************ Sermon on Genesis 6:9-22 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 17, 2011
"Noah: The Covenant Keeper"
I God Sees the Earth's Corruption
A The eyes of God sure see a lot, don't they?! Of course they do. We believe God is omniscient and omnipresent – that is, that God knows all things and is everywhere present. So, He sees your sin. He sees your fear of His wrath. He sees your sorrow and repentance from sin or the lack of sorrow and repentance. He sees your faith or your unbelief. He sees if you hunger and thirst for righteousness or if you couldn't care less. He is aware of everything you say, think, and do. God sees everything.
B At the time of the flood, what did the Lord see when He looked down from heaven upon the sons of men?
(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. For instance, God saw the intermarriage between the daughters of men and the sons of God (Gen 6:3). God saw how mankind was consumed with a beauty that was only skin-deep instead of being consumed by the kingdom and its righteousness (Gen 6:3). God saw the godless, blood-thirsty, brutal giants known as the Nephilim (Gen 6:4). God saw all this and God grieved that He had made man (Gen 6:6). God saw all this and God's heart was filled with pain (Gen 6:6).
But, do you remember what else God saw? God saw Noah. Noah, we are told, found favor "in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen 6:8). Which means that God looked with His grace upon Noah. And, because of this grace, God saw that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, someone who walked with God (Gen 6:9).
C In today's passage we are told something else that God saw when He looked down from heaven. Listen to verses 11 & 12:
(Gen 6:11-12) Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. (12) God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.In the beginning, man was commanded to "fill the earth and subdue it" (Gen 1:28). So what does man do? Man fills the earth alright, but he also fills it with violence (Gen 6:11). Here is another reminder that creation was impacted by man's fall into sin. Remember the curse upon creation: weeds, thistles, and painful toil in the production of food (Gen 3:17-19)? Remember our study of Romans 8: how the creation is groaning in the pains of childbirth (Rom 8:22)?
So, at the time of the flood God saw that the earth was corrupt and full of violence. Because of man. What, specifically, is Moses talking about? Moses isn't talking about storms because, before the flood, there was no rain upon the earth (Gen 2:5): no thunder, no lightning, no tornadoes, no hurricanes, no typhoons, no cyclones. Possibly, maybe probably, before the flood there was no earthquakes, no volcanoes, no tidal waves, no tsunamis.
The earth was corrupt and full of violence. What does this mean? It means that the animal world was imitating the human world. Remember how Cain murdered Abel (Gen 4:8)? Remember Lamech's boast about killing a man (Gen 4:23)? Remember the blood-thirsty, violent Nephilim (Gen 6:4)? The animal world imitated this and was full of death, bloodshed, the strong preying on the weak, the fast catching and eating the slow.
Now, we need to remember what God provided for food on the sixth day of creation. God provided fruit, plants, nuts, and seeds (Gen 1:29-30). And God pronounced this to be very good (Gen 1:31).
But, in a fallen world, this food was no longer good enough. In a fallen world, the animals began to eat one another. This means it isn't only mankind who violates God's intended order; the animals do as well.
D Think, for a moment, about the preparations for the flood. What did Noah have to do? He had to build the ark, of course. He and his family had to enter the ark. He had to bring birds, animals, and insects into the ark. And, he had to store food aboard ship: food for the humans and food for the creatures (Gen 6:21).
Have you ever thought about the food that was on the ark? A couple of weeks ago, as I was cycling up Yokohl Valley, I kept hearing crunching noises under my tires; when I looked carefully, I saw millions of grasshoppers. And, I saw hundreds, if not thousands, of fat ground squirrels. What is the relation between the two? Suffice it to say that ground squirrels find grasshoppers to be a veritable feast; they actually picked up the grasshoppers with their front feet and munched on them like we munch on an ear of corn. Don't be grossed out by this; instead, think of John the Baptist who munched on locusts and wild honey (Mt 3:4).
So, did Noah feed ground squirrels some of the extra locusts or grasshoppers that he had on board the ship? Did he throw the lions a piece of antelope every other day? Did he feed mice to hungry snakes? Of course not! The food that Noah stored on board the ark was the same food that God provided: namely, nuts and fruit and hay and seeds. All the animals on the ark – including the people – were again to be vegetarians, sharing exactly the same food. God's answer to the violence on the earth was nonviolent nutrition.
