An Eternal God of Wrath and Mercy - Part Two
Scripture: Genesis 8:1–22
An Eternal God of Wrath and Mercy-Part TwoGenesis 8:1-22
Sunday, 21 April 21, 2013
Pastor Randy Smith
As I have mentioned already, many of us must ask God to give us new eyes to rightly understand this story of Noah and the Ark. Too often we have confined this story to children's coloring books and classroom murals containing animals with disproportionate heads sticking out of the windows.
The biblical account, no matter how you slice it, presents a picture of terror. It depicts a holy God who in response to man's sinfulness righteously takes it upon Himself to destroy everything that has breath, save one man and his family. There is nothing in this story about the universal goodness of humans. There is nothing in this story about a God who winks at sin. This story is marked by God's wrath displayed in global suffering. Along these lines, this is XXX rated material. It is the kind of stuff that is graphically displayed in a war documentary where you need to shield your children. As tragic as the event was this week in Boston, it pales in comparison to the story of Noah's Ark. This is not about four dead and everybody lives. It is about eight living and everybody else dying.
So why is this presented in the Bible and how should we respond to this teaching? My friends, we must accept God for who He is. He is a God of love and mercy and compassion, and He is also a God of holiness and justice and wrath. The account shows us that people are sinners who violate their created design by ignoring the rightful and premier authority of God in their lives and devote their allegiance to idols. We learn in the most graphic events that God is obligated to respond as the Judge of the world and He is perfectly just in doing so.
We also learn what the flood and the Ark are intended to foreshadow. God's wrath seen in the flood is a small foretaste of the eternal hell that Jesus Christ spoke about so frequently for those who in persist in rejecting Him as their Savior. And the ark is intended to point to Jesus Christ Himself. Just as Noah was sheltered from God's judgment in the Ark, people are sheltered from God's judgment in Jesus Christ. Like people in the days of Noah, we too have violated God's commands and deserve to be punished for our sins. However, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ went to the cross to take that punishment we deserve upon Himself. God remains just because the Savior of the world is condemned by bearing the sin for those who deserve condemnation.
So the news about Noah's ark is indeed terrifying, but like a diamond on black velvet it shows the wonderful beauty of the cross in greater radiance producing greater thankfulness in the heart of the Christian. Like in the days of Noah, the storms clouds are approaching and the warning has been sounded. Are you found safe in the Ark of God called Jesus Christ? And your answer to that question will determine your response to this chilling story in the Holy Bible. If Jesus is not your Lord and Savior, you should leave this sanctuary terrified. Yet if Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you should leave this sanctuary in greater peace and joy because Jesus took the terror upon Himself for you. As Romans 8:1 declares, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Let's have a quick review of chapters 6 and 7 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 it 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 listened and no doubt everybody ridiculed him as the crazed lunatic building a boat in his backyard the size of the Queen Mary in the desert. The chapter ends in 6:22, "Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did."
Last week in Chapter 7 we saw more obedience on the part of Noah. In 7:1 he entered the ark on the Lord's command. I suggested to you that perhaps the reason the Lord needed to close the door (in 7:16) was due to Noah's hesitation to leave a community that had completely rejected his warning and hope for salvation now about to face God's wrath. By now the rain was starting to fall as was God's wrath upon those who persisted in their unbelief. The water continued for forty days and forty nights until all that had the breath of life perished. Noah and his family were safe in God's provided protection because they simply trusted Him at His Word.
Let's get moving as we go to part 2 of a sermon entitled: "An Eternal God of Wrath and Mercy," by looking at these truths about God from Genesis 8. Last week we concentrated more on the wrath side. This week we will concentrate more on the mercy side.
1. Noah Receives God's Grace
The first of two points: "Noah Receives God's Grace."
In the midst of God's just wrath on sinful humanity we read in 8:1, "But God remembered Noah." It is not that God ever forgot Noah. Rather, this is a remembrance in a desire to act upon Noah's behalf. This is God fulfilling His promise and keeping His Word in the grace He promised to this man.
