The story of Noah’s ark may be the most familiar and possibly one of the most misunderstood stories in the whole Bible. Hollywood has corrupted it and the church has made it cute. But in between these two extremes, there are powerful lessons for trusting God even when the world thinks you’re crazy.

HOLDING BACK THE FLOOD

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

APRIL

10/11

Genesis 6:1-7

Your faithfulness matters even more than you think. Join us as we start a new series focusing on the story of Noah. Dig deeper into this story that prescribes why we should not be following after human power and instead keep our focus on God’s will.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Craig: Well, hey, we’re starting a new message series today on the story of Noah and his Ark, which is maybe one of the most familiar stories in the whole Bible. Even if you’ve never been to church or never opened the Bible, you’ve probably heard at least a little of the story of Noah. But it’s also probably one of the most misunderstood stories in the Bible. Because everybody when they tell the story that they tend to corrupt it one way or another. I mean, I know Hollywood corrupts it. A few years ago, Hollywood released a major motion picture called “Noah” with Russell Crowe as the star, and honestly, if you watch that, it kind of seems like the whole point of it is that God is cruel. Which is a corruption of the story for sure.

But I can’t get too mad at Hollywood, because the reality is the church does the same thing. We also corrupt the story. Only instead of making it cruel, we make it cute, right? We literally tell the stories with puppies and rainbows. I remember when my first daughter was born, people said, “Oh, you’re a pastor. So you’re gonna decorate the nursery with like a biblical theme right?” And I was like, “Like what biblical theme were you thinking of?” And everyone seemed to say the same thing like, “Noah’s Ark.” And I was like “That’s a terrible idea.” Like I was picturing like a border of waves and little people drowning in the waves. Like, why would you put that in a little kid’s room? That doesn’t make any sense to me at all. But that’s not how we tell the story right? If we tell the story, it’s cute, right? And we sing songs like, I remember…how did it go? The Lord told Noah, there’s gonna be a floody floody. Anybody, which isn’t even good theology. It’s not like God was like, “Oh, there’s a flood coming, I should do something.” That’s not what happened.

Well, we corrupt the story. We either make it cruel, we make it cute. And then we just sort of miss it. And the reality is, it’s not a cute story. It’s a pretty raw story, actually. And it’s a strange story in some ways, in fact, there’s some elements of the story, including one we’re gonna look at today, that is so strange that we typically don’t even teach them we just kind of skip over them, or at least we skim over them really quick, which I think is a mistake. Partly because the Bible says that all Scripture is useful, helping us become like Jesus and join him on a mission to kind of paraphrase what he says that all Scripture is useful, even the strange parts. In fact, the part that we’re gonna look at today, which is really kind of the setup for the story of Noah’s Ark, even though it’s a little bit strange, in it, we find ourselves as followers of Jesus being forced to ask a really important question, which is this? “Where do I start to make things better? Where do I personally start to make things better?”

Because it’s easy to look at the world and go, “Things have gotten bad,” right? We got global pandemics, we got civil unrest, we got political tension, we got racial injustice, it’s easy to look at the world and go, “Man, I don’t think it’s ever been this bad.” In fact, I know probably some of you have looked around lately and thought, “I don’t think it’s ever been this bad.” One of the things we’re gonna see in the story of Noah’s Ark is yeah, it has. In fact, it’s probably not as bad now as it was back then. Today, we’re gonna see why I say that. But we’re not as followers of Jesus supposed to look around and go, “Wow, things have gotten bad. There’s a lot of sin, there’s a lot of wickedness.” But we’re supposed to ask the question, “God, how am I supposed to help? God, how am I supposed to be making things better?”

And as we begin to look at the size of the task in front of us, it becomes very easy as followers of Jesus to go, I don’t think I can do anything. I don’t think I can make a difference, but we can. And so the question we’re gonna ask today and answer is, “Where can I personally start to make it better?” Why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible, I’ll show you what I mean. We’re gonna be in Genesis chapter 6 today. Genesis chapter 6. If you don’t know the Bible, real well, that’s not a hard book to find. Genesis is the very first book. So just start there and turn a few pages until you get to Genesis chapter 6. Now, while you’re making your way there, I wanna tell you a couple of things about the Book of Genesis that I think we need to understand so that we can make sense of the passage we’re gonna look at today.

Okay, so the couple of things about Genesis I wanna make sure we all understand. Number one is this, is that Genesis is what we call prescriptive history. Genesis is prescriptive history. And that may not be a term you’re familiar with. What I mean by that is there’s two kinds of history. There’s descriptive history and there’s prescriptive history. Descriptive history is what most of us learned in elementary school. How many of us just loved history in elementary school? Not a lot of hands going up. Here’s the reason. It’s because you learn descriptive history, which is just describing what happened in the past. It’s all about names and dates, and facts and figures, and times and places. And then they pour all that into your head, and they’re like, “And now what?” They’re like, “Now we go into the next era.” Here’s more names and dates, and facts and figures, and times and places, and we don’t do anything. It’s just describing what happened in the past. Prescriptive history, however, is looking to prescribe things, it’s looking to prescribe a particular way of living. And in particular, when we think about the Bible, prescriptive history describes what happened in the past to help us live faithfully in the present. Are you with my church? Does that make sense? That’s what Genesis does. It describes what happened in the past in order to help us to live faithfully in the present.

So Genesis is prescriptive history, it is history. Let’s be clear on that. Okay. It’s describing historical events, it’s describing what happened. Everything in the Book of Genesis describes to taking place actually took place. And I know some people are like, “Including all of humanity was wiped out, except for one family and they were saved because they built a really big boat. Are you telling me that’s history?” Yeah, I am. I really believe that’s the case. And I believe that partly because the Bible says so and I’ve come to trust the reliability of the Bible historically. But also I say it because almost every culture on the planet on every continent of the planet has stories of something very similar. The stories of a great flood that destroyed most of humanity.

In fact, my youngest daughter Lynae was in a college mythology class recently. And then the teacher pointed out, she said, “Yeah, it’s always crazy. Like all of these cultures, even though they don’t have any real connection to each other that we can see, they all seem to have a story of a great flood. In fact, many of them have a lot of very similar elements of the story of Noah’s Ark that we find the Bible.” And she said, “That’s the weirdest thing. How did that happen?” And I was like, “I have an idea. It actually happened. It actually is a part of history. And people remember it, even though it’s been distorted throughout the years okay.”

So yes, I believe that the Bible is describing historical events. Noah’s Ark is a historical story, but it’s describing what happened in the past, in order to help people live faithfully in the present. And that’s a very important thing to understand about it. I think it’s also important to understand that the Book of Genesis itself, the Book was written, it was originally written when God’s people were facing some specific challenges to living faithfully. The Book of Genesis was written at a time when some of God’s people were facing some very specific challenges to living faithfully. Okay, what were those challenges? And what was the situation? Well, you may know some of the story. The Book of Genesis was written by a man named Moses. Moses was the man that maybe you’ve heard that name, he led the Israelites, the Israelites were the people of God, and they had been enslaved in Egypt for several hundred years. And then God raised up Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt, and he led them to the edge of a place called The Promised Land.

Now, the Promised Land was called the Promised Land because God had given it to the ultimate ancestor of the Jewish people, a man named Abraham. He’d given it to him. He promised him, He said, “This is gonna be the land for you and your descendants.” So it was a promise to them, okay. And so Moses led the Israelites, the people God out of Egypt, he led them to the edge of the Promised Land, and on the edge of the Promised land, they looked in and they went, “Okay, we have a problem. It’s not empty, there are some people living there.” And so here’s what happened. Basically, Genesis was written when a group of God’s people were struggling to take possession of God’s promises. Are you with me?

It’s a group of God’s people, the Israelites, they were struggling to take possession of God’s promises. And see this is the way that it usually works, God promises, and God is faithful to his promises. But we are called to step forward into those promises to take possession and then we have to move forward in faith. And the Israelites were saying they’re going, “I don’t know that that’s a good idea. There’s people living there.” And basically, the people presented two different challenges. The first challenge had to do with the women living there, because apparently, they were good-looking women. But they didn’t love God. They worship other gods. So I mean, you think about this, basically, they looked good, but they did not love God. And God’s design has always been that people who love God would marry other people who love God, so that the two of them together could raise kids who would hopefully come to love God, that was always God’s design. That was God’s ideal. And God knew that his people were looking at these women, and they were desiring those women. And God knew that if they put their desires for those women above God’s design, it would lead to disaster, which is a pretty good principle in general actually.

Whenever we put our desires over God’s design, it leads to disaster. Here’s how God described the situation, the potential damage. He said, “And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to other gods, to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same. They’ll lead you away from me.” And so that was the first challenge. They looked at the women and they had the challenge, “Are we gonna put our desires over God’s designs? Or are we gonna put God’s designs over our desires?” That was the first challenge they were facing.

The second challenge has to do with the men. They looked into the land, and they saw some men. And particularly, they saw a group of men who were really big, like, really, really big, humans of unusual size. Any Princess Bride fans out there? Yeah.

So big, in fact, that they called them giants. In fact, this is how some of their scouts describe the situation related to this tribe of men. They said, “We saw the Nephilim…which is probably a Hebrew word meaning giants, we saw the Nephilim there, the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim. And we seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” So they were these huge, strong men. Now, I know that you hear that word giants, right? And immediately people go, “Really, you’re gonna call this history?” Because the word giant immediately makes you think, it’s myth. It’s some kind of weird, supernatural science fiction kind of thing. But the reality is that these are just unusually tall men. And interestingly enough, in just about 60 years or so ago, there was a man named Robert Wadlow. We have a picture of him here. This is a scale model picture. This is his actual size. There’s a normal human being standing next to him. I’m a normal-sized human being. In fact, I’m 5′ foot 7′, which makes me average for America. I just think we should be clear about that.

Compared to me that guy’s a giant, right? What do you call people that big? You call them giant. Like ever heard of Andre the Giant? We call people that are that much larger than other people, we call them giants. It’s not a supernatural term. There’s nothing really strange about these men. The point is they were just really big and really strong. And the problem for the Israelites was they saw these men, and they went, “I’m not sure we can beat those. Like, I know God’s powerful and all but have you seen the size of these guys? They’re like, really, really big.” And so the danger became that they could focus on human strength, exceptional human strength, but still human strength, and they could forget about God’s power. And those are the two temptations that were facing the Israelites as they stood on the edge of the Promised Land. And it was in that moment that God gave them the Book of Genesis. And what we see here in Genesis 6, at the beginning of the flood account is essentially that God said, “Hey, there was a time in the history of my people, when some of my people faced exactly the same two challenges.”

And if we understand that, I think, what we find in Genesis 6 makes perfect sense. Genesis chapter 6, verse 1 says this. “Now, when human beings began to increase in number on the earth, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans or the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.” You might wanna underline that phrase, we’ll come back to it in a minute. They married any of them they chose. And then the Lord said, “My spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal, and their days will be 120 years.”

Now, bottom line is that something’s happening and God’s not happy about it. Something’s happening and he’s not happy. And we know he’s not happy because he’s pronouncing judgment, right. He says, “My spirit will not contend with humans forever.” The word contend to means to wrestle with, it’s a striving for control. Now, interestingly enough, ever since Adam and Eve sinned, that has been what’s been happening, ever since Adam and Eve looked at God and said, “Hey, we appreciate life and everything, but I think we’re gonna take it from here. I think we’ll call the shots from here on out.” They were beginning to contend with God for control. It became a question of whose designs and whose desires went out, right? And then they were basically going, “I think my desires are more important than your designs, God.” And so they were wrestling with God for control. That’s been true all along. And now God says, “Yeah, I’m done with that. That’s enough of that. We’re hitting the reset button.” He says, “120 years from now, we’re gonna do a hard reset.”

Now, okay, why 120 years? Some people say, “Well, I think that’s God saying he was going to limit human lifespan to 120 years, people wouldn’t live longer than 120 years.” The problem with that, I think, is that throughout the Book of Genesis after this, there are a bunch of people who live longer than 120 years. So I don’t think that’s great interpretation. Another really common one is people go, “Well, I think that’s how long it took for Noah to build the boat.” Possible. But I think actually, both of those miss the more likely interpretation, which is that God is giving them a grace period, God is giving the human race a grace period in his announced judgment, and then giving them a grace period hoping that they’ll turn it around, that they’ll come back to him. Because this is something that God does consistently, we see this over and over and over again in the Scripture.

In fact, some of you may…you may know the story of Jonah. Jonah was a Hebrew Prophet, he was sent to the city of Nineveh. Because of the great wickedness there, God pronounced a judgment on that city. And Jonah went and he announced to the city in 40 days God is gonna destroy the city. 40 days, why tell them 40 days, why don’t you just do it? Because he was giving them a chance to repent. Now, in that case, the City of Nineveh repented, and God relented, he took away the judgment, which I think is the same thing that’s happening here. Now you go, “But this is 120 years, why so long?” I think it’s because it’s such a big judgment. All of humanity’s being judged so there’s a really big grace period.

And I think this is so important to recognize, because the thing is that sometimes we read some of these stories in the Old Testament, and maybe we read the story of Noah and his Ark, and we go, “Boy, God just seems like he’s full of wrath, and anger, and judgment, and condemnation.” And then you read the New Testament and he seems all gracious and loving. Where’s the grace of God in the Old Testament? Right here. Big judgment, with a big grace period. God is longing for people to turn around, but he’s longing for people to return to him. Okay? There’s all kinds of grace happening here. But interestingly enough, the big question, I think, in this section is not what’s the significance of the 120 years? The big question is why now? Why at this moment in history does God go, “Yeah, I’m done. I’m done fighting with humans on this.” Because they’ve been doing it for hundreds of thousands of years at this point. They’ve been contending with him. Why now is he suddenly going, “Yeah, something just changed.” What was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak? And I think the key is verse 2, you wanna back up with me there again? Verse 2, what does it say? It says, “The sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.” And I encourage you to underline that verse, if you haven’t already, do it now. Any of them they chose is the key phrase there.

The point is, they were taking any woman they wanted. Now remember when this was being written, God’s people are on the edge of the Promised Land. They’re looking at a bunch of women and the temptation was to choose any of them they wanted without regard to the gods that they worshipped. I think the same thing is happening here. They’re choosing any woman they want, without any regard to the gods they worship. They’re putting their desires for these women over God’s designs. Which, by the way, explains another part of the verse that people have been confused by over the years, it explains what the sons of God are.

So people see this phrase, it says, “The sons of God, went to the daughters of men.” Like well, who are the sons of God? And there have been some different interpretations over the years, one of the most common ones in the Christian churches actually is that they were angels. Sons of God were angels, so they went in, and they married human women. And I’m gonna say that it’s possible. And the biggest argument in favor of it is that in the Book of Job in the Bible, the phrase sons of God does refer to angels. But Moses didn’t write Job. And as Moses is using the phrase here, I don’t think it means angels. Interestingly enough, later on, in Moses’ writings, he uses the phrase, “Not sons of God, but Son of God. “And he says, “The nation of Israel, and he calls them the Son of God.” Now that’s interesting. So it’s a phrase being used to refer to people who followed God, God’s people. I don’t think it’s likely that it’s angels, here’s the part of the problem with the angels’ interpretation. One of them is that angels don’t have physical bodies. Angels are…by nature they’re spirits, they’re non-physical creatures. Yes, they can manifest physically for a while, we see that happen in the Bible, but they don’t become human in that moment. They don’t become permanently physical. And whatever’s happening here it’s clearly a group of people getting into permanent physical relationships.

Secondly, Jesus himself taught that angels don’t marry. This seems to go against that. And third, and maybe most importantly, whatever is happening here, clearly, God’s not happy about it and he pronounces judgment, but who gets judged? Humans get judged. If angels are the ones doing this, then why are humans bearing the brunt of the judgment? It just doesn’t make sense. I think it’s much more likely that these are human beings. Okay, so who are these sons of God? I think the best way to think of it is the sons of God, were the faithful remnant of God’s people. They were the faithful remnant of people who claimed to follow God. Are you with me? For the last several hundred and thousand years, most of humanity has gone away from God. They’re putting their desires over God’s designs, they’re contending with God for control. They don’t really want anything to do with God. But there was a small group of people who stayed faithful. There was a small group of people, a remnant, who continued to try to honor God with their lives, continued to try to follow God. That’s the sons of God.

