Sin, Judgment, and the Promise of Mercy
A sermon on Genesis 6 to 9 by Coty Pinckney, Desiring God Community Church, Charlotte, NC, May 16, 2004
Do you believe that Jesus is coming again? Do you believe that He will end the world as we know it, and usher in a new heavens and a new earth, wherein righteousness will dwell?
In Revelation 22, Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon!” It’s now been almost 2000 years since John wrote those words. Is He really coming? Soon?
There are many who DON’T believe He is coming back. Indeed, even many who call themselves Christians don’t believe this. Some scoff at the idea, thinking that those who believe such pie in the sky ideas are mentally weak, incapable of coping with the world as it is.
But Peter told us long ago that people would say exactly that.
Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 2 Peter 3:3-10 ESV
Do you understand the flow of Peter’s argument? He says, “Scoffers will say, ‘He promised – but He’s not coming! Everyone knows that the world doesn’t undergo dramatic, cataclysmic changes, like those prophecies about the last days. The world has always just gone on and on, and it will always go on and on, evolving and evolving!’”
But what does Peter say: “Not so! They are deliberately forgetting that once before, God judged the earth and destroyed it – and the same will happen again.”
Then he explains why this has taken so long: First, God’s sense of slowness is not like our sense of slowness; and second, His patience is gracious, providing an opportunity for repentance.
But the promised day WILL COME: suddenly, without warning. And on that day the world as we know it, and all its accomplishments, will be destroyed.
So do you see? Peter uses the historical example of the flood in the days of Noah to show that the promise of Jesus’ return IS CERTAIN, to show that the promise that He will destroy the present earth IS CERTAIN.
So the flood foreshadows the end of the world. The flood is a historical picture of the end of time.
We read earlier in Matthew 24 how Jesus looks back at the flood and draws the same parallel:
38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:38-29 ESV)
The coming of the Son of Man – the return of Jesus Christ and the destruction of the present world – is foreshadowed in the flood. So, since Jesus tells us that we should always be ready for His return, we can prepare ourselves better for that return by studying the flood. We must ensure that we don’t make the mistakes made by those who didn’t expect the flood and thus died; and we must ensure we learn the positive lessons of Noah and his family.
So because Jesus is coming back, and because we must be ready, let us turn to Genesis 6-9 and learn about the flood.
Recall chapters 3-5 of Genesis. In chapter 3 there is the promise of a redeemer, born of the seed of the woman, who will crush the head of Satan. Eve thinks her first son, Cain, may be this redeemer, but instead he murders his brother. Cain’s descendants provide a picture of man without God. While they enjoy some earthly success, they are marked by ungodliness, typified by the vicious Lamech, the seventh generation from Adam via Cain.
Chapter 5 lists the descendants of Adam through Seth. These descendants call on the name of the Lord. We read in chapter 5 that Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam via Seth, “walked with God and he was not –for God took him.” One of Enoch’s descendants – another, different Lamech – becomes the father of Noah.
We have four chapters to cover this morning. Rather than read them all, we will simply touch on the highlights. You know the basics of the story. The earth is corrupt, and full of sin. God decides to judge the earth. One righteous man, Noah, spends decades building a large wooden ark. God sends a pair of every type of animal to Noah. At God’s command, Noah and his family and all the animals enter the ark. God closes the door of the ark, after which he sends rain on the earth for 40 days and nights. All living things on the surface of the earth, including all mankind, are destroyed. God keeps His promise to Noah and remembers him and his family in the ark. He causes the waters to dry up and tells Noah to come out of the ark. God then makes a covenant, or promise, with Noah and his descendants that He will never again destroy the earth by water.
These are the basics. But what are the lessons?
Today’s message will focus on the following outline:
Two Questions of Fact:
1) Is the flood historical?
There are two quick reasons to say that the flood is historical. First, as noted above, Peter and Jesus believed it was historical and used the fact of the flood to emphasize the fact of the coming judgment. If the flood is only a myth, these arguments lose all force, with the implication that Jesus’ second coming is myth also.
The account of the flood is not written like myth – indeed, in the entire book of Genesis, these chapters are written LEAST like myth. It doesn’t begin “Once upon a time” or “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” Consider 7:11:
In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.
Note the expression, “The seventeenth day of the month.” The flood account is the ONLY PLACE IN GENESIS where a particular day of the month is specified. The author of Genesis is grounding this event in history.
2) Was the flood worldwide?
