God's grace and judgment in the flood

Genesis 6:1-3, 5-14, 17-22 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." … 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. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, "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." 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. 9 This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. 11 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. 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. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. … 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark-- you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them." 22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
Perhaps you have seen the movie “Noah” starring Russell Crowe. If you haven’t, but are planning on doing so … I’m sorry, but here are some spoilers. There is a big flood where Noah and his family are the only ones who survive on a big boat. That’s about the only similarities there are between the movie (and make-believe) version and the biblical (and true) version. 
You will also notice the differences between the movie and Bible in that there is no abuse of the environment, no theistic evolution, and no stowaways on the ark. There are also no rock monsters anywhere in Genesis 6.
One thing the movie definitely got right is that the account of Noah and the flood is much grittier than what is portrayed in many of our paintings and nursery walls. We imagine a beautiful time of peace and tranquility on earth before the flood. The Bible describes something completely different: “Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence” (Genesis 6:11).
The believers and unbelievers intermingled and intermarried. The believers carelessly put their faith in jeopardy by choosing marriage partners based solely on sex appeal, not whether or not their spouse would help them in their walk with God. The believers married unbelieving women based on the women’s outward beauty, not on the inward beauty of their faith.
Moses, who by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes the Book of Genesis, describes Noah as “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). There is a great contrast between the people of Noah’s time and Noah himself. Noah was made righteous in God’s eyes because he believed in the promised Redeemer, the Woman’s Offspring (Genesis 3:15). A promise given at least fifteen centuries earlier to Adam. God declared Noah righteous because of the Deliverer whom he embraced by faith, not because of his self-developed godliness or holiness. Noah appeared as a bright light in the dark night of ungodliness around him.
Noah was a preacher, both in words and actions, warning about everything that was coming and condemning the world for its lack of faith (Hebrews 11:7). But Noah’s preaching had little or no effect. The world remained a very dark place. “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” (Genesis 6:5). The Lord saw that in spite of all His efforts to win the hearts of humanity, the wickedness of the world was increasing. No dam was able to hold back the flood of evil.
The Lord was utterly disgusted over the universal wickedness He witnessed when He looked down from heaven. Moses describes this disgust in human terms: “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain” (Genesis 6:6). The entire earth was utterly corrupt before the face of God, like a rotten piece of meat whose very appearance is nauseating.
God was appalled by what He saw and so He prepared to cleanse the world of these people who had no use for Him. The LORD said, “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” (Genesis 6:7). Friends, it is good for us to remember that it isn’t just automobiles that can be recalled by their maker.
Yet, in all of God’s distress and disgust, He still demonstrated grace. He said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years” (Genesis 6:3). In this sentence we hear both God’s grace and judgment in sending the flood. God was gracious. He was giving the children of this world one hundred and twenty years to repent – to turn from their wickedness and believe in the promised Seed of the woman. He wasn’t looking for an outward repeal of their actions, but for an inward appeal to their heart.
As the people heard Noah’s preaching of righteousness; as they listened to his constant warnings for over a century; as they saw Noah and his sons building an ark the size of a football field; God was giving them every opportunity to repent and believe.
As the end of God’s reprieve approached, He saw that it was useless to extend this period. Mankind had continually rebuffed His many offers of grace. The Lord announced, “I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish” (Genesis 6:17).
This is a word of warning for our day and age. “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
What do you see when you look around in our world? Is it an idyllic setting with peace and harmony? Do people, animals and nature exist in quiet and tranquility? Do Christians stand out in the world as being righteous and walking every step with God?
Sadly, our 21st century post-flood world is not much different than the pre-flood world. There are car bombings, terrorist attacks, kidnappings, and beheadings around the globe. There are protests, violence, looting, and businesses burning in our own streets. We allow children to be mutilated and murdered in the womb and we call it a “woman’s choice.” As a nation we have endorsed perversion and called it “an alternative lifestyle.” We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it “freedom of expression.”