And so it’s kind of a stylized going, okay, the sons of God, God’s people were now they were choosing women from the rest of humanity, the daughters of men, any woman they want without regard to who they were worshiping. In other words, they’re not all that worried about the impact that’s gonna have on their faithfulness, right. So here was the key problem. Here’s half at least of why it is that now God pronounces judgment. It’s because even the faithful remnant were putting their desires over God’s designs. That’s what had changed.

Now, even the last group, the faithful few who claimed to follow God, even they are putting their desires over God’s designs. That’s half the reason. The other half of the reason is this, verse 4, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days. Say that word again, the Nephilim were on the earth in those and also afterward.” By the way, why I say that? Because he’s right into the group of people who are facing Nephilim themselves. He goes, “Hey, back then there was another group of Nephilim when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. And here’s partly where I think people get confused and why you have some kind of strange interpretations. Because on the surface, it kind of sounds like the Nephilim were the result of the sons of God going to the daughters of men, right? Kind of sounds like the sons of God went into the daughters of men, and they had the Nephilim. And the Nephilim, the word sounds mysterious. Because it’s still in Hebrew, we didn’t translate it. o like, “Oh, these seem like supernatural creatures.”

So yeah, the sons of God must have been angels. Or if they are not angels… By the way, the other interpretation I hear a lot these days is that they were aliens. It’s actually very common. Does anybody watch the History Channel? Like my favorite show on the History Channel is “Ancient Aliens.” I love that it’s better than anything Comedy Central has ever put out. And “Ancient Aliens,” loves this passage. They love the Nephilim. They’re like, “Oh, these are supernatural hybrids between aliens and human beings or between angels and human beings.” Because it sounds on the surface like yeah, the sons of God went into the daughters of men and they had these Nephilim kids. But actually, it’s interesting. If you look at it carefully, it doesn’t say that. It doesn’t say the Nephilim were the offspring. It says they were there at the same time. And what God is saying is, “Hey, you’re facing two challenges.”

As you think about going in and taking possession of all God’s promises, you got two challenges, choosing any one you want without regard to the God that they worship. And these really strong human beings that are inspiring fear. Well hey, there was a time when my people were facing exactly the same thing. There were Nephilim in those days too when my people were doing this thing.

And Nephilim as I said before, it probably means giant. But the reason that we don’t translate it, the reason we literally transliterate it, we keep the same Hebrew sound, but we put it in English letters. The reason we do this because we’re not 100% sure how to translate it. Most of us think it probably means giant. But it’s interesting that the Hebrew root word there literally means, “To fall.” And so a very, very literal translation of Nephilim would be the fallen ones. Which is exactly why people go, “Oh, yeah. angels fell, demons then married women. So they are the fallen ones.” Wait, wait a minute, no. The fallen ones then would be the angels who did that, not their kids. Why call these giant people, why call them the fallen ones? Here’s what I think is happening. God is being ironic. God is naming these really big, strong people that everyone’s afraid of. He’s naming them ironically; he’s naming them sarcastically almost. And what does he call them? He calls them the fallen ones. To tell you what happens to them. In other words, God called them the fallen ones because in spite of their great strength, they fell before God’s power. Does that make sense, church?

God calls them the fallen ones to remind them that in spite of like, they were incredibly strong and powerful and scary, they fell before God’s power back then. And so he tells the Israelites who you’re facing them, “Hey, they’re gonna fall before my power now.” Because here’s the truth, we need to understand this. And it’s amazing how easily we forget it. All human strength falls before God’s power. All human strength falls before God’s power, no matter what it is, of the earth, of the world, of the human race, that we’re tempted to go, “I’m gonna, put my trust there because I think that thing right there, it’s strong enough to sustain me and get me through my problems in life.” All of those things fall before God’s power, and they’re not worthy of our trust. And so God tells the group of people who are afraid of these large men, “Hey, there’s a time when my people were facing very, very similar challenges, including these big, strong men, these sort of paragons of human power.” And the question is, how did they respond to them back then? How did God’s people, the sons of God respond to them back then? Here’s what it says. “They were the heroes of old. They were men of renown, men of fame.”

In other words, they made heroes out of them. They idolized them, they glorified them, which is to say they glorified and idolized their strength. That’s what God’s people did back then. And so basically, why the judgment now? Because even the faithful remnants were focusing on human strength and forgetting about God’s power. That’s the two sides of it. Why after hundreds of thousands of years of people strive with God does God suddenly go, “Yeah, it’s over. We’re gonna do a hard reset.” Because two things that happened. Number one, even God’s people were putting their desires over God’s designs. And number two, even God’s people were focusing on human power and forgetting about God’s power. And so God says, “There’s none of my people left. I have no faithful few anymore, we have to start over.” And the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth. And that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. And if that doesn’t sound like overkill, you didn’t listen to it. All right, I mean, that’s like really over the top, right? I mean, basically, everything humans are doing and thinking is only bad all the time. How could it get to that point, because the faithful few are gone, the faithful remnant has ceased to be faithful, even the faithful few had ceased to be faithful.

There were no more faithful, there were no more followers. And so they were all off into this very dark place that comes when we live life apart from God, far from him. He says, “Even my faithful few cease to be faithful.” And that’s when he said, “Okay, we got to hit reset. And the Lord regretted that he had made humans on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” And be careful. A lot of people struggle with that verse. Because if you read it at face value, it really kind of sounds like God made a mistake, right? And it even suggests to some people that maybe God didn’t know it was gonna turn out like this. It’s almost as though God is like, “Well, we’ve got to create human beings, and I have really high hopes.” And like, “Whoa, that did not turn out the way I thought it was gonna turn out.”

People feel like that might be the case. But that’s not what’s going on. Well, what’s happening here is that God’s using human language to try to convey the depth of his emotion at the state of humanity. Because God loves us, God wants to be in a relationship with us. God wants the best for us. And that’s not where they were. They were far from him and they were experiencing the consequences of that. And he’s deeply, deeply emotionally moved by that. And he’s trying to convey that. We do the same thing. We use similar kind of language. I don’t know if any parents out there have ever said, “I am losing my mind out of worry for my kids.” A lot of us have said that at one point or another.

We’re not saying, “Lock me up.” We’re not even saying, “I need medication.” We’re not saying, “I’ve gotten clinically insane.” We’re just trying to communicate the depth of our feelings of frustration at that moment. And that’s what’s going on. He’s using human language to convey the depth of his emotion at where humanity has gone, where his beloved, beloved, children have gone. And so the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race that I’ve created, and with them, the animals and the birds and the creatures that move along the ground.” And that might seem kind of rough for them. But the reality is, we were created to be caretakers of the earth, we’re stewards of the earth. And when the stewards have gone corrupt, we corrupt the things that we’re in charge of.

He says, “For I regret that I have made them.” Again, it’s the depth of his emotion at this point. But here’s what I think we need to make sure we don’t miss and it’s the thing I think so easily gets missed in this story. Again, this is the setup to Noah’s Ark. And the thing we need to notice here is not as much the fact that God judged at this moment, we sort of get that. But why hadn’t he judged up until this moment? In spite of humans contending with God for hundreds of thousands of years, why in this moment has he done it? And the answer is because even the faithful remnant had now ceased to be faithful.

And that tells me something really important that I think we need to understand, which is the faithfulness of a few may hold back the flood of God’s judgment, right, you see that? It held it back maybe for centuries before this. The faithfulness of a few, the faithful few, their faithfulness had held back the flood of God’s judgment, as long as they were there living faithfully as best as they were able, God went, “Okay, we’re gonna keep pouring out grace.” And by the way, that’s not just true here. It’s a consistent pattern that we see throughout the Bible. It’s a consistent pattern of God’s character.

A little bit later on in the Book of Genesis, and again, because that’s where the Israelites are, they needed to hear this. God told their ancestor, a man named Abraham, he said, “Hey, there’s these two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, they’re totally wicked, and I’m gonna bring judgment upon them.” And Abraham said, Well, hang on a second. What if you could find 50 righteous people living there, would you hold back the judgment?” And God said, “Okay, yeah, find me 50 righteous people I’ll hold back judgment.” And Abraham said, “Interesting. How about for 40? Would you hold it back for 40?” And God said, “I will hold it back for 40.” “Cool. How about 30? Would you hold back judgment if I could find 30 righteous people?” I will.” “Can I get 20? What if we could find 20 righteous people? Would you hold back judgment?” And God said, “I will.” He said, “Okay. How about 10?” Abraham was the ultimate negotiator, right? He said, “How about 10? Can I get 10? If we could find 10 righteous people, would you hold back judgment?” And God answered, “For the sake of 10, I will not destroy it.” Ten people would be enough to hold back the flood of God’s judgment.

Jeremiah 5:1, God said, “Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares, if you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.” This is a pattern. This is the grace of God. The faithfulness of a few may hold back the flood of God’s judgment. In this case here in Genesis 6, it was literal, but it’s something that we see consistently throughout history. The faithfulness of a few may hold back the flood of God’s judgment on the rest. And that’s an important principle because, well, it means that our faithfulness is pretty significant, isn’t it? But let’s talk about it positively. Let us not just talk about how it is that the faithful of a few may hold back the flood of God’s judgment. Let’s talk about the positive side of that. The other side of that coin, which is this, is that God may reward the faithfulness of a few with grace. God may reward the faithfulness of a few with grace that comes upon the groups that they’re part of. God might reward your faithfulness with grace upon your family. He might reward your faithfulness with grace upon your neighborhood, or your company, or your group of friends, or your community, or your country, or the world. God may reward the grace of a few, or the faith of a few with grace for all. Which means, please don’t miss this. I think this is really the bottom line of this setup to Noah’s Ark. It means that our faithfulness matters more than we think. You hear me, church?

Your faithfulness matters more than you think. We’re always tempted to think that our faithfulness matters mostly for us in our personal relationship with God. And certainly, that’s true. But our faithfulness is not just about us and our relationship with God, it’s also about other people around us. The faithfulness of a few may hold back the flood of God’s judgment, but the faithfulness of a few may also bring blessing. And it works out in a couple of ways. One of them is, as we’ve said, it may hold back the flood of God’s judgment on a group that’s not following him and give them time to repent. But also, it gives us the ability to show them what following God actually looks like. Our faithfulness models an alternative way of living. We can’t expect anybody to repent if they haven’t seen the other way of doing life. We can’t expect people who don’t know Jesus to live like followers of Jesus, especially if they haven’t seen how the followers of Jesus live differently than them. Our faithfulness gives them an alternative. It shows them a different way to do life. It shows them God’s way to do life. And they begin, hopefully, to see how it is that that way is actually better. And they begin to go, “What do you know that I don’t know?” That’s powerful.

So here’s the thing, here’s the question we need to ask as we begin this series. Where might my faithfulness matter more than I’ve realize? Where might your faithfulness matter more than you’ve realized? Where might your faithfulness be important, not just for you and God, but for those around you? Maybe it’s your family, maybe it’s your community? Maybe it’s a group of friends, maybe it’s your company? Maybe it’s our nation? But where might your faithfulness matter more to those around you than you’ve realized? And then the question becomes, “Okay, well, but how do I live faithfully? What does it look like to live faithfully in a way that holds maybe back the flood of God’s judgment, but also maybe invites his blessing? How do I do that? What does it look like to be faithful?”

Well, I think this passage we just looked at provides two really important principles of faithfulness, doesn’t it? Two very important questions to ask ourselves. The first one is just this. Where in my life am I putting my desires over God’s designs? Where in my life am I putting my desires over God’s designs? Because the reality is, we all are, okay. I promise you there are places in my life where I absolutely am putting my desires over God’s designs. But this is what it means to become like Jesus. It’s a gradual process, we say yes to following him, the Holy Spirit begins to work in us. And as that happens, we go through something called discipleship. And discipleship really is just constantly taking the next step of obedience, is taking the next step of surrendering those parts of our lives that we’ve held on to and giving them over to him and beginning to live them according to his design.

We all have those places. Maybe it’s a relationship, maybe it’s finances, maybe it’s politics, maybe it’s how we respond to other people in traffic. I’m being really honest with you, that’s my hard one. Like people cut me off in traffic, my first response, my desire, ram them. Now, I want to tell you up to this point, I have always put God’s design over my desire in that situation. But not always in the way I think about them. Not always in the way I talk to other people in the car about them. And that’s just a little example. The reality is we’re at all these places where we’re putting our desires over God’s design. So where is that in your life? Let God show them to you. And then surrender them to him and begin trying to live differently there, surrendering your desires, and living by God’s design. That’s one of the ways we demonstrate faithfulness.

The second way is just this. Where am I in my life, am I focusing on human strength, and forgetting about God’s power? Where in my life am I focused on earthly things, human things, and going, “That’s what I need to put my trust in, or that’s what I can put my trust in, that’ll get me through it.” Maybe it’s finances, maybe it’s a relationship with someone, maybe it’s politics, that there’s so many different areas that we do this. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t be involved in those things. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be active in any of those things. But I’m saying we cannot put our trust in them. But we all tend to do that. They all tend to attract our trust. And so we have to do a trust transfer.

So where in your life are you focusing on human strength, and forgetting about God’s power? Because it’s as we answer those questions that we begin to figure out what it looks like to step forward being faithful in a way that matters so much more than we realize, not just to us, but to the world. Could you pray with me?

God, we thank you for your Word. We thank you for the greatness of your power. And we thank you that we don’t need to put trust in human things. And we ask for your forgiveness for the ways that we have looked at earthly things and we’ve given them our trust. We’ve glorified them, we’ve idolized them. Maybe there are things that we thought we could get in good with and they would just get us where we wanted to go. Or maybe there are things that we were in fear of and we glorified their strength so it kept us from being faithful. We ask for your forgiveness for those places. And we ask that you give us the strength of your Spirit to move forward, trusting you. And we also ask for your forgiveness for those ways that we’ve put our desires over your designs. Holy Spirit, we invite you to root those places out in our lives, show them to us, give us the strength to admit where we’re doing that, and then to begin stepping forward in faith and trusting you and your designs rather than our desires. Lord, we’re grateful for your grace, knowing that even though we have not done this right, we haven’t done it perfectly, you’re a God of grace, you are God of forgiveness. And that everywhere that your Spirit reveals that we have kind of been like those people of God way back then, even though we’ve done that, even though we’ve done what they did, Jesus forgives us. We don’t move forward in guilt or shame; we move forward in hope of what comes when we truly live in faith.

And if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something for me, would you just keep praying, just pray right now. For those that are listening to this message who are not followers of Jesus yet. And if that’s you, I just wanna speak to you for a moment. It may be that today, for the first time, you’ve heard that God is a God of grace, even all the way back into the story that seems like a story of condemnation and judgment, even there God is… he’s pleading for people to return to him because he loves them. Maybe you heard that for the first time. Here’s also what you need to hear. God wants to forgive you. God wants to free you up from the temptation and the burden of trying to live by your own strength. He wants to be in a relationship with you. He wants to put his strength to work in your life. Here’s the proof, here’s how I know that. He loves you so much he sent his own Son Jesus who lived a perfect life. And then Jesus died on the cross voluntarily, in order to pay the price of your sin, to remove the thing that separates you from God. He did that for you because of his love for you because of his grace for you.

