The Tower of Babel story may be likened to an ant farm. What you have here are a bunch of little creatures working hard to build their little kingdom. But without any sort of effort God sends the workers scurrying in all directions. It is almost as if he just reaches down and taps the glass and causes everything to collapse.
Sometimes we need these reminders. We need to be reminded of this because sometimes it seems that the forces of man and the powers of evil are so monumental—so colossal, that they are unstoppable. Every generation has its Nero or its Herod. There are men who defy the kingdom of God and wish to have it exterminated.
The tower of Babel is presented to us as the ultimate anti-kingdom. This is not just any building project. It represents the man doing everything he can to establish a kingdom in defiance to God. You may remember from what we said last week in Genesis 10 that Babel was founded by Nimrod. You remember what we said about Nimrod. He was a tyrant—a warrior and a hunter of men. So the very foundation of Babel is that of open defiance and wickedness.
It was a colossal undertaking that expressed something of their pride. You can just here it with the pronouns that are used in the opening lines, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly…Let us build ourselves a city…let us make a name for ourselves.” There is absolutely no acknowledgment of God.
The whole purpose of it was specifically so that they wouldn’t be dispersed through the earth. That is an direct defiance to God’s command to fill the earth.
So this city represents Man in all his wickedness, with all his ingenuity, with all his pomp and pride. But with one little tap of the glass, it comes crashing down.
And this incident serves to remind us that we can have hope. We can have hope that no matter how powerful the kingdoms of man may be—no matter how commanding the rule of sin and Satan may appear, they cannot stand. The kingdom of God will prevail!
The passage goes out of its way to point this out. The whole scene is actually like a comedy routine. When you read it you are supposed to chuckle.
I. Lord defies and destroys the kingdom of man
The one that I love is that these people start off by saying, “Let’s make a name for ourselves. Let’s build a tower with its top in the heavens.” They are going to go out of their way to make the very first sky scrapper, a monument to their awesome ingenuity! And it may have very well been a quite the sight. Think of it, as you are walking out on this plain of Shinar, it would be like walking through Indiana. Everything is completely flat.
When I lived in Indiana I always laughed because the poor kids had to go sled riding on the exit ramps next to the highway. It was the closest thing they had to an incline because they just don’t have any hills out there.
Well, here you have a plain that stretches as far as the eye can see. But from a distance you can see this massive monument rising out of ground. It had to have looked like a man made mountain and quite an imposing structure.
But you can’t help but snicker when, in verse 5, it says, “And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that they had built.” It might seem imposing from our perspective, but from God’s prospective it’s nothing but a little ant hill. He’s so great, he’s so highly exalted, that he has to stoop down to get a good look at it. It’s kind of like how we would look at a model train track and a little city that was put together on it.
Some even say that there is a bit of a gag at what they say in verse 3. They say, “Come let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” Commentators say that this would have caused a chuckle because stone—which the Israelites used, was much more superior to bricks. It would be like us saying, “Let’s build a house out of Lego’s!” That would be silly, being that we have steel and other such things for building our buildings. On top of this, they want to take some stuff called bitumen or tar or some kind of stuff to use for mortar. I like what the King James Version says. It says “they had slime for mortar.” So some commentators say that it could have been a faulty structure that they were trying to construct.
I don’t know if that one is true or not. But the scene does close with a funny picture. The Lord confuses their speech. They are trying to defy God’s command to fill the earth, and so God changes their speech and makes it impossible for them to stay together. Thinking how that would have played out would have been pretty funny. Joe and Bob clock out one night and say, “Good-night, Joe!” “Good-night, Bob!” The next morning they come to work and say, “Morning, Joe!”, “Cobabaway, Bobbla!”
You have to picture them trying to work together to get things done. “Can you get me the hammer? A ham-mer! A ham-mer!” And the other guys is yelling back, “Abawaba! A-baw-a-ba! A!-baw!-a!-ba!
Why is it that we think adding volume will bridge the language barrier? Like that is going to help the translation process.
Like I said, the tower of Babel incident is supposed to be a funny. It is Bible humor.
And that is the way it should be. For that is the best way for us to think about the kingdoms of man whenever they set themselves up. This incident that is recorded here is simply characteristic of every one of man’s attempts to centralize power and deify man and his greatness. Throughout history we see that man makes every effort to centralize power and form a tyrannical governments. They bring all the power they can under one name, under one man, and he makes the citizens of his kingdom worshiping slaves. And this passage uses this humor to remind us that no kingdom on earth, not matter how big and powerful, can ever compare to the rule and reign of our God.
You can think of how this would have meant much to the people to whom Moses was writing. They were getting ready to go into the Promised Land. And you remember that the spies had originally said, “There are giants in the land, and we are like grasshoppers next to them.” And it didn’t help that the first city state that they came up against was Jericho.
But here you have the Lord’s encouragement to them, reminding them that the Kingdom of God cannot be opposed or thwarted by the forces of man. Moses is reminding the people of his day that the kingdom of God will prevail over the forces of man.
And that is a lesson that should be meaningful to us as well. Especially as we see our nation becoming Bable-esc in its tyrannical centralization of power and blooming emperor worship. The message to us is the same as it was to those in Moses’ day. God will not be mocked. He sits in the heavens and laughs.
I think of our own pledge of allegiance. Our pledge of allegiance ends by touting that we are, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Indivisible? Really? That is kind of ironic, don’t you think? To say that we are under God, but yet indivisible? To be indivisible means that even God cannot break it. Indestructibility is actually a divine attribute. And personally, I think it would be just like God to say, “Oh yeah? Indivisible, huh? Let’s just see about that. ”
You are probably familiar with the Shema. It comes from Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord your God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” I’ve been told that the Jews used to recite that, like we do our creeds during the confession of faith. When they did it though, they would recite it with their pinkie finger raised. That’s because they believed that the Lord had brought them out of Egypt with just his pinkie finger. Egypt was the epitome of power. They had their chariots. They had their manpower and weapons to suit out all their soldiers. Yet God barely had to lift a finger to bring them down and bring his people to a state of salvation.
The nations are as a drop in the bucket in comparison to our God. And they cannot stand before King Jesus. And it will only be a matter of time when we will hear what the angel in the book of Revelation proclaimed, “Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great.”
But it is not just that the Lord crushes the pompous kingdoms of man. If his kingdom is going to prevail, then he must establish his own kingdom!
II. We see that the Lord establishes his kingdom
At the end of our passage we see all the peoples being dispersed all over the face of the earth. They are scattered far and wide. It is almost like God knocked over the tower of Babel and all the pieces went sprawling all over the floor like a bunch of Lincoln Logs.
I want you to think about that picture now. He has just executed his judgment. He has just thrown the whole world into confusion. Would you say that there is a sense in which things are formless and void?
Do you remember that phrase? We saw it at the very beginning. “The earth was formless and void, and the Spirit was hovering over the waters.” We said that everything was kind of messy, but the Spirit was going to give form and shape to the creation; God’s kingdom.
You might also remember that we talked about this when we were on the boat with Noah. When the flood was at its highest things were formless and void again, weren’t they? And the Lord began to establish his kingdom again with Noah.
I think it is possible that we are seeing the cycle repeat itself here. People are scattering every which direction. It’s got a formless feel to it.
It sounds like the Lord is ready to act again to establish his kingdom. And that is exactly what he does in chapter 12. In chapter 12 we read how God calls a guy by the name Abram. And he says, “I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great.”
Hopefully, you don’t miss the turn around. In Babel people were trying to “make a name for themselves.” Then the Lord says to Abram, “I will make your name great.” Essentially he is saying, “I won’t let the kingdoms of men over run what I want to do. I am going to establish my kingdom!”
A little while later he would reiterate the same thing to David. In 2 Samuel 7 God tells David that he is going to make his name great. And then a little later still comes Jesus. And the Scripture says that he rose again from the dead, and because God so highly exalted him he is given the name that is above all names.
