An Eternal God of Wrath and Mercy - Part One
Scripture: Genesis 7:1–24
An Eternal God of Wrath and Mercy-Part OneGenesis 7:1-24
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Pastor Randy Smith
Last week we began to study the well-known story of Noah's Ark. I'm sure all of us are acquainted with this account, and our perceptions of it are rather conservative. However, outside the church it seems as if few in our modern times want to take this report at face value. Perhaps they view it as a cute story suited only for children's coloring books. Perhaps they reckon it as untrue, but nevertheless a good allegory that points to a deeper theological meaning. Perhaps they dismiss it altogether simply because what happened back then has never been witnessed in their own generation.
However, I believe the greatest reason a person dismisses this story, either intentionally or unintentionally, is because we cannot accept the main point conveyed within. If there is an eternal omnipotent Creator-God, a worldwide flood that wipes out humanity is not hard to envision. He is able but would He? That is the sticking point! What is hard to swallow is the fact that this God is holy and hates sin and must judge all sinners (which includes you and I) for our acts of disobedience. His means of judgment are more severe than we are often led to believe.
You see, if we can keep Noah's Ark confined to cute murals in children's classrooms, we can attempt to leash the weightiness of our unleashable God and pacify our deceived hearts that we are fine in our standing before Him. However, if we take this story at face value, we should be terrified of the God in whose presence we stand.
My friends, if you dare to go there and stare into the heart of the Almighty, you will see the true holy God, and only then will you perceive a right understanding of your sinful self. Not an exercise for the fainthearted, but an exercise that is essential to be prompted to cry out to Him for grace. And when we cry out not for justice, but for this mercy, we find Him, as Noah found Him, standing ready to save and befriend.
Since God is unchanging, let's see what we can learn about God's wrath and mercy that is applicable for us today from Genesis chapter 7.
A quick review of chapter 6 and then we will begin with the new material. We are now 1,600 years after creation. Barring the brief mention of Enoch (Gen. 5:22-24), there has been nothing spiritually worthy to discuss. From the time of the fall, the world was plagued with sin to the point where we read in 6:5, "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." People created in God's image to worship Him and spread His glory all over the earth were spreading only corruption (6:12). Time marched on, and time had no effect on fixing man's sin problem.
Our God is a forbearing God, but after 1,600 years the well had run dry. His heart is grieved (6:6). He plans a catastrophic worldwide flood (6:7). He gives grace to Noah (6:8). Noah is commanded to build a rescue capsule 1.4 million cubic feet, large enough to hold 522 modern railroad cars. This boat will save him, at least two of each kind of animal, and his family. For 120 years (6:3) Noah faithfully builds this boat and preaches righteousness to the people (2 Pet. 2:5). And for 120 years, nobody listens and no doubt everybody ridicules him as the crazed lunatic building a boat in his backyard the size of the Queen Mary, no less in the desert. The chapter ends in 6:22, "Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did."
1. Noah Receives God's Commands
Let's start off with the first of two points which I am calling, "Noah Receives God's Command."
Let's pretend that I pull up to my daughter's school and begin asking the children to go to my house after school to clean the dirty dishes in the sink and weed the flower beds. What kind of responses would I receive? Probably everything from outright rejections to a few phone calls to the local police department! Yet if I ask my own daughter, hopefully she would hear me and comply unlike all the others. Why is that? Because we have a parent-child relationship that is built on mutual love. And the child knows that her end of the relationship is to obey parental expectations with respect and trust.
Likewise, Noah had a relationship with God. Likewise it was a parent-child relationship on a spiritual level. God commanded the world, but the world persisted to reject a righteous God showing themselves not to be God's children. But in verse 1 of chapter 7, it says Noah "alone" was "seen to be righteous before" God. Noah's faith in God declared him to be righteous, and Noah's faith in God also empowered him to be righteous by obeying God's commands. God's people are righteous people, and righteous people seek to act like their righteous Heavenly Father and live in a spirit of righteousness as they seek to obey God's commands.