We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. When we are looking for a date, do we look at their outward features or do we closely examine the inner beauty of their Christian faith? Do we hinder our little children from hearing about the righteousness of the eternal God because we have them consumed with things that will not last? Do we preach walking with God with right and moral living to our grown children, or do we remain silent as we allow them to walk away from God as they live in sin? Are we lights in this dark world or just various shades of grey?
Jesus Himself warns us, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27).
God’s judgment is coming. It will be a day of wrath and mourning. Instead of drowning, it will be a day of burning. It will be God’s way of cleansing the world of all its unrighteousness.
God in His abounding grace has allowed us time to repent. Far more than one hundred and twenty years. But how long with His gracious patience last?
When that time comes, will you be ready? Are you watching? Are you on your guard? Are you alert? (Mark 13:32-37) Where will you be on the Last Day – on your own, walking without faith, drowning in the filth of this world and your own unrighteousness? Or will be found with your fellow saints, walking with faith in the Promise Fulfilled, living in the safety of the ark of the Holy Christian Church?
The Lord instructed Noah to build an ark of cypress wood and make it waterproof by coating it with pitch. It was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. It was three stories high with an opening of 18 inches around the ark for ventilation. This was not a vessel for sailing, but merely floating for survival. The ark had small cabins for housing the people, animals and food for over a year.
God in His grace gave specific instructions for preserving the animal world. He then called the creatures of the world to board the ark so that the earth could be populated with them after the flood. This was God’s way of preserving the promise made to Adam by keeping alive this slender thread of humanity in Noah and his family.
The ark was the only refuge from the physical tempest. Jesus is our only refuge from the coming wrath of God. Those who entered the ark through faith in the Lord were spared from the destruction that overtook the earth. They were kept safe until they arrived in a new land prepared for them by the God of grace and judgment. Those who are kept safe in the holy ark of the Christian Church through faith in Christ will arrive in a new heaven and a new earth, the home where everyone and everything is righteous (2 Peter 3:13).
Peter makes a comparison between baptism and the flood: “In [the ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20-21).
Faithful Noah and his family experienced the greatest horror this earth has known, but the ark kept them safe from all of it. Living in this sin-darkened world, we Christians experience turbulence in our lives that can easily lead us to the brink of despair. Like Noah, though death and destruction is all around us, keep your faith in the Promised Seed of Jesus Christ. He has come to rescue us from this present evil age. He paid the price with His death and resurrection to buy salvation for us. While we are on earth, we may often look and act like the rest of the world, Jesus makes us different.
He did this at the font where He claimed you as His own. He separated you from the rest of the world by making you His own dear child. He washed you clean of your sins with the connection between water and the Word. Whereas the rest of the world wants nothing to do with a just and gracious God, as one of His baptized children, you eagerly desire to hear your Father speak to you daily through His Word at home and long to hear the voice of your Creator in worship. As baptized saints, you walk with God instead of apart from Him. As baptized members in the safety of the ark, you live as lights in this dark world and preach Christ’s righteousness inviting others into the ark with you.
The Old Testament flood is a symbol of New Testament Baptism. In both cases, the water both destroys and saves. It is God’s instrument for judgment and His instrument of grace. The world was cleansed of its evil through the drowning of the sinful natures of billions of people. Our soul is cleansed of its evil through the drowning of the sinful nature through the flood waters of Baptism. The very waters that were destroying the earth were God’s way of saving Noah and his family, since they were kept safe in the ark. Through the waters of Holy Baptism, God brings His children into the ark of the Holy Christian Church. The world, its death and its evil cannot reach you here. After the flood, Noah and his family were given a new life in a new world. After the flood of waters at the font, we were given a new life as part of God’s kingdom here on earth.
Martin Luther made this connection between Baptism and the flood: “Now baptism is by far a greater flood than was that of Noah. … Baptism drowns all sorts of men through the world, from the birth of Christ even till the day of judgment. … [Noah’s flood] was a flood of wrath, this is a flood of grace” (Luther’s Works, American Edition, 35:32).
As bad as the “Noah” movie was, perhaps it did one good thing. It helped us shatter the false idyllic setting we had created in our minds, in our artwork and in our children’s nurseries. As we examine the account of Noah and the flood we discover that it is an account of God’s judgment and grace. Prepare for the Day of Judgment by daily receiving God’s grace. Remember your Baptism daily. For it is a flood of God’s judgment upon your sinful flesh, but a flood of God’s grace upon your eternal soul. Amen. 

For more background on the flood, watch this Bible study for Rev. Fisk.

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