Water & Wrath: Part I

Genesis   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  44:54
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Genesis 6:9 - 7:24 November 1, 2020



I want you to think back in time with me this morning to three major disasters in the last roughly 80 years. Your task as I retell these stories briefly is to figure out what the common thread is that ties them together.
Think of Pearl Harbor. December 7, 1941 was a Sunday. The soldiers on the US naval base there were sleeping off the previous nights’ partying. Some were up and sitting on the deck of their ship, enjoying the cool morning breeze and the sunrise. The majority of the island of Oahu was still asleep, blissfully unaware of the disaster headed their way. Out in the Pacific, a Japanese commander had given the order for the bombers to roll down the decks of the aircraft carriers and head toward Pearl Harbor. As the planes got close enough to be heard and seen, it was too late to do much of anything. The naval base at Pear Harbor was not ready to mount a defense. They were no match for the Japanese kamikaze fighters. They bombed and torpedoed and crash landed into the battleships and destroyers. The ships go up in flames and break apart and sink or capsize before many of those on board had the opportunity to do anything to defend themselves.
Think of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. You can go to YouTube and watch footage of this. December 26, 2004 was clod and snowy here in the eastern part of the US. But in India it was warm and sunny. The beaches are covered with people enjoying the white sand and the warm surf. Kids are building sea castles and burying each other’s feet in the sand. It was a normal day at the beach. Parents were applying sunscreen to their kids and saying “Don’t go too far out!” Suddenly a dark line appears on the horizon out at sea. It was a tsunami caused by an underwater earthquake that registered as a 9.1 on the Richter scale. The beaches were overwhelmed with the flood waters quickly because the tsunami was traveling at a speed faster than any person could run. Even though the tsunami itself wasn’t very high, it was its speed and the sheer mass of the water behind it that eventually killed more than almost 228,000 people and injured 125,000.
Think of September 11, 2001. A beautiful fall morning, one of the first cool, crisp mornings of the fall season. Workers in the World Trade Center towers were at their desks, sipping coffee, checking email, catching up with coworkers in the break room. Staff meetings were ongoing or just about to start. By 10am both towers had commercial airliners lodged inside the buildings spanning multiple floors and setting off fires that were over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Soon both towers which were symbols of American economic power were nothing more than mangled piles of steel, concrete and glass. More than 2,700 people lost their lives.
What’s common to all three of these disaster stories? What unites all three of these disasters is that the people who lost their lives as a result of them did not see them coming, not even for an instant. It was the furthest thing from their minds. Each of these days began as a normal day, with normal routines. Everyone affected by them began their day with the assumption that this day would be like every other day before it. Except it wouldn’t.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:37-39 that it was a lot like this when the great flood came upon the earth during the days of Noah.
Matthew 24:37–39 ESV
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.
Now Jesus is saying that His second coming will be a lot like the sudden flooding of the entire earth. It will be unexpected. It will be sudden. It will interrupt the normal course of human life. The world was at ease, Jesus said, and engaged in constant celebration. They were feasting. They were getting married. These are festive occasions. Their celebration numbed them to the fact that divine judgment was imminent. Just like with 9-11, and the 2004 tsunami, and the attack on Pearl Harbor, those most vulnerable, those most in danger, had no idea what lay in store for them.
This morning we’re going to look at two things about the flood, and two things about Noah. But before we get into those four points, there’s something we need to get out of the way at the start.
First, modern science has not disproved the flood. There may or may not be enough geological evidence to support a worldwide flood, and a sermon isn’t the place to get into that. The more fundamental issue than evidence is worldview - do we believe in the God of the Bible? I do. I hope you do. And because I believe in the God of the Bible, there is no logical problem believing in a worldwide flood, just as there is no logical problem for believing in the virgin birth or the resurrection. Because the God of the Bible is introduced to us at the very beginning of the Bible as the One who has infinite power over His creation. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If you can believe that much, then logically speaking there is no reason to believe the same God who spoke creation into existence cannot also completely flood that very same creation.
Second, there are other flood stories from the ancient world, but those stories don’t disprove the flood either. It’s sometimes argued that since there are other flood stories from the ancient world, the Bible is just borrowing from those fictional stories, because the accounts have similarities. But what those similarities tell me is not that the Bible borrowed from those stories but that the flood really happened. Something is more likely to be a historical fact if it is attested in many different sources. Those other flood stories don’t disprove the flood; instead, they serve to confirm that there really was a flood.