Think about it! If we are God's children, shouldn't we act contrary to those who are not His children? They do not hear God's voice and have no desire to obey God's voice. However, God's children show themselves to be God's children by doing just the opposite! They love their righteous God and show that love by seeking to be righteous just like Him! They do what He says to do!
Let me show you what I am talking about: Noah was given a command to build the Ark in 6:14. In 6:22 we read, "Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did." In 7:1 Noah was given another command: "Then the LORD said to Noah, 'Enter the ark, you and all your household." In 7:5 we read, "Noah did according to all that the LORD had commanded him." Skip ahead to 7:14. "In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry." The water had finally receded. Folks, this man was in the Ark for over 300 days! Imagine doing a road trip that long and then finally arriving at your destination! You'd probably be out of the car before it even rolled to a stop! Yet Noah, who trusted in the benevolent guiding hand of God throughout the journey, was not prepared to make a step into freedom until commanded by his Lord. 8:15-16, "Then God spoke to Noah, saying, Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons' wives with you." 8:18, "So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him." Is a pattern emerging?
Noah was said to be righteous. Here are some questions for you:
One, has God declared you righteous in His sight? Works give evidence of that, but we do not get right with God based upon our works. We can't! A right standing with God can only be true if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ. God protected Noah from His wrath through an ark. That story points to Jesus Christ who protects us as sinners from God's wrath by taking God's wrath on Himself at the cross in our place. Safe in the ark; safe in Jesus. As Noah trusted in God's Word for his salvation, do we trust in God's Word for our salvation? "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).
And two, can God declare that you are being made righteous because you obey His commands with a heart of love in a desire to honor and imitate Him? When God calls you to do - do you hear His voice and obey? The command to build an ark came at a great cost. 120 years of continued faithfulness. Scorn along the entire journey. Apart from his family, no acceptance of his message. Yet he obeyed immediately and completely. He trusted the God who gave the command, knowing His Heavenly Father only gives good commands. And Noah obeyed what was asked, even when much of it from his perspective and definitely the perspective of the world, made very little sense. That, my friends, is the essence of faith (Heb. 11:7)!
So how do you know Noah was safely in the ark? He obeyed God's voice. How do you know if you are safely in Christ Jesus? You too will obey His voice! Didn't Jesus say, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (Jn. 10:27)?
2. The World Receives God's Judgment
Let's take a look, as we move to the second point, God's judgment upon the disobedient.
In verse 4 we see it spoken of again. "For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made." God waited for 1,600 years. He sent Noah to preach righteousness for 120 years. Now God gives a final warning - the promised destruction will be coming in one week. Warning after warning was given and no one listened.
I do not know about you, but for me, the hardest part about sharing my faith is the constant rejection. The Gospel is rather easy to explain. The opportunities are always there. The ridicule and judgmental attitudes can be tolerated, but the fact is that almost every time I share Jesus Christ, nobody seems to care. Noah preached salvation for 120 more years and the only people that listened were his family - that is seven converts. We can preach salvation in Jesus for 120 years here in the Northeast and sometimes I feel we'll be thankful if we can reap at least seven converts. My point? They didn't care back then to heed God's warning of His upcoming wrath, and they don't seem to care today, some 4,000+ years later.
Listen to the words of Jesus Himself. "For the coming of the Son of Man [final judgment] will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage [life as normal without God], until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Mt. 24:37-39).
Verse 7, "Then Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him entered the ark because of the water of the flood." The time of judgment has arrived.
Try to put yourself in Noah's shoes. The animals are inside. The family enters, and you are the last one in the processional standing in the frame of the door. Before you walk into the dark cavern you take one last look at your neighborhood. You see all the people that rejected your message. The Sanchez family next door is enjoying a barbeque. Suzie rides by on her bicycle. You sons grew up and played little league on the same team with her father. Mrs. Johnson, the friendly older lady from down the street walks her dog past your house. She sees you, smiles and waves. You wave back and off she goes on her merry way. Life as normal. Then a raindrop hits you on the forehead. Soon it really starts coming down whereby, verse 11, "The fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened."