And then three days later, the power of God raised Jesus from the dead. That’s another fact of history. He raised Jesus from the dead to prove that he’d accomplished and that he paid off the price. And now Jesus offers his forgiveness for all of our wrong. He offers us adoption into the family of God, we have become the sons and daughters of God. He offers his relationship with God that begins now and goes on forever, eternal life. That’s a gift that he wants to give to you. You just have to decide to accept it. And if you’ve never accepted it, I wanna tell you how to do it right here right now. There’s no reason to wait another moment. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God in your heart, you’re gonna say something like this to God say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’ve been putting my desires over your designs for a long time. And it’s a disaster. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay the price of my sin. I believe that the power of God raised Jesus from the dead three days later. And I understand that Jesus is offering me forgiveness, adoption into the family of God, and eternal life. I’m ready to accept that gift. Jesus, right now I’m putting my faith in you. Jesus, I’m gonna trust you from here on out. I’m saying yes to following you. For now and forever. Amen.”

Can we celebrate those who have made that decision today? It’s fantastic. And hey, listen, if you made that decision for the first time today, would you do this for me, we would love to celebrate with you. You’ve made the most important decision literally of your life, and we would love to celebrate it with you. So would you let us know you made the decision? A couple ways you can do that if you’re watching online, you can click the button right below me that says, “I’ve committed my life to Jesus.” If you don’t see that, you can text the word Jesus, wherever you are, you can just text the word Jesus to 888111. Either way you do it, you’re gonna let us know that you made that decision today. And we’re going to give you some information.

In fact, what we’d love to do is we would love to send you a free book that we’ve just finished it’s called “I Just Said Yes to Jesus Now What: 10 Days to Following Jesus Forever.” We would love to put that book in your hands. We just need to know where to send it. So text Jesus to 888111 you can tell us where to send the book. Or if you are on one of our campuses just stopped by the Welcome Center and tells the folks there, “I said yes to Jesus today.” They would love to put that in your hands even before you go home today. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s the God of love and he’s the God of grace. His grace is not only to hold back judgment for as long as possible in our sin, but also to invite us who follow him into the business of being on mission with him and making a difference in the world around us. Our faith matters to the world and that’s pretty exciting news, isn’t it? Amen?

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ARK

REZA ZADEH | read his bio

APRIL

17/18

Genesis 6:8-22

The story of Noah and the Ark isn’t the fairytale it’s advertised as. Noah acted by faith on something he couldn’t see, requiring repeated acts of faith to move forward because there was so much uncertainty in what God was asking him to do. If we see God for who he is, it helps us to respect his discipline, boundaries and directives.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Reza: Well, welcome. I’m so glad that you’re in this place and it is so great to see your faces. I’m glad that you joined us here. If you’re joining us online, I’m so thrilled that you’re with us here this morning at Mission Hills. Hey, I love the song that the team just led us to, “Way Maker”. It’s a perfect song that kind of propels us into the passage that we’re studying today as we prepared our hearts through worship, through singing, to read and understand and rightly divide the Word of God. And I’ll say this, as we’ve been studying, as we’ve been walking through this series, I have been praying diligently for this weekend. Because the passage of Scripture we’re looking at, although it’s a very familiar passage, it’s the Noah’s Ark story. And if you grew up in church, you know the Noah’s Ark story. If you know of somebody who grew up in church, you know the Noah’s… If you’ve ever driven by a church, like, you know the Noah’s Ark story. It’s pretty familiar. But we’re gonna take a look at some things today as we examine this narrative that we find in Genesis. And my hope and prayer is we’re actually gonna see not just the story differently, but we’ll have a different view of God walking out of this place when we walked in. That’s my hope for this.

We’re in this series taking a look at Noah. And Noah is one of the figures of the Old Testament that people typically look back to because of his faith. The series that we’re in, we’re taking a look at Noah, but we’re looking specifically at his faith. Faith is one of those interesting things, because we’ve heard about it, we’ve talked about it, we’ve read about it, we sing about it, but although faith is…it’s like one of those things where we just can’t fully comprehend. We can’t fully understand this idea of faith and what it represents and what it means for us. It’s almost this confusing thing. But in the Scriptures, people of faith are highlighted. In our culture, we have what we call Hall of Fames for people that are great contributors, whether an athlete, an artist, maybe a teacher, great thinkers. We have these Hall of Fames. Well, God doesn’t honor fame like people honor fame. God honors faith.

There’s this little letter in the New Testament called the Letter to the Hebrews. It was written to a specific group of people affirming that Jesus, in fact, was the Messiah and the Savior that everyone was to look towards. And so this letter written we don’t exactly know who wrote it, some people have speculations, but the reality is, we don’t know. In Hebrews, there’s this chapter, chapter 11, that talks all about faith. And because it was written specifically to a Jewish audience, the writer of Hebrews uses some Old Testament figures to talk about the faith that they had. One of the figures is the person that we’re talking about today, Noah. So, we take a look at this idea that Noah was an instrument that God used to save mankind from wickedness and corruption. That’s the basic story that we understand. It’s easy for us to think when we, you know, take a look at our social media feeds, we browse through our phone or turn on the TV, it seems like politically and economics…it seems like things are just in chaos. Like, people are constantly at each other’s throats. There’s shootings. There’s disagreements. There’s fighting. There’s all these things that it seems like everything is…it’s, like, never been this bad before.

Well, the reality is, if we take a look at Scripture, not only has it ever been this bad before, it’s been worse. In this narrative of Noah’s Ark, it actually tells us the whole earth was filled with wickedness and corruption and Noah was the only one who walked with God. So, God singled Noah out to bring about his redeeming work. Listen to how the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews chapter 11, how he talks about Noah, this Old Testament figure that is an example for New Testament Christians. I’m gonna read from a specific paraphrase of the Bible called The Message. And I love some of the language that is used. Listen and read along with me. Hebrews chapter 11, verse 7 from The Message, paraphrased. “By faith…” That’s important. “By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something that he couldn’t see and acted on what he was told. The result, his family was saved, his act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the righteousness of the believing world. And as a result, Noah became intimate with God.

You see, faith is what propelled Noah to build a ship in the middle of dry land. You see, faith is essential. And so I wanna talk a little bit about this idea of faith, because faith isn’t a formality. Faith isn’t just something that we just kind of add on to our lives and, “What? I’m a Christian. And I’m glad I’m adding on faith.” Faith isn’t a feeling. If you’re anything like me, my feelings go up and down. I can be one way in the morning, and another way in the afternoon, and it’s all dependent upon how many espresso shots I had, you know…or what kind of pizza I had the night before. Faith can’t be our feelings. And faith can’t be a formula because if faith was a formula, then we would be able to explain it and I would say, “Well, this happens and this happens.” And if you can explain it, it’s not faith. You see, Noah wasn’t gonna be able to explain some of the things that God was asking him. We know the basics. There was a flood and Noah was to build the boat and put two kinds of all the animals in the boat. And that’s the story that we know. But let’s take a look at some of the layers and maybe some things we’ve never considered and truly examine the faith that Noah had.

You see, Noah…theologians and historians believe that Noah was probably somewhere in modern-day Iran and Iraq, not the Persian Gulf area, but kind of up in the middle of the desert. I was born in Iran. That’s where I’m from. That’s where my family is from. That’s my roots. I was born in that country. And you know what they don’t have in the desert part, in the dry part of Iran? Guess what they don’t have? Floods. They don’t have floods. And Noah, living in dry land, presumably wasn’t around a whole lot of boats, but yet God said, “I want you to build an ark. I want you to build a boat.” He gives him specific measurements. We’ll talk about that in a bit. And here’s another interesting fact. Genesis chapter 2, just four chapters before this narrative, Genesis chapter 2 tells us that the earth was watered not by rain that came from the sky, but Genesis chapter 2 tells us that water sprung up from the ground in streams and geysers. And so when God says, “Hey, Noah, I’m gonna make the world flood,” it’s almost like Noah was like, “Okay. What’s a flood? Like, I’ve never seen one before.” Or a boat, “Haven’t been around a lot of boats, God, but okay. If you tell me what to do, I’ll do it.” “Oh, yeah. And by the way, I’m gonna make it rain.” “What’s that? I don’t know what rain…water comes from the ground. What do you mean water is gonna come from the sky? It doesn’t make sense.” But yet Noah, in faith, he walked forward.

There’s this description of faith that is used by the writer of Hebrews that faith is a substance of things hoped for. Like there is something that we hope, that we desire. It’s more than a wish. It’s something in us that we just can’t help desire, some sense of things hoped for by the evidence of things that are not seen. Being so sure of something even though you can’t see it. Let me do a little bit of a word game with us. What’s the opposite of good? Bad. What’s the opposite of light? Dark. Let me ask this. What’s the opposite of faith? We get tripped up a little bit, like, “I don’t know. What’s the opposite? Is it doubt? Is doubt the opposite of faith?” I don’t think doubt is the opposite of faith. The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty, because if you are absolutely sure and certain about how something is going to play out, you don’t need any faith. And if we don’t need faith, guess what else we don’t need? We don’t need God, because I am so sure of how things are gonna work out, I am so sure that I’m gonna be competent enough, or I’m so sure that I’m gonna be able to make things happen. I don’t need faith. I don’t need God because I’ve got this whole thing under control. You see, faith and doubt are not opposed to one another, but faith and certainty, absolutely are opposed to one another.

You see, here’s where we get tripped up. We get tripped up because when we sense we’re doing something that God is calling us to do or we’re in a relationship or we’re in a job, a vocation or whatever it is, when we have a feeling, “Hey, God has placed me here,” and then I face difficulty or obstacles. You know what our tendency is or maybe what we’re tempted to do? “Well, I must have been wrong. This isn’t… I’m gonna get out of this.” We view obstacles and difficulty as signposts that mean, “Hey, we’re not supposed to be in that place.” But what if God actually loves difficulty that…to come up and to spring up in our lives even when he’s called us to do something because he wants us to grow this faith muscle in our lives? But when we experience doubt, we give up and go like, “Well, I guess I don’t have enough faith.” Faith and doubt are not opposed to each other. So, if we’re uncertain, maybe we’re exactly where God needs us to be. And this is where Noah found himself. Richard Rohr famously said that faith is patience with mystery. There’s a mystery to how God works in our lives and the things that he asks us to do. The moment we have it all figured out, we don’t have a need for God.

You see, in Noah’s life, faith doesn’t mean that it’s not gonna rain, faith doesn’t mean the storm is not gonna come. As we take a look at the Noah’s Ark narrative, here’s what we’re certain of. It’s going to rain. Storms will be there. Obstacles will show up. We’re not gonna know how to do every aspect of it. People may ridicule us, but on the other side of the storm, my God will prevail because his promises always endure. You see, that’s where we find ourselves. And so we’re gonna take a look at the Noah’s Ark narrative from a completely different perspective because it took a lot of faith because we’re gonna see God is about to do something that is actually quite troubling.

Genesis chapter 6. If you have a Bible with you, would you turn to Genesis chapter 6? If you’re at home, turn to Genesis 6. If you got a device on you, open up our app, go to the Bible, something, go to Genesis chapter 6. We’re gonna start in verse 8 and follow along and meet me here as we walk through this. It starts off, Noah… Genesis chapter 6, verse 8. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” He didn’t earn favor, he found favor in the eyes of the Lord. What was he doing that caused him to find favor in the eyes of the Lord? Verse 9, this is the account of Noah’s family. “Noah was a righteous man.” He aimed to please God. Righteousness. He aimed to please God. Noah was blameless among the people of his time. Look here. Noah wasn’t perfect. We’re gonna read here next week and the next couple of weeks. We’re gonna read the rest of the story. Noah had some incredible deficiencies when it came to his character. But the Scripture tells us that he found favor in God’s eyes because he was blameless among the people, that he was clean with people. Whenever he wronged somebody or something came up, he didn’t avoid it. He made things right. He cleaned things up when he needed to. So, Noah was a righteous man, he aimed to please God, he was blameless, and he walks with God, walks faithfully with God, with spiritual integrity.

Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And so we take a look at this picture of Noah that he was a man, the exact kind of person that God would honor. Noah, in his day and age, actually was kind of one of the weird ones. He was one of the ones that didn’t allow…he didn’t cooperate with the things that the world wanted him to cooperate with. You see, the world, his group, his team, his people, his family, his vocation, people were acting a certain way, and he said, “Actually, I’m not gonna cooperate with that.” You see, Noah is not the kind of person that the world would honor, but Noah is the exact kind of person that God honors. But here’s the reality. Before we talk about the Noah’s Ark narrative, like, we’ve gotta get…we’ve gotta talk about this. We’ve got three kids. I’ve got two daughters and a boy. When our boy, our middle, our son, Owen, when he was born, we didn’t know the gender of the baby, so everything in the room was green and yellow because that’s what you do when you don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl. So, everything is green and yellow and we found this Noah’s Ark mobile that kind of goes above his crib. Like many of you. I mean, that’s what you…they’re kind of cute, good music, they got different animals in a boat in the middle and all of that. And then we got this really nice, you know, painting or picture from Hobby Lobby to go over the crib. We had a Noah’s Ark room. And that picture is like…I don’t know why every picture of Noah’s Ark has a giraffe’s head sticking out the window. But the giraffe’s head sticking out, there’s a rainbow, calm waters, everything is nice, clean, and cute.

And we know the story that God flooded the world and we understand this, but, guys, can we just like get real and talk about the elephant in the room, or the two elephants in the ark, I guess? Here’s the elephant in the room. God wiped away the entire population of the world because of sin and corruption. And I’ll even say like, that’s the Disney-plus version, like, that’s the clean version. The HBO version is actually quite darker, that God literally drowned every man, woman, and child on the earth because of sin and wickedness. That’s troubling to me. I’ve never seen… If there was…to be honest, if there was an accurate picture at Hobby Lobby or Target or Pinterest or Wayfair, or wherever you shop, if there’s an accurate picture of Noah’s Ark, it would be this ark in the middle of these waves that are crashing left and right with the storm and all this stuff happening, and bodies of people that are floating around and people trying to climb…that’s the accurate picture and that’s incredibly troubling to me, like, that God would extend judgment on every human being that there would literally be like men, women, and children drowned? I don’t know about you, but I don’t like that. I’ll be honest, like, I didn’t wanna preach this. When I saw the passage that Craig had assigned, I was like, “I’m going to Kids church because I wanna talk about the giraffe’s head sticking out the window and the rainbow and all that.”

But here’s something we’ve gotta think about. How could a loving God do this? It seems inconceivable. Why would God allow this to happen? And that’s what we’re gonna talk about today. Why would a loving creator do this and punish people because of their sin? And the way that we answer this question will reveal our understanding about God. Verse 11 and 12, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become for all the people on the earth had corrupted their ways.” And so as we find ourselves here in this place, there’s some important things that we’ve gotta talk about. God flooding the world did not… He wasn’t excited about doing this. And if you listen to last week’s message, Pastor Craig launched us in this series, and he talked a little bit about the way that Genesis was written. There was a poetic nature to it, that in the Scripture, we read at the beginning of chapter 6 that it says that God regretted making humanity. That he was even sorry that he had created us, but yet that is some language that is used. It simply talks about the grief that God had in his heart towards the sins that people had committed. God’s heart was broken.

And so, today, as we dive into this ark narrative, we’re gonna expose some things about this is God’s character. We’re gonna expose things about him, his truths, his standards, and the effects of our sin. And my hope is that we’re gonna learn to respond differently, not respond differently to the Noah’s Ark narrative. That’s just a tool that God has given us to use to see a little bit more of who he is. But my hope is we would actually see ourselves and our sin and we’d see God differently in the way that God is grieved by sin and yet made a way for us. So, here’s the first thought for us. The first thought we’ve gotta understand, as we view the Noah’s Ark narrative and people drowning is that how we view sin absolutely matters. It’s important how we view sin.