Most of us rarely stop to ponder life aboard Noah's ship. The text, of course, says nothing about the subject. But this we know: the ark was not a luxury cruise liner; this was not a trip on Carnival or Celebrity Cruise Lines; instead, it was a floating zoo. Nor, is anything said about a host of practical matters. For instance, how did Noah manage to keep order? How did Noah keep everything clean and healthy? How did he get rid of all the manure and waste water? Yet, for more than a year, Noah, his wife, his sons, his daughters-in-law, and their animal roommates apparently lived together in peace. As far as we know, while on the ark the lion and the lamb broke straw together, and no species practiced war anymore. On the one hand, this was a return to the bliss of the Garden of Eden. On the other hand, this gives us a glimpse of what life is like in the new heavens and earth (cf Is 11:6-7; 65:25).
E You already know what God decided to do about the violence and corruption He saw upon the earth:
(Gen 6:13) So 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."Notice, God announces His intention to destroy "all people" and not just some people. God decided to wipe the slate clean, to start over (cf Gen 6:7). We are being told nothing less than a world-destroying flood (cf 2 Pet 3:6). This was not a local flood with localized deaths. Let me put it is way: What you say or think about the size of the flood depends on how seriously you take sin.
I want you to take careful note of that word "destroy." In verse 13, God announced He was going to "destroy" both the earth and the people who live on the earth. Now, in verses 11 & 12, our English Bible uses the word "corrupt" to describe what has happened to the earth and man. The Hebrew word for "destroy" in verse 13 is the same as the Hebrew word for "corrupt" in verses 11 & 12. In other words, God is going to destroy the earth that man has already destroyed. Man has destroyed the earth with his sin. God is going to destroy the earth and everything in it with a flood.
II God Confirms His Covenant
A God announces to Noah He is going "to put an end to all people" (Gen 6:13). Does this sound at all familiar? Didn't God do something similar with Abraham? Remember how God announced to Abraham that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18)? Why did God announce His plans to Abraham? And, why did God announce His plans to Noah?
Genesis 6:18 introduces a new word to us: the word "covenant." This may be the first use of the word in the Bible but the concept or idea of "covenant" itself is not new. For instance, scholars have long recognized there is a "covenant of works" in the Garden (Gen 2:15-17). And, Genesis 3:15 presupposes a "covenant of grace."
It is because God established a covenant with Noah and with Abraham that He reveals His intentions, His plans, to them. Noah, like Abraham after him, stood in a covenant relationship with God. Noah, like Abraham after him, was in partnership with God. So, of course God reveals His intentions to them. And, in the same way, by means of His Word and Spirit, God reveals His intentions to us because we also stand in a covenant relationship with God.
Now, in our English translation God says, "I will establish my covenant with you" (Gen 6:18). Scholars note the Hebrew term "establish" really means "confirm." In other words, in Genesis 6 God is confirming a covenant with Noah that has already been established. Noah was in a covenant relationship with God well before the flood. We see proof of this in verse 8 (which we looked at last time): "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen 6:8). Which means that God looked with His grace upon Noah.
B Noah was in a covenant relationship with God. So what does God do? God announces the coming flood to Noah and instructs Noah to build an ark.
Noah was instructed to build a huge barge-like structure, a floating rectangular box (Gen 6:15). How big was it? Length - 450 feet; which is the distance from the front of our building to the start of the back lawn. Width - 75 feet; which is the same as the widest part of the sanctuary. Height - 45 feet; which is the same as the high point of our ceiling. According to God's instructions, the ark was to be designed with two things in mind: to hold as much as possible and to be stable; the ark was designed for capacity and floating stability rather than for speed or maneuverability. Noah was told to make three stories or decks (Gen 6:16). He was told to make rooms in it (Gen 6:14); literally, the word is "nests" so it would look and feel like home to the animals and birds. He was told to cover the ark with pitch inside and out. The actual word means "covering. Elsewhere in the Old Testament this is the word used for the atonement. Like pitch covers wood, the atoning sacrifice of Christ covers our sins. Finally, the ark was to have a door in its side. There was to be only one door, and all must enter and leave by this one door. In the same way, Christ is the door, the only door, by which His sheep must enter into the Father's presence.
How long did it take Noah to build the ark? We need to go back to Genesis 6:3 as our starting point. God announces there that His Spirit will not contend with man forever so man's days will be a hundred and twenty years. On the one hand, we understand this to mean that man will no longer live for close to a thousand years; instead, man is generally limited to one hundred and twenty years. On the other hand, we can also take this to mean that God has put both man and the world on notice. It is like the cry of Jonah: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned" (Jonah 3:4). So God's cry is: "One hundred and twenty more years and the world, and everything in it, will be destroyed."