Verse 16 is interesting. Words are not wasted in Scripture. It says once everybody was in the ark, "The Lord closed [the door] behind them." Have you ever wondered why?
Some have suggested it was God's way of saying that He can be trusted to keep the family that trusted Him alive. In God closing the door, it was like the exclamation mark that He was pleased with Noah's completed work and that He put His final touch on the project ensuring His pleasure and a safe outcome. Perhaps.
Others have commented that the emphasis on the door is significant because it, like so much of this story, points to Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture" (Jn. 10:7-9). Just as Noah's only way to safety from God's judgment is through this one door, a door that God took complete control over, Jesus Christ is the only door, as He stated to "be saved" from God's future judgment. Definitely true, but was that the Holy Spirit's intent in this passage? Perhaps.
He is another option. Could it have been that Noah, when he took one last look and observed all the people that he knew and loved, just hours from their own physical death and spiritual judgment, was hesitant to get inside the ark? Could this "preacher of righteousness" (2 Pet. 2:5) for 120 years have wanted to give just one more sermon? Was his heart torn between the lost souls without God and his own means of salvation (cf. Rom. 9:3)? Did he have such a hard time releasing himself that God needed to do the work for him? Perhaps.
The rain came down for forty days and forty nights. Verses 17 and 18, "The water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth. The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water." Did Noah hear the screams of the people? Were people banging on the side of the ark asking to be let in? Verses 19 and 20, "The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher [20 feet], and the mountains were covered. Some swam, some floated on debris, but eventually, verses 21 and 22, "All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died." Drowning, hypothermia, dehydration, starvation - within time as the water prevailed on the earth, verse 24, for "150 days" the cries grew distant, and everybody but those who trusted in God perished.
Maybe back when you were twenty you took a world religions class at a Community College where the teacher of the class told you that the God of the Old Testament was stern (displays of wrath), but the God of the New Testament is gentle (enjoys sitting with the children). That is not true. The wrath of God is definitely seen in the flood, but Jesus Christ preached with the most vivid terms, God's wrath against sin. Nobody spoke of hell more than Jesus, and hell is by far more fearful than a global flood.
We have also seen that Jesus Christ took the account of Noah and the flood literally. Likewise, the apostle Peter did the same in his first epistle. He spoke about "the patience of God [that] kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water" (1 Pet. 3:21).
As we have seen, the water represents God's judgment on sinners. As we move on in this account, we will see that God promises not to destroy the world by water again. However, that does not mean there will not be a final judgment - it just will not come by water. Peter said in his second epistle, "By [God's] word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (2 Pet. 3:7).
The flood just foreshadowed God's greater judgment in the future. However, while every person deserves to perish, God is gracious and merciful. He provides a means of salvation for those who come to Him by faith in His word. For Noah's physical salvation it was an ark. For our spiritual salvation it is Jesus Christ. Despite the horrific suffering that occurred back then, all people needed to do was believe God's Word through Noah and be saved. The same applies today. God has revealed His Word through His holy apostles and has placed it before us in the Bible. Salvation from an eternity in hell is received simply by believing God's Word that Jesus went to the cross to take our sin upon Himself and bear in our place the judgment we deserved.
My non-believing friend, will you today find your entire protection from the judgment of God in the sufficiency of Christ's work? Will you trust Him and give Him your life, or will you persist like those in Noah's day until the time comes and God shuts the door on your life and it will be too late?
And believers, is there evidence of your faith, seen like Noah, in the nature of your renewed heart? Do you love God and want to be like Him? Like Noah is there a pursuit of righteous obedience? Like Noah is their grief over those without Christ and are efforts made to win then with the Gospel?
We must abolish the domesticated versions Noah's Ark. This is a frightening story that is intended to bring terror to our souls. But with the terror we have hope, because in the midst of the fury of God's almighty wrath is a God who provides His means of protection. He receives sinners who come to Him in faith for deliverance, and then enlists them to be His servants to further His purposes. Whether it be the Return of Jesus or your own death, the storm clouds are quickly approaching. Will you be found on the ark of Jesus Christ, showing your union to Him through righteous obedience?