Romans chapter 6, verse 23, the Apostle Paul writes and he talks about sin, he says, “For the wages of sin is death.” Now, that doesn’t mean that as soon as you sin, you die, because if that was true, there would be a lot less sinning happening in this world, like, “Oh, that guy did that? I’m never doing that.” But the death that is talked about, the wages of sin, the payment that we receive for the work that we do, that’s the payment, right? That’s what you…a payment is you receive wages, you receive things, you receive payment for the work that you do, the wage. What we receive for the sin we engage in is death, not a physical death, a spiritual one. And here’s what it looks like. God himself is absolutely 100% pure and holy. God is a holy God, and yet, when we sin, we find ourselves unholy. It don’t matter if it’s a tiny, little sin or a giant, great, big sin. Sin is sin. And when we engage in any type of sin, guess what? We are no longer pure. We’re no longer holy. And because God is holy and we are not, God cannot be in relationship with anything that is unholy because in his character, it would violate his holiness. And so it’s not that we’re separated from God because God is angry and he kicks us out, it’s because we’ve eliminated ourselves from being in a relationship with him because he is holy.

How we view sin absolutely matters. And for these people, it wasn’t a matter of them simply missing the mark or falling short of God’s glory or misunderstanding God’s will. It says the entire earth was in outright rebellion against their Creator. And this is where we find the answer to the question, “Well, how could God flood the earth?” Guys, it reveals so much about us and our understanding of God. You see, if we read and study and consider this, we walk out of here thinking that, “Well, God just wronged humanity,” it’s because we’ve minimized humanity’s sin. And when we minimize our sin, you know what else we minimize? God’s holiness because our view of sin and our view of God’s holiness are connected. The way that we view our sin is gonna impact the way we view God and his holiness. If we view God as holy and great and magnificent and he can’t be in the presence of anything that is unholy, then we’re gonna think a little bit differently about our sins. See, if we read the words that the world was wicked, evil, or corrupt and we substitute it with, “They just made a few mistakes. God’s got these impossible standards. Like, of course, they didn’t live up to them. It’s only a little sin. It’s not that big of a deal.” If we read that, then, again, we have totally missed the holiness of who God is.

You know as I prepared this week, I was thinking of, like, how to craft this. How do we talk about this well? And I believe, emphatically, that we’ve gotta understand that a low view of sin is birthed from a low view of God. So, my hope today is to just lift our eyes just a little bit higher to view God for who he really is, not the God that we’ve created him to be, but for a God of who he truly is. It’s a powerful passage that I think maybe some of us may have heard. You may have heard this passage. Maybe it’s gonna be brand new to us. But as I think of the Noah’s Ark narrative, I can’t help but think of the words of the Lord. God specifically said in Isaiah 55, the Prophet Isaiah, he captured the words of God. That was his job. He was to proclaim the words of God as God communicated to him to all the people. Isaiah 55 tells us very clearly in verse 8, God said…this is the word of the Lord. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,” declares the Lord, “as the heavens are higher than the earth, are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Of course, you and I are gonna take a look at the narrative of Noah’s Ark and God drowning people and think, “That’s not the way that I would do it, but his thoughts are higher than our thoughts.”

Friends, we live in a day and an age that we believe our thoughts are so important that we freely post our thoughts for everyone to see. We think our thoughts are so important that we think sometimes we even think our thoughts are greater than God’s thoughts. But we post our thoughts and want everyone to know our thoughts, and yet the freedom that we have to post our thoughts, other people have the freedom to then oppose our thoughts and let us know how much they oppose our thoughts. And they will not only discredit our thoughts and give us all the reasons why they discredit our thoughts, we’ve now gotten to the point where it’s not just that I disagree with your thoughts and I’m gonna discredit your thoughts, it’s that I’m gonna disregard you. And so here’s what we’ve done. Because we value our thoughts so much, we have actually started to devalue people because their thoughts are different than our thoughts.

And I think the danger and the slippery slope that we find ourselves in, we’ve done this with God. And we say things like, “Well, that’s not how I would respond to sin. That’s not loving. I would never judge somebody. I would never do that.” And if I would never… If my thoughts are, “I would never do that,” then that must be God’s thoughts as well. And you see the subtleness and the danger of us now creating God into our image and what we think and what our thoughts are, instead of realizing we’re actually created in his image. He’s not created in our image. We can’t create him in our image and say, “Well, this is how God should.” Why? Isaiah 55, “For His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are higher than our ways.” Yes, it’s incredibly troubling. If you’re a Christian, if you’re a believer, this is an incredibly troubling passage. If you’re not a Christian, and you read this passage, I don’t blame you for not wanting to follow Jesus, but I do wanna tell you that there are some realities that this passage will uncover that I wanna walk us into that I hope that we will all understand whether we’re a Christian or not a Christian that lead us to understand that God is a loving God and, actually, what he did was kind and he was actually leading us in a very specific way.

See, the idea that we want a God that doesn’t punish, I wonder where we got that from. And we think it’s unloving for God to punish. Well, if you have kids, have raised kids, have been around kids, have a niece, a nephew, babysat a kid, like, you know that sometimes punishment and discipline is needed, not because you don’t love that child, actually, because you really do love that child. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews then says in chapter 12 about this. He says, “Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as his children.” Listen to this. “For what children are not disciplined?” If you’re not disciplined, and everyone undergoes discipline, then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we’ve all had human parents who disciplined us and we respected them. How much more should we submit to the Father of the Spirits and live? They disciplined us for a little while. They thought best, but God disciplines us for our good in order that we might share in his holiness.

The idea that we want a God that doesn’t have standards and no punishment for wickedness, I would actually say that’s not a loving God. Love isn’t do whatever you want. Love actually creates these boundaries. You see, we elect earthly judges and we elect judges to preside in courtrooms. And the reason we do that is because we wanna make sure the people that we put in our courtrooms, in our counties, and in our cities, and in our town, we wanna make sure that when someone does something wrong, if they’re innocent, we want the judge to rightly discern the law and to let the innocent go free, but if they’re guilty, we want them to face the punishment. We want justice, right? Our hearts cry out for it. When something unjust happens, when someone loses their life innocently, someone is shot, there’s something in us that cries out because we are creating the image of a God who is a God of justice. Justice means that things are…there is a right and there is a wrong. And if we want our earthly judges to be able to discern right and wrong and set free who needs to be set free and punish who needs to be punished, if we want that for our earthly courtrooms, why would we not want that from our Heavenly Father to help us discern what is right, what is wrong? See, I think the reason, if there was a podcast or a Netflix show on the wrath of God, that we probably won’t stop and watch or listen to is because it’s not popular to think about this, but we can’t ignore it.

God flooded the earth and people died because of disobedience. And what I wanna lead us into is actually to show us God did it because he loves us that much. About seven or eight years ago, my family and I, like I said, three kids, my wife and I, we bought this little property. It’s about an acre and a half in Northern Colorado. We had this tiny, little farmhouse, but we didn’t care about the house because we wanted the land. We wanted an acre and a half with the big trees and had a zip line. And it was awesome. But the trouble was, it didn’t have a fence. And we were on two roads, we were on the corner of, like, two roads. There were huge roads, just neighborhood roads, but still there was roads. Our kids were like…I think they were like six, four, and two at the time. We had two dogs. We had a two-year-old boxer and a one-year-old lab. No fence, acre and a half. Anytime we went outside in the backyard, it was an anxiety attack just because there was, like, no boundaries. And so my wife and I, we saved up money. We saved up a lot of money. We bought a fence. We built a fence up. I don’t know if you know this, fences are expensive. If you’re a fence builder, I hope you’re tithing because… I’m just kidding. I’m totally kidding. Totally kidding. I’m totally kidding. I should not have said that. Don’t tell Craig I said that.

So, we built this fence. Guys, we didn’t build the fence because we were mad at our kids. Like, we didn’t build a fence because we were angry and wanted to control our kids. Why do we build a fence? Because we wanna protect them. Not only do we wanna protect them, the boundary that we created was not just to protect them, but it was actually to give them all the freedom they wanted to do. There’d be times where my wife and I would shove our kids in the backyard and lock the door. Go out, enjoy the yard, like, do everything that you want. Enjoy every square inch. We’re just asking you to stay within this boundary that was created. Guys, the boundaries that God creates for us are not to control us or to punish us. They’re actually given to give us freedom. And yet when we step outside of those boundaries, there are consequences. Some people might say, “Well, man, that’s just the Old Testament God. That’s the angry Old Testament grumpy God. It’s all over the Old Testament. That’s just how God was. But the New Testament God, like, man, he had a baby. He had a son. Everything is nice. He settled down. He’s not as angry anymore. It’s like fluffy sheep and everything is loving each other.”

But have you read the words of Jesus? Have you read what he says? He talks about judgment and hell. Jesus is the only one that talks about this chasm that is between, you know, those that are of God and those that have disobeyed. And there’s a… You can’t go between the two. He even tells a story of a rich man who was begging to say, “Hey, go tell my family so they don’t find themselves in the agony that I am in.” And actually, he was also begging for just a dip of water to relieve himself because of the agony he was experiencing. We can’t say that this is the Old Testament angry God and the New Testament God. It’s the same God. God is God. So, we need to take a look at this and consider as we read through the Noah’s Ark narrative, what was God saying? What was God showing? In verse 13 it continues. “So, God said to Noah, “I’m gonna put an end to all the people for the earth is filled with violence because of them and I’m surely gonna destroy both of them and the earth.” You see, if a low view of sin leads to a low view of God, then a high view of God, a high view of a holy God who created us so that we would flourish leads to a high view of sin.

And friends, I’m not sharing this message… Like I told you, I don’t wanna even talk about this this week. But I’m not sharing this message just to heap condemnation on us, but I do wanna remind us of the holiness of who our God is. That God is great and magnificent and holy and loving, and he’s a perfect Creator and he deserves nothing but our complete love and loyalty and obedience. So, if we read that the wickedness of the world and the evil and if we read the corrupt…if we read them for what they are, we don’t ask questions like, “How could God do that?” If we read the wickedness for what it is and we see God for who he is, we ask different questions like, “How could they do that? Why would they… That’s not right. You shouldn’t treat God that way.” Why did God even save one family if that’s how the whole world was?

Yes, this is a troubling passage and I’ve wrestled with it and I hope you’ll wrestle with it, as well, but there is a mystery to faith that you and I won’t fully grasp. But here is what I’m gonna propose. I just wanna propose this as we start to end, that God enacting judgment on the sin of the world, on the corruptness and the evil as a display for us to be reading right now, that I believe God doing this actually benefited humanity. And just go with me here. The world was not only in chaos, it’s worse than… It literally was… It has never been that bad before. And yet it was spiraling and spiraling and spiraling to the point there was one man, one family left, one man left that was righteous. If God allowed the evilness and the corruption to continue to spiral and spiral and spiral, even the most righteous of God’s people would be infected with the disease of wickedness. So, God in his kindness puts a stop to the wickedness so that we, once again, as a people could flourish. The people rebelled and offended God’s holiness and yet God made a way. And I believe this is the point of the Noah’s Ark narrative, that he is a way maker. He is the one that makes a way.

God gives Noah some specific instructions in verse 14. “So make for yourself an ark of cypress wood, make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.” I want you to remember that word, pitch. We’ll talk about that in a second. “This is how you’re to build it. The ark is to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, 30 cubits high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof and opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower middle and upper decks.” And he says, “I’m gonna bring floodwaters to the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has breath and life in it. Everything on the earth will pass away.” You see, God gave Noah specific instructions. All Noah knew was to be obedient in the next step, in the next step.

Psalm 119 tells that, “Your word, Lord, is a lamp unto my feet.” If I’m carrying a lamp, I don’t know what’s 5 miles ahead of me. I don’t even know what’s 1 mile, half…I don’t even know it’s 100 feet in front of me. But when I’m carrying a lamp, I know what’s 5 feet in front of me. And I wonder if that’s the point of faith. I wonder if the point of faith is for us not to be certain about what’s down the road, but the point of faith is knowing this is where I step today, and this is where I step tomorrow, and this is where…despite all the difficulty and all the things we don’t understand because we read a passage like this and we think, “God, I don’t get this.” See, that’s why God is God. We don’t have all the answers, but yet we engage in faith that this is troubling, and I wanna just recognize that. But just because we can’t fully understand or comprehend it, doesn’t mean it’s not accurate.

You see, the ark is a picture of God making a way. God is in the business of making a way. John 3:16, for even in the midst of corruption, even in the midst of wickedness, God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever, whomever, whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been, whatever you see, whatever you look at online, whatever you said, whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Romans 5:8, that while we were yet sinners, in our sin, while we were yet in a corrupt and evil generation, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. You see, here’s where I think Noah’s Ark can lead us into, that the ark of the Old Testament is a type of a cross that we see in the New Testament. You see, the ark represents safe passage for anyone who enters into it. And as Noah and his family entered into the ark, they were protected by the floodwaters of judgment. And as you and I are sheltered in Christ, we too are protected from the floodwaters of judgment.

Remember that verse 14 I told you to think about, to remember, that pitch, that God said, I want you to build the ark this way, a one and a half football fields long, four stories tall, and I want you to coat it with this thing called pitch? Pitch is a…it’s a substance that was used… And the Hebrew word is kopher. It’s a substance that was used on ships. And when that substance dried, the ship would be waterproof. So, when the people were in that ark, when they’re in the waters, the pitch, when it dried, it made the boat, it made it waterproof so the judgment waters wouldn’t impact the people that were inside of the ark. And here’s the beauty of Scripture. That same word, kopher, that is used in the ark to coat the ark to prevent the water from coming in, is the exact same word used in Leviticus 17:11 for the atonement, the atonement that the priests would exercise. Here’s what atonement is, that once a year in God’s law, the priests would go into the temple, he would sacrifice an animal, and that blood that was spilled would be the atoning sacrifice. It was an atonement sacrifice so that the people of God would be protected from his judgment and wrath because of sin for that year. The same word that was used to protect Noah and his family in the ark is the same phrase that is used to protect God’s people. So, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, the blood of Jesus that was spilled is our atoning sacrifice that protects us from the judgment waters of the corrupt and evilness that is in our world.

You see, the ark was a type of a shelter for people, for Noah and his family to enter into. But for us, the blood of Christ seals the believer from the flood of God’s eternal judgment. You see, the story of the flood is God taking merciful action to restrain humanity’s ever-increasing evil. I mean, I propose that it was actually very kind of God to do this. You see, there’s a difference between kindness and niceness. We don’t think this is very… See, I can say, like, some of the most despicable things to somebody and be really nice about it. Niceness just simply means I want you to view me a certain way. Niceness is about me. Kindness actually has somebody else’s good in mind. I can say something really difficult to a friend, family, co-worker, I can say something really hard and be incredibly kind about it. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is confront somebody because of the wrongs that they had done. And we must be reminded in Romans chapter 2, Paul reminds us that it’s the kindness of God. It’s God’s kindness that is intended to lead us to repentance. Yes, it’s troubling that God would flood the earth. Yes, it’s inconceivable that a loving God would do that. But isn’t it so kind that he actually made a way for you and I, in this day, in this age that you and I have the ability to take shelter in the cross and to be protected? In Genesis, in this narrative, the wicked died and the righteous one was spared. The wicked died and the righteous one was spared. But in Jesus, the wicked actually are the ones who are spared and the righteous one is the one who has died. See, Noah, to survive, by taking shelter in the ark, but Jesus, in his life, death, and resurrection, became the shelter, not just for God’s family, but for all who had come to the cross and believe and take shelter.

The story wraps up in Genesis 6:22. And it says, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Noah walked in faith and because of his faith, God’s people continue to flourish. And here we are. We are here because of the faith of this man. Friends, I wanna give us an opportunity as we close in prayer here. I’m gonna give us an opportunity because I know there’s some of us that simply need to step into the shelter that God has offered us in the cross. And I recognize that there are obstacles to our faith, there’s things that we don’t understand, and how did all of this take place? I can’t explain all of it. But here’s what I do know, that God loved us so much that he made a way, that he made a way. And we don’t have to fully understand how planes fly to step into one and go from one side of the country to the other. We don’t have to fully understand all the ins and outs of theology of why God or this or that, to simply say, “I’m gonna step into the cross today and abide in the shelter of the Almighty.” Would you pray with me? Lord, thank you for today and this time. God as we recognize the weight of our sin and yet, Lord, we also recognize the beauty that is found in you, Jesus, our Savior, our Creator, our Lord. So, for those today that would say that I wanna take a step into Jesus, Lord, I pray. Would you just, if it’s you, if you today just simply wanna say, “I am taking shelter for the first time or I’m recommitting to take a shelter in the cross,” just repeat this prayer after me, “God, I thank you for today. I thank you that you have exposed the ways in which I have wronged you. And I wanna live in your shadow. I wanna live with faith. I’ve tried to figure this world out on my own and do anything that I wanted to do. But I wanna live obedient to you. I wanna be a part of your family. Thank you for receiving me today, Lord.” Amen. Amen. If you just prayed that prayer, I invite you to text…I was gonna say text Jesus, but that doesn’t sound well. Text the word “Jesus” to 888111. So, just the word “Jesus.” Just text us there and we’d love to connect with you and give you some resources. Would you just consider what we’ve talked about as we sing here together?