We read in Genesis that “all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.” (7:19) We also read that “everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died . . . man and animals, creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.” (7:22-23)
You can’t get much clearer than this. If the mountains were covered, the flood must indeed have been worldwide. True, the statement that the mountains were covered doesn’t mean the waters rose 29,000 feet above sea level. It is possible that some mountains, like the Himalayas, rose to a higher elevation after the flood as a result of dislocations to the earth’s crust. Or perhaps “all the high mountains” is subjective language referring to those mountains known to the author. It is unlikely the author of Genesis had ever seen the Himalayas. Even if the language is to be understood in this way, Jerusalem is 2500 feet above sea level. Thus, any flood that covered Jerusalem would be worldwide. So yes, the flood is historical. And yes, it was worldwide.
I want to draw your attention to four statements:
5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. Genesis 6:5-6
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. Genesis 6:11-12
Remember the language in chapter 1 of Genesis? Repeatedly in the account of creation we read that “God saw that it was good.” Now what does He see? Wickedness, violence, corruption – in mankind, yes, but even in ALL FLESH.
Was mankind basically good, except that those who had the misfortune to grow up in a bad environment turned bad? Isn’t this what many would say today?
But that’s NOT what God says: “Every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Note, this does not refer only to outward actions, which were obviously sinful. Scripture makes clear that man was internally corrupt also. His thoughts, intentions, and desires were evil. He was created to glorify God, but instead he rejected God internally, in his heart and mind, and this rejection was manifest in his actions.
Note also that it was not only mankind that had become corrupt! Genesis 6:11-12 states that “all flesh had corrupted their way.” This suggests that even the animal kingdom was affected by the fall.
Having seen the corruption on earth, does God send the flood to destroy evil and start again with a perfect man? Noah is called a “righteous man, blameless in his generation.” (6:9). But this doesn’t mean he is perfect. The term “blameless” in Scripture does not mean free of all sin; rather, it means “wholehearted in one’s commitment to the person and requirements of God.”
The continuing reality of sin is seen in God’s words to Noah after he offers a sacrifice upon leaving the ark:
"I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Genesis 8:21
God is saying, in effect, “I’ve done this once, it has served a purpose – but man’s heart is evil even as a child. I would just keep destroying the earth if I sent a flood every time man became utterly sinful. I have a better plan.”
So God knew the solution to sin was not to pick the best man and start over. To make this absolutely clear, chapter 9 records sins by Noah and his son Ham.
20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father's nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers." 26 He also said, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. 27 May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant." Genesis 9:20-27
In this account, we see that Noah, too, sins, getting drunk and sprawling on his bed naked. Ham evidently makes fun of his father before his brothers, who, instead of laughing at their father, cover him. As a result of Ham’s sin, the descendants of Canaan, one of Ham’s four sons, take the place of the descendants of Cain as the line of opposition to God.
Throughout Genesis we see that biblical heroes sin. Noah sins; Ham, one of eight saved through the flood, sins. Sin is prevalent. So the flood destroys the line of Cain, but it does not destroy sin. For God’s purpose in the flood is not to destroy sin then and there, but to give a picture of the final destruction of sin. It is coming.
God promises that He will judge the earth in His initial interactions with Noah:
7 So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them." Genesis 6:7
13 And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Genesis 6:13
And then Chapter 7 ends with a description of the fulfillment of God’s promised judgment:
23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days. Genesis 7:23-24
Note the extent of the destruction: “Every living thing that was on the face of the ground”. All people – infants, the old, mothers, fathers. All animals. All accomplishments of mankind – cities, artwork, architecture. All that anyone owned or made. All is gone, swept away in the waters of the flood. God judges and destroys the entire world.
This is not the picture of God we typically see today. Often today, if people think of God, they think of an indulgent grandfather who winks at our wrong actions, and who would never reprimand or punish. But this is not the biblical picture of God!
Man was created to glorify God by delighting in Him! Yet man turned his back on God, despising Him. God graciously delayed judgment at the time of Adam and Eve, but by the time of the flood it is clear to all that man is intrinsically and hopelessly corrupt. In bringing the flood, God shows the ultimate end of evil – so that ALL men for ALL time can know that there are consequences for sin.
In the flood, God destroys the world and, in effect, re-creates it. Once the promise to Eve is fulfilled through the coming of the Redeemer, once all God’s promises are fulfilled, then destruction will come once again, by fire.
So we have seen sin and we have seen judgment. But Genesis 6-9 are not primarily about sin and judgment. They are primarily about God’s promises, and God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His promises.
17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. Genesis 6:17-18
God’s covenant with Noah is both unilateral and gracious. While the covenant included conditions, its benefits were not earned by Noah’s fulfilling such conditions, but were God’s free gift. The benefits of this covenant far outweigh the conditions, but the conditions were not insignificant. Among other things, Noah was expected to build the ark, gather food for the animals, put up with mocking and scoffing of the people around him, put the animals in their places on the ark, witness the destruction of the known world, and live on the ark with all the animals for more than a year. These conditions were far from easy, but they are certainly outweighed by the value of saving life and becoming an ancestor of the promised Redeemer.