#1: The flood was cataclysmic

Look with me at Genesis 7:11-16 first.

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. 12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, 14 they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. 15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in.

The first thing I noticed about the flood when I studied this was where the water came from. We’re used to thinking of rain as merely falling from the sky. But that’s not what happens here. Water comes from below and from above.
There is torrential rain that falls from the sky, for sure. In fact, the word for “rain” in verse 12 is different from the normal word for “rain” in Hebrew. This is a downpour, a torrential rain. But we learn more about this rain in verse 11. There we read that the “floodgates of the heavens were opened.” The same word for “floodgates” is found in Malachi 3:10 and it’s translated “windows”. You know that passage. It’s the so-called tithing passage. We are told to test God by giving generously back to Him of what He’s given to us.
Malachi 3:10 ESV
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
The picture here is of more blessing, more prosperity, than the people of God can handle. And when the same word is applied to rain, it means that it is more rain, more wind, higher waves, rougher waters than anyone on earth could possibly withstand.
But the water doesn’t just come from above. The sky is not the only source of the floodwaters here. We’re also told that the waters come from below. Not only are we told that the waters come from the floodgates of the heavens. We’re told that the waters also come from below. Did you see that back in verse 11? Right before it says “the floodgates of the sky were opened” it reads “the fountains of the great deep burst open.”
What is the great deep? Very often it means the ocean in the OT. What are the “fountains of the great deep”? As best as I can tell, this is talking about sub-oceanic water sources.
Ill. In 1922, oceanography history was made. Oceanographers aboard the USS Stewart mapped the flood of the North Atlantic Ocean. They discovered some incredible things on the bottom of that great ocean. They discovered that while the floor of the North Atlantic is often flat, it also has mountain ranges, canyons, volcanoes, massive trenches. Could the fountains of the deep have been undersea volcanoes or undersea earthquakes? They would’ve caused massive displacements of land under the ocean and would’ve triggered equally massive tidal waves. It’s possible. I mean, the imagery is violent enough to support that, don’t you think? One commentary I read this week said that the this word “burst open” means “a strenuous cleaving of recalcitrant materials” (TWOT). Translation? Something that is difficult to break apart suddenly broke apart with such violence and force that what is in it or under it comes flooding out. The result was a rapidly intensifying flood that climbed higher, and higher, and higher.
Perhaps there is no place in this world more desolate and mysterious and vengeful and unforgiving than the ocean. And therefore there is probably no more fitting expression of God’s wrath than a raging sea. Mariners for centuries have reported what are now called rogue waves. For the longest time there was no proof that they were real. One reason for that was that people who encountered rogue waves tended to not survive to come back and tell the tale. But occasionally some did. They were treated with skepticism. Experienced sailors came back home with their ships torn half apart talking about waves that towered high above the highest masts on their ships. Some were estimated to have been over 100 feet tall.
Now that ships are made with reinforced steel and other metals that are harder to break up, there’s more proof. Cargo freighters sailing the North Atlantic during Superstorm ‘93 - the “storm of the century” - reported waves of nearly 100 feet. That’s a ten-story building. During WWII, the Queen Mary was transporting thousands of troops home to the US from Europe. Off the coast of Newfoundland they encountered a storm. One massive wave hit the ship broadside and laid it over at a 90 degree angle. Gradually it righted itself and all was well. But the wave was so high that it broke windows on the highest decks of the ship - again, right around 100 feet tall.
Look with me at verses 17-20, and notice how many times we’re told that the waters rose or increased.

Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth. 18 The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. 20 The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered

I count five references to the water rising. I count also four references to how high the waters rose. First the waters rose high enough to lift up the ark “high above the ark.” Second the waters rose high enough so that even the highest mountain ranges were submerged. Third the waters rose so high that even the highest mountain ranges were covered in 15 cubits of water, or right around 22 feet of water.
Water from below, water from above. Nowhere to hide. Which brings us to our next point about the flood. The flood was not merely cataclysmic; it was universal.

