5 The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth - men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air - for I am grieved that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord.
9 This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.”
17 For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. 18 The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. 21 Every living thing that moved on the earth perished - birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.
The story of Noah and the ark is one we have all grown up with.
We learned about it in Sunday School, and it is one of the most well-known stories in the Bible.
Movies have been made of it, and even non-Christians know about Noah and the Great Flood.
It’s an amazing and incredible story.
But what has happened in our day is that we have a tendency to focus on the sweet, furry little animals coming two-by-two into Noah’s Ark.
When our kids were still little their school put on a play which focussed on exactly that – we had kids dressed up in cute little animal suits. We like to talk about the animals and the rainbow. And the reaction of virtually everyone to that play was, “Ah, isn’t that sweet?”
But we forget too easily that as a result of the flood every living human being, with the exception of eight, died.
Over time we have become desensitised to the real message of the Great Flood.
There are two ways of looking at the account of Noah. We can see at as a cute kiddies’ play, or we can see the real picture.
The reality is a message about the depravity of humanity, but it also tells us a lot about the character of God.
So what could Noah and the Ark possibly teach us that we don’t already know? What does this story tell us about who God is?
Our question for today is on a list of questions many people would like to ask God, and is probably at the very top of most lists.
“How could a loving God destroy the world?” In other words, “How could a loving, compassionate God send a person to hell?”
I read a story some years ago about a Christian couple who enrolled their little girl in a private Christian school. One day when she came home from school, her mother asked her, “What did you learn in school today?” When she told her mother the story of Noah and the Ark, about how God was so enraged that He destroyed everyone except for Noah and his family, her parents were furious. They could not believe that their little girl had been exposed to such an awful story. They were so angry that they withdrew her from the school with this parting comment, “My God wouldn’t do that.”
But the thing is that their reaction to the story of Noah and the ark is quite typical of the modern world.
We have made it all cute and cuddly, but the reality is that it is a disturbing story. So what does the story of Noah and the Ark tell us about who God is? What does it have to teach us about the person and the nature of God?
The first truth that the story of Noah and the Ark has to teach us about God is that God’s holiness demands judgment.
We need to understand just how holy God is, and just how repulsive sin is to Him.
Verses 5-7 again: “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. The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth - men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air - for I am grieved that I have made them.”
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (NLT)
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be God? Imagine having all that power! That’s usually the first thing that comes to mind, but Genesis 6:6 tells us what it’s like to be God. “The Lord was grieved and His heart was filled with pain.”
God looked down on the earth that He had created out of love, He saw our sin, and it broke His heart. It broke His heart because He is Holy and He is pure.
In our culture today, we are really uncomfortable with the concepts of holiness and judgment.
People don’t like to hear hellfire and brimstone sermons, which is exactly why they do need to hear them.
People today are simply uncomfortable with judgment.
We’d rather hear wonderful stories about how nice and loving God is.
We’d rather see a cartoon of cute, smiling animals peering through the portholes of the ark, than imagine the sheer terror of what it must have been like to see the death and destruction of the Great Flood – people trying desperately to move to higher ground, then treading water in vain, as they all drowned in the end.
When you look at the Bible, one of the first truths that God tried to teach us is that He is holy.
And in the Old Testament there are several examples of how people responded whenever they came face to face with the Holy God.
Exodus 34:29 says, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.”
Why was this? Why was Moses’ face shining?
His face appeared to be on fire because he had been in the presence of the holy, righteous God.
Later, Job came face to face with this same holy God.
Now here’s a man that knew what it meant to suffer. He’d lost everything - his family, his children, his wealth and his health.
Job was sitting in a miserable mess, covered in boils, and his friends were telling him to curse God and die.
Job continued to ask, “Why, why, why, why?”
And finally, the holy God came to answer Job’s questions. You can read about it in chapter 40.
In verse 4, Job says, “I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.”
It finally dawns on Job that God is holy.
And in chapter 42:5-6 he says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
That was Job’s response when he was confronted with the holiness of God.
Isaiah was another person from the Old Testament who saw God.
In chapter 6 Isaiah saw God sitting on His throne, and he heard the angels saying repeatedly, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.”
And Isaiah’s response to all this was, “Woe is me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”
That is the only possible response when a person comes face to face with the perfect and pure holiness of God.
We’ve all tried to imagine what it will be like when we die, when we finally come face to face with God. We don’t know exactly what it will be like, but one thing we do know is that we will be blinded by the reality of God’s holiness. The awesome truth will finally become clear to us.
When that day comes, the Bible says that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Not every knee bows and not every tongue confesses now that Jesus is Lord, but believe me – that day is coming.
We will be blinded by the sheer holiness of God.
You see, the question is not: “How could a loving God destroy the world?”
The question is not: “How could a loving God send a person to Hell?”
Those are the wrong questions.
The right question is: “How can a holy God forgive us?”
The right question is: “How can a holy, perfect, pure God make us fit for heaven?”
The sooner we get this idea that we have a right to go to Heaven after we die out of our heads, the better. Because we have no right to be there.
Those are the questions we should be asking because on the day we each meet God face to face, God’s holiness will demand judgment.
So how does a holy God forgive us, and how can He make us fit for Heaven?
