Noah and the Flood
Genesis 6:5-22; 7:1-5,17-8:5
Last week we studied how sin came into the world and how Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Genesis goes on to tell us what happened to some of Adam and Eve's children and gives a long list of some of their descendents. They lived much longer in those days than we do now. We then come to a new section in Genesis and that is the story of Noah, which we find in chapters 6 through to 9. The story of Noah, which children love to hear, is actually not just for Sunday School kids – it is very important for all of us.
1. A Wicked World (6:5-7, 11, 12)
You remember in Genesis 1 in the account of creation it says a few times “and God saw it was good”. Sadly, here in verse 5 of chapter 6 it says, “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.” Things were very bad – notice it says every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time - every inclination, only evil, all the time. In our day and age we like to think better of people. Sure there are some really bad people out in society but many others can be very kind and caring at times. Some people live very good lives. However no one can honestly say that they have never done anything wrong. No one can honestly say they have never had an evil thought, or never spoken an unkind word. No, even good people are far from perfect. We might say that things must have been really bad in Noah's time, for people were always inclined to evil.
But what about us? Are we really that much different today? Maybe if we saw ourselves as God sees us we would not be so proud of how good and kind we are. If it was not for the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the influence of the Gospel in society maybe we wouldn't be a whole lot different to the people living in Noah's day. The Bible says, “The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.” The world had become wicked. Men and women were living their lives in complete disregard of right and wrong. God was full of sorrow because of what men and women were doing to themselves – a bit like a parent grieves over a rebellious child. Verse 11 tells us the earth had become corrupt and was full of violence. Actually this could easily describe the world in which we live today – couldn't it? God is equally grieved over the pain and suffering in today's world caused by corruption and violence.
2. A Godly Man (Genesis 6:8, 9)
Although he was far from perfect there was a man living at the time who was pleasing to God. It says he found favour in the eyes of the Lord. His name was Noah. Notice how the Bible describes him in verse 9: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.”
It says that he found favour in God's eyes. That is another way of saying God was gracious to Noah. It doesn't mean Noah was so good that he earned God's favour. He was not perfect – of course – for no one is perfect, not since man fell into sin. However, Noah was certainly very much better than the people around him. It says that he was blameless among the people. No one could point a finger at Noah. No one could accuse him of being involved in the corruption and violence of his day. Even if it was God's grace that first extended to Noah, the simple truth is he had responded to God and his life showed it. God was pleased with Noah. He was pleased with his godly life. Notice the amazing phrase, “and he walked with God.” Noah enjoyed an intimate relationship with God. When you walk with someone you usually are chatting and enjoying their company. This is the essence of the Christian life. It is not trying to be religious, going to church and giving to charity. It is not trying to be good – as admirable as that effort might be. No, the essence of being a Christian is “walking with God”. It is enjoying a personal relationship with Him. Do you remember the song “He lives”? The words go: “He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.” Noah had that kind of relationship with God.
3. A Divine Plan (6:13-7:5)
God now talks with Noah. Isn't that amazing! Yes, and God still talks to us today, if we, like Noah, walk with God. What did God tell Noah? Look at verses 13ff. He tells Noah the frightening news that He is going to destroy the world and all the people in the world because of all the violence and evil. People had chosen to corrupt themselves and this could only lead to their destruction. In this case God was bringing judgment on the world – His righteous judgment on sin. However, so often when we sin, it not that God judges us, but rather that we judge ourselves. We bring the judgment down on ourselves. It grieved God then and it grieves Him today when we disobey Him. He longs for us to turn back to Him. God does not want any to perish.
Although God had to judge the world of Noah's day, He made a plan to save Noah and his family – and presumably any others who would repent and turn to Him. None did of course and only Noah and his family were saved. God told Noah He wanted him to build a huge boat for He was going to send a flood to destroy all living creatures. The boat Noah was told to build was not a yacht or a little canoe. It was huge – the length of one and a half rugby fields and the height of a four-story building. It was to be six times as long at it was wide – the same ratio used by modern shipbuilders. It certainly must have been a strange sight seeing Noah and his family building this massive boat – and as far as we know it was no where near the sea or a big lake. Noah must have told the people what he was doing and why – but it seems that no one believed him. Rather they thought he had gone crazy. Especially when Noah told them he was also making space for all the animals! It is one thing to want to open a zoo – but to make a huge boat for himself, his family and a pair each of all the animals and birds, just seemed way over the top. There must have been times when Noah's faith was tested, times when he was discouraged at all the criticism and mocking he got. Yet the Bible tells us, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” (6:22)
Don't give up when others do not believe your testimony. Do not feel discouraged when they make fun of your faith. Like Noah, do everything God tells you to do and leave the results in His hands.