NOAH | FIVE KEYS TO FAITHFULNESS

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

APRIL

24/25

Genesis 7:1-24

This week we are reminded that sometimes God hits reset to redirect us back to good. You may be wondering if God is really good or if he’s committed to getting to good in your life. The answer is yes. A hidden truth of Noah and his ark is that God never gives up on getting to good, and he will provide what is needed to get there.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you with us, whether you’re joining us in-person on campus or online, just so honored that you take a little bit of time this weekend to join with us. We are three weeks deep into a series on Noah’s Ark, maybe the most familiar story in the Bible, but also the least understood. Everybody tends to crop the story one way or another. Hollywood has made it cruel, and the church has made it really cute. But the reality is, it’s not a cute story. It’s a pretty gritty kind of a raw story, and it’s in that rawness that we really begin to encounter some very powerful lessons for what it looks like to live by faith.

Now, so far, we’ve seen a couple of big ideas. The first one is the idea that our faithfulness matters more than we think. We typically think that our faithfulness matters between us and God. It’s about just, you know, sort of that one-to-one thing. But the reality is as we saw a couple of weeks ago, that our faithfulness matters to our family, it matters to our community, it matters to the country, to the world. And sometimes God withholds blessing from a group because of a faithful few there. Sometimes God actually brings judgment. I’m sorry, that’s not right. Sometimes God gives blessing because of a faithful few. And sometimes God withholds judgment because of a faithful few. But when the faithful few stop being faithful, then it’s kind of bad news for everybody. So our faithfulness matters more than we think.

Second thing that Reza showed us last week was that our view of sin matters more than we think. We have a tendency to look at sin at least…well, we have tendency to look at other people’s sin and go, “That stuff matters. My stuff, not so much,” Right? And what we saw last week was no, our view of our sin matters more than we think. Here’s the problem that when we start talking about sin, and you really can’t talk about Noah’s Ark without talking about sin. The temptation is to give in to what I call the window and mirror dilemma, the window and mirror dilemma. What I mean is that our temptation when we’re talking about sin is to look out the window at them, right? We look out the window, we’re like, “Oh, look, look how bad they were back then.” And we look out the window and go, “Oh, look how bad they are right now,” as opposed to looking in the mirror and, sort of, dealing with ourselves.

But the problem is that Jesus made it very, very clear that we need to spend more time looking in the mirror than out the window. We need to spend more time looking at ourselves. And so the question that we really need to wrestle with as we go through the story of Noah is, what does this teach me about living faithfully? What does this teach me? Not, what does it teach them? Not, oh, this is a good message for my nephew or my wife or whoever to hear. No, no, what does this teach me about living faithfully? And what we’re gonna see today is actually as we kind of get to the climax of the flood account. We’re actually gonna see five truths that really help us to live faithfully, five things that if we can embrace them really begin to help us live faithful lives. I promise you at least one of these truths is something that God wants you to hear today.

So why don’t we go ahead and dive in. Why don’t you go ahead and you grab a Bible. Start making your way to the Book of Genesis. We’re gonna be in Genesis chapter 7. By the way, if you haven’t downloaded the Mission Hills’s app, I really encourage you to do that. You can follow along with all the message notes and take your own as well. Genesis chapter 7, verse 1 begins this way, “And then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.'” So, I’m just gonna stop there for a second because that is not how I heard Noah’s Ark growing up. When I heard Noah’s Ark going up, it was always about twos. They went in twosies by twosies. There’s just one pair of every animal. And I remember years ago actually reading the story in the Bible, the real story, and finding out that some animals there were seven pairs of. Anybody else surprised by that? Yeah, I was totally stunned to find out.

And here’s what’s interesting is it says there were seven pairs of clean animals. Now, what’s going on with clean? Well, in the Jewish religious system, there were certain animals that were considered clean, they were ritually or ceremonially clean. And what that meant was that they were suitable for sacrifice. Okay? That’s gonna become important next week because one of the things that happens after the flood is over is that God requires from Noah a sacrifice. And the thing is like that there was just like one pair of every kind of animal, if he sacrificed them, that would be it for them, right? Like, we wouldn’t have those anymore. And so he has seven pairs of the animals that he’s gonna be only able to sacrifice so that they will be able to continue that species.

Now, the other thing I think is kind of interesting here is in my head when I think about the story of Noah’s Ark, I always thought it was kind of Noah’s job to go get the animals. Anybody else ever kind of think that? Like, I always pictured Noah with a clipboard, right, going, “Okay, zebra, check. Wolverine, check. Mosquitoes, check. Okay. Shem, go get me another mosquito,” right? But I always had the idea that he had to go out and get all these animals, including the ones he would need for sacrifice. But it’s interesting. If you drop down to verse 8, check this out, “Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark.” They came to Noah. In other words, God sent them. Noah didn’t go out looking for them. He didn’t have to go gather them. God provided them. And I think that’s fascinating because that means that God provided the sacrifice that he was gonna require later. He provided the very sacrifice that he required. And I thought that was really interesting.

And I got to think about it, I realized that’s actually a pattern that we see throughout the Bible. God require certain things from people, but he always provide those things for them. I was thinking, and maybe you know the story of Abraham and Isaac, where God required that Abraham sacrifices his only son, really hard story, difficult story. But Abraham was faithful, and he went up top of the mountain to do it, and when he got up there, he found that God had provided a ram. So God provided what he required from him. And by itself, that’s a beautiful picture of what we call the Gospel, that the wages of sin is death, that God requires death as payment for our sin. That’s what justice requires. But what did God do? He sent his own Son. He provided his own Son, who lived a perfect life and then died on the cross to pay for our sin.

And I thought, you know, it’s not even just sacrifices. God requires that we use our time, our talent, and our treasure to honor him and to bless others. But where does our time, talent, treasure come from? It comes from God, right? Or our God requires that we resist temptation. God requires that we resist the temptation to give into sin. But check this out. I love this. This is 1 Corinthians 10:13, “And God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Even God’s requirement of avoiding temptation, God provides what we need to be able to do it. And I thought, you know, that’s such a consistent pattern that really, it’s a principle, and it’s really the first principle, I think, for faithful living we find in this passage, which is that God never requires from us what he hasn’t provided for us. Do you hear me, church? God never requires from us what he hasn’t already provided for us. Whatever God requires of us, he’s already given to you.

Now, that’s a truth. That’s a principle we can hold on to. But the reality is, it doesn’t always feel like that, does it? And sometimes we find ourselves in places where we kind of feel like God is asking more from us than we have to give. That he’s asking more from us than we actually have been given by him. Has anybody ever been in a place where you feel like God’s asking more from you than you have? Yeah. I know I have. Here’s what I’ve come to discover in my own life. It’s that whenever I feel like that, it’s not because God hasn’t provided what I need. It’s because either I haven’t recognized it, I haven’t seen it for what it is, or I’ve used it for something it wasn’t intended for. I took the provision, I used it for something else. Here’s the thing. When we feel like God is asking too much, it’s because we’ve either overlooked or repurposed the provision. Does that make sense? God always provides. God never requires from us what he hasn’t provided for us. So when we feel like God’s asking too much, it’s because we’ve either overlooked the provision or we’ve repurposed it.

I’ll be honest. During the last 13 months, I’ve had a couple of, let’s call them minor meltdowns. Okay. Not breakdowns, but minor meltdowns, where, honestly, I felt like it was just too much, that leading and being faithful and being strong and all those things, it was just too much because there was a no-win situation, right? Everybody was upset about everything, right, masks, no masks, in-person, don’t gather in-person, it’s politics, it’s racial injustice, all this stuff going on. And nobody’s happy about anything that gets said. And there were a couple moments where I just kind of melted down, and I remember kind of going, “God, this is too much. I can’t handle this. I can’t lead in this setting. You haven’t given me what I need.” And what I’ve come to understand is, yeah, he did. But I had repurposed it. God gave me mental strength and spiritual stamina. He gave me resilience. But I was using them on something that they weren’t intended for.

And particularly, I learned that I was using all that stuff, all that energy, worrying about what people thought of me. That’s where I was using all my mental energy. I was of worrying about this person’s upset with that person, that piece of criticism. I was so worried about trying to keep everybody happy and so worried about criticism that I was using up the energy that God had actually provided so that I could lead effectively. It’s not that he hadn’t provided. It’s just that I had repurposed it. I was talking to a guy a few years ago, and he said, “Hey, Pastor, I know that, you know, God wants us to serve, right, to serve in the church, to serve as a church, but I just don’t have the time for that. I just don’t have the time.” And I said, “Well, let’s talk through your schedule.” And He goes, “Well, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, I play golf.” And I was like, “You can stop there because I think we might have discovered the problem,” right? It’s not that we don’t have the time. It’s just that we’ve repurposed it for other things.

So the important thing to understand, God will never require from you what he hasn’t provided for you, but sometimes we feel like he has because we’ve either overlooked a provision or we’ve repurposed it. Here’s kind of an interesting question. Is there an area of my life where I feel like God’s asking too much because I’ve overlooked or repurposed a provision? Think about your life. Think about maybe a place in your life where you’re like, “I just feel like it’s too much,” and you need to understand, it’s not. Whatever God’s requiring of you, whether it’s faithfulness, or strength, or time, or talent, or treasure, whatever it is, God has provided what you need to give to him and to give to others what he’s required of you, but you might have overlooked or you might have repurposed it for something else.

“Seven days from now…” God said, “Seven days from now, I will send rain on the earth for forty days and nights. And I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I’ve made.” And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him. Now, Noah was six hundred years old. Stop there for a second. Because sometimes people go, “Come on, you know, Pastor, you told me that this is prescriptive history. It’s describing what happened in the past in order to tell us how to live in the present, but really, history, six hundred years old, that sounds like fantasy, that sounds like myth.” And if you get caught up in that, you’re not gonna be able to get into what God’s really trying to say here. So let me just real quick say this, it may not be as fantastic as we tend to think that it is. First off, most cultures, most ancient cultures at least have stories of the distant past where people live to be hundreds and hundreds of years old. So it’s very common across the continents, across all kinds of cultures, which suggests that there is a common history that they’re all referring to.

And then also too, even today, there are reports of people living incredibly long periods of time. Like right now, in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, there’s a couple different people that are rumored to be over 170 years old. Now, I say, rumored because we don’t have any, you know, objective proof because nobody was handing out birth certificates in 1850 in the Caucasus Mountains. But we do have a couple people, they were 120-plus years, and they remember that guy as being really old when they were little kids, which suggests they’re quite a bit older than that. Because even today, you might have people living that long. Okay. But in general, obviously, people don’t live this long. So why not?

Here’s the way I think of it. I imagine when God originally created the world, it was like a perfect placid pool. Okay. Everything is like mirror smooth. And then Adam and Eve rebelled, and they threw a rock in. Now, when the rock went in, obviously, it wasn’t smooth anymore, it wasn’t perfect, but the ripples hadn’t reached all the way out. They started to move their way out, and so, you know, the chaos from sin began to move slowly out towards the edges. But then once, you know, the ripples hit the edge of the banks, they bounce back, but they don’t bounce back in perfectly straight line, they bounce back in different angles. And pretty soon, it gets very ripply and chaotic, but that takes time. And I believe that’s what happened to the world. When Adam and Eve sinned, they threw the rock in, but it took time for the world to break down to the point that we began to experience it today, the way that we experience it today.

And so, you know, it took time before the genetic code got broken and messed up. It took time before viruses and bacteria, those kinds of things, began to do things they were never intended to do. And so over time, you see a gradual reduction of lifespan. Okay? I don’t think it’s fantasy. So don’t get hung up on that. Again, this is something that many ancient cultures report, and I think it makes a certain amount of sense when we understand the biblical story. But it says, “Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. And pairs of clean and unclean animals of birds and all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah, and they entered the ark as God had commanded Noah. And after the seven days, the waters came on the earth.”

Now, there’s something really important happening in that section that I wanna make sure we don’t overlook. And that is, that section began with God saying, “In seven days, the flood’s coming.” And then it ends with saying, “After seven days, the flood came.” So that section is bookended by references to seven days. And that’s actually really important because in the ancient world, and in Hebrew thinking, in particular, seven was the number of perfection. Okay? Seven was the number of perfection. And the fact that he bookends the story of the flood with statements of perfection is actually a way of communicating that God is in control of what’s happening here. In fact, you might even argue that it’s saying that God is perfectly in control of what’s happening here. Does that make sense? In the ancient world, that’s particularly interesting because, in the ancient world, floods were considered an agent of chaos. And, in fact, in a lot of ancient mythology, the flood was really a symbol of chaos. Okay?

And chaos, of course, means that no one’s in control. What Moses is telling us here is that even though the floods seem like chaos, the reality is that God’s in perfect control of it, right? And that’s a really important thing to understand. In fact, I would argue that’s the second principle for faithful living we find here is that God is still in control, even when things seem like chaos. God is still in control even when things seem like chaos. This is such an important thing to understand, too. During the last 13 months, this is something I’ve had to remind myself of over and over and over again. Because when we forget that, when we look at the chaos, and it feels like no one’s in control, what happens is we start to react. We’re constantly going, “Okay. Well, I’ll do this, and I’ll do this, and I’ll change this, and I’ll try this, and I’ll try this.” And we just…not only do we respond and react to that chaos, but we contribute to it. And we make everybody around us feel chaotic, right? That’s what happens when we forget that God’s in control.

But when we remember, in fact, that God is still in control, even when things seem like chaos, we begin to go, “Okay. Then what do I need to do? I just need to take my next step of faithfulness.” What does it look like to be faithful in the situation? Just take that one small step. And those steps add up over time, and then they take us through the chaos. But that’s only possible when we remember that God is still in control, even in what seems like chaos. And that may be a truth that you just need to hear today. You may be in a place in your life where it just feels like everything is chaotic, and it’s out of control, and you’re kind of panicking. You just need to take a deep breath and go, “Okay. God is still in control.” He’s in perfect control, even in what seems like chaos. You know, we look around at the country today…at the world today, between the global pandemic, between politics, and racial injustice, all thing the things, it feels like things just got out of control, right? But they’re not out of God’s control. And so we take a deep breath, we calm down, and we take whatever our next step of faithfulness is, with our family, with our community, with our work, whatever it is, the next step, because God’s in control.

However, we’d be missing something important that’s happening here if we didn’t also take it one step further and recognize that it’s not just a question of God being in control, in spite of what looks like chaos. God’s not just in control in spite of what looks like chaos, God is actually in control of the chaos, meaning God actually sent the chaos, right? This isn’t something God knew was coming. This is something that God sent. And why did he send it? Because of sin. He sent it because of human sin. And as we saw a couple of weeks ago, not just human sin, but even his people had begun to live in a way that refused on…even his people has started putting their desires over his designs. Even God’s people had started basically idolizing human strength and forgetting about God’s power. And it was at that moment that God sent the flood.