The answer to those questions is found in the rainbow – our second point - the sign of the promise.
The second thing that the story of Noah and the Ark has to teach us about who God is, is simply this: When God’s holiness demands judgment, God’s love delivers grace.
God said to Noah in Genesis 9:12-15, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.”
There’s a question which often stumps Christians.
“What is it that separates Christianity from all other religions?”
Most of us have been asked that question, and many of us struggle to answer it.
But the answer is very simple – it’s grace.
After the flood, after the waters had receded, and after only eight people walked out on dry land, God came to Noah in Genesis chapter 9 to make a covenant, or a contract.
He made a covenant of grace.
“I will never, ever do that again. I will never again destroy the earth with a flood.” And then do you know what God did? God signed His contract of grace. Have you ever seen God’s signature? Of course you have. God signed the sky. The rainbow is God’s signature of grace.
Now science tells us that a rainbow is caused when waves of light pass through the prism created by the drops of water in the rain clouds. A light ray is then separated into different bands of colour creating the display which we call a rainbow.
That is absolutely right. There are scientific laws which easily explain what causes a rainbow.
Science can explain what causes a rainbow, but only God can explain why He created those scientific laws in the first place.
Just think about this for a moment. Apart from the beauty of a rainbow, what other purpose does it serve?
You can’t use a rainbow for anything.
The sun has a purpose. Clouds and rain have a purpose. Wind has a purpose.
But apart from the fact that a rainbow looks pretty, there isn’t much else it can be used for.
And that is the whole point.
Maybe – just maybe the rainbow is there for one purpose, and one purpose alone.
A rainbow has only one purpose – to remind us that we have a holy God, who has made a covenant of grace with us. Even though it hurts Him.
Again – what must it feel like to be God?
Let’s go back to our fantasy of having all that power at our fingertips – do you know how it feels to be God?
It feels like a crown of thorns crushed into your forehead.
It feels like nails driven through your wrists and your feet.
It feels like a spear in your side.
It feels like rejection and betrayal and denial and death.
It hurts to be holy.
Do you know why?
Because when God’s holiness demands judgment, He takes that judgment Himself, and offers us His grace instead.
You see, at the cross God resolved His internal conflict. At the cross, God solved the eternal dilemma between His holiness which demands judgment and His love which delivers grace. The message of the cross is that when God’s holiness demands judgment, Jesus takes our punishment.
There is one verse which sums up that truth. We have heard the verse so many times that it is practically worn out. We see it everywhere.
The verse is John 3:16. That verse is the absolute purest truth in the Bible.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
The message of John 3:16 is simple. When God’s holiness demands judgment, God’s love delivers grace.
Our third point is the most important point, because we need to take the theory of God’s judgement and God’s grace, and apply them to our own lives.
When God’s holiness demands judgment and when God’s love delivers grace, what you personally believe about God determines the outcome.
You decide who you will meet on judgment day.
You decide if you will meet the holy God of judgment or the loving Father of grace.
We each choose where we will spend eternity. Our faith determines the outcome.
Earlier I told you the story about the couple who took their daughter out of a Christian school because the school taught her the truth of the Great Flood, rather than the cute, cuddly modern version.
Their response was: “My God wouldn’t do that.” They refused to believe in a God like Noah’s.
What kind of God do you believe in? It’s an important question that we need to answer.
If you do not believe in a God that is so holy and so pure and so perfect, that your sin breaks His heart - if your God is not that holy, then your God does not love you enough to send His Son to die for you.
I said earlier that we need to understand just how holy God is, and just how repulsive sin is to Him. To a large extent, in the Church today we have lost sight of the true nature of God because we have watered down His righteous wrath and prefer to just focus on His love and grace alone. But we cannot and must not do that.
A paternalistic, patronising view of God’s holiness cheapens His grace and the sacrifice of Jesus.
The German theologian Dietriech Bonhoeffer once said, “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of the church.”
We all know John 3:16, but the next two verses say, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.”
Those verses teach us that Jesus did not come to judge. That is not why He came.
He did not come to judge us. He came to be judged and condemned for us, but how you respond to that truth has eternal consequences.
God’s holiness demands judgment. It came in the days of Noah, and it came at Calvary when Jesus took the wrath of God for us. But if you do not accept His sacrifice on your behalf, if you reject what Jesus did for you, then God’s wrath will come again, and there will be no end to it. Ever.
God’s love delivers undeserving grace and mercy, and your faith response to His grace determines your eternal outcome.
Homegroup Study Notes
How does the true story of Noah’s Ark challenge what most of us learned as children?
Read Genesis 6:5-6 and Jeremiah 17:9-10
These words stand directly opposed to the general idea that man is inherently good.
Why are such passages of Scripture so offensive to the non-believing world?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of the Church.”
Why do you think many Churches are reluctant to preach about the wrath and anger of God?
Discuss this statement in your group: In order for us to understand the extent of God’s love and grace, it is necessary to first grasp His holiness, and to understand how much our sin has repulsed Him, and that apart from Jesus’ substitutionary death on the Cross, we deserve nothing but eternal damnation.
To the simple human intellect, the words judgment and grace are exact opposites, yet God possesses both of these qualities in equal and perfect measure.
How do we even begin to understand this?
In fact, is it even possible?