It is through Jesus that the kingdom comes into the world. As a matter of fact, in speaking of the Tower of Babel, you have to contrast it with what happened on the day of Pentecost. You remember what happened there, don’t you? On the Day of Pentecost the Spirit came down it lighted upon the Apostles. Then they began to speak in other languages. What’s interesting is that Luke records for us that there in the city of Jerusalem were “people from every nation under heaven.” And if you examine the countries that Luke lists there, you find that they parallel the regions listed in Genesis 10.
And Luke’s message to us is that the Pentecost event was the undoing of the curse that fell on Babel. There at Babel the nations were dispersed by the confusion of tongues. In Jerusalem the tongues of men were altered again, but this time it was so that they might be rounded up. Now is the gospel age where the kingdoms of man are being plundered and nations are being gathered into God’s kingdom.
To be sure, the kingdom is not fully realized. We understand that we live in an age where the threats of man’s kingdom still loom large over us.
Yet we recognize that the kingdom of God is advancing and the gates of hell will not prevail. And we know that one day all the nations will be gathered before Christ, and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.
The book of Revelation gives us a reminder. In chapter 21 we are told about a new Jerusalem that descends from heaven. It is a picture of the fully consummated kingdom. And this city is described as receiving "the glory of the nations." And we are told that nothing unclean or detestable or false will ever enter it. Instead, there will only be those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Our passage today has a global perspective. It is as if we’ve just looked into a wide angle lense and zoomed out. However, it is the story of a family. We’ve been focusing on one particular family for the last several weeks, but now, with this text, we see how this one family expands by almost exponential degrees. We see how the globe comes to be covered with people.
This is, of course, one of those passages that we usually skip in our Bible reading. Yet, there is much to say about the passage. This is not just a bunch of names. It is divine teaching, and there are quite a few lessons that we can learn from it.
One of the things that a passage like this really highlights is how reliable our Bibles are.
I. General comments
A. The reliability of the Bible.
I've mentioned a number of times in our study that there are many people discount the first 11 chapters of Genesis. This is true of this chapter too. There was a time when the so called “scholars” said that chapter 10 was not to be trusted. They didn’t give it the time of day because they didn't think that it gave an accurate geographic depiction of man’s origins and movements. However, that is not true today. The exact opposite is the case. Even some of those who would not be characterized as friendly to Christianity recognize that what is laid out here is unparalleled in its accuracy.
As a matter of fact, Bill Cooper, set his life’s work to study the ancient world and how it compared to the table of nations that we have listed here. He began his work with the goal of finding 40-50% of the names listed here among the Middle Eastern world. He thought that finding just half of them would be ambitious, and lend a high degree of credibility to the book of Genesis. But his research far exceeded his expectations. He discovered that, “Every one of their names is found in the early surrounding records of the Middle East.” He went on to say, “No other ancient historical document of purely human authorship could be expected to yield such a level of corroboration as that!”
We know that the reliability of the Bible doesn’t find its basis in archaeology or any other form of investigative research. The authority and reliability of the Bible rests in God. But things like this always provide us with nice confirmations of that truth. And they serve to remind us of the fact that every word of Scripture is from God, and the whole of the Bible can be trusted.
So that is the first observation from our text. The second thing this chapter teaches us is the unity of the human race.
B. Unity amid division
This passage of course is talking about the division of the peoples and how they each go in their own distinct direction and how each forms its own unique culture. But it reminds us that we all have a common ancestor and are all “sons of Adam” and descendants of Noah.
As such it reminds us of the equality of humankind. A passage like this reminds us of the fact that, even though there may be some differences of size, shape, or color, there is no difference when it comes to our basic humanity. To put it another way: this passage tells us that there are not multiple races. There is only one race, the human race.
The concept of multiple races is something that we pick up from secular thinking. It has its roots in the evolutionary worldview. As a matter of fact, we can trace this right to Darwin himself. I was reminded this week of Darwin’s premier work, “The Origin of Species.” I was reminded of the full title of that book. We’ve cut it down to “The Origin of Species.” But the full title was “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.”
The subtitle, or perhaps the more literarily precise title, was “the Preservation of the Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” The basic premise of Darwin’s book was that there are some races that are inferior because they are less evolved. His whole argument was that the color of one’s skin determines how evolved one is.
Some of you may not know this, but the “evolution picture”—the one with that is depicting the different points of man’s evolution. It starts with the monkey, then has a few “transitionary forms,” and then ends with the upright man. Some of you probably do not know that there were actually six different frames to the original picture. What you typically is just one of those frames. But there were originally six. There was the depiction of the white man at the top, and then the Asian man, and then at the bottom a black man.
That is where racism finds its roots! That is not a Biblical idea. The Bible tells us that all men have descended from one man and none are less evolved or an inferior race. And since this is so, each individual is to be esteemed with the utmost respect.
The last comment I would like to make regarding the chapter as a whole regards the absolute sovereignty of God.
C. The sovereignty of God
“The sovereignty of God? Where do you get that?” A periphery reading of the text reveals just a bunch of names, with a few generalized comments thrown in. But if you examine the chapter more in depth, you come to find that it has a distinct structure. It was crafted in such a way as to mention 70 names (or people groups). Of course, this is a selective list. Not every people group is listed. You’ll notice that just by looking at the text this is so. For instance, the first five verses talk about Japheth’s descendents. His line is the largest and covers the most territory (as our text last time indicated-Genesis 9:27). But only 14 names are mentioned. So it is the smallest record of all of Noah’s sons.
But when you add all of the names up, it comes to 70. Why is that significant? Two reasons. First, numbers meant something to the Jews. The number 70 would be significant because it is 7 multiples of 10. Seven is the number of perfection and ten is the number of completion. So listing 70 peoples is Moses’ way of saying that God has ordained the exact number of people on the earth.
Taken by itself you might think that I was doing a Harold Camping with numerology. But if you look at the end of this book you will find that there are 70 who people who go down into Egypt. I don’t think that was a mistake. The number of God’s chosen people are 70 in all. The number of peoples listed here is 70. I believe that this is saying something about God’s sovereignty over the world. He sovereignly ordains life and directs the courses of history.
You may also remember that Jesus also sent out 70 disciples on a short term missionary trip. I don’t think that count was coincidence.
All this is to say that peoples may go where they go and governments may rise to power but it is God who governs all. And knowing that He is in control is something that we can take great delight in.
So those are a few things that we can say by way of generalization. We haven’t really said anything about any one specific verse yet. So let’s do that.
II. Specific Comments
The first five verses deal with the line of Japheth. I mentioned a second ago that it is the shortest list of names. But Japheth’s line takes up the most territory. His line extends north and west into Europe, and then to the north and east—which are the territories we know as Russia and India. Scholars also say that there used to be land that linked Russia and Alaska, and people most likely migrated through that territory down into Canada, America, and then into South America.
But you’ll notice that in verse 5 it says that the “coastland peoples spread in their lands.” This, I want you to understand, is the Bible’s way talking about the furthest reaches of the earth. These coastlands are the distant places, or the outer regions. We might say today that they spread “to the far corners of the earth.”
And we learn from this that though they be distant peoples, God still has his eyes on them. Though they are not completely known to us (they are simply those people out there), God does know them and there is a sense in which he wants us to remember them.
As a matter of fact, the Scriptures use this word “coastlands” quite a few times in talking about the nations. Sometimes it is used in regards to judgment. But in Isaiah, these coastlands are depicted as eagerly awaiting the coming of the Messiah.
All this is to say is that these names mentioned here emphasize the world-wide scope of the Bible. It reminds us that we are never to be introspective or introverted as a church. We are always to be thinking about how we can bring the gospel to the far corners of the earth.
Now the next group lists the descendants of Ham.
And if you are familiar with the Bible and its history, some of these names probably were familiar to you. This lists the names of many of Israel’s enemies. All of these are summed up in the fellow, Nimrod, who is mentioned in verses 8-10. In verse 8 Nimrod is said to be the first on the earth to be a mighty man. Recognize that this is Bible speak for a warrior. You know that David had his mighty men. Those were his warriors. Nimrod was a mighty warrior. And it is likely that he was more than just a hunter of animals. It is likely that he was a hunter of men!
