God is able to rescue you.
That’s the main message coming at us in the story of the flood here in Genesis chapters 6, 7, and 8. The situation leading up to the flood is pretty straightforward: Sin has gone rampant on the earth. We human-sinners have violated the goodness of God’s creation. Genesis 6, verses 11 and 13 say that “the earth was filled with violence” — which is not the way it’s supposed to be.
God’s purpose for the earth is that it “be filled with the knowledge of his glory.” That’s why he tells Adam and Eve in Genesis 1 to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” The vision is that humans — who bear God’s image and reflect his glory — as they multiply throughout the whole earth then the earth becomes filled with the knowledge of God’s glory. But here in Genesis 6 we see something different. We see the carnage caused by sin. The earth is not filled with the knowledge of God’s glory, but instead, the earth is filled with violence.
And therefore, God decides to wipe it out. He says he will destroy “all flesh.” The text says this clearly in five different places: Chapter 6, verses 7, 13, and 17; and Chapter 7, verses 4 and 22.
- God will “blot out” — wipe out — every living thing that he has made from the face of the ground. (7:4)
- Everything that is on the earth will die. (6:17)
- God will destroy everything under heaven that has the breath of life. (6:17)
This is the language that is used to describe the kind of destruction and judgment that God is going to bring upon the world. But the main message here is not judgment; it’s salvation.
The Most Amazing Thing Here
The main point is that judgment is coming upon the entire world, but Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord (6:8). God showed him grace. And so, the most surprising thing in this story is not that God destroys every living thing on the earth. The most surprising thing is that God spares Noah and his family from that destruction.
And right away, we should just know, this is so different from how we’re going to think. This is one of the ways the Bible will always challenge us. Over and over again, the Bible comes and shows us that we need to reconfigure our questions. We tend to look at God’s judgment on people and we think: “How could God do such a thing?”
But see, really, that’s the question we should ask of his mercy. It’s not “How could God judge people?” — it should be: “How could God save anyone?”
That’s the right question, but we’re never going to get there unless we truly understand that God is bigger than us. And this goes back to Genesis 1:1, that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Which means, we did not make ourselves be. God is bigger than us. God is sovereign over us. God can do what he wants. The most amazing thing is not that God judges sinners, but that he rescues them.
And that’s what the biblical text focuses on in these three chapters. By the sheer mass of attention, most of the verses in Genesis 6, 7, and 8 are about how God rescued Noah and his family, and that’s what I want us to look at today. So for the sermon, I want to just show you three things in these chapters that we learn about God’s rescue. Three things:
- God rescues those who trust him.
- There is a future rescue yet to come.
- It really is a rescue.
We’ll walk through these one by one, starting with the first.
1. God Rescues Those Who Trust Him
So God sends the flood and only Noah and his family are saved. We heard Sam read this earlier. Every living thing dies except Noah and those with him. So what’s the deal with Noah? Why is Noah rescued? What does this story tell us about Noah?
Well, if we look at chapter 6, we see a string of descriptions about Noah.
Verse 8 tells us, first, that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Aside from anything Noah has done, before we read anything about his character, we are told that God shows him grace. Grace means unmerited favor. It’s undeserved goodness. This is the first time the word “grace” is used in the Bible.
Then second, in verse 9, we’re told that Noah was a “righteous man.” And again, this is the first time the word “righteous” is used in the Bible. And then right after that, we read the word “blameless” — which is also used for the first time in the Bible. And righteous and blameless carry the same meanings. It’s the idea of innocence, which is meant to contrast Noah with those around him.
So for the first three descriptions of Noah — grace, righteous, blameless — these are all new words in the Bible. They’re the first time these words show up in the Bible, but in case we don’t understand what they mean, there’s this fourth and last description of Noah added at the end of verse 9. And this last description tells us that “Noah walked with God.”
Which is something we’ve seen before.
This is the exact same sentence said about Enoch in 5:22, There we read: “Enoch walked with God” — and then here in Chapter 6: “Noah walked with God.” So we’ve seen the phrase before, and we’ll see it again — in Genesis 17 God tells Abraham to walk before him. But what does that mean? What does it mean to walk with God?
What Does It Mean to Walk with God?
Well, if we look here, and then later at Abraham, and then at the faithful kings of Israel, we learn that to walk with God means to trust him. To walk with God means to have faith in him.
And one of the clearest ways we know this is from the New Testament, in Hebrews 11.
The New Testament is always the best commentary on the Old. And in Hebrews 11, the writer is talking about faith, and he lists several different people from the Old Testament who were keystone examples of what it means to have faith. So the writer is mentioning all these men to commend their faith, and in verse 5 he commends the faith of Enoch. He even says that Enoch’s faith pleased God.
So get this: Genesis 5 just says that Enoch walked with God, but in Hebrews 11 we read that Enoch’s faith pleased God. Which means there’s a connection between walking with God and having faith in God.
And then who do you think is mentioned in Hebrews 11 right after Enoch?