How long did it take Noah to build the ark? Maybe all one hundred and twenty years. Maybe less. The text doesn't tell us. But the higher the number we use the better because Peter tells us "God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built" (1 Pet 3:20). And God's patience, of course, is way longer and stronger than ours. However long it took to build the ark, we all realize it was not an overnight or weekend project to make something as big as the ark.
C Noah was in a covenant relationship with God. So God instructs Noah to build an ark. Why an ark? Because, out of grace, that is how God was going to save His covenant partner. God's plan was to save Noah, his family, and two of each kind of all living creatures by means of an ark.
Notice the name God gives the floating zoo: He called it an "ark." That word is very familiar and very comforting to the original audience of Genesis – the children of Israel being led by Moses from the slavery of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. Like Noah, they were in covenant with God. And, like Noah, they knew of an ark that kept God's covenant children in safety. The Hebrew word translated as "ark" in Genesis 6-8 is used in Exodus 2 for the basket that carried baby Moses to safety (Ex 2:1-10). As the Israelites read and heard this text, they would think of God saving Moses, by grace, in an ark just as He did the same for Noah and his family.
Our ark, of course, is a cross. It is by the cross that God, out of grace, saves us today.
III Noah, a Hero of Faith
A If you read all of the flood narrative you will notice the talk is all one-sided: God does the talking and Noah does the listening. We are not sure how God speaks to Noah: a vision, a dream, a voice from heaven. The text does not say. We would be wrong, however, if we conclude from this that Noah does no talking.
Do you know what Noah is called in the New Testament? Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter calls him "a preacher of righteousness" (2 Pet 2:5; cf Heb 11:7)). Meaning what? Meaning Noah preached against the corruption and violence all around him. Meaning he warned people to repent. Meaning he called people to serve and worship God. In my mind I see him being like Jonah: "One hundred and twenty more years and the world, and everything in it, will be destroyed." "One hundred and nineteen more years and the world, and everything in it, will be destroyed." "One hundred and eighteen more years and the world, and everything in it, will be destroyed."
Let's say Noah preached all one hundred and twenty years. How many converts did he gain? Or, let's say Noah preached for fifty or seventy years. Again, how many converts did he gain? Other than his own family: none, nada, zero. How discouraging that must have been because every preacher wants his audience to be convicted and converted by what is said.
Noah had an audience. Noah had an audience that numbered in the tens or even hundreds of thousands. But they did not respond in repentance. Instead, the patience of God indicates they responded in continual rejection and even ridicule (1 Pet 3:20). I can imagine that Noah was dismissed as that crazy old man. I can hear them yelling, "Hey Noah, what did God say to you today?" I can hear them questioning God's words just like the serpent did: "Hey Noah, did God really say ...?"
B Noah preached. He preached by word. And, he preached by example. Did you hear the last verse of Genesis 6 – a verse included as clip-art in the bulletin?
(Gen 6:22) Noah did everything just as God commanded him.In the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, Noah obeyed. The moral pressures on Noah and his family must have been overwhelming. How many times did Noah and Mrs. Noah have to decline invitations to the neighbor's parties? How many times did Noah and Mrs. Noah have to warn their sons to live holy and pure lives? How many women did Noah and Mrs Noah have to reject before they found suitable wives for their sons? Yet, through it all Noah obeyed.
Remember the first verse of our Scripture reading? What are we told about Noah?
(Gen 6:9) Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.I mentioned this verse in my last sermon. Righteous. Blameless. Walked with God. Noah was a covenant keeper. By God's grace, he kept covenant with God.
The New Testament calls Noah one of the heroes of faith (Heb 11:7). If Noah could persevere in his day, then we – who live under the new covenant – can do so much more by the power of the Spirit. Noah shows us how God's covenant children are to live: by grace and by faith.
I want you to notice that God does not remove Noah and his family from the judgment that was coming. God does not raise this family to somewhere in the heavens and then return them to earth after the flood. They, too, must endure the judgment, but God will ensure they are not destroyed.
Someday, we, too, will endure the judgment – the final judgment of God. Like Noah, we can rest assured we will not be destroyed because God provides a means of escape – namely the cross and the grave of Christ.
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