First Things First – How the World Came to Be
12. The Days of Noah: Why God Sent the Flood
Genesis 6: 1 - 8
I’d like to focus our attention on a very crucial point: If this story is true - if it really happened - if there was a great flood that covered the entire earth - then what the Bible is describing is the greatest natural disaster in the history of the world.
The event is so stupendous as to be mind-boggling. Try to think about a flood like that. One question keeps floating to the surface. Why would God do such a thing? We know that the flood was a judgment on human sin. But what could the people have done that was so horrendous that it made God decide to hit the “Delete” button and wipe out all humanity with the exception of Noah and his family? What sort of sin brings on a judgment like the flood?
1. The Words of Jesus Matthew 24: 37 - 39
To help us understand His future return to the earth, Jesus draws a fascinating comparison with the days of Noah. He tells his disciples that the past is the key to the future. The spiritual conditions of the pre-flood world will be replicated in the days preceding the return of Christ to the earth. What do we find when we examine the world of Noah’s day? Write it in large letters: BUSINESS AS USUAL. They were eating and drinking (nothing wrong with that), marrying and giving in marriage (nothing wrong with that). They were buying and selling and continuing in all the usual activities of human life. Children went to school each day, businessmen made deals, teachers taught, doctors dispensed healing, farmers tended their crops. They evidently paid no attention to “crazy Noah” and the big boat he was building in his backyard. Maybe he was regarded as a local whacko. But at last the day came when Noah entered the Ark. “The rains came down and the flood came up.” I’m sure in that day the people started beating on the door but it was too late. One translation of v. 39 says “they did not know.” What a damning indictment. It was an age of enlightenment. But they did not know. It was an age of great progress. But they did not know. It was an age of music, fine arts and literature. But they did not know. It was an age of military might. But they did not know. It was an age when mighty men roamed the earth. But they did not know.
They knew so much but understood so little. They knew more and more about less and less until they knew everything about nothing and nothing about what really mattered. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. They had no time for God until it was too late. That is the world of Noah’s day. They were wise fools who did not heed the warnings of the preacher of righteousness. Then the flood came and took them all away.
2. The World That God Washed Away
“Why did God send the flood?” There was a rapid spiritual degeneration after the first sin. Once sin entered the human bloodstream, it quickly spread until it dominated humanity. Things have become so evil that God decides to start all over again. What happened to bring on such a drastic judgment? Here are 5 phrases that help us grasp the reason God sent a worldwide flood.
A. An Abuse of Marriage v. 1, 2
Before we consider the controversial aspect - note the last 2 phrases. These marriages were made on the basis of nothing more than physical attraction. A man saw a woman and said, “I like her. She’s beautiful. She’s a babe. She’s hot. I want her. She’s mine.” He took her for himself. Forget about wisdom or character. Don’t worry about personality or family background - certainly don’t bother about godliness. Those things just get in the way. Marriage is now just the satisfaction of pure animal appetites. Man sees woman. Man wants woman. Man takes woman. This is a jumping of the boundaries God had established.
The real question involves the statement that the “sons of God” saw the “daughters of men.” To whom do these phrases refer? 3 main answers given to this hotly debated question -
1. This refers to the intermarriage of believers with unbelievers. In favour of this view is the fact that the preceding chapters clearly show the development of 2 lines—the godly and the ungodly. We know from many other warnings in the Bible that God forbids believers to deliberately marry unbelievers. I agree with the concern behind the first view but it does not seem to me to be the most natural reading.
2. The phrase “sons of God” describes human rulers who were despots. We might call them “big-shots” today. The “daughters of men” refers to the multiple wives and concubines who made up the earliest harems. Again, this is a plausible view but it depends on evidence from outside the Bible.
3. The oldest interpretation - the “sons of God” refers to angels who rebelled against God, inhabited human bodies, married human women and gave birth to the “nephilim” of v. 4 who roamed the earth as ancient tyrants and bullies. On the surface, the view seems strange and even bizarre but it is, in my judgment, what this passage is teaching. For this hideous sin, the angels were sent to the pit of deep darkness and the existing civilization was wiped out in the great flood.
I lean to this view because the context seems to demand some sort of extraordinary sin that would cause God to wipe out an entire civilization and start all over again. Having said that, I also agree that this is a very difficult passage to interpret. We don’t have enough in the text to be certain about the meaning. This is one of those places where we wish Moses had added a few footnotes.
B. An End to God’s Patience v. 3
In light of the bizarre morality of the pre-flood world, it is not surprising that God’s patience finally wore thin. The word “strive” may also mean “protect.” In that sense, this verse is both a warning and a promise of grace extended for a short period of time.
Up until now, God’s Spirit has protected mankind from self-destruction, but at some point that protection will be removed and man will then be left to his own devices. Romans 1 - when men rebel against God, sooner or later he “gives them up” to face the consequences of their own sinful choices. God will not protect us from ourselves forever. Sooner or later we have to face the music. In this case, it meant that in 120 years, the flood would come and take them all away. Until then, God’s grace was extended by giving men a further period in which to repent.
The story of the flood is used in the same way by Peter. There we learn that the seeming delay in God’s judgment is not because he “winks” at sin but because he postpones judgment to give us more time to repent. But God’s patience will not last forever. Let those who walk in sin be warned. If you think God doesn’t see you or he doesn’t care or perhaps that he doesn’t even exist, you will one day be surprised by the sudden judgment of God.
