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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
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.