Nimrod stands out as one who is a tyrant and a man who is seeking to subjugate peoples. That’s interesting because Ham’s line was supposed to be the line that was subjugated, wasn’t it? (Gen. 9:25) It is likely that he is being depicted as in complete rebellion to the Lord. He will not obey even the command to be a slave, but he will rise up in his aggression against God and make slaves of men.
We will of course talk more about the Babel incident next week. But we notice again the intense hatred man has for God. And we see the cycle of violence that existed before the flood is repeating itself. We are reminded of man’s intense desire to shake his fist in the face of God.
The last to be mentioned, of course, are the descendants of Shem. You might say that the best is saved for last.
Shem is placed last because he is, as you remember from last time (Genesis 9:26-27), was the line through which the Savior would come. The whole of the chapter is coming to this point: to show the linage of Shem and how the Lord is moving closer to the fulfillment of his Mesianic Promise.
When it comes to Shem’s line though, there are two things that stand out. The first is this fellow Eber. You might have noticed that his name is mentioned twice. The first mention is in verse 21—at the very outset of Shem’s list. He is then mentioned again verses 24-25. Eber is significant because this is where we get the name “Hebrew.” Eber was eventually the father of the HE-brews.
The other thing we ought to take note of is Eber’s children. Eber has two children, Peleg and Joktan. The text is clear regarding Peleg’s name. He receives his name because “the earth was divided” in his days (Peleg, of course, meaning division). Most scholars believe that it was during his life that the Tower of Babel incident occurred. That was the division. What it doesn’t tell you is that Joktan’s name means “contention” or “dispute.” That too likely comes from the Babel incident.
These two men express the whole point of this passage though. It is contention and division. Everywhere you look it is contention and division.
What I want you to understand is that this table of nations is not something that is completely good. Yes, it is wonderful that people are filling the earth. That they are multiplying and being fruitful is good. But there’s contention and division! That’s not the way it was supposed to happen. People were supposed to fill the earth, but there is no harmony. They are saying good bye and good riddance to each other. They are forming their own people groups and forgetting the ways of their fathers and mothers.
You might say to me, “But isn’t that a natural thing? Isn’t that just going to happen? As you move away, you are going to develop your own culture?” I’m sure that is unavoidable to some degree, but what you have here is a complete dishonoring of father and mother. As they move away they are not just creating their own culture, they are seeking revolution. They are not honoring their father and their mothers, they have desire to retain their traditions and distinctives. And ultimately they have no desire for unity because they have no desire for the GOD of their fathers!
As Japheth spreads out, he says, “Who cares about this Lord guy!” This division and contention is more than just a language barrier. It is an issue of the heart.
And this division and contention has continued all down through history to today. What do we have between nations today? Is it not division and contention? And it isn’t just a national and international thing. It is not just a problem of the state. What do we have in families but division and contention? What do you say every time you have a family reunion?! Is it, “Yippie! We get to go see crazy uncle Jimmy?”
It is division and contention. And I wouldn’t doubt that some of you in this congregation are dealing with it in your own homes. It might be that you are an adult now and you have run away from home. You don’t call it that. You say, “I’ve found an occupation that has taken me elsewhere.” But really, if you would look underneath it all, you don’t call and you don’t visit much because there are issues between you and your parents.
Or maybe it is one of you young people. Some will call it a generation gap. That’s a myth. That you don’t want anything to do with their music or their traditions is symptomatic of something deeper. It is a way of leaving your parents before you are allowed to move out. The minute you can get it you’ll be gone.
Sure, there might not be yelling or screaming in the house. But there is certainly not unity. Division and contention doesn’t have to be audible. It is represented primarily in distance and disunity.
This segregation is not the way it was supposed to be. People were to move out over the earth, but they were not supposed to fight and faction and conquer one another. Originally, they were supposed to be people who dwelt in harmony. They were supposed to be united and living in peace with one another. But this is what sin does. It drives men away from one another and it drives people away from God.
And it only serves to remind us of the need for Christ and his overruling grace.
In time Jesus would come and manifest himself as the Prince of Peace. And the kingdom that he inaugurated was to be characterized by unity. Christ came so that he could tear down the dividing wall of hostility, which, of course, is what he did through his sacrifice. He opened the way to God. He brought reconciliation with the Lord. And through that, he brings people together.
I always thought it funny who Jesus chose to be his apostles. His main core of disciples was a rag tag band. He chose Simon the Zealot. Here was a guy who was a rebel with a cause. The Zealots were people who were actively seeking to throw off the Roman government. They were so zealous for Israel that they would knife Romans and Roman sympathizers in the street.
And right there with the Simon the Zealot was Matthew the tax collector. I bet that made dinner parties awkward. And you have James and John, two brothers. Guys who were known as “The Sons of Thunder.” I don’t think they got that name because they were gentle and easy to get along with. They were stormy guys. Rowdy men. Contentious and divisive!
And yet Jesus could bring all of them together. It was characteristic of what he had come to do. His intent was to establish a kingdom that would be characterized by peace, purity and unity. And, of course, the only way he could do that is by bringing them first unto himself. There, in submission to the Lord, this band could experience real and true harmony.
Every once in a while the Scripture gives us a glimpse of the antithesis of what we find in this passage. Here, the nations are shown to be running away from each other. And as they run from each other, they are running from God. But every once in a while we are told about a time when the nations will stream to Jerusalem. We are given pictures of all the nations doing a 180 turn, and with one accord beginning to seek the face of the Lord.
I think it climaxes in the seventh chapter of Revelation. For there John has a vision and he says, “I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and they cried out, “Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9)
If anything, this table of nations reminds us of the curse of the fall. It reminds us of our desperate need for Jesus if we want to see any hope for our future generations.
 Alpha Omega Institute, “Geneologies: There for a reason.” by Mark Sonmor, a review of After the Flood, by Bill Cooper.
One of the distinct features of the Bible is that it goes out of the way to tarnish the reputation of its hero’s. Some say that this is a mark of Scripture’s inspiration.
You know how stories usually end. The hero is supposed to be depicted as a legend who rides off into the sunset and everyone is supposed to live “happily ever after.”
The reason it does that is because the Bible seeks to highlight the fact that there is only one hero in Scripture. All the characters in the Bible are failures except one, God himself.
And that is certainly the case in our passage today. This section of Scripture most likely would not appear if it had not been written by the finger of God.
My wife asked me what passage I was going to be preaching on this week and I said, “It’s the passage where Noah gets wasted.” She said, “Oh, I hate that passage!” Such a response perked my curiosity, and so I asked her, “Why do you say that?” She said, “It’s just so sad. Noah had been such a great guy up to that point. He’d been the hero and a righteous man, and to see that happen to him is just so sad.”
I think she summed it up perfectly. This passage is here for one purpose. It is here to remind us of God’s story, and not Noah’s. It serves to remind us of the Lord’s redemption and what he does to bring salvation to his people.
The passage starts out by reminding us of man’s inherent depravity.
I. The depravity of man [18-20]
When we come to this passage we find Noah completely blitzed. After planting a vineyard he takes some of the fruits of his labors and goes on a drinking spree such to the point that he’s found laying naked and passed out.
There are some who want to pretty up the scene here and say that it was an accident. Some even supposed that Noah was so pure that he didn’t understand the intoxicating effects of wine. That’s a bit of a stretch though. I think it is safe to say that Noah was intentional about his drinking. He made a god out of his wine. The moment he felt a little woozy he could have stopped. But he didn’t. He drank and he drank and he drank until he lost all power of reason.
The point of this passage is, as I said earlier, to highlight the fact that Noah botched it.
A few weeks ago we talked about the receding of the flood waters. And as we studied that I suggested to you that what was being depicted was a new creation. There was a parallel to the opening chapter of Genesis one and the creation story. Then two weeks ago we talked about how God reiterated some of the words from Genesis 1 regarding the sanctity of human life. All along we have seen how the Noah narrative recapitulates a lot of the opening scenes of Genesis.