C. An Abundance of Corrupt Leaders v. 4
This is a difficult verse to interpret. The “nephilim” means something like “the fallen ones.” It is sometimes translated “giants” and may refer to a race of ancient men and women who were 3m tall. In their arrogance they ignored God, built vast empires, acted as despots and tyrants and embodied the worst traits of humanism—living as if God did not exist. No doubt they were gifted individuals who could be charming but underneath were ravenous wolves, filled with corruption, violence, hatred and all manner of evil. Such men filled the earth in the days before the flood. They were the offspring of the ungodly union of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men.”
D. A Headlong Rush into Evil v. 5
Here is a clear description of the doctrine of Total Depravity. Here is mankind as God sees it. This is the human race apart from God’s grace. In Genesis 1 we are repeatedly told that “God saw” what he had made and it was “good” and “very good.” By Genesis 6 when God looks on the earth, he sees his creation turned into a foul cesspool of evil. If you want to know what sin is like, study this verse:
1. Sin is internal. It is a matter of the heart first and foremost. “The thoughts of his heart.”
2. Sin is pervasive. It touches every part of our existence. “Every intent of the thoughts of his heart.”
3. Sin is continual. It consumes man and controls him. “Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
This is what you are apart from God’s grace. Any “good” you may do is stained with the dirt of your own sinful inclinations. You have never done a truly good deed in and of yourself and you never will. All that we do is tainted with self-interest. Even our good deeds are but “filthy rags” in the sight of Almighty God. Your heart is so wicked that you don’t even know the half of your own sin.
Don’t read this and say, “Those people must have been terrible.” Read it and then look in the mirror. There is no difference. No difference between them and us. No difference between then and now. No difference between the cannibal in the jungle and the corporate executive who is under suspension. Take away his MBA, his Armani suit, his shiny BMW, and underneath beats the heart of a sinner. All the thoughts of his heart are evil continually.
E. A Shocking Judgment From Heaven v. 6, 7
“The Lord was sorry” and “He was grieved.” God’s grief is a sign of His great love. The Lord is no robot. He is not some unfeeling God in heaven who sets the world in motion and then watches in disinterest while men and women destroy themselves. His heart breaks over the sin that covers the earth. He weeps over broken homes, broken promises, suffering children and the wreckage of human sin that covers planet earth and turns it into a massive junkyard of pain, sadness, shame and guilt.
So now God decides to “uncreate” the earth. Think of what this means. Whole cities destroyed. Homes washed away. Roads covered. Buildings inundated. Whole villages flooded. Men, women and children vanishing beneath the waves. The whole earth under the waters of judgment. Nothing like it had happened before and nothing like it has happened since. It was a catastrophic judgment that enveloped the entire globe and washed away every sign of human civilization.
F. Noah Found Grace v. 8
Only one man and his family are spared. The word “favour” actually means “grace.” This is the first mention of “grace” in the Bible - it means “undeserved favour.” It describes the blessing God gives to those who don’t deserve it. Don’t read this verse and think, “Noah was a really good man and because he obeyed God, he earned God’s grace.” That’s impossible. It doesn’t happen that way. Noah didn’t “earn” anything. Grace was given to him the same way it is given to people today. Either grace is a gift or it isn’t grace. Instead of saying, “Noah found grace,” we should say instead, “Grace found Noah.” That would be more appropriate. Grace found him and saved him and his whole family.
1. Grace is available in the darkest hours. Even though the world was rushing headlong into judgment, Noah found grace. There is never a pit so deep that the love of God is not deeper still. Do not say, “I am too bad a sinner to ever be saved.” You don’t know that. Don’t say, “God could never forgive me.” Yes, he can. And he will, if you will cry out to him. And don’t say, “My husband is too far gone to ever be saved” or “I’m going to stop praying for that person because she is a hopeless case.” You don’t know that. While there is life, there is hope. Leave the final judgment in the hands of the Lord. Keep praying. And if you do not know the Lord, seek him while he may be found. Turn to him. Come to him. Trust in him. This is the day of grace. Though a thousand perish at your side, though your friends and family turn away, there is hope for you and plentiful grace if you will only come to Jesus.
2. Grace is the only means of escape. Was Noah somehow “better” than his contemporaries? No, he was a sinner just like them. But he found grace and was spared. He turned to the Lord and was delivered. Hebrews tells us that “by faith” Noah saved himself and his family. What Noah did, you can do. By grace we can be delivered even in the darkest days and from the deepest pit of sin. I admit that grace is a hard concept for us to grasp. I define it as God doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. It is God coming to our rescue when we were trapped in sin.
One final word. I began by noting the words of Jesus - As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when Jesus returns. If you want to know what the future looks like, go back to the past. The days of Noah are the key to understanding the days to come.
What are the marks of the “days of Noah?” Here is my answer:
1. The world completely unprepared for the coming judgment.
2. Widespread moral perversion and the breakdown of the family. 3. A sharp rise in satanic activity and growing interest in the occult. 4. Shocking failure of leaders we thought we could trust.
5. Rejection of God’s authority in the name of “freedom.”
6. Believers standing alone against the world.
As it was … So it shall be. As it was … So it is today.
I believe the “days of Noah” are upon us right now. That’s one reason I believe we are living in the last days before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth. Do not despair. If you know the Lord, stand strong. Speak the truth. Follow God’s call and do not let the world’s hostility intimidate you. These are wonderful days to serve the Lord. Think of it. We may be the generation privileged to see Christ return to the earth. If so, let’s be busy about our business, spreading the Good News, working for the Kingdom, being salt and light, serving the Lord with joy wherever we go.
The best news for all of us is this: Grace is available for those who want it.
“You are more sinful than you can ever believe and you are more loved than you could ever hope.”
Both sides of that statement are true. You are more sinful than you think and God loves you more than you could imagine. If you want the grace of God, it’s yours for the asking. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. What about you? Amen.