And that is a beautiful concept, my Christian friends! For those in Christ Jesus, with grace upon grace, God is continually remembering us. We never become lost friends. We never are removed from His love because of our sin. We never have to fear losing our salvation. God's eye is continually upon His children in remembrance. He is working everything together for our good. He will never leave or forsake us. He is there to receive all our burdens and hear our prayers. And He will guide us through the floods of life and usher us safely into His eternal kingdom. Like Noah, we have His promise of that abundant (Ac. 4:33) and sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9) and multiplied (2 Pet. 1:2) grace.
You know the great hymn:
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father's full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
What was Noah thinking as he bobbed like a cork for over a year in a world where nothing but water was visible? It was one shoreless ocean. The boat was smelly. The food was limited. All the brainpower and human strength and money in the world is not going to get him out of this mess. The only hope he had was the gracious hand of God to act on his behalf. Yet it is during these times of desperation when we are at the end of ourselves and rely on God in total trust, that we best see His grace.
It was a long seven months of waiting through eerie quietness for the water to recede. Would God keep His promise and bring his family safely through this watery deluge? Will God help you with His grace with whatever you are battling at this present time? Will He bring your boat safely to dry land? God, my friends, always comes through for His people.
As the recent bombings in Boston are on our mind, contrast the Christian concept of eternal grace with the teachings of Islam. The Bible teaches that God remembered Noah. The Bible teaches that God remembers those in Christ. The Bible teaches that God is unchanging.
According to Christiananswers.net: "Muslims have no guarantee of being saved. They believe that all their works will be accounted for and that on Judgment Day, if your bad works outweigh your good works, you are going to go to hell. But if your good works outweigh your bad works, you'll probably go to heaven. (Since God is all-powerful, they concede that He may do with you as He pleases, even if you have been very righteous. They hope He won't be having a 'bad day' at Judgment.) A third possibility is that you could go to hell and burn your sins off for a while and then be allowed into heaven. The only way Muslims can be guaranteed to go to heaven is through 'jihad.' Although it is often translated 'holy war,' 'jihad' literally means 'exerting force for God.' One could be in 'jihad' by writing a book about Islam, or by sharing his faith to bring others to Islam, or by physically fighting for the cause of Islam. If a Muslim dies in 'jihad,' he is guaranteed to go to heaven."
The Christian life is a life of grace. Though it might not come in a way we prescribe, we have God's promise this grace will come in a way He deems best! And I really need to stress that last sentence - a way He deems best for His glory and our greatest good. In Genesis 6:8 we read, "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD." Noah received God's grace and immediately he was subjected to being the laughing stock of his community as he labored to build a boat in the desert - from our perspective, an interesting display of God's grace. In Luke 1:30 we read, "The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.'" Mary received God's grace and immediately she was shunned by her community that thought she was guilty of fornication. In Luke 2:52 we read, "And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Jesus received God's grace and soon after His community found pleasure to ridicule Him and nail Him to a cross. As I said, grace comes in a way that God in His wisdom deems best. That is where we need a faith like Noah (Heb. 11:7) and Mary and Jesus.
Another interesting observation of God's grace is seen in God's faithfulness to His creation. He made the world and now He wipes out the world. So how can we be sure God has a vested interest in humanity and we are not just a passing fad or rejected notion of His divine agenda?
Observe for a few moments the striking parallels in this account to the original creation story. In 1:2, "The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." In 8:1, "God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided." The Hebrew word for "wind" is the same as the word as this one used for "Spirit." In 1:9, "Then God said, 'Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear;' and it was so." In 8:3, "And the water receded steadily from the earth." In 1:28, "God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'" In 9:1, "And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.'" In Genesis 1 and 2, Adam and Eve were to represent humanity. In 8:18, we see Noah and his family are to represent humanity. A new beginning. A sign of God's continual commitment to His creation. This is more undeserved favor called grace.
So does this mean that after the flood humanity improved and God was now pleased with our hearts? Of course not! Since the fall every person has fallen short of God's glory (Rom. 3:23). Even our Lord's words in 8:21 make that clear. "For the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth." But despite that God says, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man…and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Gen. 8:21-22). More evidence of God's grace. Romans 5:20, "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more."