Well, here in our passage today, we have a reprise of Genesis 3 and the fall. Noah had been a man who “found favor in the eyes of God.” He, you might say, was the New Adam. All this time he has been one who was righteous in his conduct. But here we see a different side of Noah. Noah didn’t remain upright before the Lord. Just like Adam, he sinned against God. And so the cycle repeats itself.
It is even interesting how many parallels there are to the story of Adam and his fall. Both of them are found in gardens. And both of them involve the partaking of fruit. Both involve the idea of nakedness and its corresponding shame.
So again, I think that it is evident that the writer of Genesis is trying to tell sin is still a scarlet red reality. The flood changed a lot of things, but it didn’t change the heart.
I want this to be noted because there are many today who think that our problem is mainly attributed to our environment. People want to tell us that if we just remove the bad influences around us and if you put people in a better context, then man will turn out a lot better than he would had he been in those inferior conditions.
That’s why you used to have all the to-do about integration at schools. They said, if we just get the kids out of the projects and into better neighborhoods and better schools, then we’ll see change for the better.
You will hear from time to time how we are nothing other than “victims of our environment.” Some sociologist might say, “He became a thug and a gang banger because he grew up in the projects.” Or, “I never had a dad in the home, that’s why I turned out the way I did.” Now, do I believe that it is important to have a loving and caring dad? Of course, I do. Is it possible that such things can make you more susceptible to making bad decisions? Yes, I do. But you can never say that you are merely product of your environment.
If there is one thing that Noah teaches us here, it is that evil actions don’t spring primarily from your environment. Noah had the best of situations. All the evil influences of sin had been erased in the flood. He had a nice garden, and, for the most part, he had a good family. His context was certainly a lot better than it was prior to the flood! But no matter how pristine his context was, he chose to cut loose.
It all serves to show us that there is something genuinely wrong with the human condition, and that salvation does not come simply by a change of scenery. Salvation can only come through a radical change in the heart of man.
And that is why Noah cannot be the end of the story. All of this points us forward. All of this just reminds us that we are still waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises. And that won’t come until that time when, in the twinkling of an eye, we are changed.
But as we look at this passage, we not only see how the man’s depravity continues, we also see how man’s division continues.
II. The division of man
Again, back in the early chapters of Genesis we saw how there was going to be a division of peoples. There is going to be a distinction between the seed of the woman and the seed of Satan. There would be an ungodly line, and there would be a godly line. And we saw that Cain was the line of the apostates who refused to fear God. And from Seth came this long line of God fearing men, from whom Noah eventually came.
In this passage too we find this same division. Look at verse 22 It says, “And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.” Here we find that the ungodly line was not altogether wiped out when the flood came. There is a new apostasy.
Now we are not told the details of what he said, but we get the gist of it—especially when we see the actions of his two brothers. Verse 23 tells us that Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on their shoulders, and walked in backwards so as to cover up their father and not further his disgrace. These guys took the honor of their father seriously. They couldn’t even lay their eyes on him for fear of furthering his disgrace.
But not so with Ham. Ham sees his father all laid out like this and starts talking about it. You can see him, “Hey Shem! Hey Japheth! Come here. You got to hear this!” No doubt he had a good laugh at the “old man.” It was bad enough that Noah laid uncovered. But Ham goes and uncovers the thing in an even more public manner. He’s broadcasting the sin of his father as if it were a joke!
I like what James Montgomery Boice says at this point. “The only thing worse than committing a sin is the devilish delight of finding and exposing someone else’s sin.” And it is this relishing sin that really shows us where Ham’s heart is. Especially when you consider the fact that Noah has been God’s minister of Salvation!
A real Christian is one who is grieved by sin. He mourns it and is greatly pained by it, especially when it involves the church. And when such a scandal occurs, a real Christian doesn't go out and broadcast it like he’s the anchorman for the six o’clock news. He makes every attempt to see that the name of Christ is not disgraced any further.
But people who are not Christians, they get high off these kinds of things. They take pleasure in it, laugh about it, and replay it over and over. They love to get their kicks at someone else’s expense. And they virtually salivate when they have a chance to disparage the church! That’s almost euphoric for them.
All this is to show though that this devilish cult was not fully exterminated in the flood. It was re-birthed in Ham and the seed of Satan survived because it was harbored in the safe haven of Ham’s heart.
But the passage not only talks about the depravity and division of men. This passage is also prophetic. It also serves to highlight the destiny of men.
III. The destiny of men
You might have noticed that this passage talks a lot about the descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth. The first two verses we read said that it was from these three that all the descendants of the earth came.
Then in verses 26-27 you have the pronunciation of the blessings on Shem and Japheth. And really these are not about those two individuals as much as they are about their descendants. What’s more, is that you have mentioned three times in this passage that Ham is the father of Canaan. And, you might have noticed that when Noah rose up out of his hangover, he cursed Ham’s son rather than Ham.
Some people get a little squeamish about that. They say, “What’s the deal with that? Why does his son get cursed and not the actual perpetrator of the crime?” Well, there are a number of explanations. One reason is that Ham is Noah’s son. And since Ham is a scourge to his father, Ham’s son is going to be a scourge to him! There is a sense in which this is just retribution.
It may also be likely that Noah sees how Canaan has his father’s heart. You know, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! So it is likely that Canaan is walking in his father’s footsteps, and Noah is simply pointing out that this is going to be revisited in his own life.
But I think the best explanation for why Canaan is singled out has to do with when this book is being written. You remember that Moses is the author of the Book of Genesis. And this book is being written when the Israelites had come out of Egypt and were about to enter the Promised Land. But who was living in the Promised land? It was the Canaanites! It’s likely that Moses is singling out Canaan because the Israelites need to see that it is their duty to take the Promised Land by force and conquer the Canaanites. So Moses is saying, “You-who! Do you get it? Canaan is supposed to be subjugated by you!”
You might say, “D’em’s fighting words!”
Well, that’s the destiny of Canaan. But the passage also indicates something of the destiny of Shem and Japheth’s lines.
You see that in verses 26-27 Shem and Japheth are blessed for their obedience. And maybe you noticed that Shem’s line is given a place of honor over Japheth’s. Shem is the one who receives the greater blessing. We are told that God would enlarge Japheth, but at the same time he was going to dwell in the tent of Shem.
Well, if you trace things out, you find that Shem is going to be the line from which Abraham comes. You know the Jews are often called “Semitic” people. That’s because they are descendants of Shem. And Abraham is, as you know, the great, great, great grandfather of Jesus. The Lord is singling Shem out as the line from which that promised Savior would come.
But what about Japheth? This is interesting because if you trace it out, Japheth’s descendants travel to the north and make their dwelling in what is now Europe. Shem goes in the opposite direction (to the East). The two never really converge. That is until the New Testament times.
When you read the book of Acts you hear how the gospel moves all through the Western world. During this time you have all these Gentiles coming into the church. These Gentiles are the decedents of Japheth. And Japheth enters the tent of Shem through Jesus Christ. So what we have here is a prophetic utterance of the missionary work of the gospel.
And that is the good news of the text for us. We, through faith in Christ, have opportunity to enter the tents of Shem and experience the joy of our Lord’s salvation.
This last January James and Zelma (Tichenor) Barnes of Greensburg, Indiana walked the aisle…again. The elderly couple was married 70 years ago, and the retirement home that they are currently living in put provided them with a ceremony where they could renew the vows they made in 1943.
World War Two, he sent Zelma a letter asking her to marry him. Zelma accepted, and while James was home from the military for two days, the couple wed.
The very next day, James was stationed on board the USS South Dakota, which would eventually shoot down 32 Japanese planes during Pearl Harbor.
The couple never had a honeymoon or even what you might call a traditional wedding ceremony. Aspen Place surprised the pair by announcing they’d finally have a proper celebration of their long-lasting love and marriage.
It is certainly true that the couple’s relationship was never in question. They had been together for 70 after all. Their taking the time to renew their vows was simply a celebration of the love that they shared. It was a way for them to reaffirm the covenant bond that they held so dearly.
