The Judgment of the World | Genesis 6
Brian Hedges | February 11, 2018
Turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis, the sixth chapter; Genesis chapter six. We are continuing our series through Genesis 4 through 11, taking about eight weeks to look at the events that take place between the record of the Fall, in Genesis 3, and then the calling of Abraham in Genesis 12. Today we begin what will be three weeks looking at the character of Noah and the story of the flood. So today we’re looking at, really, what precedes the flood, Genesis chapter 6; next week we’ll be looking at the flood itself, in Genesis chapters 7 and 8; and then what follows the flood in Genesis chapter 9. That will be two weeks from today.
So, Genesis chapter 6 today. This is a very interesting chapter. It’s a difficult chapter in some ways; there are some difficult things to interpret, especially the first few verses of this chapter, but the basic message of the chapter is fairly straightforward. It’s a chapter that shows us the judgment of God against sin, but also God’s grace in the midst of judgment. So, Genesis chapter 6. Let me begin by reading the passage to us. You can follow along in your Bibles or on the screen; Genesis chapter 6, beginning in verse 1.
“When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.’ Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.”
This is God’s word.
So, three things that I want you to see as we break down this passage:
I. The Wicked World
II. The Sorrowful God
III. The Righteous Remnant
As with so much of Genesis, we see the story of the world kind of writ large right here in this story of the flood. We see the story of sin and God’s response to that sin in both judgment and in salvation.
I. The Wicked World
So, first of all, just notice for a few minutes the wickedness of the world. You see this, first of all, in verse 5, in the wickedness and evil of the world. “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Now, just think about this in contrast to what God saw when he first created the world. At the end of Genesis chapter 1, “God saw all that he created, and it was very good.” But now God sees the world that man has made out of this good world that God created. What he sees is wickedness and evil, and the text emphasizes here both the extensiveness of the evil and the intensiveness of the evil.
You see the magnitude of evil. He saw that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth.” Great wickedness! And then notice that next phrase: “...and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” I mean, it could hardly be more emphatic, the wickedness of mankind.
I think this helps us understand how to interpret those verses that precede in verses one through four. Kenneth Matthews, in his commentary, says, “Although the stated reason for God’s judgment is encroaching moral perversion (Gen. 6:5)" [that’s what we’ve just read] “there is an implication in the passage that the marriages between the sons of God and the daughters of men,” [Gen. 6:2], “contributed in some way to this moral decline.”
Now, this is the most difficult part to interpret in this passage, and maybe the most difficult passage to interpret in the whole book of Genesis. If this were more of a seminar or a class, we could spent 30, 40 minutes just on this. I’m not going to do that, but let me just give you quickly the options and tell you what I think the passage is saying.
There are basically four view of this, the sons of God marrying the daughters of men. There are basically four views. So, one view is that these were fallen angels who cohabited with human women, and therefore produced an unnatural offspring, which would the Nephilim, or if you have the King James version it says there were giants in those days. That’s taking the Hebrew word Nephilim and interpreting it in light of Numbers 13:32-33, where the Nephilim in the land of Canaan seem to be equated with those who were of great height. So that’s why the King James says the giants.
So, the idea here is that the sons of God were angels, they were fallen angels, and these fallen angels evidently demonized or possessed human beings, and then they cohabited with women, and that led to this race called the Nephilim.
This is the view of many of the church fathers, and some of the reasons for this view is that this phrase “sons of God” is often used to speak of angels in the Old Testament. So you have this, especially, in the book of Job. Three times in the book of Job “the sons of God” refers to the angelic host or the angelic realm.
There are also some passages in the New Testament, for example in the book of Jude and in 2 Peter, that seem to give a little bit of credence to this, if they’re interpreted in a particular way. Probably the main reason this view is held is because it was the Jewish interpretation, and you find that in the apocryphal book 1 Enoch, which describes this scene in terms of fallen angels cohabiting with women.
There are problems with this view, however. It’s not the dominant view today among scholars, and perhaps the biggest problem is that, when you look at this passage, the judgment isn’t a judgment coming upon angels; it’s judgment that’s coming upon men. It’s coming upon the world. This judgment is not located in the heavenly realms, it’s located on the earth, and it’s not the most natural interpretation of the passage.
