Tuesday, October 06, 2015

God Saves

FIRST THOUGHTS

Two weekends ago we had our kids' birthday party. We spent a week cleaning and organizing, trying to make it as free from chaos as possible. Five minutes after the last guests left, we closed the door to the backyard and left it, and have barely had the energy to clean up inside the house, either. We have let our house be a mess. Nothing destroys a house like having kids. It takes seconds for everything to be tossed on the floor, on the wall, on everyone's clothes.

It's like the Book of Genesis. Humanity's downfall meant that things escalated quickly from bad to worse. After being kicked out of paradise, mankind looked more like the fights in "Anchorman," folks throwing tridents, dragging people in nets behind horses, anything goes. There may have never been a time when humanity was farther from God.

When people get caught up in sin they lose sight of two things. First, no one is exempt from the consequences of sin. Second, sin must be judged. Because God is holy, He cannot look the other way when it comes to sin.

Today we're gong to take one of the most familiar Bible stories of all time and dive deep into it.

Whether you belive the story is literal or just a morality tale, there are important details to take away from it.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

Genesis 5:1–7:24

*** Two weeks ago in Genesis chapter 3 we studied humanity's fall from grace.

*** Noah lived in what may have been the most corrupt period in human history. By the time Noah was born, the earth was filled with wickedness. God decided that He would flood the earth and start over with a clean slate. God would save a remnant—Noah and his family—to repopulate the earth and begin anew.

--- As a result of humanity’s sinfulness, God was sorry He had made man. The word translated “regretted” appears in verses 6 and 7. It can refer to a change of mind or to the emotions that caused that change. God’s emotion is emphasized with the statement, “He was grieved in His heart” (6:6).

(Seriously, we messed up. Big time.)

*** Noah was different from the rest of humanity. He “found favor in the sight of the Lord” (6:8), and he was “righteous … blameless … [and] walked with God” (6:9).

WICKEDNESS OBSERVED (Gen. 6:11-13)

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with wickedness. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth was, for every creature had corrupted its way on the earth. 13 Then God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to every creature, for the earth is filled with wickedness because of them; therefore I am going to destroy them along with the earth.

*** Mo' people, mo' problems.

--- After Adam and Eve, mankind had gone from bad to worse. As we said last week, once you start on the path of avoiding God then you are on a bullet train to Sinville.

--- First, Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating forbidden fruit. Then, Cain had killed his brother (Gen. 4:8). Lamech then killed a young man and boasted that he would be avenged if anyone tried to retaliate (4:23-24).

--- Humanity - and "every creature" - had turned its back on God so much that God was ready to start over.

*** God hits the RESET button.

--- We see in verses 11 and 12 the word "corrupt" is used three times. God made it abundantly clear that what He was about to do through the flood was just. God’s decision to destroy the earth was not impulsive or arbitrary.

(He would have to go against His own Holiness not to respond in judgment.)

*** Noah stands alone.

--- In all of this wickedness Noah still managed to be the one light on the hill.

--- Noah's example proves that righteousness is possible in the middle of evil.

--- Contact with the world's sin is unavoidable, but imitating the depravity of the world is avoidable.

--- When we do that, just as Noah, we will be found in "favor in the sight of the Lord” (6:8).

*** A fruitless witness?

--- 2 Peter 2:5 calls Noah “a preacher of righteousness.” 1 Peter 3:20 implies that the people knew of the coming judgment, since “God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared.”

--- Evidently, while Noah was building the ark—a significant period of time—he called on people to turn to God, and God waited on their repentance. Since only Noah and his family went on the ark, it seems clear that Noah’s preaching did not result in conversions.

--- So, for 120 years the people who lived around Noah laughed at that Goody Two-Shoes and rejected his witness.

*** Question - Would God have been diminished if He hadn't acted against the corruption in the world?

(Sin must result in judgment, but God wants to save people from the coming judgment, so He offers opportunities to turn from sin and to Him. God informed Abraham of His plan before he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (18:17-21). He sent Jonah to warn the city before He judged Nineveh (Jonah 1:1-2).)

PROMISE UNFOLDED (Gen. 6:14-18)

14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and outside. 15 This is how you are to make it: The ark will be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. 16 You are to make a roof, finishing the sides of the ark to within 18 inches of the roof. You are to put a door in the side of the ark. Make it with lower, middle, and upper decks. 17 Understand that I am bringing a flood—floodwaters on the earth to destroy every creature under heaven with the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will die. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you, and you will enter the ark with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives.”

*** Years of preparation.

--- God told Noah what to do, and Noah obeyed.

--- The Lord uniquely specified the design for the building of the ark, just as He did the ark of the covenant, the Exodus tabernacle, and Solomon’s temple. (When God is planning something important for his covenant, He provides detailed plans.)

*** Noah's ark.

--- Ark is similar to an Egyptian word meaning “box, chest, or coffin.” The ancient Greek translation rendered this Hebrew term “wooden box.” The same term is used to describe the basket that protected Moses as a baby in the river.

--- God told Noah to make his ark of gopher wood. This kind of tree is mentioned only here in the Old Testament, so we're not sure what kind it is. It was probably a kind of cypress, pine, or cedar.

--- The dimensions of the ark indicate it was 450 feet long (1 1/2 football fields), 75 feet wide and 45 feet high, similar in size to a modern day battleship.