You might say that the experience of James and Zelma Barnes parallels the relationship that we have been looking at in these Scriptures over the last few weeks. Way back in chapter 6 we read how the Lord entered into a special relationship with Noah. In chapter 6 we read how the Lord established a covenant with Noah and promised to save him and keep him.
Our passage today occurs not too long after Noah got off the ark. But it has been over 100 years since the original covenant was made with Noah. Now, after the whirlwind beginning and after so much time has passed, the Lord comes to Noah again to renews His covenant vows.
You might say that here the Lord pledges his abiding love once again. And as we examine this passage together, and as we look at this covenant that God renews, I think we can see something of God’s love for us too.
At the outset of this passage we can see something of the nature of this covenant.
I. The nature of the covenant
Look with me at verse 11. God says, “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.” You notice that this covenant has a universal tone to it. Never again will he cut off all flesh by a flood.
Theologians sometimes call this covenant the “covenant of preservation.” That’s because the Lord swears to preserve his all of his creation. There will never be a flood again, and so the earth will not be ravaged in such a way ever again.
I want you to recognize how important this is. This is significant for two reasons.
First of all, you have to understand that, if God had not done this, then there would always be the nagging feeling hanging over us that it could happen again. Every time you walk past a waterfall, or every time you see the storm clouds building in the distance, you’d wonder, “Is this it?”
There used to be a show on the weather channel called, “It could happen tomorrow.” I’ve never seen it, but I saw some of the advertisements for it. The premise of the show was that they would describe some natural disaster happened in the past. Then they would ask, “what if this same disaster hit today?”
One episode was about a hurricane that hit New York City and tore through much of the New England states. They played up the carnage. Then they would close the commercial with the deep voiceover: “It could happen tomorrow.” The whole point, of course, is to scare the bejeebers out of you.
If God had not made this promise, then that eerie kind of feeling would be hanging over our heads all the time. We would always be saying of the flood, “It could happen tomorrow!”
Let me give you another example. A coworker of mine once expressed his dissolution with the Big Bang Theory. He had been taught that a long time ago there was a freak accident a long time ago where static matter all of a sudden blew up. Perhaps you were taught this too—that the laws of physics were defied for one moment in time and there was a big bang that launched all matter spiraling through space.
Now, this is what my coworker said. He said, “If it happened once, why can’t it happen again?” In other words, if a random disaster that defied all the laws of physics could happen once, what keeps it from happening again? And in the back of his mind he always wondered, “Could there be a nuclear explosion that ripped us apart today?”
I thought that was a pretty keen insight. I commended him for seeing something of the downside of that worldview.
If God had not made this promise, that sort of feeling would have to hang over our heads all the time. If God had not made this covenant, we’d all be saying, “It could happen tomorrow!” Every time we walked past a water fall, or every time we saw the storm clouds forming on the horizon, we would probably get the shivers.
But there is more to it than that. There is more to it than simply our present feeling of safety. This has to do with our eternal security too.
That the Lord promises to preserve his creation points us again to what he will do in the future. His promise here reminds us of his promise to send a redeemer. You remember that God has already promised to raise up the seed of the woman who would crush sin and Satan. This promise is a reminder that that promise is still in effect. That Redeemer will come. God says here, “Don’t worry Noah. I’m not going to renege on that promise. I will send the Savior, and he will bring redemption to my people.”
And along with that, we see something of what the Redeemer will accomplish! The redeemer will redeem the world! It is not that every soul will be saved in the end. The flood has just shown us that. But God’s promise here has a cosmic feel to it. And that is an indication that God’s creation will be renewed on the last day. When Adam fell, the creation fell under God’s curse. And we read in the book of Romans how creation groans with the longing for the adoption as sons.
Here we see an indication that our Lord will bless the earth and free it from its present groanings.
And to serve as a confirmation of this promise, God gave us a sign: The sign of the rainbow.
II. The sign of the covenant
You see this mentioned in verse 12 and following. We don’t know if rainbows ever appeared prior to this. But from this point on the rainbow is to serve a special purpose. It was to be a reminder this covenant that God has made. It is to be a reminder of the grace of God and how he is faithful to his promise.
What’s more, you see that it says that it will be a reminder, not just to us, but to God! It says in verse 14-15, “When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant.” This is God speaking here. God says that he will remember his covenant.
Of course, this is what we call an “anthropomorphism.” God obviously doesn’t forget things. It is just a way of speaking to help us understand something about what God is doing. And this is God’s way of saying he will never fail in his promise.
And that is to be a confirmation to us. When we see the rainbow, we should remember that God remembers his covenant. And that should reassure us.
You know, when it comes to the sacraments, we often talk about them being “signs and seals.” They are signs that point to a spiritual reality. The Lord’s Supper points to the reality that Christ has died for our sins. Baptism reminds us that he has cleansed our sin and accepted us into his kingdom. But they are not just signs, they are seals. A seal confirms something. It is there to assure you that what you see is truly legit.
Sometimes I’ll put it this way to my students. When I graduated seminary they gave me a little piece of paper we call a diploma. And you can look at that paper to verify that I really did graduate. Someone might say, “Well, how do I know you didn’t just print that off the internet or Photoshop it?” It is because it has my seminary’s seal on it. And so that seal is there to assure you that I did indeed graduate.
And that is one of the reasons why we take the Lord’s Supper each week. It is so that you may be assured of what Christ has done for you. This is God’s seal that he uses to confirm you in the reality of your salvation. And your baptism is to do the same thing. If you ever start to doubt your faith, all you have to do is think back to your baptism. Of course, baptism doesn’t save you. But it should serve to confirm your faith. It is there to be God’s guarantee that Christ is the Savior and that God accepts you because of what he has done.
And the same should be true of the rainbow. Whenever you see a rainbow, you should take a few seconds to marvel at it. All those dazzeling colors, are there to assure you that God remembers to keep this world and bring salvation to this earth.
I just want to make one further remark about this. I believe that this is why you find the rainbow mentioned a number of times in Scripture, particularly in the book of Revelation. If you would, turn with me to Revelation chapter 4. In Revelation 4 we read about John’s vision of the throne of God. And one of the features of the throne was that a rainbow encircled it. Read with me.
Now ask yourself, why is there a rainbow here? I think that it can serve only one purpose. In the book of Revelation we are going to see some rather scary images. My wife sometimes says that she doesn’t like reading it because many of the scenes are rather troubling. There are dragons and martyrs, there are fierce battles and all these bowls of wrath being poured out which wreak all kinds of havoc. There are stories of how a third of the earth suffers this, and a third of the earth suffers that. And we are told of how angels and horsemen inflict all kinds of havoc upon the land. There’s no wonder that you get the heebie-jeebies as you read through it.
But here at the beginning of those visions John says that he saw a rainbow around the throne. I believe that this sign is presented here at the outset of those visions to be a reminder that our God is the covenant keeping God. He is the one who will not go back on his promise to his people. No matter what the Lord may do, no matt how the earth may heave, our God will sustain us to the very end.
 Adapted from http://greensburgdailynews.com/local/x2056583691/Couple-renew-marriage-vows-after-70-years
Some of you may have heard the legendary story of Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers. The Packers franchise had been a losing team for almost ten straight years. They were at the bottom of the standings, and morale was sagging.
Vince Lombardi was called in to turn the team around. He began leading practices, inspiring, training, motivating. But the team was horrible.
There sometimes comes a point where you have to come back to the basics. Whenever things have been completely fouled up and the blunders are excessive, you have to stop. Before you can go on or make any sort of headway you have to go back and review the fundamental principles
I believe that is exactly what is occurring in the passage that is before us this morning. In our passage, the Lord is taking us back to something that we saw in Genesis 1. In this passage the Lord reiterates the principle of how sacred human life really is.
You remember that prior to the flood, man’s evil was in excess. Violence had escalated to the point where it had become the “in thing” and a commonplace reality. You might say that men, by their wicked acts, had ravaged the world almost as badly as the flood had.
Because there was such little regard for life—because things had been completely fouled up, God sent the flood. He stopped everything. And here in this passage we see him starting all over. He goes back to the basics and reiterates the fact that life is precious. In this new creation our Lord reaffirms the sanctity of human life.