Noah does all that God requires. Twice we read that “Noah did all that God commanded him.” But this external obedience is an indication of what is inside Noah:
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Hebrews 11:7
The FUNDAMENTAL CONDITION of God’s covenant with Noah is to trust God throughout the flood, confident that He will keep His promises.
But God promises and fulfills much more than He requires of Noah! First, He says to Noah “Everything that is on the earth shall die, but I will establish my covenant with you.” The implication: that God will keep Noah and his family and the animals alive.
Does God live up to His promise? Yes. He does everything that Noah is unable to do. He brings animals to Noah (6:20 “two of every sort shall come in to you”). He closes the door of the ark (7:16 “the LORD shut him in”). How could Noah close the door himself, thus keeping all other men out, saying that the time for salvation was past? Only God could do this. God protects Noah and his family, and brings them out of the ark and makes them the ancestors of all mankind.
The author of Genesis emphasizes God’s tender care by making Genesis 8:1 the literary center of the story:
But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. Genesis 8:1
Not that God had ever forgotten Noah! The verb here translated “remember” means “to act upon a previous commitment to a covenant partner” (Waltke, p. 140). The time was right for God to fulfill His promise to Noah, so He did. Up to this point, the flood gets worse and worse – now it begins to recede. Finally, God tells Noah and his family to leave the ark. Upon doing so, Noah acknowledges God’s grace and His relationship to God’s promise by offering a burnt offering, thereby indicating he belongs wholly to the Lord.
After Noah’s burnt offering, God states His post-flood covenant with Noah. The covenant consists of five parts:
· Until the end of the earth, God will never again destroy all living creatures.
· God restates the creation command for man to multiply and fill the earth.
· Despite more difficult conditions after the flood, God promises that man will be able to multiply. To this end, He gives the animals to man as food, in addition to the plants and fruits previously provided for this purpose. In doing this, however, God forbids man to eat the blood, the purpose of which is to underscore that God is the one who gives and takes away life.
· God gives man the authority to punish wrongdoing, specifically by putting to death those who commit murder.
· God gives the rainbow as the sign of His covenant.
God’s covenant with Noah is a gracious act, by which God enables Noah and his descendants to live in the harsh post-flood environment.
What are the lessons of the flood for us?
At the beginning we read how Peter draws a parallel between the flood and the final destruction of the world at the return of Jesus Christ. He then continues:
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation. 2 Peter 3:11-15a
We have seen that man - and indeed the whole world - is stained and corrupted by sin, not only in his actions but also in his thoughts; we have seen that judgment is coming – the destruction of the entire world, as occurred at the flood; and we have seen the Promise of God, that He will provide salvation through Jesus Christ to all who believe.
Noah preached to his contemporaries, offering salvation from the coming judgment. Just so, God offers to us salvation, eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth. And the conditions are simple. We need only acknowledge our own sinfulness, acknowledge God’s RIGHT to judge, acknowledge the CERTAINTY of God’s judgment, acknowledge the GRACIOUSNESS of God’s promise of salvation through Jesus Christ, and trust Him to fulfill His promises.
My friends, sin is pervasive; it infects every man, it mars our every action and thought. Because of sin, judgment is coming. And there’s only one ark – faith in Jesus Christ! Will you enter that ark? Will you identify yourself with Him? The door is still open! A day is coming when God will close that door, but for now the door is open.
Will you, like Noah, believe so strongly in His promises that you will obey him fully? Will you believe that your only true joy is found in Him? Will you believe that any other joy contrary to His will is temporary, fleeting, perishing with this world?
Throw yourself on His mercy! Delight in Him as the giver of all gifts! Look to His return with joy instead of fear! Board the ark of faith in Jesus – and live!
This sermon was preached at Desiring God Community Church in Charlotte, NC on 5/16/04. The Waltke quote is from Bruce Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary (Zondervan, 2001).
Copyright © 2004, Thomas C. Pinckney. This data file is the sole property of Thomas C. Pinckney. Please feel free to copy it in written form, but only in its entirety for circulation freely without charge. All copies of this data file must contain the above copyright notice.
This data file may not be copied in part, edited, revised, posted on the internet, copied for resale or incorporated in any products offered for sale, without the written permission of Thomas C. Pinckney, (send email), c/o Desiring God Community Church, PO Box 620099, Charlotte, NC 28262.