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.
We continue our series on "The Old, Old, Stories" which we began with Adam and Eve's descent into disobedience, followed by Cain's murder of his brother Abel and today we find ourselves at Noah, which really is a story of the cycle of violence, mankind's violence towards God (our sin) which always leads to violence (sin) against others.
The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created – and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground – for I regret that I have made them.’
It's easy to forget that God is affected by our behaviour ... His heart gets troubled ... He has regrets. This is why our hearts get troubled and why we have regrets ... it is because we are created in the image of God whose heart gets troubled and who has regrets. The question must be: Do our hearts get troubled about the things that God's heart gets troubled about; are the regrets I have similar to the regrets that God has? And a question we should all ask: "Lord, do you regret that you made me? Is my life right now fulfilling the function you created me for?" Any church should ask: "Are we fulfilling the function You created us for?"
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.
This passage illustrates God's willingness to change the nature of His dealings with humanity. The flood eliminated all but eight people and seems to have been responsible for the decline in human longevity ... people lived much shorter lives after the flood. Imagine the potential for wickedness if godless leaders had been able to live for several centuries?
Often we ask the wrong questions about Noah and his ark. What is the geographical or geological evidence of a great flood; are these remains possibly the remains of Noah's ark. These things prove nothing. Our question is always: "What did Jesus and the New Testament think of this story?"
We know the truth of this story because of the New Testament:
In Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus said, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
On an earlier occasion, Jesus made a similar statement. Luke 17:26-27 reports that He said, “‘Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.”
In Hebrews 11:7, the writer of Hebrews affirmed Noah’s place in what often is called Faith’s Hall of Fame: “By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family. By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
The apostle Peter mentioned Noah and the flood in 1 Peter 3:19-22. After being made alive, Jesus went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
We looked at baptism in our home group material this week. In this passage Peter draws parallels between the floodwaters in Noah’s day and the waters of baptism, which symbolize salvation. When you go under the water when you submit to Christian baptism, that going under symbolises your wickedness being destroyed by God's flood, as well as your burial with Christ.
Peter mentioned Noah again in 2 Peter 2:5-10 and 2 Peter 3:3-8 in a discussion of modern-day scoffers who deny the Lord ever will return. Jesus’ having not appeared isn’t evidence He never will return, but evidence that God is patient with the unrighteous, wanting them to repent and become the full beneficiaries of His grace. That is what the story of Noah and the flood is really all about: GRACE.
But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.
The descriptions of Noah say essentially the same thing from different points of view. He is a righteous man ... the point is not that Noah measures up to certain moral standards. Rather, he stands in a right relationship with God and has lived that out in the various dimensions of his life; he acts blamelessly as compared to his contemporaries (in the original language, this term does not mean that Noah is sinless; rather, he is a person of high integrity); and he walks faithfully with God, suggesting an unusually close relationship.
What does all this mean for you and for me?
Noah stood with God while the rest of the world stood against God. Not one person outside Noah's family showed any interest in the Creator of humankind. In fact had it not been for Noah, God would have destroyed all people. Think about that for a moment - the only thing standing between the continuation of the human race and its extinction was a single righteous man and his family ... may that describe you and your family, and if it doesn't, repent! for the kingdom of God is near.
Against the stormy clouds of God's pain and humanities darkness, Noah stood out like a lighthouse. Jesus said that you and I are the light of the world: do you stand out like a lighthouse? If not, repent! for the kingdom of God is near.
As God searched the world for faith, He wasn't looking for people with clever speach, good looks or great wealth. rather, God was looking for the traits that Noah possessed, things like righteousness, commitment and consistency ... a person whose personal communion/partnership with God carried over into his relationships with other people. God wants similar people in ... Norwich.
Whatever ridicule Noah suffered (and I have to say this carefully, but I hope you are ridiculed ... like Noah was, like all the prophets were, like Jesus was, like Paul was, etc), whatever ridicule Noah suffered, it didn't divert his attention as the huge vessel he was building slowly rose toward the sky. Peter tells us that Noah did more than merely build the ark ... he says Noah was a "preacher of righteousness." As we've seen in our home group material over the last few weeks, we are too ... with our words, with our deeds, with our lifestyle ... born again Christians are preachers of righteousness. The New Testament (in 1 Peter, Hebrews and Revelation) speaks of us Christians as "a priesthood of believers." Peter calls us a "holy priesthood." Like Noah, we are all preachers of righteousness. Construction of the ark required decades, so Noah had plenty of time to preach. But in spite of all his efforts, Noah never saw a single convert. Not one! Still Noah faithfully and consistently obeyed God - before, during and after the rain began to fall.
God needs men and women who are righteous, blameless among the people of our time, and who walk faithfully with God; so, in His grace He has created men and women who are righteous, blameless among the people of our time, and who walk faithfully with God. This is who we are in Christ. When you were born again of the Spirit, you received the Spirit who makes you righteous, blameless and faithful. When you were baptised you indicated before others your desire to bury the old you and put on the new you. God, in His grace, gives us grace to do this. Through Paul, God says:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; ... and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24
What did you put on this morning? This is a daily choice "What shall I wear today, the old me or the new me?" By His grace, we can be clothed in the righteousness and holiness of Christ; we can put on Christ so that of us it is said because in us it is seen that there is a righteous man, blameless among the people and walking faithfully with God. In His strength, we can do this ... but it is our choice.
Put on Christ this morning ... choose Him and His way ... and then live Him and His way.
We are going to sing "Only by grace can we enter" but before we do I want to pray; firstly for anyone who wants to put on Christ for the first time today ... you want to become a Christian;
then I want to pray for those of us who have recognised this morning that we have fallen away from the faith we once had ... wickedness is on the rise in your life and you want to stamp it out again;
and finally I want to pray for those of us who recognise that but for God's grace we are nothing and we just want to ask for Him to fill us afresh with the measure He knows we need for this day ... those who want to ask for daily bread.
Let us pray.