I believe that there could not be a better word for us to hear this morning. For we are living in a time of excessive savagery and bloodshed (and that might be putting it mildly!). Our culture has a blasphemous regard for human life. In most cities in America you can hire a hitman for $300, and he will go in and terminate the life of your baby in an abortion. Then there are the mass shootings that seem to be occurring on a weekly basis. For that matter, we can tune it in on our televisions or have it streamed over our computers. We can watch movies where people are gunned down at will and we cheer for it. Hollywood is pretty much synonymous with the frivolous treatment of life.
Because we are immersed in this kind of culture, it is good that we hear what the Lord says here. We need to blow the whistle and have the Lord reiterate to us just how precious human life is.
In this passage the Lord highlights the sanctity of life in three ways. The first way he does this is by commanding us to procreate.
I. Commanding us to procreate [1, 7]
As a matter of fact, it is so important that he states it twice, once at the outset of the passage and once at the end. He begins this passage by saying, “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” And then he repeats it in verse 7, “And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”
Now, you remember that the Bible usually repeats things for the purpose of emphasis. There is a sense in which this is an important message for Noah and his family. Of course, there is a practical reason for this. The world has just been wiped and it needs to be repopulated.
But I do think that there is more to it than that. God is concerned with more than just numbers. The Lord is making a pro-life statement. He’s saying, “Hey Noah. Don’t get the idea that life is insignificant. Life is precious! So have children!”
These are words that ought to ring in our ears too. A few weeks ago we talked about abortion and how that is a blight on our nation. It is good to have that discussion and affirm our stance on that issue. But we also need to realize that God calls us to do more than stand against the murder of children. He calls us to proactively have children. He wants us to procreate and multiply and build whole societies with the passing of every generation.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the size of the average family in America today. The average family in America has 1.9 children. That is definitely not being fruitful and multiplying. That is being barren and imploding. But we would be fools if we thought that this only because of abortion. A lot of it has to do with ordinary couples who are intentionally not having children. A lot of this has to do with our free and liberal use of contraception.
I believe a passage like this should make us think seriously about our use of birth control and whether or not we should go about limiting the number of children we have.
We Americans have a natural distaste for having multiple children. Even among those who have not had an abortion there is oftentimes a shared mentality with those who have. Even though we might not have had an abortion, many of us still consider children to be an inconvenience.
Now there is some truth to that. Children are an inconvenience to a life of pleasure. And a lot of times people have used contraception much like an abortion. They just want to keep from having children so that they can continue pursuing the bigger house and more toys.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condemning bigger houses and having some nice things in life. That is not the issue here. The issue is whether or not we are really seeking to carry out God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply.” And that has implications for the use of contraception.
In 1936 the Christian Reformed Church adopted a statement on Christian family planning and the use of birth control. This statement continues to be an up-to-date word regarding the subject. In that document they said this, “In the light of the Scriptural principle...there can be no doubt that it is the duty, as well as the privilege, of normally endowed married people to produce as large a number of children as is compatible with the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the wife and mother on the one hand, and of the children on the other.”
I believe that this is a good summation of how we as Christians ought to think about the use of birth control. You will notice that it does not expressly reject the use of contraception. We should not think that birth control is absolutely forbidden. There may be occasions where we ought to refrain from having children. As the CRC statement said, we need to think about the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the mother and the children. If mom’s wellness is unstable, then that probably wouldn’t be a good time to add another child to the mix. There may be some other contexts where you find yourself needing to refrain from having children for a season—such as a lack of gainful employment.
Yet, while there may be some allowances, we ought to recognize that limiting the size of our family for selfish reasons is simply unlawful.
God wants us to procreate. And he wants us to do so because life is precious. That is the real result of a truly pro-life position. If we really do recognize how sacred human life is, then we will understand why God commands us to reproduce. And the sanctity of life we will fertility as a holy calling and a most glorious thing.
As I said before, God’s command to procreate is perhaps the most important way we recognize the sanctity of human life. But you’ll notice that it is not the only way God highlights how precious life is. In verses 2-4 the Lord affirms our dominion over the animals.
II. Affirming our dominion over the animals [2-4]
In verse 2 the Lord says that “the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth.” Then, in verse 3, we find that God grants us the permission to eat meat. Up until this point we had not been granted that right.
You remember that in Genesis one God told Adam to “rule over the birds of the heavens and the bests of the earth.” Here we see that that role of ruling and having dominion is being reiterated (and you might say that it is being expanded to some degree).
But what we should see is that this is another way of emphasizing just how precious the life of man is. Man’s life is so sacred that he has a place above the animals. The animal kingdom is under our dominion because we are endowed with a dignity and honor that exceeds theirs.
Keep in mind, man has shown himself to be rather base. Prior to the flood all we heard about was how sinful man had become. The violence that he is capable of really reveals how degenerate man can become.
Perhaps you have heard people talk like this after the last school shooting out in Connecticut. People will say things like, “What kind of animal would do such a thing?” Or, someone might say, “Animals don’t even do that to one another!”
I remember hearing John Gerstner talking about the depravity of man. Someone was questioning him on just how sinful man was, and they said, “Do you really believe man is a worm?” He responded by saying, “No. I would never insult the worms like that.”
It is true. With all the wickedness of man, one may wonder if he has lost his exalted position in the world that God originally gave him, and descended to a place below that of the animals. And with that the thought may be, “Well, man is expendable because he is no greater than the toads or the beasts of the earth.”
But here he shows that man has not lost his place as God’s co-regent. Because of the sanctity of life, no matter how brutish a man may become or beast like he may seem in his sin, man is still the highest creature in God’s creation—and his life is to be cherished.
You will notice that the only restriction that God gives is that man is not allowed to eat meat with blood still in it. And it explains that this is because the blood is its “life.” I personally believe that this also has to do with the sanctity of life.
The commentaries that I read said that this restriction is given for the purpose of restraining man’s cruelty. To eat an animal with its blood still in it means that there is little time in between the slaying and the eating. To eat something without the blood, you have to go through the process of draining the carcass and preparing the meat sufficiently. But if you eat it with the blood still in it, then you don’t have that discipline. There is little time between the violence of killing and eating.
The commentaries suggest that this prohibition was to help to keep us from acting like savages. It is mean to keep us from disrespecting all forms of life, most especially man’s. First of all, the animals were still to be seen as God’s animals, and—thought they can be used for food and nourishment—they are not to be scornfully treated. What’s more, if you treat animals with such flippancy, then what restraint will you have when it comes to your fellow man? If you just rip open an animal and devour its flesh raw, then you are likely acting out of passion. And those same passions will cause you to denigrate your fellow man.
All this is to say, we continue to have dominion over the animals. And this only serves to highlight how much we must esteem the life of man and view it as precious in the sight of God.
This, of course, is further explained in the next portion of our text. In verses 5-6 we see that God not only forbids the unlawful taking of life, but he institutes the death penalty as a means of dealing with those people who would.
III. Institutes capital punishment [5-6]
He says, “For your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 ‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.’”
Now this may come as a surprise to you. It may even seem contrary to the argument at first glance. We’ve been talking about how precious life is and how it is to be respected. Now we are talking about capital punishment. God tells us that there are occasions when life needs to be ended. If there is a murder, then God says this is an appropriate time to take that person’s life.
And this is why many people today argue against capital punishment. They use this line of reasoning and say, “If life is so precious, then how is it you can require the death penalty? If it is so valuable, how is it that you can take a life in any circumstance—even if it be in the case of a murderer?”
But the Biblical answer is that the murder must die. And if you think about it for a moment, the logic is clear. When someone commits murder, they have disregarded the life of their victim. Now, because that life was so precious, the life of this murder must be taken.
Or think about it this way: If we allow a murderer to live we cheapen the life that was lost. It essentially says that this life was not all that valuable. If there are no significant consequences, then the life that was lost is deemed to be rather trivial.