A related, but somewhat distinct view is that some scholars think this refers to an ancient near eastern myth of lesser gods who cohabitated with mortal women to produce demi-gods. The demi-gods; these would be the Nephilim, something like Titans, in Greek mythology, who were the offspring of gods and of men. I obviously don’t think that’s what the passage is either. However, I think that one of the commentaries is pretty helpful, that, in referencing the Nephilim, the author here is probably refuting a pagan myth and is showing that the Nephilim were not superhuman at all; they were mortal, and they were also subject to the judgment of God and to the mortality, the death that would come through the flood.
Another view is that these could be human kings or rulers, those are the sons of God, who began to establish harems from among the daughters of men. So what you have here is pervasive sexual immorality.
But the view that I think makes the most sense is that the sons of God are the descendants of Seth. We’ve just read about the line of Seth, the genealogy of Seth, in Genesis chapter 5. This was the godly line. The seventh from Adam was Enoch, who walked with God, and then Enoch’s descendants as well. The idea here is that the descendants of Seth, this godly line, this godly family, began to intermarry. They began to take women for themselves, they’re intermarrying with the line of Cain, and in so doing they were drifting away from the pure worship of God, and sin was then encroaching. This view, or some modification of this view, was the view of Augustine, the view of Luther, the view of Calvin. It’s defended well, with some modification, by Kenneth Matthews in his excellent commentary.
I think, as a general principle of interpretation, we should take the least fanciful view, unless we are compelled by really strong reasons to take a more fanciful view. This is the least fanciful, there are good reasons to take this view, it’s pretty straightforward, and an easy reading of the text.
But whatever view we take, this is what becomes clear: the point of this passage, and of the whole of Genesis chapter 6, is that the wickedness of the world, the evil of the world was so great, it led to such corruption, it led to such violence, that it prompted a response on God’s part, a response of judgment. You see that emphasized in just three more verses, verses 11 through 13, where now the emphasis is on the corruption and the violence of the world: “Now the earth was corrupt,” (Gen. 6:11) “in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.” Then look at Gen. 6:12: “God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” And then God speaks to Noah and says, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them from the earth.”
That’s the emphasis of the passage. It’s the pervasive wickedness of the world. Here is a world that is corrupt, it’s rotten to the core, it’s filled with violence, it’s filled with immorality, it’s filled with evil, the thoughts of their hearts are only evil continually, and because of this evil it pains God when he looks upon it. God must respond.
Now, we of course don’t have to look far in our own world to see the evidences of similar wickedness, do we? We live in a world of wickedness, we live in a world that is filled with violence, we live in a world that is filled with evil. I don’t know that it’s pervasive; I don’t think it is as pervasive as it was here, because of God’s grace restraining human beings and their sin and because of God’s special grace that has brought such a good influence into the world through his people and through the Christian faith. And so there’s a lot of good in the world as well, and much of it the result of the influence of Christians throughout history.
But yet, we live in a world that is marked with sin, and, as we’ll see, we live in a world that, like this world, the world before the flood, we live in a world that is doomed for judgment. And this passage gives us some explanation for why God will judge the world.
II. The Sorrowful God
That leads us to the second point, which is the sorrowful God. So, now what we’re looking at is the divine response to the wickedness and the judgment of the world. I think the choice of terms in the book of Genesis is so helpful and so important for us in understanding what it is that motivates God in his judgment. So, here we have a window into the heart of God.
I want to use the wording of Alan Ross, from his commentary, and just look at two things about God’s response, and then I want to raise the objection that I think many people would have and try to answer that objection. So, here are the two things we see: we see God’s pain on one hand, and then God’s plan on the other. His pain, that’s the emotional response, his plan is his volitional response, his choice, what he determines to do as a result.
(1) God's pain
So, first of all, look at God’s pain in Genesis 6:5-7. “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually, and the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” It grieved him to his heart. And then the end of verse 7, he says, “I am sorry that I have made them.”
