse 7 we are told what God intends to do.

First, we are told what God saw. What did God see? Listen to what God says in verse 5:
(Gen 6:5) The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.

Now, think of the message being given to the original audience the children of Israel as they travel from the bondage of Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land. In mentioning the Nephilim, who lived both before the flood "and also afterward," Moses reminded Israel there is sin outside of the camp of Israel. Outside of the camp of Israel is great sin and great wickedness. Of course, the people of Israel would all agree with this.

Then, God lets Israel know this is also sin within the camp of Israel. How does He do this? Take note of what Moses, in a parenthetical statement, writes in verse 4: "when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them" (Gen 6:4). We looked at this last week when we studied the first three verses of Genesis 6. We learned this refers to the intermarriage between the line of Seth and the line of Cain. The result, we said, was apostasy.

Now, what was one of the chief temptations faced by the children of Israel? Wasn't it the sin of intermarriage? Think of Balak and Balaam and how they tempted the children of Israel with the beautiful women of Moab (Num 25). Again and again, Israel was tempted to the sin of intermarriage with the heathen. So, as the children of Israel listen to life before the flood they cannot help but recognize themselves and their sin.

And now, in verse 5, we find that sin is also in every single heart.
(Gen 6:5) The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.

So, sin is outside the camp of Israel, sin is inside the camp of Israel, and sin is in every single heart.

Notice the location of man's wickedness. It is "on the earth." Geographically, the problem is an infected earth. The Bible emphasizes this by repeating "the earth" eight times in nine verses. Thus sin is described as a universal condition rather than just a local condition. Man's wickedness is all over the earth. In other words, every man is wicked. No exception.

Notice, too, the extent of man's wickedness. We are told that the wickedness involves man's "thoughts." The mind, and not just the earth, has been perverted. The mind, and not just the earth, is filled with evil. How extensive is this? "Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart ..." Every. Not just some. Not just a few. Not just many. But "every."

Finally, notice the duration of man's wickedness. We are told man's thoughts are wicked "all the time." Not just some of the time. Not just part of the time. Not just most of the time. But "all the time."

B How does God feel about this? What does Scripture say? Listen to verse 6:
(Gen 6:6) The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.
Previously, Eve was told she would have pain in childbearing (Gen 3:16). Then Adam was told he would eat through painful toil (Gen 3:17). Now it is God's turn to experience pain. But what a difference. Eve and Adam experienced pain because of their own sin; it is part of their punishment. But God is grieved that the mankind He has made in His image has fallen. God is filled with pain that He must now judge His fallen image-bearers.

Do you see how important we humans are to the Lord? We are so important that He is hurt when we fall into sin. We are so important that He expresses grief and anger when we fall into sin.

C What is God going to do about man's sin? You already know. God announces His intention:
(Gen 6:7) "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth--men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air--for I am grieved that I have made them."
God announces that not just man, but also those things corrupted by man's evil are going to be wiped out.

Do you see what we are being told about God? We are being told that God never acts arbitrarily. We are being told God is not a tyrant Who punishes for no reason at all. We are being told God is just and righteous when He punishes the whole world as with a flood. God has good reasons for sending the flood. On this Preparatory Sunday we are being reminded that God has good reasons for His judgments.

We are also told that God does not use half measures when He deals with sin and evil and wickedness. Which is why He sent the flood. Which is why He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Which is why Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the Red Sea. Which is why His people wandered around the wilderness for forty years. Which is why the heathen occupants of the Promised Land were destroyed. Which is why His people were sent into exile for seventy years. Which is why, finally, His one and only Son died on the cross for our sins.

III Noah - Gracious and Righteous
A In verse 7 God says, "I will wipe mankind ... from the face of the earth" (Gen 6:7). Yet, in verse 8 we are told that "Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen 6:8). "Favor." Another acceptable translation is "grace. We are talking here of God's mercy. God was at work in Noah.

So what are we being told? We are being told that the most godly and important man in the entire human race at that time is exactly like everyone else: he, too, is a sinner. However, unlike everyone else, he is a sinner saved by grace.

B Then notice what Scripture says: "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God" (Gen 6:9).

We see here the same order we find everywhere else in the Bible. First, Noah "found favor/grace" with the Lord. Then, Noah was pronounced to be a righteous man that is, declared to be just in God's sight. First comes God's grace. Then comes man's righteousness.

C I don't know about you, but I have always been struck by the description of Noah in verse 9: righteous, blameless, walked with God. A relationship with God was important to Noah. Noah prized his relationship with God and worked on this relationship. Noah walked with God and talked with God. Noah worshiped God. Noah prayed to God. Noah meditated upon God and all His ways. Noah sang praises to God. Noah gave offerings to God. According to the New Testament, Noah was a man of faith, a hero of faith (Heb 11:7) and a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet 2:5).

Now, who said this about Noah? This is part of the account of Noah's sons (Gen 10:1). What a testimony to a godly man that this is what his sons wrote down about him. No higher honor can be given to any man than that his own family recognize his faith and his righteousness. My prayer is that future generations, because of God's grace, can say the same things about you and me.

As we prepare for the Lord's Supper, how does all this tie in with us? Let me remind you of our connection to the days of Noah. Jesus said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man" (Mt 24:37).

It is with us exactly the same as it was with Noah. Sin is still out there. Sin is still in here. And, sin is still in our heart. Sin is everywhere. And all the time. And in our thoughts. And, this still grieves the Lord just as it grieved Him in the days of Noah. And, as in the days of Noah, sin must still be punished. But, if you believe, it is punished in Christ.

It is with us exactly the same as it was with Noah. Like Noah, we need to be found of and by God's grace. Like Noah, we need to be people of faith. Like Noah, we need to make God and our walk with God a priority in our life.
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