You see, God puts the focus on the victim and not the perpetrator of the crime. And the only way to truly compensate for the loss of that life is to have the perpetrator put to death himself.
Of course, this is not to be taken into our own hands. It is not our individual duty to be the judge, jury and executioner. We understand that the Lord is also instituting the lawful role of a governing body here. We read in Romans 13 a clearer and fuller statement of what we have here. There we find that the Lord has given to the state the power of the sword. And you know what swords are for. The state is to act as God’s minister; he is to act as God’s avenger by punishing the evil doer.
But the principle that we find here in Genesis 9 is clear enough even though it be in seed form: those who commit murder ought to be put to death. Those who perform abortions, the state should be rounding them up and seeing to it that they are put to death. Those who are convicted of homicide— ought to be given some brief spiritual counsel and then they ought to put to death.
Someone may object here and say, “Well, the death penalty doesn’t act as a deterrence to crime.” There has been a great deal of chatter about that in recent years. There have been a number of studies that been in the news, and these say that the death penalty does not act as a deterance to crime.
There are a number of things that I would say in response to this. The first is this: I agree. Putting a man to death in a back room where no one can see or hear will most certainly not prevent others from committing the same crime. Perhaps if we had public hangings like they did in previous years, then we might see some different results.
I can say with 100% confidence that it does act as a deterrence because there is at least one person who will never have a chance to commit another crime. All you hear about in the prison system is the “recidivism rate.” But I have a great plan to reduce the number of reoffenders! If he is put to death, he will never lift his hand again to defy someone’s life. So, yes, it does deter crime to some degree.
The last thing I would say is, “I don’t care.” I don’t care if capital punishment does not act as a deterrence to crime. We don’t execute criminals because of its effects on society at large. We execute them because the Bible tells us to do so. God has said in his word that life is precious. And he says here that if you violate that sacred creation by means of homicide, then you must die.
I recognize that some of what has been said today may not sit well with some people. However, I hope you see how it all points to how much esteem God places on the life of man.
What’s more, I hope that by this message you see the significance of the birth, life and death of God’s own Son. You know, Jesus reiterated how precious life is by virtue of his birth. He could have left us to our sin. But he didn't. He became man and took on flesh to redeem man.
He also, during his life, affirmed the dignity of man in perhaps the most stunning terms. He said, “If you say to someone Raca (i.e. a dumbhead), then you are in danger of hell fire.” Jesus reminded us that if you even go so far as to denigrate a man by calling him a name, then that is a high crime against heaven. And God will bring you to judgment.
Here is a man who so valued the life of man that it was said of him that “a bruised reed he would not break; a faintly burning wick he would not snuff out.” That is to say, he so valued man that he acted in the most tender and gentle way toward man.
But this man, who never offended any man so long as he lived, was put to death. And his death was in the form of capital punishment! Crucifixion was reserved for capital offenses. And this was all part of God’s plan. His sacred life ended that he might take the punishment that each and every one of us deserves.
He died the death so that we might learn to regard the life of man as we should. As we read here today of how precious life is, let us remember that Jesus is precious too. And because he has given his life for ours, may we now heed his calling to esteem our fellow man as we ought.
 Adapted from John Hunt’s This is a football.
No doubt you noticed that we’ve come to the turning point in the Noah narrative today. The tides have risen and come to their highest point. All of that took approximately a half a year. And in our passage today, the waters recede. All of which occurs over another 6 months or so.
So high tide has come and gone, and the total time we have spent in the ark is approximately a year. And along with the changing of the tide we have a change in theme.
There are three lessons I want you to take from this passage. The first thing you must see is how the Lord affirms his covenant love.
I. The Lord affirms his covenant love 
The passage begins with those precious words, “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark.”
These words are an accommodation of course. We know that God never forgets. It is impossible for him to forget. These words have to be understood from Noah’s perspective. It is likely that Noah felt like God had forgotten him.
Think about how Noah must have felt. Noah might have been a little weary of it all, couldn’t he have? He was no doubt lonely. It was pitch black all around him. For 150 days he had been encompassed in the dark. You know how your loneliness is multiplied when you sit in the dark for just a while.
And the only people he was able to interact with were his family. The last contact with a person would have been months ago (and then it might have only been their screams as they clung to the edge of the ship pleading to be let in!)
Throw in the bobbing and the tossing of a ship at sea and you likely have a rather miserable state of things. It is likely that Noah was thinking that all was lost for him.
It was at this point that God remembered Noah an the covenant he had made with him.
From time to time you will hear this idea of “God remembering” repeated in Scripture. In Psalm 105 the author hearkens back to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He says that they were just a small band, roaming around from place to place. They could have easily been crushed by the nations around them. But it says that the Lord, “remembers his covenant forever, the oath that he swore to Abraham.” In other words, during that time when all could have been lost, God was there to preserve and keep.
In the book of Exodus, when the people of Israel were groaning under their hard labor in Egypt, Moses writes that “God remembered the covenant he made with Abraham.” When all seemed lost, when it seemed like the Land promised to Abraham would never be inherited, God acted.
It almost seems that when things are their darkest—whenever things are most dire, you hear it said, “God remembered.”
I point this out because it is something that we need to remember. We need to remember that God never forgets the covenant that he has made.
There are times in our lives when we can feel like Noah. Spiritually speaking, we can feel oh so lonely. God seems so far off. We can wonder if he is out there. All our prayers feel like they are bouncing off a ceiling made of brass.
Maybe for you moms’ it’s while all your kids are sick. It just seems to go on and on, and there doesn’t ever seem to be an end in sight. For some of you it might be because of the continual flow of news. You are still reeling because of this past election season and all you hear about from the talking heads is how our country seems to be spinning out of control.
Whatever the exact circumstances may be, it seems like you are lost. You are all by yourself far down in the depths of a dark, black tunnel.
When we come to those bleak moments of our lives, we need to remember that our God is the one who always remembers. He never forgets. His covenant is as sure today as it was when he first made it. And though we cannot see his hand or feel his presence we must rest assured that there is no reason to despair. God continues to work out his plan. He continues to remember us and so preserve and protect us in his covenant love.
The next thing I want you to think about is how the Lord provides a consoling sign. He not only affirms his covenant love, but he provides a sign that would be a reminder of his grace.
II. The Lord provides a consoling sign [6-12]
In verses 6-12 it we read about how Noah sent forth the various birds from the ark. At first he sends out a raven, and it skitters here and there. But nothing comes of it. A couple days later he sends out a dove, but it doesn’t render anything either. A little later he sends it out again. This time it brings back an olive branch. Then, on the last flight, it doesn’t come back.
But think about that olive branch. Think about what that was. Think about how meaningful that had to have been for Noah. Noah’s ship came to rest on the mountains. So most likely, from his vantage point he couldn’t see anything below. As he sat in the ark, he might have still been wondering, “What does the future hold for me? What’s going to come of things? Is the Lord going to keep his promise?”
You have to understand that this branch would have cause him such elation. It was a sign for Noah. It is a sign, not just that the waters have abated, but it was a guarantee that life would continue. That little branch no doubt would have soothed all his worries. It would have been an assurance that the Lord had indeed been faithful to his promise.
You know, each week we have something similar laid before us. We have opportunity to grasp hold of a visible sign that points to the reality God’s grace in our life. The Lord’s Supper is supposed to do the very same thing for you that that branch did for Noah. It is here to be a reminder to you that God will not go back on his promise.
Perhaps someone here today is even in need of this. There are times when we are like Noah. We be situated in such a way that our spiritual vision is skewed. From our perspective we can’t tell if God is really going to be faithful to his promise.
Maybe it is because sin has come to cloud our vision. You’ve been tangling with this besetting sin for some time now and you can’t seem to shake it. Since you haven’t had victory over it and continually succumb to the temptation, maybe you are starting to doubt the reality of God’s love.
Or maybe it is one of you young people. You’ve grown up in a Christian home. You’ve been taught the Scriptures all through. You’ve made a profession of faith and even been baptized. But now, you are just starting to question if you really are in a state of grace or not. You are looking back at things and you are beginning to question whether or the Lord really accepts you.