The language here is very vivid. “It grieved him to his heart.” The NIV says, “He was deeply troubled,” or, “His heart was deeply troubled.” Or, the older NIV, the 1984 version, says, “His heart was filled with pain.”
It’s a vivid word that is used only two other times in the Pentateuch, both times in the book of Genesis; this word for “pain” or “grief.” One of those times is when the sons of Jacob discover that their sister Dinah has been raped, and their hearts are grieved. The other time is when Joseph has been betrayed by his brothers, and years later he finally reveals himself to them, and their hearts are distressed.
As one of the commentaries points out, all three cases of this word in the book of Genesis express "grief in the context of anger at some wrong that deserves redress." Now, if you’ve ever experienced personal injustice, or if one of your children has experienced personal injustice, you know the emotion. You know the emotion. You know the response: there’s anger because of the injustice, and there’s grief because of the pain it causes.
That’s what God felt. His world has been raped by human beings. His world has been corrupted by evil and by wickedness. He created something good, and now it’s been perverted, it’s been distorted, it’s being destroyed from the inside out. So God, in his grief, in his bitter pain, God regrets that he created the world, and he determines to bring judgment in response to the wickedness.
(2) God's plan
So you see his plan in Gen. 6:7. “The Lord said, ‘I will blot out man, whom I have created, from the face of the land.’” In Gen. 6:13, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” And then in Gen. 6:17, “I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.” So there you see that it is the flood. He’s going to bring a flood of waters, and everything is going to die.
Now, what we’re seeing here is the flood as the fullest execution of the sentence against sin to date. You remember that God said to Adam and Eve in the garden, if they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would die. And we have seen this curse has been progressively worked out. The refrain in Genesis 5, as we saw last week, is eight times, “And he died. And he died. And he died.”
Now, the evil of the world is so great, the magnitude of this wickedness is so great, that God decides, “I’m just going to execute the sentence on everyone all at once. They’re all going to die.” So God brings judgment; it is full-scale execution of the sentence. Everything that is on the earth shall die.
The main question this raises is, how can a good and loving God bring about such destruction? This is one of the primary objections that people have with the Christian faith today. How can a loving God allow evil, or how can a loving God send people to hell? How can a loving God be a God of judgment? That is a basic objection that many people have. It’s important for us to know how to answer this in a way that is both faithful to Scripture and that helps address the underlying assumptions behind this objection.
I want to say three things in response, to kind of move us to an appropriate biblical response to this question. Here’s the first.
(i) The first thing you need to know is that this is not just an Old Testament problem. Okay? Lots of current scholars want to posit a huge difference between the God of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New Testament. That is a very common move, and it’s happening all the time right now in current biblical quasi-evangelical scholarship.
Let me just give you one example. There’s a fairly well-known author named Brian Zand. Brian Zand; he’s a pastor. I’m sure Brian Zand has lots of good things to say. I’ve read things that he’s written in brief form that I thought were interesting and helpful in certain ways. But Brain Zand has a fairly new book called Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God. Obviously, that’s a variation of the title of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
This is Zand’s approach to this question. His approach is to bring up troubling Old Testament passages, raise questions about the morality of God, redefine the wrath of God as a metaphor, and then go to Jesus and say, “Jesus shows us what God is really like, and you can’t take these Old Testament passages at face value.”
Now, that’s very common, and Brian Zand is not nearly the only guy that’s doing this. This is happening all the time. And I think that’s a wrong response. I don’t think we can do that. It’s the old Marcionite heresy that does away with the Old Testament and tries to only hold onto the New and say that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God revealed in Jesus.
Let me give you just one quick reason why it just won’t work. It won’t work because Jesus doesn’t let it work, because Jesus, in the New Testament, uses the story of the flood, the story of Noah, to talk about what’s going to happen in final judgment. Let me give you the passage, Matthew 24:36-39: “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
And when you look at the teaching of Jesus, Jesus talks about judgment, Jesus talks about hell more than any other person. It’s in the New Testament! The New Testament gives us a portrait of God who is a God of judgment. So you can’t pit the judging God of the Old Testament against some caricature of Jesus, as if Jesus shows us a God who is only love, with no holiness, or only love, with no wrath, and the Old Testament is giving us, instead, some kind of a moral monster.