#2: The flood was universal

Picture the scene. Rain falling from the sky at the rate of perhaps 10-15” per hour. At that rate, rivers overflow their banks within minutes or hours. Roofs give way beneath the force. Water pools up and begins to flow under doors and through windows. They tell us that during Category 4 and 5 hurricanes, the wind is so powerful it will drive rain through any possible crevice in a wall or roof or window. And that’s with buildings and houses build to modern safety codes. Here we’d be talking about thatched roofs, mud walls, maybe stone if you were somewhat well-off. Homes are quickly flooded. Weddings are interrupted by water intruding from every angle. People leave their plates of food and their glasses of wine to be washed away by the rising waters. Suddenly feasting and partying seem so empty and pointless. Now their goal is survival. They grab their children and loved ones and run off in search of shelter or high ground and finding none. They eventually are separated. In addition to the rain, you’ve the most intense and terrifying storm surge in history as probably hurricane force winds drive massive quantities of ocean water onto dry land and far inland. And this goes on for 40 days!
No wonder we’re told that everything alive on the face of the earth was dead by the time all was said and done.

The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. 21 All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; 22 of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. 23 Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark. 24 The water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days.

Notice how emphatic the author is here. He repeats himself almost to the point of redundancy: “all flesh that moved on the earth perished”, verse 21; “of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died”, verse 22; again, “thus he blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land”, verse 23. He repeats himself so many times that some Bible scholars actually believe the author was a pretty bad writer. But that’s not it at all. Writers back then didn’t think or write like we expect them to today. He’s repeating himself because he wants us to understand that everybody perished, no one was spared, no life was preserved, no flesh survived - save one family: Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their three wives.
Ill. Now when I was growing up and going to Sunday School as a kid, we had the posters on the wall and the children’s picture Bibles. And inevitably when we came to this story about Noah and the flood, we tended to see pictures of cute and cuddly animals, in pairs, walking in lockstep into the ark with Noah standing by observing. Later pictures would show the animals with their heads stuck out the window at the top of the ark, all smiling, and Noah with his flowing beard smiling right along with them. We need to sort of scratch that from our memory now that we’re adults, and we should be careful about misrepresenting this story to our children. Because the story of Noah’s ark is a story about the wrath of God. The flood was God’s just and proportional retribution on the human race that had reached the lowest possible point that God was willing to tolerate. The flood is a story of the wrath of God.
Now with these other events - with Pearl Harbor, with the tsunami, with 9/11 - we aren’t in a position to say definitively that they were expressions of God’s wrath. Some people said during Hurrican Katrina that it was God’s judgment on the sinful city of New Orleans. More recently some have said that the COVID-19 outbreak in New York that was so severe was God’s judgment on the sinful city of New York. We need to be really careful when we say things like that. It’s dangerous to ascribe evil to God - it may even be blasphemous. We can only speculate, and we really shouldn’t even try. We don’t have access to the mind of God. He has not revealed to us or spoken to us concerning whether these disasters were divine judgment or not. They may; they may not have been. But the Bible does make clear that the flood was. Whatever meteorological factors were at play in causing the flood, behind those factors is the all-holy Creator and Sustainer of the universe justly and proportionally pouring out wrath upon the world He Himself made.
What right has God to do this? Some today feel that wrath and judgment are beneath the God of the Bible. But consider this: It wasn’t as if they weren’t warned. It wasn’t as if God wasn’t patient. The apostle Peter tells us in his first letter that “the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark” - waiting for what? Waiting for people to turn from their sin. Waiting for people to come back to His open arms of grace and love. Waiting for people to see the error of their ways and find that God will always be merciful and will always show grace and love to the ones who will just cry out to Him to deliver them from their sin. That’s because God is gracious and loving and merciful and patient, and we praise Him for that.
But God is equally holy, and just, and righteous. And for a righteous God to remain righteous, He must deal decisively with sin when sinners will not repent. The flood was God dealing decisively with sin when sinners refused to repent. God created us. He owns us. He has a just claim on us. We owe Him obedience. Besides that, God has been good to us; He has blessed us; He has provided for us. Your life might not have been perfect and you’ve probably had some disappointments, but through it all God has been there even when you couldn’t sense His presence. He has done everything for us that was necessary and then some. What does a loving yet righteous God do when people over and over again refuse His love, He acts righteously - which is to say, God acts in judgment. The flood was a pouring out of God’s wrath.
But there was one family that escaped God’s wrath as we have seen. It was Noah and his family.