But understand that the chaos of the flood was really intended to confront sin. And the reality is, we don’t necessarily like this, but the truth that we have to come to grips with is that God is not above sending chaos into the lives of his people in order to confront the sin of his people. Do you hear me, church? This is the third principle we need to grab hold of, it’s that God sometimes allows chaos into our lives to confront our sin. God sometimes allows chaos into our lives to confront our sin. And he does it because he loves you. He does it because he loves us. He knows that peace and joy and hope are only to be found in a close relationship with him, but as we sin, as we get further and further from God, we experience chaos.

And God sometimes allows and sometimes he even sends more chaos into our lives to cause us to wake up and realize where we are, how far we’ve gotten, and to repent and to turn back and to draw close to him again. Sometimes God allows chaos into our lives to confront our sin. I can’t help but wonder, in the United States of America over the last 13 months, as I look at the chaos that’s going on, and I can’t help but wonder, is this because God is calling us as his people to recognize that we are not living faithfully, to confront sin in our lives and in our churches and our families? So what happens? It’s inevitable when we get far away from God. And so sometimes God allows it or even sends it to confront that sin.

Here’s an interesting question. It’s not a fun question, but I think it’s an important one. Where in my life do things feel over-chaotic? Where does my life feel over-chaotic? And I say over-chaotic because the reality is, in a fallen world, there’s sort of a base level of chaos all the time. That’s the way it’s gonna be in a world that’s not fully redeemed yet. Okay? But sometimes there’s those places, maybe it’s a relationship, maybe it’s finances, maybe it’s an addiction, maybe it’s something at work, somewhere, there are sometimes these places where it just feels like chaos is just ruling the day. There’s just so much chaos, and we even find ourselves, “Why can’t we get an attraction? Why are things just always so messed up? Why is it so broken?” That’s the places I’m talking about. Where does my life feel over-chaotic?

And here’s a question that I just think as followers of Jesus, we have to be willing to lean into, is there a sin that God might be using this chaos to confront? Is there a sin that God might be using this chaos to confront? Because that’s what happened here. It’s not just that God’s in control of the chaos, he sent it to confront the sin of humanity. And remember, we need to spend more time looking in the mirror than out the window. So before we start going, yeah, he’s confronting, you know, this thing over there and that thing and this choice and that choice and this where our nation is. Okay. Let’s look in the mirror first. Is there a sin in my life that God might be calling me to confront?

“Now, on the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month, on that day, all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened, and rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.” And it’s interesting as another place where I didn’t quite understand the story growing up. When I heard the story of Noah’s Ark growing up, I always pictured that it was just about the rain coming down, right? Anybody else? But this clearly says the water came from two sources, right? It fell down from the heavens, but it also welled up from the deeps. And that’s interesting. And people have tried to do different things with it by going, “Well, maybe that’s, you know, all this water under the aquifers and things like that,” and it might be.

But what’s really significant here is that what Moses is doing as he’s writing this is he’s taking us back to an earlier part of the Book of Genesis. He’s actually taking us back to Genesis chapter 1 when God created everything. Because when God was creating, one of the first things that he did was that it said that he separated the waters above from the waters below. He put a vault to separate the waters above from the waters below. And now what’s happening is that vault is being removed, that separation is being removed. And so now the waters above and the waters below are all mixing again. And the point is that God’s kind of going back to the way it was before. Does that make sense? He’s going back to the way it was before. And that’s so important because we tend to think of Noah’s Ark as a story of destruction. We tend to see that, well, this is God in vengeance and wrath, destroying the sin of the world.

And certainly, there is an element of that, but more importantly, by calling us back to Genesis 1, what we’re being told is that God isn’t destroying the world, he’s resetting it. So important. He’s not destroying the world. He’s resetting it. Like, you know when you have to call tech support and you’re like, “My thing’s not working,” right? And they ask you that super condescending question, “Have you tried turning it off and back on?” And, you know, God forbid if you haven’t done that because if you have not even done that, like, you get zero respect. You have no chance of getting that problem solved. Okay? So what do we do? We reset it. We’ve learned to do that. Well, that’s basically what God’s doing. It’s not working the way it should be, and he’s not destroying it, he’s resetting it. He’s going back to the beginning. And actually, you see this kind of language continue on. Check this out.

He said, “Now, on that very day, Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. And they had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind, and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings, pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark.” Now, what’s interesting about that is it’s all the same language that comes from the creation account in Genesis 1, creation account in Genesis 1, there’s all this talk about the different kinds, the livestock according to kinds, the birds according to their kinds, everything that had the breath of life, everything that moves along the ground, all the same language. And again, he’s taking us back to Genesis 1.

And it’s very interesting. And if you go back to Genesis 1, there’s a very clear theme that shows up over and over and over again in the creation account. And that is, every time God creates something, he calls it something. And then he pronounces something about it. And that pronouncement is always that it is, anybody, it’s good. He separated the waters above from the waters below, and it was good. He created the sun and the moon and the stars, and it was good. He created the birds, and it was good. He created the livestock, it was good. He created human beings as his image, and it was good. It’s good, good, good, good, good, good, good. So why is God resetting creation? To get to good. He’s resetting creation so that he can redirect it back towards its original purpose, which is good.

Here’s the fourth truth that’s so important for faithful living, it’s to realize that sometimes God hits reset to redirect towards good. Sometimes God hits reset to redirect towards good. It’s what he’s doing here. And he does it in our own lives, too. And when we forget it, what happens is that we sometimes find ourselves in a place where God seems to be taking something away that we were really committed to, something that we were really excited about. And when that happens, the temptation is to go, “Well, I thought God was good. Maybe he’s not good.” Oh, yes, he is. He’s so good that he’s unwilling to let you settle for lesser good than what he has for you. And sometimes the decisions we make, sometimes the sin that we commit leads us into a place where like, “I think I’m good here.” And God goes, “That is not good. And I love you too much to leave you there. So we’re gonna hit reset to redirect you towards good.” He’s incapable of not doing that because God is a good Father.

I love that song that we sing here. God is a good Father. He’s not a good uncle. You know the difference between a father and an uncle? I had an Uncle James, Uncle James. I thought he was a good uncle because he always had peanut M&M’s. And James, like, stuffed peanut M&M’s into my mouth from like the time I was like 2, which was way before my parents wanted me having peanut M&M’s. But James wanting to be liked. He wanted to be the fun uncle. He wanted to be the good uncle. He had, like, an endless supply of M&M’s. I never really understood it. So this day I’m addicted to peanut M&M’s. I tended to think he was really good, but the reality is, my parents didn’t think he was so great. See, we sometimes get this mixed understanding what really is good. God’s not a good uncle. He’s a good Father. And he only gives us, and he only settles for what is truly good in our lives, not just for moments, but for all of eternity. If you find yourself in a place where God seems like he’s hitting reset, hold on to this truth that it’s because he wants to redirect you to good, to true good, to lasting good, not just to a moment of pleasure, but to peace and to joy that doesn’t go away and isn’t dependent on circumstances. That may be the truth you need to hold on to today.

“And the animals going in were male and female of every living thing as God had commanded Noah. And then the Lord shut him in. For forty days, the flood kept coming on the earth. And as the waters increased, they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits.” A cubit is a measurement from your elbow to the tip of your fingers. And if you take the average human link there, this basically means that this is about 23 feet. So, the highest mountains were covered with 23 feet of water. And this is another one of those places that some people go, “Really? So Mount Everest? Mount Everest was 23 feet underwater?” Because for that to happen, the entire globe would have had to, like, expanded like two or three times. Like, that’s crazy. The whole volume of water, where did all the water come from? And so some people get stuck there. Maybe that’s you.

And here’s the thing, I don’t want anybody to get stuck there because if we get stuck there, you’re gonna miss the larger point. Okay? There’s a bigger point here. So we need to make sure we don’t get stuck. Let me offer you a couple of ways to think about some things. I actually think that the best way to think about this is really to keep our thinking inside three boundaries. Okay? Three things that might help you. The first one is to understand this, it’s that God communicated using language that they understood back then. God communicated using language that they understood back then. I mean, if you think about it, the Bible says things like, “Well, the sun rose.” And we know that that doesn’t happen, right? The sun doesn’t rise, but that’s how they understood. That’s how it looked to them. And honestly, even today, have you ever turned on the news and heard, “Tomorrow at 5:27 a.m., the earth will rotate into such a position that the sun becomes visible over the Eastern horizon?” Have you ever heard that? No, what do we say? 5:27 is sunrise.

Okay? It’s describing things the way that it appears to us, not the way it, sort of, scientifically is. And so I know good Bible-believing conservative scholars who believe that in the ancient world, they thought of the world is where humans lived. And so if all of humanity was kind of isolated in one part of the planet, then it would have covered the whole world in their thinking, even if it was only in that area. I’m not saying that’s what actually happened, but I’m saying I know conservative Bible scholars who think that’s a perfectly valid way to understand what’s being said here. So, understand he’s using the language that they used back then.

Second thing to keep your thinking in this kind of triangle here is this, is that the world might have been very different back then. The world might have looked very, very different. I’ve people argue, “Well, maybe all the continents were still together, Pangea, and maybe they spread after the flood because of the motion and the impact of all that water. Or maybe the mountains weren’t as high. Maybe all that water ultimately, when it started to recede, allowed upheaval. And so maybe there wasn’t a Mount Everest before the flood, and it rose, you know, very fast after that.” That’s another possibility. Maybe the mountains weren’t as big a deal. So maybe the world looked very different back then. It’s another possibility.

Then there’s a third one we gotta keep our thinking in, it’s just this, God can do miracles, right? God can do miracles. We tend sometimes to look around and go, “Well, you know, this doesn’t seem to obey the laws of nature.” Yeah, we have a word for when God refuses to obey the laws of nature that he made. And that word is miracle. The God who created the laws of nature is not bound by them. And so maybe God created all this additional water, and then maybe he just took it away. I don’t know. But as followers of Jesus, especially, you know, it’s interesting to me, I’ve had followers of Jesus get hung up on this, and yet they believe in the Resurrection. And I’m like, “Can we talk about that for a second?”

Because according the laws of nature, dead people don’t walk out of graves after three days either. So why is that a miracle, and it’s acceptable, but God couldn’t do this? Like, “Well, this is a much bigger one.” There’s no such thing as a big miracle for God. The God who flung hundreds of billions of stars and galaxies across the sky with a word is not looking at any particular thing going, “That seems like a lot of work.” It’s not gonna work that way. Okay? We gotta keep our thinking inside that. God uses language they’re familiar with. The world might look very different. And God can do miracles. Okay? So let’s just kind of accept that there may be a little bit of mystery here. And I know some of you are like, “Yeah, but which one was it?”

I wanna move on because again, there’s a point here, and it’s important that we don’t miss the point getting caught up in some of these details, some of these questions we have. And the point ultimately comes down to this. Everything that moved on the land perished, birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out. People and the animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left and those with him in the ark. And the waters flooded the earth for one hundred and fifty days. It feels a little dark, doesn’t it? We have a pre-service meeting every weekend, and when we’re doing that, somebody said, “Hey, Craig, can you just give us a summary of the sermon?” I was like, “Yeah, everyone dies.” Which is kind of how it feels, right? Because that’s what it said. I mean, everyone, everything died. And that feels really dark.

But what we need to remember is that this didn’t happen without cause. It didn’t happen without grace. As we said a couple weeks ago, God had actually given them 120 years to respond to the pronouncement of judgment, but they didn’t, and even his own people started putting their desires over his. Even his own people started idolizing human strength and forgetting about God’s power, and they lived in sin. What’s happening here is a result of sin. It’s a challenge against sin. It’s a confrontation and a condemnation of sin. And that really, in some ways, that’s the point of the entire story of Noah’s Ark, it is to drive home this incredibly important principle, number five, number five principle for living faithfully is that we have to understand that sin is serious business. Sin is serious business. Again, we have a tendency to go, “Well, I know their sin is. I know his sin or her sin or those people’s sin or that group’s sin, I know that’s serious,” but we don’t do the same thing when we look in the mirror. We look out the window, we see serious sin. We look in the mirror, and we think, “Yeah, this is not a big deal.” And the point of Noah’s Ark is largely to say, yeah, it is. It’s a much bigger deal than you think it is.

One of the most powerful illustrations of that truth is something I heard years ago is I heard the story of a man who was driving through the Southwest part of the United States with a pickup truck, he was collecting metal. And the idea was he’s gonna go back to his village in Mexico and sell the metal. And he picked up an old x-ray machine. And as he put that in his truck bed, a bunch of ball bearings fell into the bed of the truck. There were bearings that had been in the x-ray machine for years that had been used for many, many years. And the thing is that because those bearings were in an x-ray machine that was being used, they had picked up radioactivity. They fell into the bed of the truck. He went back to his village in Mexico. He sold everything. But the little balls stayed in the bed of his truck, and the kids in his village found them. And they looked really cool. They were shiny, they were fun to play with, and they looked so safe. So they played with them for years. And then one by one, all the kids in that village started to get cancer. And they eventually traced it back to this thing that had seemed like nothing but, in fact, was deadly dangerous.

And sin is like that. Not their sin, our sin’s like that. We often look at it and we go, “What’s the big deal? This is not serious business.” And God says, “It’s far more serious than you think it is.” Because here’s the reality. Nobody decides their way into great sin, right? We all have our, kind of, list of great sins, right? And we go, “I’m never gonna go there. I would never do that.” But nobody decides their way into great sin. Nobody decides, “I think I’m gonna have an affair today.” Nobody decides, “I think I’ll get an addiction to alcohol today.” Nobody decides, “I think I’ll get addicted to pornography today.” Nobody decides, “I think I’ll be an embezzler.” Nobody decides that. We drift. We don’t decide our way into great sin. We drift our way into great sin because we have these little things.

Well, it doesn’t matter, you know, if I open up that website. It doesn’t matter if I go to that bar. It doesn’t matter if I let that look linger. It doesn’t matter if I get into that conversation. It doesn’t matter if I make this little change to the books. Then the point is we don’t decide our way into great sin. We drift away into great sin by making small decisions in the same direction that we really didn’t think were a big deal. But the problem is that one step, even the very smallest ones after another ends up leading us to places we never would have thought we would have been. And the place to begin to deal with that to protect ourselves from being in those places of chaos and condemnation is not to take the small steps that ultimately add up to those journeys.

Sin is serious business. So we’ve seen five truths today, five truths that if we hold on to them will…I promise you, they will enable us to live faithfully. And so the question I want you to ask yourself is which truth do I most need to respond to today? Which truth do I most need to respond to? Maybe it’s the truth that God never requires from us what he hasn’t provided for us. Maybe you need to look around and realize that you have either overlooked or repurposed a provision. Or maybe it’s the truth that God is still in control even when things seem like chaos, and to begin trusting that and stepping forward in faithfulness and not constantly reacting to the chaos around us because God’s in control of it. Or maybe it’s that God sometimes allows chaos into our lives to confront our sin. Maybe there’s that place in your life where chaos is actually a calling card where God is asking you to focus in and realize that it’s happening because there’s a sin that needs to be addressed. Or maybe it’s that God sometimes hits reset to redirect us to good. And if you’re in a place in your life where it feels like God’s hitting reset, it’s not that he’s, it’s that he’s recreating to redirect you towards something much better than what you feel like you’re losing. Or maybe it’s this last true that sin is serious business. Which one of those truths is God calling you to respond to today? Let’s pray about it.

