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Monday, July 18, 2011

Noah and the Flood

Noah and the Great Flood

God is brokenhearted. Grieved and discouraged, He continues on in pain. He had loved His children so much but now He is sorry that He ever created them. The Bible tells it this way: “The Lord was grieved that He had made humans on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said …I am grieved and sorry that I made human beings.” (Genesis 6:6,7b) As any good parent grieves over a son or daughter who rebels and chooses evil, so God also grieves when His children rebel and chose evil. And God is grieving over His rebellious children at the time our story takes place – the story about Noah and the great flood.

The date of our story is back near the dawn of history. The flood occurred approximately 1,675 years after God created Adam and Eve in the Garden. All of the people on earth back then were the descendents of Adam and Eve. And Adam and Eve’s descendents weren’t doing well at all.

Scripture tells us that in those prehistoric times there were giants on the earth. “There were giants on the earth in those days, …There were mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6:4) And the lifespan of Adam and his offspring seemed to be much longer back at the dawn of history than our lifespan is now. We can only guess what this means but perhaps the earth was different in some ways back then than it is now.

Let’s listen to how the Bible describes the people who lived on earth during Noah’s lifetime. “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5) And, “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 earth had corrupted their ways.” (Genesis 6:11) This is one of the Bible’s most vivid descriptions of total depravity. It says that ALL of the people on the earth had corrupted their ways and that ALL the thoughts of their hearts were evil continually! No wonder God was brokenhearted.

Scripture first says that all the people on earth were corrupt. But then Scripture corrects that statement and says that all the people on earth were corrupt except one. There was just one person in the whole earth before the flood that wasn’t corrupt, and that person was Noah. The Bible says it this way: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” (Genesis 6:8-9) Noah’s Godly life was a powerful contrast to the wicked lives of his contemporaries. This description of Noah doesn’t mean that he was sinless or perfect. I believe that Noah was called “righteous” in Scripture because he trusted God and tried to obey Him.

So God came to Noah and told him that He was thinking about ending the lives of everyone on earth by bringing a flood. “So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.” (Genesis 6:13)

God continued by instructing Noah to build an ark, - an ark made of cypress wood and coated inside and out with pitch. And God didn’t leave Noah on his own to figure out how to build this ark. But God, the Master Planner, gave Noah detailed plans for building the ark, from the exact measurements of the ark and a pattern of a three deck configuration with just one door, to instructions as to what supplies and food to pack, and even how many animals and birds should be gathered into the ark.

God promised Noah that He would establish His covenant with him- the first mention of a covenant between God and humans in the Bible. I believe that God was promising to protect Noah and his family through the impending flood.

And Scripture says: “Thus Noah did according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” (Genesis 6:22) Noah built the ark exactly the way he had been told, with every detail exactly as God had specified. God was looking for a person who would work with Him to establishing His purposes on earth. And God had found that person in Noah.

It might have been difficult sometimes for Noah to follow God. Remember that he was the ONLY person on earth who trusted God. All of Noah’s friends and relatives had rebelled against Gods’ ways. So Noah didn’t get any support from anyone when he tried to do the right thing. He must have warned his relatives and friends about the flood that was coming. But no one listened to him. It might have been lonely following God when the rest of the world was going in the opposite direction. And don’t you imagine that he was laughed at by his neighbors and relatives when he spent years building his enormous ship in a location that probably wasn’t even near any body of water? Can’t you just hear the jokes that were being passed around?

Finally the ark was finished and the time was drawing near. The Bible tells it like this: “And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds an of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah.” (Genesis 7:7-9) I had always pictured Noah and his family running through the woods catching animals. But it sounds like God caused the animals and birds and reptiles to come on their own to Noah and to the ark.

The Bible tells us that when Noah and his family and all the animals and birds and creatures that crawl on the ground had finally gone inside the ark, that God closed the door of the ark. Noah didn’t shut the door, God did. “Then the Lord shut them in.” (Genesis 7:16b) There was only one door to the ark and Bible scholars have suggested that this door could be a picture of Jesus Christ. One of the names for Jesus is the “door” (John 10:7) because He is the Door to Everlasting Life. And there is only one door to eternal life – Jesus. God’s judgment was coming on the earth in the form of the flood, but God was shutting Noah’s family in and keeping them safe from death. And when God’s final judgment comes, all those who have gone through the one Door (Jesus) will be safely shut in by God and protected from death.

When the flood finally came, the Bible describes it this way: “…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.” (Genesis 7:11b) “as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth” (Genesis 7:18) “…all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the tops of the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. Every living thing that moved on the earth perished…” (Genesis 7:19-20a) “Only Noah was left and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.” (Genesis 7:23b-24) It was a terrible time.

“Finally the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens were closed and the rains stopped falling from the sky.” (Genesis 8:2) God sent a wind over the earth to dry things out and the waters slowly receded. The flood began during the second month of the year and it was during the tenth month of that same year that the waters from the flood had receded enough that the tops of the mountains became visible. (Genesis 8:5)

Forty days after the mountain tops became visible; Noah opened the window of the ark and sent a raven out. But the raven just flew back and forth. Then he let a dove out of the window of the ark. But the dove couldn’t find any place to land so it flew back to Noah. Then he waited seven days and let another dove out the window and this time the dove came back with an olive leaf in its’ beak.

Noah and his family and the animals and birds were inside the ark for a year before the earth dried enough for them to come out. God told them when it was time. The ark had landed on Mt. Ararat (in Armenia or Turkey) and the first thing that Noah did when he came out of the ark was to build an altar and make a sacrifice to God. Noah and his family worshiped God and thanked Him for saving their lives. And God blessed them.

Then God came to Noah and made a covenant or a promise to him and to us too that He would never again destroy the whole earth with a flood. Let’s listen: “Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood: never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” Thus I establish My covenant with you: (Genesis 9:11) “And God said: This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I will set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-130 So when we see a rainbow in the sky we can remember that it is a sign of God’s promise to us that He will never again destroy the whole earth with a flood.

I have heard that anthropologists have discovered stories of the flood in the histories of almost every culture and tribe. Such a sad story – sad that except for Noah’s family, every man woman and child on earth perished. God was able to save Noah and use him because he trusted God, but no one else did. In a world that had broken His heart, God found joy in this one man who believed in Him. God still cares about His children and He is still looking for people today who will trust Him. Like Noah, let’s put our trust in God and bring joy to His heart.