2. God Receives Noah's Worship
Let's go to the second point, "God Receives Noah's Worship." Again, this ties into the topic of grace. The ultimate question - how can a holy God be approached and pleased with the worship of sinners? I mean, it is one thing for God not to wipe us out again. It is quite another thing for Him to enter into an intimate relationship with us.
Look at verse 20 of chapter 8. "Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar."
Possibly the clearest line that is drawn throughout the Bible from beginning to end is the means by which we as sinners may approach a God who is holy.
In Genesis 3:21, God shed the blood of innocent animals to provide a covering for Adam and Eve's sins. Now in chapter 8 we see Noah doing the same with the "clean" animals as well. The holiness of God demands sacrifice to atone, to put away our sins. The sacrifice must be from the very best, and the sacrifice must be a blood sacrifice in nature. A few books later in Leviticus we read, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement" (Lev. 17:11). And then in the New Testament, "Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb. 9:22). Blood represents life and life of the innocent must be given for the life of the guilty. So there was Noah, confessing his sins and sacrificing these animals.
And God's response? Verse 21, "The LORD smelled the soothing aroma." Noah's heart of faith in coming to God in a way God prescribed was pleasing to the Lord. Thus Noah's offering for his sins was accepted.
Like so much we have already covered, it is impossible again not to see Jesus Christ. As you know, we are not in the business of sacrificing animals. That was God's prescription for a time (Heb. 10:1). But when the fullness of time arrived, God sent His Son (Gal. 4:4), Jesus Christ, the true Lamb of God (Rev. 5:6), to spill His precious blood for those who would receive Him and be reconciled to the Father. As John the Baptist said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn. 1:29). And as God was pleased with the sacrifices made by Noah, God too was pleased with the sacrifice made by Christ. Listen to Ephesians 5:2, "Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." God the Father is satisfied for all eternity in the once-and-for-all sacrifice of God the Son, the One to which all the animal sacrifice pointed. And by embracing God the Son as the only sacrifice now for our sins, we can have our sins removed and be pleasing in God's sight similar to Noah.
As we will put off chapter 9 until next week, allow me to wrap things up with this final thought. What is most important to you? Perhaps things have come to your mind that are noble and wholesome, but if your response did not begin with the rightful worship of the Almighty God, your answer is incorrect. You have put other things in God's premier place. You have violated the First Commandment (Ex. 20:3).
As we have worked through this account, we have learned that God created us to honor Him above all and find our pleasure and satisfaction in life uniquely in Him. Anything less and we are not fulfilling our created purpose. Anything less and we are committing idolatry, trying to squeeze joy from the creation while we ignore the Creator. God commands fellowship from us. We need fellowship with Him. And apart from His free gift of grace in Jesus Christ, we have no hope of attaining that. Look what happened to the people when they ignored God's means of physical salvation? What do you suppose will happen to you if you ignore God's means of spiritual salvation?
Is God your priority? I love your prayer cards - all of them - but at times it is a special delight to see people desire prayer to really prioritize their walk with God. Consider this woman: "Personal relationship with the Lord to be a priority and strengthen." Or this young man, relatively new in Christ: "Strength to be the man I am called to be. I want a better prayer life. Pray the Lord will strengthen me and put the godly sorrow in my heart necessary for CHANGE. May I rely more on the Holy Spirit. May prayer always be my recourse!"
If you are in Christ Jesus, is the exaltation of your Savior in time and thought and obedient living a main concern in your life like the prayer requests I just read? Is the worship of God whether it be together as a church or together as a family or privately in your own life a priority? How can it not be if we rightly understand the account of Noah - the story of a God of righteous anger condescending to meet intimately in love with those who adore His presence? Do we adore His presence more than anything?
When the Ark finally came to a rest on Mount Ararat (8:4), God commanded Noah to depart from the boat (8:16). Add up the days and he was on the Ark for a little over one year. What would you have initially done if you were in his shoes? Get some food? Take a long nap? Check out the dry ground? Go for a walk? Build some shelter? Take a much needed shower? According to verse 20, Noah worshipped God. He confessed his sins, and I would assume, praised God and thanked God for taking him safely through the journey.
This is the heart of a true believer and this is the heart that is a pleasant aroma in God's sight in response to who He is and the abundant grace He provides.