God, we come to you, and we thank you for your Word. We thank you that even when things don’t feel good when they’re uncomfortable and they’re awkward, that that’s actually a sign of your goodness, that it’s you challenging us and confronting us and urging us to repent, and urging us to move back towards you, where there is safety, where there is peace, where there’s joy. So, Lord, we invite your Holy Spirit to speak to us in those ways that we need to be spoken to about ways that maybe we’ve gotten off base. We didn’t think sin was serious, and we’ve allowed ourselves to take one, and two, and three, and maybe even four more steps away from you. So, Lord, we thank you for the fact that there may be chaos in our lives that is a challenge to our sin. We thank you for the truth that sin is serious business, and that it needs to be dealt with. And we thank you for the fact that even in the midst of those heavy challenges, there’s also this incredible news of your goodness that you never ask from us, you never require from us what you haven’t already provided to us. You’ve given us what we need to be faithful. You’ve given us what we need to live lives that honor you. You’ve given us what we need to be on mission with you. And that even when we encounter parts and times in our lives where everything feels like it’s falling apart, and you’re taking away what we were so excited about, it’s because you are hitting reset to redirect us towards good. We thank you for this truth of your goodness, even in the midst of this heavier truth. Lord, speak to us, show us which of these truths we need to grab ahold of and respond to.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you continue in an attitude of prayer right now? Would you just start praying for all the people listening to this message that are not followers of Jesus yet? And if that’s you, if I can just speak to you for a moment, maybe for the first time today you’ve heard that even in the story of Noah’s Ark, which maybe you’ve thought of as a sign of God’s wrath and anger, that even there, there’s signs of goodness because God is too good for his goodness not to be on display in any situation. Maybe for the first time you’ve heard how committed God is to bringing good into your life. Maybe for the first time you’ve heard that even though the wages of sin is death, God provided the sacrifice with his own Son. God loves you. In fact, the reason that God hates sin so much, the reason that God takes sin so seriously, is that God hates sin because he loves you. And God wants you to be in a relationship with him, and he’s provided everything necessary.

And if you’ve never received forgiveness for your sins, if you’ve never begun a relationship with God that starts now and goes on forever, you can do that right here, right now. That’s what God wants. Here’s how you do it. You’re just gonna have a conversation with him. Right now in your heart say something like this. Say, “God, I know that I’ve sinned. I understand that it’s serious business. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay the price of my sin. Jesus, thank you for dying in my place to pay my price. I believe you rose from the dead. I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, a relationship with God, an eternal life of joy that begins now and goes on forever. I’m ready to accept those gifts. So, Jesus, I’m putting my faith in you. Jesus, I’m trusting you from here on out. I’m saying yes to following you. I’m yours for now and forever.” Amen.

Can we celebrate those who’ve made that decision today? That’s awesome. And if you made that decision today for the first time, I would love to celebrate with you. So would you do this for me? Would you let us know you made that decision? A couple ways you can do that. If you’re watching online, you can click the button right below me that says, “I committed my life to Jesus.” If you don’t see that, if you’re in one of our campuses or somewhere else and that’s not an option, just do this, text the word Jesus to 888111. Either way you do it, you’re gonna be letting us know you’ve made this incredible decision. We can celebrate it with you, and also we can send you a free book. We would love to put this in your hands. It’s called “I Just Said Yes to Jesus, Now What? 10 Days to Following Jesus Forever.” It’ll teach you what you need to know to get on the path of following Jesus forever, and we would just need to know where to send it. So please let us know you made that decision. If you’re one of our campuses, you can also stop by the Welcome Center and say…tell them, “I said yes to Jesus today,” and they’d love to put that book in your hands.

NOAH | THE LONG WAIT

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

MAY

1/2

Genesis 8:1-22

With the conclusion of our Noah series, we get to the heart of the story. At the center of the tale is that God is always at work, even when we can’t see that work in action. You are remembered and cared for and anything that God tears down is done so that he can rebuild for something better.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you with us whether you’re joining us in person or online for our fourth week of our Noah series. If you’re just joining us, let me get you caught up real quick. So far we’ve seen three kind of big-picture truths about living faithfully. The first one is that our faith matters more than we think. We tend to think that our faith matters between us and God. And that’s certainly true. But the reality is the one thing is the story of Noah teaches us is that our faith matters to the world and matters to people around us. Second big-picture truth we’ve seen is that the way we view sin matters. Often, it’s easy to look out the window, and other people sit and go, “Yeah, that sin matters. That sin is a big deal.” But when we look in the mirror, it’s pretty easy to go, “Yeah, but my sin is not that big a deal.” And there’s no way to live faithfully for thinking wrongly about sin. Now, the third truth we’ve seen is that God never requires from us what he hasn’t provided for us.

Living faithfully takes a toll. Living faith is not an easy thing. There’s a cost associated, but it’s a cost that God always supplies. And any time we feel like we don’t have what it takes to do what God’s called us to do, it’s always because we’ve either overlooked or repurposed a provision, we’re using it for something else. Now, obviously, that’s just a big picture, very, very sort of skimming kind of view of the things that we’ve seen. And so I’d really encourage you if you haven’t heard this message yet, dig in on the app or on a podcast or on the YouTube channel, because there’s a lot that God can say to you about what it looks like to live faithfully. But today we’re gonna dig into one last big idea about living faithfully. I’m just gonna tell you right now, you’re not gonna like it, okay? You’re not. I don’t like it. It’s one of those subjects that comes up kind of pretty regularly in the Bible, and I hate it every single time that it comes up. But it’s one of those truths that if we don’t get a handle on it, we’re never going to really be able to live faithfully. I’ll show you what I mean. Why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible? Start making your way to Genesis chapter 8, where we find the conclusion to the Noah’s Ark story.

It’s not the conclusion to the story of Noah’s life. There’s another section of scripture in Genesis that talks about some lessons from Noah’s life. But this is the end of the Noah’s Ark story. And I’m going to show you this morning why I’m pretty confident saying that we’ve hit a very clear ending point to the story. But we will begin again in chapter 8,verse 1, where we’re told this, “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.” That is actually the climax of the entire Noah’s Ark story. It’s the pinnacle. It’s the peak. It might be the most important verse in the entire Noah’s Ark story. And I’m not just saying that because I like it a lot or because something just…you know, it grabs my attention. There’s actually a way the entire story is organized that drives us to that one sentence as the most important element of the story. And I’m gonna explain what I mean so you understand why this is such an important thing to pay attention to.

The entire story of Noah’s Ark is organized according to a structure called a chiasm. Now, some of you are going to love this. And some of you are going to be like, “Is this going to be on the final exam?” It’s not gonna be in the final exam. But I want you to understand why I say this verse is so important. The story of Noah is organized according to a chiasm. And a chiasm is a literary structure used a lot in the ancient Near Eastern world where basically they have a series of markers in the first half. And then they revisit each of those markers in reverse order in the second half. And in this case, the markers are all numbers. And so then we’re gonna go ahead and pop up a thing so you can sort of see the structure. In the first half of the story of Noah, there’s a series of numbers. There’s a 7 to 7, 40, and 150. The flood, God said will come in seven days. And then we’re told after seven days, the flood came. The waters below came up, and the waters above came down, and that happened for 40 days. And then there’s about 150-day period where the waters basically ruled over the earth, okay?

Now, what we’re gonna see today in the second half of the story is that we go through each of those numbers but in reverse order, so we’re going to hit the 150, then there’s gonna be a 40, and there’s going to be two 7s. Now, the significant thing about that is that that particular structure, it looks a little bit like an arrow, you see that? And typically, what happens when they use that structure is it drives attention to that center point, it drives attention to the thing that occurs right in the middle. And that’s usually something that has a tremendous amount of weight in God’s mind. And so there’s something about that center point that we’re supposed to lean into and go, “This is really, really important.” And what do we find in that center? What’s verse 8:1? “God remembered Noah.” That may be the most important sentence in this entire thing. The entire structure of the story is designed to get you to and make you lean into the significance of that statement, “God remembered Noah.”

And I think it’s probably important to understand that when we’re told that God remembered Noah that doesn’t mean that he had forgotten, okay? It’s not like there was a flood, and God is looking at the flood, and he saw this little bobbing boat, and he’s like, “That’s an all right. I sent them on a cruise.” Right? That’s not what happened. Okay. We actually see the same sentence several times in the Bible. And every time we see as soon as God remembered, every time the phrase, “God remembered,” is always a reminder that God never forgets. That’s what it actually is. It’s always a reminder that God never forgets. And I think one of the reasons we need to be reminded that regularly is because we often forget that God never forgets, especially if we’ve been waiting on God for a while, right? Especially if there’s an area of our lives where we’ve been praying for God to move, we’ve been waiting for God to do what only God can do, and God hasn’t done it yet, it can get pretty easy in those moments, it can get pretty easy to forget that God always remembers, that he never forgets.

And we begin to wonder if maybe he’s somehow forgotten about us. We can begin to wonder if maybe we’ve somehow slipped off of his radar. But these statements are actually intended to help us understand that that never happens. I love what God said in the Book of Isaiah. God’s people, the Israelites were in one of those moments, they were going, “I don’t think we’re on God’s radar anymore. I think maybe God has forgotten about us.” And this is what God said, Isaiah 49:15, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion to the child that she has borne? Listen, though she may forget, I will never forget you. I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” It’s a really powerful statement. In the ancient world, it was pretty common for servants to tattoo the names of their master on their hands. But the master never tattooed the name of the servant on their hands. And yet, that’s exactly what God was saying. He was saying, “God as the master, I’ve tattooed the names of my servants, the names of my people.” And that’s how deeply committed God is to you. That’s how impossible it is for God to forget. He said, “It would be easier for a mother to forget her baby than for me to forget you.” It never happens. God never forgets.

And the reason that this is at the center of the story of Noah’s Ark, I believe, is to help us understand that living faithfully depends on remembering that God never forgets. It’s an incredibly important principle for living faithfully. We have to remember that God never forgets. Because when we forget that God never forgets, we go off on our own. When we forget that God never forgets, we take matters into our own hands. When we forget that God never forgets, we give up on waiting for God to do what only he can do. And we jump in and try to do it ourselves. And it almost always ends up in a disaster. And so living faithfully depends on remembering that God never forgets. That’s why that’s the center of the story. There’s another part of what’s going on in the center of the story there that we need to make sure we don’t miss. We’re told, “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.”

He sent a wind, and I put there the Hebrew word for wind, it’s ruach. And the reason that I highlight that is because the Hebrew word ruach can mean wind, but it can also mean spirit. That was sort of the image they used to think about the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit. And then the reason I think it’s important to recognize that is because in the original Hebrew, the sentence here that the wind was sent over the earth is very, very similar, like, suspiciously similar to a statement we have in the creation account in Genesis 1:2. And Genesis 1:2, we’re told that the Spirit of God, the ruach of God, was hovering over the waters. That’s not a coincidence that those two sentences are so similar. The point is, don’t know, we saw last week God is here in the sort of the conclusion of the flood story. He’s taking us back to the creation story, reminding us, A, that he’s in control, but, B, that whatever he does, he ultimately does for good. That’s an impossible-to-miss lesson from the story of creation. Everything God does, he’s doing for good. His Spirit is always working to bring good. And so now, as the flood story comes to an end, we’re told that the Spirit of God is again active.

He’s hovering over the waters again, and what is he looking to do? He’s looking to bring good. It’s an incredibly important reminder because we tend to think, as we’ve said so many times through the series, we tend to think of the story of Noah’s Ark as a story of God’s destruction of sin. We tend to think of it as a story of God’s wrath and condemnation of sin. And certainly, that’s part of it. But we can’t afford to miss the fact that God is only condemning sin here so that he can get to good. What God has done to the world with the flood is only so that he can reset it as he loves it. He’s resetting it so he can redirect it for good. And what we have here is really another reminder that God only tears down so that he can rebuild better. You are with me, church? God only tears down so that he can rebuild better. And you may be at a place in your life where you feel like God’s tearing something down. And that’s hard. It’s painful. You may even be at a place in your life where, because of what God is removing from your life, you’re beginning to wonder if he’s really good. Sometimes we’re like the little kids who can’t understand why a loving parent, why a good mom or dad would take us to this nasty man in a white lab coat who would stick a sharp needle into our arm and bring that pain into our life, “How could you possibly do that, Mom? I thought you were good.” And we do it because we’re good, right? God only tears down to rebuild better. And that’s what God’s reminding us through “The Spirit is hovering.” He’s in the process of beginning to recreate for the purposes of good.

The other thing I think is really powerful here is it’s tied up in that image of the Spirit as wind. And, of course, he’s not saying that the Spirit is the wind, but he is saying the Spirit is a little bit like a wind in that… Have you ever seen a wind? It’s a trick question. You haven’t? What you’ve seen is the effect of wind. You see what wind does, but you don’t actually see the wind. As long as the Spirit of God is like that, we don’t actually see the Spirit, we don’t always see God working, we see the effects of it. But sometimes it takes a little while before we notice the effects, before we understand what is actually driving those effects. And partly, what God’s saying here is this, God is always at work even when we can’t see him working. The Spirit hovering over the waters is a reminder of that truth that God is always at work, even when we can’t see him working. And you may be at a place in your life where you’re wondering if God is really at work or you’re wondering if he really has remembered you, if he’s really looking to rebuild better because you don’t see it. And God wants you to hear the truth that he is always at work in your life, he’s always moving towards good, even when you can’t see it, because he’s like that wind. But he’s always at work.

Those are the truths we find in the very center of the story of Noah. The truth that he never forgets us, that he’s always at work for our good even when we can’t see exactly what he’s doing. That’s in the center of the story. It’s the heart of the story. It’s the most important part of the story. And with that in mind, then we can continue the story. So, now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had closed. And the rain had stopped falling from the sky, and the water receded steadily from the earth. And at the end of one hundred and fifty days, there’s one hundred and fifty, again, the water had gone down. And on the seventeenth day of the seventh month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. And the waters continue to recede until the tenth month. And on the first day of the tenth month, the tops of the mountains became visible, on the first day of the tenth month. And all God’s people went, “Huh?” Here’s why the first day of the tenth month is important. Because here’s the thing, I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, whenever I heard the story of Noah’s Ark, I always had this idea that the story of Noah’s Ark, that the flood lasted for 40 days and nights. Anybody else?

That’s how I pictured. They were in the ark for 40 days and 40 nights. And let’s be clear, forty days and forty nights in that thing would have been a nightmare. Can we just acknowledge that? Because keep in mind, right? We think about all the animals being there as being super cute, right? Like, he’s good. You know, like, he’s got a little zebra, and he’s got a panda there. And it’s really cute. But remember, there’s two of every kind of animal, which means there’s two of every kind of animal pooping, okay? And peeing. And apparently, there’s no windows in this thing, at least they’re not opened, which can you even begin to imagine the smell in that place? Even 40 days would have taken a long time, but it hasn’t been 40 days. What we’re actually told earlier in the story is that the flood came on the seventeenth day of the second month. And now we’re told that the water has receded to the point that the Ark, it’s sort of run aground on the first day of the tenth month. So, if you want to do the math with me, the second month of the tenth month means they’ve been in the ark for how long? Eight months. That’s a lot longer than forty days under some really difficult conditions. That’s how long they’ve been waiting for an opportunity to get out. And yet, even now, they don’t get out.

After forty days, they’ve got a lot of ground, and nothing happens. They just sit there, and after forty days, Noah opened a window that he had made in the ark. And can I just say I cannot believe he waited that long to open the window? Day two, I’d have been like, “I gotta get some air. I don’t care.” But here’s the thing. He didn’t open the window just to get fresh air. He actually opened the window to assess the conditions. Because we’re told this, “And he sent out a raven, and they kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth.” He sent out a raven. Now, this is important to understand what Noah is doing there is actually very, very strategic. He’s actually doing something that’s very wise. In the first half of the story, all the information that Noah needs to act on came directly from God. Okay? In the first half of the story, God said, “Hey, there’s a flood coming. You need to build an ark. It’s gonna have these dimensions. Just get to it.” Okay? In the second half of the story, God doesn’t speak nearly as much. And he calls on Noah to actually use wisdom, okay?

And so what Noah is doing here is he’s sort of assessing the conditions. And so he sends out a raven. Now, that actually was really smart, because a couple things about ravens you’d want to know is, number one, they tend to live in the high country, and that’s where we’ve seen the waters have receded. So, it sort of makes sense to send them out and check out the high country where they would have nested anyway. And second, they ate meat. Ravens are carrion-eaters, they eat dead animals. And I know this doesn’t square with our cute little story of Noah’s Ark, but he sent out a raven because the landscape was good for them. And number two, he was pretty sure they were gonna find food. Yeah, it’s pretty wise of him. But understand what he’s doing is he’s assessing. And what’s fascinating about that, to me, is they’ve been in the ark for over nine months at this point, right? They’ve been in the ark for a long time at this point, and yet, just because the boat hit ground, and just because some land has become visible, Noah has not gotten out of the ark. He’s looking around. He’s continuing to wait. And I find that fascinating because I don’t know about you. But when I’m in a season of my life where I’m waiting on God to do something, I find myself jumping at every little positive development. I can be like, “Maybe that’s it. That’s God moving. That’s it, got to be.”