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.
So the story of Noah is the story of a man who trusted God. That’s what it means to walk with God. It means to believe him, to trust him. And only then, when we trust God, will we do what he says. And this is important in the narrative. We see the obedience of Noah mentioned explicitly three times, and then implied all throughout (see 6:22; 7:5).
God told Noah to do something, and the text says that Noah did exactly what God said. “He did all that God commanded him.” The portrait here of Noah is that he is waiting on God — he’s looking to God — and that kind of faith is expressed in Noah listening to God. The emphasis is not Noah’s obedience in isolation; the emphasis is Noah’s faith that is expressed through obedience. Because you don’t obey who you don’t trust. Obedience is an action that flows from faith in the heart, and God is always going for the heart.
Saying Okay at Home
Let me give you an idea of how we try to work this out at our house when it comes to parenting. When I give my kids instruction, there’s only two responses that are acceptable. It’s either “Okay” or “Thank you.” When they hear something they like, we want them to be grateful. “Here you go, kids, have some chocolate brownies.” And the kids say: “Thank you.”
Or: “Okay, kids, you need to go clean your room.” And then the kids say. [. . .]
We want them to say “Okay” (we’re working on it) but the first thing that we typically say is “Why?”
“You need to go clean your room.” “Why?”
When I hear instruction I don’t like, rather than say “Okay” and do it, I tend to, we tend to, question the instruction, which is not a heart of trust. So we tell our kids: you can ask “Why?” later — it’s okay to ask why — but the first thing we want you to do is say “Okay,” because we want you to trust us. Trust us. We want you to know that everything we want for you is for your good. Everything we say to you is for your good. Don’t immediately ask why; just trust us.
And it works the same way with God. Faith, see, is the foundation of obedience.
And that’s what Noah is doing here. He’s walking with God, trusting in God.
- “Build an ark, Noah.” Okay.
- “Make it 300 cubits long, 50 cubits deep, 30 cubits high, Noah.” Okay.
- “Bring two of every living thing with you inside the ark, Noah.” Okay.
Because God Is Trustworthy
Noah does what God says because Noah trusts God, and this actually says more about God than it does Noah. We tend to admire Noah for his faith, and that’s legit. Hebrews 11 commends him for it. But something else to consider in this passage is not that Noah trusts God, but it’s that God is found so trustworthy. My sense is that if Noah were here, and we were talking with him, and we said, “Oh, Noah, bro, your faith is so encouraging. Your faith is such an example. I wish I had faith like you.”
I think Noah would say: “Are you kidding me? God said he would flood the entire world and destroy everything, but he told me to build a boat. Of course, I’m going to build the boat.”
See, if we keep pressing in, we learn that Noah’s faith says more about God than it does him.
What is it about this God and the word of this God that causes Noah to stop what he’s doing one day and restructure his entire life around what this God says?
That’s what’s happening here. That’s the wonder. It’s that Noah knew what we so desperately need to know: God is trustworthy. You can lean on him. You can rest in him. God rescues those who trust him, which is good to know, because a flood is coming.
2. There is future rescue yet to come.
One of the things we see in this story is that God’s judgment and salvation in the flood become — here’s the word — typological. That means that what God does here becomes a type of things that he will do again. And we see throughout the rest of the Bible. The flood sort of becomes a pattern for how God works, and the text shows us this in a few different ways. But let me give you one.
It’s in Chapter 8:1. The end of the 8:1 says this: “And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.”
Now, I think this verse makes a connection backwards to Genesis 1 when the Spirit hovered over the face of the waters, but it also makes a connection forward into the future.
The Prophetic Echo in the Exodus
We see this in the book of Exodus, which is the book of the Bible that comes right after Genesis. This is later on in biblical storyline. The people of Israel have been slaves in Egypt, but God comes to set them free. So he sends judgment upon the Egyptians, and he leads Israel free out of Egypt, until they come to the Red Sea, and then they’re stuck. The Egyptian army is coming after them, behind them, with vengeance, and Israel has no where to go because of this big sea that’s in the way. But then the Bible tells us in Exodus 14:21,
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
So just like in Genesis 8 when God used a wind to blow over the waters and make them subside, he uses a wind in Exodus 14 to blow over the waters and divide the Red Sea. And in both Genesis 8 and Exodus 14 there is this mention of “dry ground” (Gen. 8:13–14; Exod. 14:21–22). In both cases, God sends a wind to make the ground dry where there used to be water; and in both cases, this meant judgment for some and salvation for others.
- Only Noah and his family walked on the dry ground after the flood — everyone else was destroyed by the waters.
- Only Israel walked on the dry ground through the Red Sea — the Egyptians were destroyed by the waters.
Moses, who wrote about both of these events, wants us to see the connection between the two. And the principle here is that God’s work in the past prefigures his work in the present and in the future. God’s judgment and rescue in the flood is a type that points to a greater, ultimate judgment and rescue yet to come, and there are prophetic echoes of this judgment and rescue throughout the rest of Scripture. The exodus of Israel and the parting of the Red Sea was just an echo of the flood that still points to the greater, ultimate judgment and rescue to come.