--- It had three decks, an 18-inch window all the way around and was flat, so it looked more like a giant barge. As far as we know it had no rudder except God.

--- Some have questioned whether Noah could have fit all the animals on the earth into one boat. A vessel this size would have been more than adequate. The space in the ark was 1.4 million cubic feet. Scientists estimate the total number of animal species at over a million. However, the great majority of species would have survived in the water (e.g. fish, arthropods, mollusks, etc.). The species that would have needed the ark for survival number about 35,000. These would fill the space of approximately half of the ark’s carrying capacity, leaving room for Noah’s family, food, and roaming space.

*** None shall pass.

--- God’s purpose for the flood was "to destroy every creature under heaven with the breath of life in it." God emphasized to Noah, "Everything on earth will die."

--- Clearly, there is a misunderstanding of God by the many who struggle with how a God who loves people could also destroy people.

--- He created and owns the universe. His prerogative as God is to do what He wishes with what He created and owns. He says, “I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.” (Rom. 9:15).

*** A new covenant.

--- Once the earth was cleansed of our foul stench, God confirmed the covenant with Noah to preserve creation (6:18).

--- This is the first covenant in the Bible. This covenant was not an agreement between two equal parties but between a greater and a lesser party.

--- He fulfilled the covenant—He rescued Noah and his family from the flood, and He has never again destroyed the earth by flood (Gen. 9:11). The recipient of the covenant contributed only obedience to God, and the flood story affirms that Noah obeyed God (6:22; 7:5,16).

--- Noah’s salvation from the waters of the Flood is an example of God’s covenant grace and mercy. Through the centuries, millions of people who have put their faith in God have testified that when they trusted God, He kept His promise to be with them, to bless them, and to save them forever.

*** Question - How do people today presume upon God’s patience? In what ways would our community be different if everyone took seriously God’s holiness?

ACTION TAKEN (Gen. 7:11-14)

11 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 sources of the watery depths burst open, the floodgates of the sky were opened, 12 and the rain fell on the earth 40 days and 40 nights. 13 On that same day Noah along with his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, Noah’s wife, and his three sons’ wives entered the ark with him. 14 They entered it with all the wildlife according to their kinds, all livestock according to their kinds, the creatures that crawl on the earth according to their kinds, all birds, every fowl, and everything with wings according to their kinds.

*** And the rain rain rain came down down down …

--- Rain wasn’t the only source of water. Verse 11 says the depths “burst open.” So something underground? An ice dam breaking?

--- So much water covered the land that even the mountains were covered by at least 20 feet and it took a year for all the water to recede.

*** Against the grain.

--- God called Noah to build a huge boat with no body of water in sight.

--- God called Noah to preach to a generation that was “nothing but evil all the time” (6:5).

--- God commanded Noah to herd male and female animals of every species into the ship.

--- Imagine the challenges of going against the grain of a wicked culture, or preaching to people who responded negatively. The Bible doesn’t mention it, but we can imagine the fatigue, isolation and rejection, and yet Noah obeyed.

*** Not just 2 X 2.

--- God told Noah to take “seven pairs, a male and its female, of all the clean animals, and two of the animals that are not clean, a male and its female” (7:2).

--- Why the extras? Noah needed extra animals to sacrifice after exiting the ark (8:20), or else they would have to wipe out a species!

(Hmm, is that what happened to unicorns and mammoths?)

--- The day the first rains fell, Noah and his family entered the ark with the animals. They didn’t wait a week to see how it would play out. And God shut the door (7:16), which means He shut out the rest of humanity.

*** 40 Days and 40 Nights.

--- Rain fell 40 days and 40 nights. (Though "Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy" says 42 is the answer to everything.) Forty is an important number in the Old Testament. Both Isaac and Esau were 40 years old when they married (Gen. 25:20; 26:34). Moses was with the Lord on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights (Ex. 24:18; 34:28). The Israelite spies were in the Promised Land 40 days (Num. 13:25). When Israel disobeyed and did not enter the Promised Land, the Lord sent them to the wilderness for 40 years (Num. 14:33-34). This repetition introduces the possibility that 40 is a symbolic number, but there is no compelling reason not to conclude that it is either a literal or a rounded number.

*** Question - Noah’s experience in building the ark, waiting for the rains, and entering the ark was a test of faith. What kinds of tests of faith do Christians face today? How do these tests compare to Noah’s test?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

How many of you have decorated your kids’ rooms with a Noah’s Ark theme, or have Noah’s Ark toys? Or did you as a kid?

Researchers are always searching around Mount Ararat, on the border of Turkey and Iran, for evidence of Noah’s Ark.

A new, $3 million documentary called Finding Noah , narrated by actor Gary Sinise, is headed for 640 screens on Oct. 8 for one night only. Right now filmmakers are being hush-hush on what they found, but does it matter?

What is it about this story that is so captivating for both believers and unbelievers? Do you think the success or failure of any expedition to find the Ark would make a difference to someone’s faith? Would it make a difference to yours?

Many people take the story of Noah as myth or fantasy. Ultimately Noah’s story is about God’s judgment and God’s grace.

*** The worldwide flood of Noah’s generation was God’s judgment against wickedness and the wicked.

*** When we live independently of God and rebel against His will, we are on a collision course with pain and God’s judgment

*** However, God rescues from judgment those who are faithful to Him.

*** Just as God made a covenant with Noah, we have one with Jesus. (Luke 22:20: "In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.’")

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