I’ve never understood why the nurseries in churches so often highlight the story of Noah’s ark. If you are unaware of this story, it’s one of the most frightening displays of God’s raw power and justice in all of Scripture. In it we learn that the wickedness of humanity is so vast that the only solution possible was for God to flood the entire earth to wipe them out minus one family. We are talking genocide of the highest order.
Why does God do this? We read in Genesis 6:5, “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.” (ESV) Mankind was thoroughly corrupt that God saw only one solution, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land…for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen. 5:7 ESV) God was going to destroy everything. That is, everything but Noah and his family for “Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” (Gen. 6:8 ESV).
We must ask the pressing question: Who was Noah? Noah is first introduced in Genesis 5:28. Noah is the 10th generation from Adam. In his very name we are reminded of that initial Gospel promise, the protoevangelium first given in Genesis 3:15 that a son of Eve would bring peace. Noah’s father, Lamech, said he named his son Noah for “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” (Genesis 5:28) Lamech was looking to Noah to bring this redemption from the curse.
The curse of sin was seen most clearly in the overflowing sin of humanity. God ordained their destruction, but God’s grace fell on Noah, a son of Seth, Adam’s third and promised son. Noah’s world was rich in corruption and violence (Gen. 6:11). God graciously called Noah to build an ark – that is, a massive boat. He also promised a covenant with Noah, his family, and the creatures he saved. Noah was saving more than his family. God said to “bring two of every sort [of animal] into the ark to keep them alive…They shall be male and female.” (Gen. 6:19 ESV)
Noah, unlike the rest of the world, heard the word of God and obeyed: “Noah did … all that God commanded.” (Genesis 6:22 ESV) So with his trust in God’s Word, Noah saved his family from the great flood by building an ark at God’s command.
Throughout this episode we observe that God’s holiness cannot stand the sight of sin. The two words which highlight the cause to God’s judgment are “corruption” and “violence.” The Hebrew world underlying “corrupt” is akin to something becoming ruined or spoiled according to one dictionary. The people were like a beautiful meal, delicately prepared and arranged. However, because of negligence, and the power of sin, they were thoroughly spoiled. That which was rich in beauty became rancid, an offense to the senses.
We also observe that God is holy. Habakkuk 1:13 speaks of God in this way, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong.” (ESV) And because He is holy, He is also just in punishing sin. Nahum 1:2 also shows us this, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.” (ESV)
We learn very simply from the flood account in Genesis 6-8 that God takes sins seriously, and so should we. In the conclusion to this flood account, we see the rainbow was a symbol of God’s mercy. This symbol has been commandeered from the church into something entirely different. But the bow is precisely that – a weapon (cf. Gen. 9:12-17). God points his own weapon of wrath heavenward at Himself saying in effect, “May I be undone, if I ever break my word concerning the matter of flooding the earth again.” It’s a testimony of God’s faithfulness, honor, mercy, and justice. The rainbow is an opportunity for godly humility amongst His people, and never pride. For it is God’s character that shines through; never ours.
This must lead us to grow in the fear of the LORD. Our audacity against God will only be overlooked by Him for so long. Though He will never again flood the earth, as promised in Genesis 9:11 the Bible warns that God’s judgment against sin, corruption, and violence is still coming. This was an ordinary feature in Christ’s and the apostles’ preaching.
Jesus warned in Matthew 24:36-44 that when He returns those who are taken away will be like those swept away by the flood waters in Noah’s day. The people we are told will be enjoying all the ordinary fixtures of life. But when Christ returns in His public display of power, then judgment shall come immediately. This will be overwhelming for the wicked. In Revelation 6 we read about Christ’s second coming and the impact of this last Day on the wicked who are “calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us form the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Rev. 6:16 ESV) For this reason, all people everywhere are commanded by God to repent and believe in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins while there is time.