When Jesus Comes Back
And the greater, ultimate judgment and rescue to come is what Jesus tells us about in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 24. This is the first book of the New Testament, and Jesus is teaching here, and this is what he says:
For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 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, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
So Jesus draws a parallel between what happened in the flood, and what will happen when he returns. Jesus is the Son of Man, and one day he’s coming back to the earth, and when he does it’s going to mean judgment just like it did when God sent the flood. That’s what he’s saying.
Jesus first makes the connection, and the apostles actually pick up on it. Later on, the apostle Peter makes the connection in two of his letters. In 2 Peter 3, Peter says that the world that used to exist was “deluged with water and perished” (v. 6). He’s talking about the flood. And then he says that “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and the destruction of the ungodly” (v. 7). So Peter says the world was once judged by water, and it will be judged again in a similar way, except this next time its going to be by fire. Which is serious. He’s talking about this world, our world, where we live, it’s going to be judged. This is a big deal.
The judgment of God is a serious thing. And it’s so easy for us as modern people to just write it off, or try to poetically tip-toe around the words said here, or maybe think that Peter must have been exaggerating.
See, it’s kind of funny how this goes: a lot of times when we come across something we don’t like, we assume it’s somebody’s else problem. We’re predisposed to read Peter’s words here and think that he must be the crazy one.
But here’s the twist: the crazy one isn’t him, it’s us.
And the alarm clock keeps going off. The alarm clock keeps trying to tell us to wake up, but we just hit the snooze over and over again. Because we’d rather sleep a little longer than open our eyes to the mess that we’ve made of this world. But the writing is on the wall. It’s there. But we’d rather drug ourselves with distractions than sober up to see that the earth is filled with violence. And the flood is coming.
That’s what Peter is saying. The ultimate judgment is coming.
But it’s not just judgment; it’s also rescue. And it really is a rescue.
3. It really is a rescue.
So the apostle Peter makes another connection to the flood in one of his letters, this time in 1 Peter 3 in the New Testament. He has told us, as Jesus himself said, that the future judgment when Jesus returns will be like the flood. And here he makes the connection to the salvation of Noah. It’s kind of a clunky section of verses, but Peter says, 1 Peter 3:20, speaking of the days of Noah,
[. . .] while the ark was being prepared, […] a few, that is, eight persons [Noah and his family], were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Now, when Peter says baptism here, he’s not talking about the act of being dunked under water. He’s not saying that literally being dunked under water saves you. And he clarifies that right away. That’s why he adds “not as a removal of dirt from the body” — meaning, I’m not talking about the physical act of being baptized. But instead, Peter says, I’m talking about the “appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” In other words, Peter is saying we’re saved when we identify our lives with Jesus by faith. We’re saved, we’re rescued, when we appeal to God, when we say to God: I’m with Jesus.
Peter means the same thing here that the apostle Paul does in Romans 6 when he says that when we’re baptized into Christ Jesus, we’re spiritually united to him. It means that when we put our faith in Jesus, we are so associated with Jesus, we so identify with Jesus, that spiritually his death becomes our death, and his resurrection becomes our resurrection.
And the point here is that just as Noah was saved amid the waters of judgment by the ark, we can be saved amid the coming judgment by Jesus. Because Jesus is our ark.
That’s what it means to trust in Jesus. It means we say, when the flood is coming, when the dam of God’s judgment is about to break loose, we say: Jesus is my ark. I’m in his boat.
Jesus, and only Jesus, can accomplish the rescue that we need.
How Does He Rescue Us?
We all know deep down that we need this rescue. Maybe we’ve not thought much about the coming judgment on this world, but we at the very least all know that something is broken around here. Something’s not right. Something is off in this world, and something is off with us. We all know that deep down. We all know we need to be rescued. So how does this work?
It goes like this: Jesus is able to rescue you because he took the divine judgment you deserved. That’s what happened when Jesus died on the cross. Jesus was perfect in every way, and when he went to the cross he took our sin and our guilt and our shame, and on the cross, in our place, he suffered the judgment we deserved. The flood that was coming for us, Jesus took it on the cross. The flood waters were barreling toward us, and on the cross Jesus drank them all down in our place. If we trust him — if we get in his ark.
That’s what faith is. Faith is us saying, from the heart, I’m with Jesus. Jesus is my ark.
And one of the ways we remember this rescue is at this Table.
The bread here represents the broken body of Jesus. The cup represents the blood of Jesus. And when we eat the bread and drink the cup, by faith, we remind ourselves and one another that we’re with Jesus. He’s our ark.
And what I’d like for us to do, for just a minute, to spend some time in silent reflection, as the pastors and deacons come to prepare the Table. Take a moment to pray and reflect on the rescue of Jesus, which he did for you.
If Jesus is your ark, we invite you to eat and drink with us.