I would like to start by reading v23 of the text read to us earlier from Genesis 7:11-24. "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."
I wonder if you have ever been in a flood. I remember when as a boy growing up in rural Australia. Sometimes it would be dry for months and then suddenly rain would come, and come and keep on coming for days on end and the entire landscape would be flooded with water. One particular time, we were totally isolated from everyone, and nobody else was to be seen as far as the eyes could see. It was as if my family and I were the only people on earth, just like Noah and his family were.
Noah - How and why?
But how did Noah and his family happen to be in this ark and saved from dying in the flood? So let us put the passage before us into its context. Some time before, God had created the world and humans. Shortly after that man went against God's commandments and sinned against Him. This sinning process continued down through the generations of people. As Genesis tells us "that every inclination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil all of the time." So God, in holiness, repented of his decision to make man and decided to wipe all living things from the earth. However one man, Noah, had continued to walk with God and was righteous.
God, then commanded Noah to build an ark so as to keep him, his family and all types of creatures alive during the flood. Noah, whom the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us was a righteous and godly man, obeyed God and built the ark, gathered the animals, and entered the ark of safety with them and his family. So that is the background in which we come to today's passage. The story of the flood is one of the more well known stories of the Old Testament, and is particularly popular with children. But with it comes a series of messages that we learn from this section of the Bible in the 21st century?
God is a Judge
The first message we see is that God is a judge. The flood demonstrated that God is a righteous and just God, who will not tolerate evil. The flood showed that God means what He says: He gave man 120 years to repent, they did not, so they were judged. This judgment tells us that God is true to His Word. The flood was complete; God's judgement was complete. The waters "rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered ... Every living thing that moved on the earth perished."
It is hard for us to conceive how such a great amount of water came to cover the earth. How the flood happened is a mystery. However God's judgement is not a mystery. We have seen here that the basis of God's judgement is the response of man to the revealed will of God. It is a thoroughly just and convincing thing. No doubt that when the waters of the flood started to appear everyone left outside the ark were panic struck and their mouths gaped open as they stopped in disbelief at the justice of God's judgement and feeling very sorry that they hadn't listened to the words of God through Noah.
God is a Deliverer
Our second message that we can refer to is that God is a deliverer. In fact, the ark is typical of our salvation through Christ in many ways. God designed the way of salvation, long before God revealed to Noah the judgment. Noah was saved because he fulfilled the requirements for salvation as given by God; the way of salvation provided a refuge from the judgement of God upon the world; the Lord "shut Noah in" to His salvation, a salvation that nothing or no one could take away. As the rain fell, Noah was safely in the ark. The rest of the world, however, could only watch as "for forty days the flood kept coming on the earth." Noah, however, as the floodwaters grew, could look back on all the work he did in obedience to God and realize that it was not for nothing. He could look back at all the persecution that he suffered as he built the ark and count it not worth comparing to the glory of his salvation. He must have felt greatly honoured to receive from God deliverance from a judgement that he, as a sinner, deserved also. As the rain fell, he probably pondered God's mercy to him, asking, "Who am I, that I should be saved?"
New Testament Reflection
So far we have seen that God is both a judge and a deliverer. But what does that have to do with us, living several thousand years after the event? What possible connection is in there for us? Well, lets have a look at what the New Testament has to say about this episode in history? Firstly Jesus quoted it in Mt 24:39, when He talked about the end of the age, when He will come again. In verse 37, He compares the flood with the coming of the Son of Man. There will again be two groups of people. There are those that are like Noah, who are prepared and saved; and those who are unprepared and lost. Secondly, Peter backed this up in his second letter, and added that the next judgement will not be with water, but fire for the destruction of all ungodly people (2 Peter 3:5-7). The godly people, will have a new home of righteousness to look forward to.
So let us recapitulate and then conclude. Firstly we have seen that God is a righteous judge. God, in His pure holiness, cannot tolerate sin and disobedience, and needs to judge it. He judged the earth with a flood several thousand years ago. Secondly we learnt that God also delivers or saves. All through out history, even in the most ungodly times, God has always kept a remnant or group of people for Himself, and has always had a spokesperson ready to speak for Him. We learn this throughout the Old Testament, in the story of the people of Israel. Then, thirdly we discovered what the New Testament teaches us about it. Jesus and the Apostle Peter, both referred to it. The writer of Hebrews, tells us that Noah was a man of faith, who lived in holy fear and was the heir of righteousness to a new world following the flood.
How then can we conclude? Today, as in the days of Noah we have 2 groups of people. Those of us who are Christians, who are His children safe in the arms of Jesus, and those who don't know about God's grace and mercy and are lost in the flood of sin. Some of us here today, have been Christians possibly only a couple of days or perhaps for decades. What are we doing, knowing that the judgement of Christ is coming? Are we like Noah, and obeying God and his commandments? Working out our faith, with fear and trembling. Are we showing people and telling the lost that God loves them, cares for them, and is coming back again to judge the earth with fire and righteousness. That is our work and mission as Christians.
Maybe you belong to the second group of people and you are not a child of God and safe in the 'ark' of Jesus. It is God's will for you to be safe, for He desires that nobody should be lost. You are still lost in the flood of sin, and do not yet know God as your Father? Sin is not obeying what God has revealed to be true. I implore you to turn to Him today! No-one knows when the next judgment day will be, just as in the days of Noah. It could be now, tomorrow or in another hundred years. No one knows when that judgment will be, only the all knowing and all wise God. The time for you to turn to Him is now. All you have to do is believe, accept that Jesus is God, and follow Him trusting that He will save you and then you will be safe in the God's modern ark. If that is you today, please do see one of the leaders or myself afterwards and we will be very happy to talk with you further!