4. A Worldwide Flood
The time was drawing near. In chapter 7 verse 4 we read how God told Noah that he had one more week before the flood was to come. Noah was instructed to get all the animals into the ark – some kinds of animals came only in pairs - one male and one female of each kind. Animals that were regarded as clean (and presumably could be used for sacrifice or food) were to come in seven pairs. Scholars have estimated that the three levels of the ark could have fitted 45,000 animals. I am sure Noah and his sons didn't have to round up all these animals. God must have brought them to him. Once Noah, his wife and their three sons and their wives, together with all the animals were safely in the ark, the rains began to fall. The Bible says, “...the floodwaters came on the earth”, verse 10. Verse 11 says, “...all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the flood gates of the heavens were opened.” This was no ordinary downpour. It was no ordinary flood. Nothing like it had been seen before and certainly nothing since.
I can just imagine the reaction of all those people who had previously mocked Noah. First the surprise, then the growing apprehension as the flooding began, then the panic and desperation as the flood waters began to engulf them. Pounding on the door of the ark was no use – it was too late. God had shut the door and none could open it. All human and animal life was to perish – except the lives of those in the safety of the ark, as it was lifted above the flood waters.
Friends - the ark is a picture of Jesus. He is the One in whom we are safe from the storms of God's righteous judgment. Do not wait till it is too late. Come to Him today.
The flood waters covered the earth for a hundred and fifty days. I believe the flood was as the Bible describes it, a flood that covered the whole earth. All living creatures perished. Of course there is enough water on the earth to cover all dry land. Many years ago at university I majored in geography. I remember studying about the theory of continental drift. It is believed the present continents used to be one larger continent and then drifted apart. Genesis 10 is a genealogy of the descendants of Noah. There is an interesting verse, v 25, which talks of someone given the name Peleg, “because in his time the earth was divided.” Could this possibly be a reference to when the continents began to drift apart? Does this mean that at the time of the Flood the land surface of the earth was much more compact than it is today? It seems perfectly possible to me. But whatever the case – the Flood was universal in extent.
Interestingly almost all known ancient cultures, including the Chinese, have stories and legends about a massive flood that covered the earth. It is quite likely that these myths and legends are in some way connected with the real event as described in the Bible. The Babylonian tradition, for example, is very similar to the biblical account in many aspects, while in other aspects it is totally different. One major difference is the fact the Babylonian tradition has many gods – not just one God. I believe the Bible account is the true and original account while other versions are corruptions of the Bible event. The Bible story is clearly superior to any other ancient account.
5. A Sacrifice and a Promise
Chapter 8 contains the graphic description of what happened as the flood waters began to recede. It gives the exact day when the ark settled on the mountains of Ararat – the seventeenth day of the seventh month. In verse 5 it says, “...and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.” The mountains of Ararat are in present-day Turkey and Armenia.
Noah sent out various birds to test the situation. Finally he lifted the covering of the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. God had closed the door to the ark and now he invites Noah to come out. After Noah and the animals came out, Noah built an altar in order to make an offering to God. He sacrificed some of the “clean” animals, in other words, those animals God indicated were suitable. The Bible says in verse 21 of chapter 8, “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in His heart: 'Never again will I curse the ground because of man...'” Then God made the wonderful promise “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
Chapter 9 tells of how God made the rainbow the sign of His promise or His covenant with man. Whenever it rains the rainbow is a reminder that God keeps His promises. The earth's order and the seasons are evidence of God's faithfulness and love. A rainbow is the result of both storm and sunshine. It is caused by the sunshine catching the drops of rain in a rain cloud. This reminds us that the sunshine of God's grace shines through the cloud of our sin and gives us hope. The rainbow is a very beautiful thing and so is God's grace. We don't always see the rainbow, but when we do it should remind us of God's wonderful promises.
I must finish by telling you about one children's summer programme in which we were involved in a Tibetan village in Qinghai Province in China. There were about 24 of us from various countries (many from HK) and about 100 kids. We couldn't openly tell the children about the Bible or about Jesus though they did know we were Christians. We had the theme that year of the rainbow and told them the story of Noah. How exciting that the very day after we had taught them about Noah and the rainbow there was an unusual heavy downpour. Soon afterwards, out came the most glorious and magnificent rainbow. Neither we nor the children will forget the excitement we all felt. May you be excited by His promises today!