I remember when I was younger, and I was praying for God to send me a wife. And I’d been waiting for God to send me a wife. Like, every girl who smiled at me, I was like, “That’s her. That’s totally her. That’s clearly God’s provision. God told me that you and I…” That’s what happens, and its reality is that sometimes the longer we wait, the less wise we get. Because we get so desperate that we want to leap into things. And that’s not what Noah is doing. And it’s so important to understand that Noah is continuing to wait. He’s assessing, he’s not assuming that just because things have gotten a little better, that it’s time. And that’s such an important lesson. It’s hard for me, but it’s such an important lesson for me to grab hold of, maybe for you too. Living faithfully requires that we assess rather than assume. Just because some development happens doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s God’s development. It could be a red herring. It could be something that’s actually taking us off the track of faithfulness. And so we have to assess. We have to use wisdom to assess rather than assume that that’s God’s next stage.

That’s what he’s doing, he sends out a raven, and the raven apparently does okay. We’re told that it flew back and forth. And nobody’s quite sure if that means that it flew back and forth from the land that were dried up and the ark or if it was just flying to and fro on the land itself. But the point is it does okay, which you sort of expected it to, and yet, Noah doesn’t jump out of the ark. He watches that for a while. And he says, “Okay, that’s a good sign.” And then he takes another step of assessing. He says, “And then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth.” We’re probably talking about the lower-down areas at this point. And so it returned to Noah in the ark, and then he reset his hand and took the dove, and he brought it back to himself in the ark. So, he takes another step of assessing. He sends out a dove. Now, a dove, unlike a raven, lives in the low country, where humans would normally have lived, and it doesn’t eat meat. So, it would need to find green food of some kind. And so that’s what he does, he sends it out. But it comes back to him because apparently the water at that level isn’t dried up enough. And so Noah goes, “Yeah, I can’t get out yet.” He’s still assessing rather than assuming.

And verse 10 says this, “And he waited seven more days.” I would not have waited seven more days. I will just be honest with you about that. Like, if he came back for the first time, like five hours later, I’d be like, “Get out again. Try it again. I don’t think you looked hard enough.” But he waited seven more days. And then he again sent out the dove from the ark. And when the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So, the green plant life is beginning to come back. And then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. So, of course, he got out, right? No, he waited seven more days. And he sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him. So, interesting, isn’t it? The section begins, he waited seven more days. And then he gets great news. And he waited seven more days. The point is Noah did a lot of waiting. Noah did a lot of waiting. And some of you right now are understanding exactly why at the beginning I said you weren’t gonna like this one. Because this waiting business seems to keep coming up. And we don’t like waiting, right? We don’t. And yet, it’s undeniable that Noah did a lot of waiting.

And by the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. And Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the earth was completely dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month. Now, we saw in the last chapter that on the seventeenth…yeah, the seventeenth day of the second month of his six hundredth year, the flood came. And on the twenty-seventh day of the second month of his six hundred and first year, it was dry. Flood was gone. And I know you didn’t come here to do math today. But the point is it’s been a year. Actually, it’s been a year and eleven days, which is fascinating to me. Some of you are going to love this, others, “Is it on the final exam?” It’s not. But it’s kind of interesting. It’s a year plus eleven days. And what’s interesting to me about that is that the Jewish calendar was a lunar calendar. And on a lunar calendar, a year had 354 days. So, if you take the 354 days of the Jewish calendar, and you add these extra 11 days, you might want to do the math 354 plus 11, it gives you 365, the exact number of days in a solar year. We’re supposed to understand that they’d been in the ark for a year before they got off, a year. Can you imagine the relief they must have felt? I mean, you think your quarantine has been bad. It didn’t even hold a candle to theirs. They’d been in there for a year. They’ve been waiting for a year under conditions most of us can’t even begin to imagine.

And it’s interesting to me. When we think about the story of Noah and Noah’s Ark, especially, we tend to think, yeah, yeah, Noah was a faithful man. And we know he’s faithful because what did he do? He built a big boat. I think most of us at least I’ve always sort of thought of Noah’s greatest demonstration of faithfulness is the fact that he built the boat when it didn’t make sense. There was no flood coming, the rain clouds weren’t gathering, and yet, he still built the boat. He built the boat when everybody else right thought he’d lost his mind. He built the boat when his family probably thought he’d lost his mind. And I’ve always thought of that as the greatest demonstration of his faithfulness. And yet, it’s interesting. Do you know how much time the Bible spends describing Noah actually building the boat? Eight words. “And Noah did all the Lord commanded him.” That’s it. That’s the only description we have of him building the boat. On the other hand, we have a whole lot of talk, a whole lot of time devoted to how much time Noah spent waiting.

And here’s the thing. The greatest demonstration of Noah’s faith in God may have been his willingness to wait on God. The greatest demonstration of Noah’s faithfulness wasn’t necessarily building the boat, it was his willingness to wait. And I hate that. I hate it in part because I’m just not patient. Some of you know, I’ve shared this before, we use a personality survey here at Mission Hills. And according to that personality survey, which has been independently tested, scientists have been involved to that, according to that study, 90% of the people on this planet are more patient than me. I’m top 10% most impatient people on the planet. Scientifically proven. I don’t like to wait. I hate to wait. Anybody else? Any waiting haters out there? Yeah. And yet, the reality is living faithfully depends on being willing to wait. It’s the truth I wish I didn’t have to share with you. It’s the truth I wish I didn’t have to wrestle with so regularly. But it’s the truth that we have to wrestle with. Living faithfully depends on being willing to wait. Because when we don’t wait, we get ahead of God. When we don’t wait, we get off track, and we leap into something that was not God’s provision. When we don’t wait, we make a mess of things.

I’ve been learning this during the pandemic. Right before COVID hit, I actually had picked up a hobby to try to keep myself mentally sane. I picked up woodturning. You know, woodturning, you get a chunk of wood, you put it on a lathe, you spin it really fast, tools come in, and you make a piece of art. I really enjoyed it. It’s been really fun. The problem is that we don’t have a lot of great wood just laying around in Colorado. And so I have to depend on other people who cut down trees to say, “Hey, I brought you a maple log or something like that.” And I love that people bring me a maple log. I mean, this is beautiful. I can see the art. It’s gonna be this beautiful thing. And the problem is it’s wet. It’s really wet, actually. And here’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to take my lovely log where I can see this incredible piece of art is gonna be, and I’m supposed to put it on a shelf. And I’m supposed to leave it there for two years, two years before it’s truly dry, right? And I’m like, “Whatever. Get that thing on.” It starts spinning, and it’s taken shape, and I can see the art coming out, like, this is beautiful, but it’s still wet. Instead, I have this beautiful thing, and I take it off, and it immediately begins to dry, but now it’s drying really unevenly. And it’s warping, and it’s cracking, and pieces are breaking off. And what would have been a beautiful piece of art is now a hunk of junk. Because I didn’t wait.

God’s been using that to teach me the value in being willing to wait on him. And what we see here in the story of Noah is a man whose greatest faithfulness was demonstrated by his willingness to wait. Because the reality is what would have been a great work of art can be turned into a hunk of junk if we’re not willing to wait. And that’s so true in so many areas of our lives. God is good. God is committed to your good. And when God calls you to wait, it’s because there is a piece of art that God is in the midst of forming. He’s always working, whether you can see it or not. He’s always shaping, whether you can see it or not. But we have to be willing to wait, and we’re not going to experience it, we’re going to experience something far less than he intended. It’s mainly the most important story or principles we are supposed to understand here. Noah was willing to wait, and that was the sign of his great faith. And then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that’s with you, the birds and the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground so that they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.” Because Noah has waited, the conditions are right for good to flourish.

And so Noah came out together with his sons and his wife and his son’s wives, and all the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds, everything that moves on land came out of the ark one kind after another. And then Noah built an altar to the Lord. And taking some of all the clean animals and the clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. Don’t miss that. Noah has been waiting a year under conditions that most of us have never had to face and probably never will. He has been waiting for a year, and what’s the first thing he does when the wait is over? He worships. It’s the first thing he does. It’s interesting where I think getting to the end of this pandemic. It’s not over yet. But we’re getting there. We’re coming to the end of it. And people are having conversations, I hear them all the time. What’s the first thing you’re going to do when this is all over? And so people go, “Oh, I’m going to go out to eat. I’m gonna go out to eat.” I went out to eat this past Friday night. Apparently in Castle Rock, the pandemic is done. I was a little mad at people, I was like, “What are you doing here?” And then I was like, “Well, I’m here.” So, you know, but I’m vaccinated. Okay. But that’s one thing people say, “I’m gonna go out to eat. That’s first thing I’m gonna do.” “I’m gonna go visit somebody I haven’t seen.” I was able to go and visit my parents for the first time in a year three weekends ago. “I’m gonna take a trip, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that.” It’s really easy to think of all these things that we want to do that we have been able to do. But don’t miss the lesson of Noah here.

The first thing we need to do after a long wait is worship. And maybe that’s the pandemic in your life right now. And maybe there’s another area of your life where you feel like you’ve been waiting on God, and you’re beginning to see signs that God is moving and that the wait is over. What’s the first thing you do whenever a wait is over? You worship the God you’ve been waiting on. I feel like we need to lean into that. So, again, whether it’s the pandemic or it’s some other area of waiting, let’s take a moment, just right now. Let’s just lean into worship the God who’s worth waiting on, shall we? Would you stand with us?

[Song]

“Amazing love, that welcomes me, the kindness of mercy, that bought with blood wholeheartedly, my soul undeserving. God, you’re so good. God, you’re so good. God, you’re so good, you’re so good to me. Behold the cross, age to age, and hour by hour. The dead are raised, the sinner saved, the work of your power. God, you’re so good. God, you’re so good. God, you’re so good, you’re so good to me. So good. God, you’re so good. God, you’re so good. God, you’re so good, you’re so good to me. I am blessed. I am called. I am healed. I am whole. I am saved in Jesus’ name. Highly favored, anointed, and filled with your power for the glory of Jesus’ name. I am blessed. I am called. I am healed. I am whole. I am saved in Jesus’ name. Highly favored, anointed, and filled with your power for the glory of Jesus’ name. And should this life bring suffering, Lord I will remember what Calvary has bought for me, both now and forever. God, you’re so good. Just tell him today. God, you’re so good. God, you’re so good, you’re so good to me. So good. God, you’re so good. You are good. God, you’re so good. God, you’re so good, you’re so good to me. Somebody sing it out, sing. God, you’re so good. God, you’re so good. God, you’re so good, you’re so good to me. So good to me. God, you’re so good. There’s no one like you. God, you’re so good. God, you’re so good, you’re so good to me. I am blessed. I am called. I am healed. I am whole. I am saved in Jesus’ name. Highly favored, anointed, and filled with your power for the glory of Jesus’ name. God, you’re so good. God, you’re so good. God, you’re so good, you’re so good to me. you’re good. Thank you, Lord.”

[End song]

Go and grab a seat. After a very long wait, the first thing that Noah did was he worshiped. Because it’s always what we do after we’ve been waiting on the Lord and he moves, we worship the one we’ve been waiting on. And the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma. And he said in his heart, “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans. Even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood, never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” And, again, we so often think of the story of Noah’s Ark as the story of God’s judgment on sin, it’s a story of God’s wrath. And, certainly, that’s there. So, we’ve said sin is serious business. I want you to spend more time looking in the mirror than out the window when we think about that. But don’t miss this. If you were with us at the beginning, you may remember the story of Noah’s Ark began with a statement of God’s grace, not wrath, not judgment, but grace. Even though every inclination of the human heart was wicked, God said, “You got 120 years to turn it around.” He gave him 120-year grace period.

The story of Noah’s Ark begins with a story about God’s great grace. And it ends with another statement of God’s great grace, doesn’t it? God says, “I’m not going to do this again, even though,” this is the sentence that you got to pay attention to, “even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” God’s not naive, he knows that the flood hasn’t fixed the real problem. This was never the plan to fix the problem. God’s plan to fix the problem was also grace. He sent his own Son, who lived a perfect life and then who voluntarily died on the cross to pay the price of our sin. God raised him from the dead, and out of his grace, he offers us the opportunity to be forgiven of our sins, adopted in the family of God, have eternal life with him, simply by putting our faith in what Jesus did on the cross. That’s grace. And here at the end of the story of Noah’s Ark, he says, “Even though every inclination is still evil, I’m not going to do this again.” And what do we call it when God doesn’t give us what we deserve for our sin? We call that grace.

Noah’s Ark begins with a statement of God’s grace. It ends with a statement of God’s grace. And then smack in the middle, there’s the statement that God remembered Noah. Notice, he didn’t remember Noah’s righteousness. He didn’t remember all the good things Noah had done. He didn’t remember all the ways that Noah had tried to live a good life. It just says he remembered Noah, his child. That’s grace. The story of Noah’s Ark is shot through the statements about God’s great grace. And really, if you think about it, it all boils down to realizing that the story of Noah’s Ark teaches us this principle that God’s grace always leads to good if we’re willing to wait, if we’re willing to wait on him. So, as we wrap up the series, a few things to maybe think about, wrestle with. Number one, where do I feel like God has forgotten me? Is there a place in your life where you feel like you’ve been waiting so long and you’re beginning to wonder if God still remembers you? He hasn’t. He never forgets. But if you have a place in your life where you’re feeling like maybe he has, then the question you want to ask yourself is, “How will I remind myself that God never forgets?”

Maybe it’s as simple as writing Genesis 8:1 or just the first few words, “God remembered Noah.” Put that on a Post-it Note, put it on your bathroom mirror so you see it every morning. Set a reminder in your phones that every day at some time those words come up, “God remembered Noah, and he remembers me.” How will you remind yourself that God never forgets?

Second question to wrestle with is, is there a place in my life where waiting has tempted me to be unwise? Is there a place in your life where you’ve been waiting so long that you find yourself ready to jump into any hint of an opportunity rather than assessing it? You’re just assuming, “That must be what God’s doing. That must be it. That must be it. That must be it.” Is there a place in your life where the waiting is tempting you to be unwise, and so how are you gonna assess it? How will you assess rather than assume? Maybe it’s leaning into prayer, maybe it’s seeking wise counsel from other followers of Jesus to think through those things together with you. But how will you assess rather than assume in that place? Are you facing that danger?

The third question is, is there a place in my life where waiting seems to be coming to an end? Maybe you’re feeling that way about the pandemic, maybe you’ve had the disease, or maybe you’ve gotten the vaccine, and it’s beginning to feel like it’s coming in? Great. What are you going to do now? Because what we’re told we’re supposed to do when the waiting comes to an end is we worship the one we’ve been waiting on. Or maybe there’s another area in your life where you’ve been waiting for a long time, and you’re beginning to sense that God is on the move and that the waiting is finally coming to an end. Don’t miss this lesson. The first thing we do after a long wait is we worship the one we’ve been waiting on. So, how will I celebrate that with worship? Maybe it’s as simple as coming back to an in-person service, or maybe there’s some other way that God’s calling you to worship first. Wrestle with those. God is good. Amen.

Even in one of the stories that feels like the greatest demonstration of his wrath, we actually find over and over again the undeniable truth that God is good. And he’s kind, and he’s worth waiting on. Because the good that comes when we wait so surpasses the imitation of good that we can take for ourselves when we refuse to wait. He’s worth waiting on. Would you stand with us? Before we head back out into the world, let’s take one last moment to worship this God who is worth waiting on.