We can’t do that. The God revealed in Jesus is the same God who judges sin, he is the same God who has wrath against sin, he is the same God of the Old Testament, he is the same God who in the future, in a final judgment, will bring final vindication against sin in this world.
(ii) Here’s the second step. This is another false step: we can’t simply say the judgment is the inevitable result of sin, but not God’s personal response. Now, it’s true that judgment is the inevitable result of sin. I mean, it’s kind of in the DNA of sin, that sin is going to lead to judgment. But what we can’t do is take God’s personal response out of it.
And again, this is what some people want to do. Brian Zand does this when he says the wrath of God is a metaphor. It’s just a metaphor. So he’s depersonalizing it. It’s a metaphor for what happens when people sin, but it’s not God’s response to the sin.
And Genesis 6 just won’t let us do that. The language is too personal. God is expressing his sorrow, his grief, his regrets, and his anger against sin. It’s very personal. The language is very personal. And again, you find similar kinds of language in the New Testament. Just read the book of Revelation and you’ll see.
So we shouldn’t do that, but more than that, we should not want to do that. We should not want to say that judgment is impersonal, because if you do that you lose something crucial. You lose something very important.
Let me let C.S. Lewis explain. This is from C.S. Lewis’s book Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. These are letters Lewis wrote to a fictional character named Malcolm; they read as if they’re an ongoing dialogue between Lewis and this character. This is what Lewis says: “You suggest that what is traditionally regarded as our experience of God’s anger would be more helpfully regarded as what inevitably happens to us if we behave inappropriately towards a reality of immense power. As you say, the live wire doesn’t feel angry with us, but if we blunder against it we get a shock.” (So you get the metaphor. God is like electricity; the wrath of God is just like getting shocked by electricity. You’re bumbling into a great power, but it’s not personal.) Lewis says, “My dear Malcolm, what do you suppose you have gained by substituting the image of a live wire for that of an angered majesty? You have shut us all up in despair, for the angry majesty can forgive, and electricity can’t.”
We dare not depersonalize this, because it’s the same God who feels sorrowful, angry grief at the wickedness of the world who then does something about the wickedness of the world; not only judgment, but salvation through judgment.
(iii) So, instead of these options (here’s the third step in the argument) - instead of these options, we need to understand that God’s justice and wrath is, in fact, the expression of his love and goodness to the wickedness of the world. By judging evil, God limits it. By judging evil, God limits it.
He created the world, he loved the world, he made it good. Evil corrupted the world. What do you do with something that’s corrupt? You have to stop the corruption! And that’s what God is doing. He’s stopping the corruption. If he did not love the world, why would he feel the grief that he feels? It’s because of God’s love that he feels the grief; it’s because of his love that he feels the anger. His wrath is the loving response to good which has been spoiled. It is the good response to great evil and to great injustice.
Again, Lewis is helpful, and I don’t have a quote for the screen here, but just phrases. This is also from Letters to Malcolm, where Lewis talks about how friends and lovers, when they love each other deeply and there’s a rift in the relationship, what they experience is "scalding indignation." "Embracing, re-welcoming love." You have both. You have "hot love" and "hot wrath." In fact, Lewis says, “Such anger is the fluid that love bleeds when you cut it.”
That’s the wrath of God. It is the inevitable response of a God of goodness and love and of holiness when that which he loves is being threatened by evil. He responds in just anger as well as in divine sorrow.
Now, what we see in this passage, gloriously, is that this divine judgment is not the whole of God’s response to sin. It is his response, it is a part of the response, but it is not the whole of the response, because there’s something else in this passage. It’s not a passage only about judgment, because in the passage there is a righteous remnant.
III. The Righteous Remnant
That leads us to the third and final movement here, the righteous remnant. And that, of course, is Noah and his family. You remember that Noah was introduced to us in Genesis chapter 5, at the end of the genealogy there, where Lamech utters this prayer or this word of hope. He says, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one,” this baby Noah, “shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” He’s thinking about the curse, and he sees Noah. “This one will bring us relief!” That’s the idea.