#3: Noah was delivered because he was obedient

Go back in time with me, before the flood, before the building of the ark. Go back with me to Gen. 6:9-10.

These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, bblameless in his time; Noah walked with God. 10 Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Now when we read this, you should ask yourself two questions. First, you should ask yourself, what does it mean to be righteous? It doesn’t mean exactly what you might think. It doesn’t mean sinless. Noah wasn’t perfect. We’ll discover that soon enough. But the Bible does say Noah was righteous. What does it mean? It simply means that Noah had a relationship with God and that he generally lived his life in a way that was fitting to having a relationship with God (Ross p193). righteous is a relationship term. If you have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, you are in fact righteous - no matter how you feel. The question is, do you live like you’re righteous? Noah did - not perfectly, but he did.
It also says he was “blameless”. Again, it doesn’t mean sinless. Blameless means upright - it means he had integrity. It means that for the most part Noah did what he said he would do. He lived out what he believed. He didn’t say one thing and do another. He wasn’t two-faced. He was whole. He had integrity. So that’s the first question. The second question is, do you want to be like that? Do you want that to be your legacy? Rather than your career or your money or your accomplishments, are you content for people simply to remember you as a man or a woman who loved God and was righteous and had integrity? How badly do you want it? Something to think about.
Ill. What is integrity? My dad used to say integrity is doing the same thing when nobody is around that you would do when everybody is around. He’s right. It means there’s no holes, no incongruities, and if there are, you remedy it, you make it right. Integrity means there’s not a massive divide between how you look on the outside and your character on the inside. Michael Eisner, the head of Disney, bought a $40 million dollar home only to find that it had at least one wall so thin it started buckling under its own weight. A famous software engineer discovered in his multi-million dollar home that some of the pine siding on the outside of the house started to rot before the house was even finished. One architect said this: “It appears that what sells houses depends on having a tub large enough for at least two people, and probably more; flashy stairs…and other glitzy, totally unnecessary elements, as opposed to spatial or constructional quality” (Larson, p50).
Noah was definitely one of a kind. He stood out in his generation as a man who walked with God. Notice the contrast. Right after we’re told in verses 9-10 that Noah was righteous and blameless, we read this:

Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.

See the contrast? We find it again in Gen. 7:1-2.

Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.

Noah alone was righteous in his time. Church, God will never leave Himself without a witness. God will always preserve a remnant of those who are faithful. We look at the world around us and often we feel like we are alone in our values, alone in our beliefs, alone in what we stand for. The institutions that influence our society are increasingly turning against Christianity. It’s easy to feel like the church is being choked out. That will never happen. Go to communist China, a place where true Christianity is outlawed and churches have to meet underground. You’ll see their house churches full, you’ll hear their fervent worship, you’ll see their love and affection for Jesus and others. God always leaves Himself a witness. We are never alone.
Noah was delivered because of His obedience. But even this doesn’t tell the full story about Noah. Why was Noah really delivered? Because he was righteous. Why was He righteous? Because he found grace in the sight of God.

#4: Noah was delivered because he found grace

This takes us even further back in this flood story. Genesis 6:5-8.

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 regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 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.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

Church, here is something I know for a fact. Noah may have been righteous and blameless, but there is something we know about him that is even more ultimate and fundamental than that. Before we are ever told that Noah is righteous and blameless and that there was no one as upright as him during his lifetime, before we are told any of that, we are told in verse 8 that “Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the Lord.”
Noah was delivered because God saw that he was righteous. But we have to be really careful when we say that. Why? The reason we have to be careful is we want to safeguard against any type of works righteousness creeping in. What is works righteousness? It’s the idea that I can get God to love me or bless me or protect me by doing certain things. That is our default way of thinking about God. If I can just read my Bible more, pray longer, share my faith more often - if I can reduce the number of times I fall into sin, then I can be more confident that God loves me and that He in fact likes me. No matter how much we say we believe in salvation by grace through faith and not works, in every one of us there is a part of us that believes that it’s the other way around - I can get God to love me and bless me and protect me if I do the right things and avoid the wrong things.
That sounds right and even feels right. After all, that’s how we treat others, right? We like those who do what we think they should do and we judge those who don’t. But God is not like us and praise God for it! In other words, no matter how hard we try, we can never be good enough for God on our own. Not even Noah could be good enough for God on his own. Not even Noah was able to earn God’s love and protection. How do we know that? Because we’re told that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and grace is by definition something that cannot be earned by our works.
God says in Romans 3:20,

because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for bthrough the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

