The southern rainfall of 2015 felt like it was never going to end. The South Carolina rain caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage. Many people were left without power for weeks while others lost homes due to water damage. There were others who didn’t just lose their property, but they lost their lives. No one who lived through the mild, local yet horrific South Carolina flood in Columbia and Charleston is going to underestimate the damage that water can cause. No one who lost loved ones is going to turn their flood story into a cute, fun story for children. The flood produced devastation. The flood of South Carolina changed families forever. Homes were lost. Lives were taken. The flood was no laughing matter.
One of the saddest events in human history is the day the Lord flooded the earth. Many people either have turned this dreadful event to a cute children story or put it in the category as pure fiction. The devastation that was seen in South Carolina last year is only a small glimpse of the devastation that God brought upon the earth. The flood is not fiction, but a real event that showed the consequences of human rebellion. The flood was an awful reality.
The New Testament writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, believed the flood to be a real event. They believed that the flood was meant to teach the world about the reality of sin and the coming consequences of a world that rejects God. The flood was also meant to give hope to believers who are struggling for righteousness in a world of rebellion. We want to look at the familiar story of the Flood through the eyes of the New Testament writers. The New Testament provides the interpretation of the flood and teaches us why it matters for us today.
God Punishes Sin in the Flood
We pick up the story of the world after the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden. The serpent deceived Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam who had received the command from the Lord did not stop his wife, but followed her into sin. Their sin brought death into the world and banished them from the garden. The spread of sin continues over the next two chapters. In Genesis 4, Cain murdered his brother Abel out of jealousy. In one generation, we see the drastic effects of the Fall. Sin always spreads. God keeps his word to Adam that eating the fruit that he commanded not to eat that he, “will surely die.” In Genesis 5, we here the constant refrain, “and he died.” Sin continues to spread throughout the earth. 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. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 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.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
The sin of man grieved the heart of God. Always remember that your sin and my sin grieves the heart of God. God hates sin. He hates sin because it destroys the relationship with his creatures and causes devastation in their lives. A righteous and holy God must hate sin. And good God has to punish sin.
The story of the flood formally begins in Genesis 6:9 with the announcement of the generation of Noah,
These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (Genesis 6:9-13).
God will deal with sin by dealing with sinners by destroying them with the earth. God continues to explain to Noah how he is going to destroy the earth. Genesis 6:17, “For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.”
The dramatic event of the flood unfolds under the direct hand of God. There are other flood narratives in the ancient literature. The most well-known is the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Epic of Gilgamesh speaks of the gods being angry with human noise and overpopulation. When the flood waters begin they became “frightened of the deluge, They shrank back and went up to Anu’s highest heaven.” The biblical narrator paints a much different picture as the flood is under the control of the sovereign Lord who causes the rains to fall and the sends the wind to cause the waters to subside. The theme of God’s sovereignty is a constant theme throughout the book of Genesis. God sends the rain,
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. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. (Genesis 7:11-12)
The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days. (Genesis 7:17-24)
The rain came and there was nothing that anybody could do to stop it.
Noah’s neighbors were eating and drinking and enjoying life. They lived according to their own reality. “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” Although they were living in their reality, they were not living the reality of the Lord God. The Flood is an example of the final judgment. The Flood is an awful reality. The Bible doesn’t give the accounts of those that perished, but we can imagine. We can imagine families trying to escape the rising waters. We can imagine the horror of seeing loved ones washed away before their eyes. We can imagine the dread of knowing that there was no hope, but certain death.
The New Testament speaks of the Judgment in the Flood as a sign of the Coming Judgment of God. Jesus said,
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 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. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. (Matthew 24:36-42)
Those in Noah’s day were not prepared for the flood, are you prepared for the coming of the Son of Man?
I remember my grandmother writing me a letter on this passage. I was a new believer and starting reading my Bible and talking to my family about Jesus. My grandmother was a lifelong Lutheran and she was reading this passage one day and was scared. I remember reading her letter and sensing the fear she had of the coming judgment of God. Do you feel weight of this passage? Do you see how God is going to punish sin? Are you ready? Are you ready for the coming of the Son of Man? When he comes, your secret sins will be disclosed. Your bank accounts will be revealed. Your inner thoughts will be made known. Are you ready?