There’s hope in the birth of Noah, and then Noah becomes a key figure in the story as God chooses Noah and his family to be the righteous remnant through whom he will preserve the human race. God doesn’t utterly obliterate the human race. He could have, but he doesn’t. He preserves a remnant. And in the preserving the remnant he is, of course, preserving the righteous seed, he is keeping his promise of Genesis 3:15, which will lead, eventually, to the birth of a Child who will be the Great Deliverer.
But what we see in the details of Noah’s story I think are important, about how God’s salvation in the midst of judgment works, and I want you to just notice three things, okay? Number one, salvation by grace; number two, obedience through faith; and then number three, I want to get you to Jesus, to the cross.
(1) Salvation by grace
So, first of all, salvation by grace. In verse 8, after we have this description of the wickedness of the world and God’s intention to destroy it, verse 8: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
The word “favor” there carries the idea of grace. In fact, there’s a word play here. In Hebrew, “Noah” and the word “favor” or “grace,” in Hebrew the consonants of the names are inverted. So it’s like a mirror image. If you saw it in Hebrew it would be a mirror image, “Noah” and “grace.”
In a wicked world marked for judgment and for destruction, God graciously chooses to preserve the human race through one man and through his family. And then when you read down through the passage there are all these interesting pointers to the grace of God. So, let me just give a couple of examples.
First of all, God provides an ark. Now, the word “ark,” of course, is used in only one other narrative in Scripture. Do you remember when it was? It was little baby Moses, right, who was placed in an ark, also in water, the Nile river, and is saved from destruction, the plot of Pharaoh to destroy all the male children of Israel; he is saved from the destruction and becomes the deliverer of his people. The original readers of the book of Genesis would have been that generation, the following generation, of Israelites. It would have been the exodus generation. So there’s a clear connection here between the ark, Noah’s ark, and the ark that delivered Moses.
Then it’s also interesting that the ark itself, made of gopher wood, is filled, or covered inside and out with pitch. This word “pitch” is actually an interesting word. It’s the word kophir in Hebrew, which is closely related to the word kippur in Hebrew. Do you know what Yom Kippur is? The Day of Atonement. It means to cover. So here is Noah; he’s being placed in an ark, and he’s being covered in the same way as God’s people will be covered by the blood of the sacrificial goat on the Day of Atonement, pointing, of course, to the ultimate covering for our sins in Jesus Christ.
And then, in Genesis 6:17-18, you have God explaining to Noah how he will destroy the earth through the flood, and then one of the great “buts” of Scripture, verse 18, “But I will establish my covenant with you,” and it’s the first use of the word “covenant” in the Bible. Here’s God’s gracious plan, his gracious promise to bring about salvation through a covenant relationship with Noah.
And then, of course, one more thing to note is that, in God’s command to build the ark, he’s not only providing salvation and deliverance for Noah and his family, but he’s also providing salvation for the whole creation! Because he instructs Noah to bring the animals onto the ark, and so he’s preserving the created order itself. It’s a picture, isn’t it, of how God, through Jesus, brings about not only redemption for our souls, but he brings about redemption of the created order; he will bring a new heavens and a new earth.
And it’s all by grace. It all begins by grace! Before you read anything positive about Noah, “he found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” He found grace in the eyes of God. God sovereignly chose Noah and graciously saved him.
(2) Obedience by faith
And then what follows is Noah’s obedience, obedience that is rooted in faith. You see his obedience, his righteousness, in several places. In Genesis 6:9, “These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” So he’s like Enoch, his great-grandfather. He walked with God. He’s a righteous man. He’s blameless. I mean, here’s a man who’s living a life of righteousness, in contrast to the pervasive wickedness of the world around him.
And then you see Noah’s obedience as God gives instructions to Noah, Genesis 6:13-21, very detailed instructions. “Build an ark, here’s how long it’s going to be, here’s how high it’s going to be, here’s the wood you’re going to use, here’s what you’re going to cover it with, here’s what you’re going to put in it, here’s how many decks it’s going to have.” I mean, detailed instructions. And then at the end of that, in verse 22, it simply says that “Noah did it. Noah did all that God commanded him.”