We talked about this the last time I was in the pulpit. The order here is not, Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; therefore, he found favor in the eyes of the Lord. That’s the wrong order. That might be the right order if verses 8 and 9 traded places. But as it is, first we’re told that Noah found grace; then we’re told he was obedient. What’s the significance of that? What does that mean? That means that God didn’t love Noah because Noah was obedient and righteous; it means Noah was obedient and righteous because God loved Him, God was gracious toward Him, Noah discovered that for himself, he experienced it, he rested in it, he relied upon it, and out of the sheer joy and relief and freedom that produces when you come to realize that you are loved by God apart from your moral performance. And that’s the only thing that will ever, ever make you want to change. And not only is grace the only thing that will make you want to change. Grace also is the only thing that will deliver you from the wrath of God. Just like with the flood, another judgment day is coming.
Matthew 24:37–39 ESV
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.
In other words, Jesus is saying that there is coming a day when once again the masses of lost humanity will be completely caught off guard and overtaken by the just and righteous wrath of God. Jesus will one day return. Jesus goes on to say, “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matt. 24:40-41 NASB). On that day you and I will stand before God and our holy and righteous Judge and Creator will rightfully demand from us an accounting for how we lived our lives. Jesus said we will give account even for every careless word we have spoken. And on that day, no one on the face of the earth will possess enough goodness to pass muster. God is perfect and He demands perfection. And yet perfection is out of reach for us. And so God, perfect in holiness but also perfect in love, has provided a way for us to be counted righteous a different way, a way that is independent of our works.
Romans 3:21–24 NASB95PARA
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption of Christ Jesus. Those are big theological words but they’re easy to understand. When we place trust in Jesus Christ - when we choose to bank our hopes for eternity on Him - when we finally give up trying to be good enough for God on our own - when we rely on Jesus Christ alone to make us right with God - God takes the perfect, spotless righteousness of His Son Jesus and deposits it into your account. He clothes you with the righteousness of His Son. And on that basis, God accepts us as righteous and wipes our slate clean. That’s now Noah found grace, too. On this side of the cross, we look back to Jesus crucified for us and we trust in His death. Before Jesus came, Noah looked forward to the cross by trusting God’s promises to send a Redeemer. That’s how he found grace in the eyes of the Lord. That’s how he was put right with God. That’s how he and his family will be spared. And the same is true for us.

Conclusion & call for response

We respond to grace with repentance. We respond to grace with worship! he Bible says it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance! No matter where you are in your spiritual journey this morning – whether you’re a lifelong and committed Christian, or a wayward believer who needs to come home, whether or you’re questioning what you’ve always heard – you and I are in desperate need of grace. On even your best days you’re not beyond the need for God’s grace; and on your worst days you’re not beyond the reach of God’s grace.
This is a time of worship. What that time of worship will look like will be different for everyone. Some of you will need to repent of sin and turn from it and seek God’s grace. Do that now and you will find it. Others of you need to come home; you’ve wandered away from the Father’s house – you’re wayward. Today is the day of come home. Others of you may not have a relationship with God. You’ve never trusted in Jesus Christ for your salvation. That may be because you’ve been hurt and you have a hard time trusting people, especially a God you can’t see. That may be because you know you’ll have to give up some of the things in your life. Jesus promises us that when we come to Him, we find more fulfillment than we ever imagined we could get from the things we’re living in now. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,” Jesus said, “but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will find it” (Luke 9:24 NASB).
So I encourage you this morning, before you stand and sing, if the Lord has convicted you this morning or shown you something He wants you to deal with, do that now. Stay seated. Get alone with God, just you and him in the secret place of your heart. Talk to Him. Or come up here to the front. You can kneel and pray or I’ll put on my mask and pray with you. Pour your heart out to Him. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. You can too. Commit to live for Him anew today. And then stand and worship the God of grace and glory.
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