God will punish sin. In Peter’s day, there were those who questioning the return of Jesus. They did not believe the Lord was going to hold them accountable for their sin. Peter writes,
They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Peter 3:4-7)
There is a Day coming of destruction for the ungodly. Are you ready for that Day?
God Protects Saints in the Flood
The Flood teaches us that God will punish the ungodly, but it also teaches us that God will protect his saints. God will protect those who trust in Him. Remember the beginning of the Flood narrative, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” Noah was a man of godly character. He was not without sin, but was above reproach. His life was characterized by righteousness, right living before God. God protected Noah from the coming disaster,
And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. (Genesis 6:13-22)
God spoke to Noah and Noah obeyed God. This will always be the sign of the righteous. When God speaks, his people listen. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) Noah showed himself to be righteous in how he responded to the Word of God. Do you do the same?
Noah continued to demonstrate his trust in the Lord when the Day of judgement came. Genesis 7:1-10,
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. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him. Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.
They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in. (Genesis 7:15-16)
The Lord shut Noah in ark to protect him from the judgment.
The literary climax is Genesis 8:1, “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.” God remembered Noah. Noah honored God and God remembered Noah. Peter uses these words to encourage the church who was being persecuted by the world as a reminded that God will punish the ungodly and protect his people. He writes, “if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment. (2 Peter 2:5,9)
Are you going through a trial? The flood is a reminder that God protects the godly from their trials. Do you see how understanding the flood as a real historical story of judgment of the ungodly and the salvation of the righteous serves us today? God will protect us. God will protect the godly from unjust government. God will protect the godly from unjust accusers. God will protect the godly from Himself on the day of wrath.
God Promises Salvation after the Flood
The story of the flood is the awful reality of consequences of sin. However, the story does not end only in judgment, but in hope. There is always promise of hope in the midst of judgment in the Bible. Genesis 8:20-22,
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
God officially changes his dealings with men even though their hearts doesn’t change. Human beings will still be inclined to do evil. The next two chapters we see Noah getting drunk and men uniting together against God to try to create the Tower of Babel, so what changed? God is shifting from dealing with humanity with strict justice to pure grace. God will begin to establish his kingdom on earth through Noah and his descendants.
God makes a covenant with Noah which reminds us of Genesis 1 and his covenant with Adam and points us forward the covenant with the New Adam, Jesus Christ. Genesis 9:7-17,
And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
God repeats the word “berit,” covenant seven times. The covenant God makes with Noah and all living creatures is a “perfect, all-encompassing covenant.” And this covenant is not conditioned like the one to Adam, but God places no conditions of obedience for maintaining this covenant, for he has already explicitly stated, “the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth.” (Genesis 8:21)
God offers a sign of the covenant with a rainbow that he hangs in the cloud. A sign that only He can control; an unconditional sign. Israel would have viewed a bow as a sign of war. The picture is that God now hangs his bow in the clouds as a sign that he is no longer actively at war with the world, but has offered peace. The beauty of the bow in the clouds is that it can only be controlled by God. God has offered a peace treaty with this world by no longer aiming his bow at the world, but aiming the bow at his own heart. God will fulfill his covenant by taking the bow and shooting the arrow at his own heart. He will send His Son to the cross to be pierced for the transgressions of man. We have hearts that are inclined to evil from our youth. We need new hearts. And now through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has offered us peace and new heart. For, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) The old world of strict judgment was washed away with the flood so that now if anyone turns from their sin and trust in Christ, they will be a new creation.
God brought Noah through the flood as a sign that we could be cleansed from our sin through the appeal to God for a clean conscience. God sent the “arrow” through the righteous one making peace through the blood of his cross (Col. 1:20). Peter writes,
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, 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, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (1 Peter 3:18-22)
God brought Noah safely through the water so now through repentance and faith we may be cleansed from our former sins being buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk in the newness of life (Rom. 6:4).
The flood shows us that God will punish sin and He will protect the godly, but the flood ultimately shows us that the only way we will be ready on our day of judgment is if we have appeal to God for a new heart through faith in the coming Son of Man, Jesus Christ. The Flood is an awful reality of the judgment. The cross is an awesome reality that our judgment has already been paid for all who turn to Christ. God promises salvation through the Coming Son. God has hung up his war bow and now offers you peace through Jesus Christ. Have you accepted his offer?
 Gilgamesh, Tablet XI, lines 113-114.
 Sydney Greidanus,. Preaching Christ in Genesis. 116.