Again, you see a pattern here that will come up in other places in Scripture, where there are detailed instructions about the creation of something, followed by obedience, followed by blessing. The blessing follows at the end of this story in Genesis 9:1, “God blessed Noah and his sons.”
You see a similar pattern in the construction, for example, of the Tabernacle as God gives very specific, detailed instructions, “Here’s what you are to build,” and the people do what God says, and then they are blessed.
But the taproot of Noah’s obedience (this is what I want you to see), the taproot of his obedience and his righteousness, was faith. Just as Abel and Enoch before him are characterized as men of faith in book of Hebrews 11, so it is with Noah. Look at Hebrews 11:7: “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
(3) Noah points to Christ
So, we see salvation by grace, we see the obedience of faith, and then finally, I want you to see that Noah really is just a pointer to Jesus. He points us to Christ.
Noah is the righteous remnant, but Christ is the righteous remnant of one. There’s an interesting passage, maybe you’ve come across this before in your Bible reading; there’s an interesting passage tucked away in the book of Ezekiel that mentions Noah. This is what the passage says. This is Ezekiel 14:12-14.
“The word of the Lord came to me, ‘Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it and cut off from it man and beast; even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness,’ declares the Lord.” A few verses later, they would not deliver others (see v. 20). That seems to be the point. God is saying, “If a land becomes evil, the righteousness of Noah can only deliver Noah; it couldn’t deliver anybody else.”
But the good news of the gospel is that in Christ we had a righteous remnant of one whose righteousness does, in fact, deliver us! You see, Jesus, the righteous remnant of one, has a righteousness that delivers us from the wrath and judgment of God. Jesus is the true and greater Noah who took the storm of divine judgment in our place and whose righteousness counts as ours. So there is salvation through judgment, because the judgment fell on him.
So brothers and sisters, the passage we’ve studied this morning is a passage that shows us the wickedness of the world, it shows us God’s sorrowful judgment in response to evil, but it also shows us grace. It shows us divine grace. To use Paul’s words from Romans 5:20, “Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more.”
I wonder if you remember the words of that old hymn “Grace Greater Than Our Sin.” Let me just read a couple of lines to you as we close.
“Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
“Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!”
And listen to this verse, thinking about the flood:
“Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss.
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.”
You see, we’re not saved by an ark, and we’re not saved the same way Noah was, but we are saved by grace, and we are saved by divine rescue, and that rescuer is Jesus Christ, whose cross is our refuge, whose cross redeems us, delivers us from the wrath of God. Have you taken refuge in the mighty cross of Christ?
Father, how we thank you for your grace that is greater than all our sin. Your grace is greater than all of the sins we committed before we became Christians. Your grace is greater than all the sins we committed since we became Christians. Your grace is greater than all the sins we committed last week, and it’s greater than all the sins we will commit in the future.
Our response to that grace is to say, first of all, thank you. Our response is to say we believe, we trust that in your amazing goodness and your deep love for us you have sent your Son to be our substitute, take our judgment, to take the wrath that we deserve so that we could be delivered from judgment. And our response, when we begin to meditate on this, when we begin to think on this and it sinks into our hearts, it makes us want to honor you, it makes us want to love you.
We don’t want to continue in sin so that grace might increase. May that never be. May we recognize, instead, that just as Jesus died on the cross, as the judgment of sin was executed in his body, that we in union with Christ died with him, we were buried with him. The power of sin is broken, and he rose from the dead, and we are raised with him to walk in newness of life. So give us such hearts this morning, give us that perspective, and having been saved by grace may we be like Noah. May we now obey by faith.
As we come to the table, we come to celebrate this grace. We come to, in a tangible way, take and eat that which Jesus has provided for us. May we, in these moments, lay hold of Christ himself, may we believe the gospel, may we be assured in our hearts and in our consciences that, as surely as the bread and the juice nourishes our body, so surely does the broken body and shed blood of Christ secure our forgiveness. So continue with us now. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.