I want you to know that if you have doubts about your state, that ought not to prevent you from coming to the Table. That is exactly why it has been set for you. Here at this meal God puts in your hand a visible confirmation of his redeeming love. These elements are to be the medicine that sooths your worries. They are here for you to grasp hold of so that by handling them you may have your confidence renewed and strengthen.
Don’t be one who shrinks back from the table because you wonder about love. Come to the table and find that it is real and true.
There is yet one more thing that I want you to see in this text. I want you to see that in this passage the Lord establishes a new world.
III. The Lord establishes a new world [2-5, 13-19]
You can see how this plays out in the passage. At the beginning of the passage, in verses 2-5 you have one big watery world. You remember how we talked about it being “formless and void” at the beginning? The Spirit was hovering over the waters. Here in verse 1 the Lord causes a wind to blow. It is the same word as Spirit.
Think about how all this plays out. The clouds break, and the sunlight starts to shine again. It is as if God says, “Let there be light.” The waters start to recede and once again you can discern an expanse between the waters above and the waters below. Land begins to rise out of the waters. It is almost if Genesis 1 is being replayed right before our eyes. Then, in 13-19, the door to the ark is opened and all the animals begin to roam upon the earth.
What we have here is a new creation. The Lord has given us a new creation. All the taint of sin has been removed and it is almost as if paradise has been restored.
I believe though that this is to be a picture of what is in store. God has given us here a foreshadowing of what is yet to come. Yes, we’ve been talking a lot about the coming judgment. But we must remember that His ultimate plan is to bring redemption to the earth and restore the paradise that was lost.
I believe that what we have here foreshadows the ultimate cleansing of the earth. The one that the Promised Seed would bring in through his redemptive work.
In the book of Revelation, at the end of chapter 20 it tells of all people being assembled before the great white throne. The dead came up from their graves. All people were gathered there. Then the book of life was opened and everyone whose name was not written on the book of life were wisked away. They were thrown into the lake of fire.
After this we are told of the New Heaven and the New Earth. It is a place of purity and absolute beauty. The cosmic order has been completely transformed because sin and suffering have been completely banished.
This is the inheritance of those who trust Christ. In the end paradise will be regained.
We have finally come to it. We have been building up to this point for a couple of weeks. It is almost like we have been glued to the Weather Channel or watching the clouds gather off in the distance. But it is finally here. The flood has come.
With it we see the vast ravages it had upon the land.
I have in mind one picture of the subway station filled to the brim with water. The steps leading down to the transit looked like the steps that would lead down to a pool. Yet, what happened on the Eastern seaboard doesn't even begin to compare to what we find here in this text. What is recorded here makes Hurricane Sandy look like a drizzle. The best mental picture we can get is a little dot floating along, virtually lost in the vast sea of darkness and water.
The flood was world-wide
I know that there are some who say that this was nothing more than a localized flood; contained only to a specific region. But, as we’ve seen with other passages, that is just a lame attempt to explain away the Scripture. The text makes it clear that it was a worldwide flood.
The amount of water mentioned is one indication. There in verses 19 and 20 it says that the waters covered the mountains up to 15 cubits. That’s around 25 feet over the tip of the highest point. Add to that what it says in the very last verse of the chapter. It says the water prevailed on the earth for 150 days. The stuff wasn’t dissipating or draining out for at least a half of a year. If it were localized, you would expect that there would be a good deal of run off.
What’s even more pronounced is the extensive range of its devastation. The text repeatedly expresses how comprehensive the death toll was. In verse 21 it says that “all flesh died.” In the next verse it says that “Everything on dry land died.” And in verse 23 it says, “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.”
The language here stresses that the damage was all-encompassing, to the point of being universal.
If we are going to take the Bible seriously, then we have to believe that the whole world was submerged in a deluge of water. The text makes it clear that this was a complete cleansing of the earth.
And in this we are once again reminded of the gravity of sin and just how much God is repulsed by it. The scripture is seeking to remind us that God will not tolerate the presence of sin. He must judge it. It so infuriates him that he must deal with it.
Perhaps this is the real reason why so many people want to say that this was just a localized flood. Maybe this is what motivates them to try and interpret this passage as just being contained to this specific region. Maybe it is simply because they do not want to believe that God is this holy and that he takes sin this seriously.
Many people simply do not want to think of God in such terms. They don’t want to believe that God is one who will wreak such havoc upon sinners. They want a tamer God. They want a God who will be much more lenient; one who will overlook a lot of things and not be provoked to such extreme displeasure.
But we must remember that God is not a teddy bear. He is a lion who rages when provoked.
Some of you may remember that scene from the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The children were talking with the beavers about meeting Aslan, the Lion. Little Lucy was alarmed by the thought. She asked, “Is he safe?” Mr. Beaver responded dumbfoundedly, “Safe? Who said anything about being safe? Didn’t you hear what we said? He’s a lion! Of course he isn’t safe! But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you.”
The God presented in Scripture—the one presented in this Scripture, is not a tame lion. He is not one who will tolerate sin and coddle up to just anyone. He is inflamed by the corrupting deeds of men, and, at some point, He will lash out against those who continually provoke him.
The flood was the end of God’s offer of mercy.
And I want to emphasize this because we need to remember that the day of God’s grace does run out. We are reminded by this text that at some point the damns that hold back the terrors of God’s indignation will break.
There was a long period prior to the flood. There was an expanse of time where God offered life and salvation to the masses. Last week we said that it might have taken 100 years for Noah to build the boat. And as a preacher of righteousness, Noah would have been calling to them their need to embrace the way of the Lord’s salvation. Yet no one listened. At least not until the tide started to rise. Then there would have been many banging on the sides of the ship, crying out, “Let me in! Let me in!”
And, the extent of God’s grace and patience most likely exceeded that time frame. It is likely that this offer of grace was probably extended for a longer time than that 100 years.
James Montgomery Boice talks about Methuselah and what his name means. You remember Methuselah from back in chapter 5. He was the oldest man that ever lived; 969 years. In his commentary Boice proposes that the name Methuselah comes from two Hebrew words: muth, meaning “die” or “dead,” and shalach, meaning “to send.” So his name could mean “when he dies, it shall be sent.” And if you sit down and work out the numbers, you’ll find that the flood came the very same year that Methuselah passed away.
Boice argues that every day that Methuselah lived was a sign of God’s patience. God allowed Methuselah to have an extended life, far surpassing most other men of his time, because it was God’s way of holding out his offer of grace and salvation to those people.
Think about it, Methuselah reaches 700 years. He’s getting to be an old man by those standards. Another century passes. He’s 800 years. Every time his name is called out, the people hear “when he dies, it shall be sent.” He gets to be 850. 900. 955. 960. 965. 966. 967. 968. Every day now it is counting. You can see the sands slipping through the glass. Time is running out. Then Methuselah celebrates his 969th birthday. That same year he passes away. And not long after his eyes are closed, the sky starts to turn black with clouds.
But every day of Noah’s life—every day of Methuselah’s life—God was holding out the possibility of salvation. But it eventually ended.
I emphasize this because our Lord Jesus uses this text to teach us of his second coming. He said that the day when he comes again will be just like those of Noah. People will be marrying and be given in marriage. Two men will be in the field, one will be swept away in the heat of his fury. The other, by grace, will be left.
And so it is with us. Time is running thin.
I couldn’t think of a better thing for us to think about at the outset of a new year. We are all making and breaking our New Year’s resolutions. But this is also a time to remember that we are just that much closer to the end. Another year has come; another has gone, and we have drawn all that much closer to the day of accounting. We are one step closer to the day of our death, or we are that much closer to the moment when Christ will return. And, being that this is so, we are one step closer to our eternal destination.
Each of you must realize that the clock is ticking. If you have not yet made your amends with Christ, then you must know that your time is running out. During this time the Lord is sending out his offer of mercy. But there will come a time, just like it did in Noah’s day, where it will no longer be given.
In his book, Meet Yourself in the Psalms, Warren Wiersbe tells the story of a frontier town where a horse bolted and ran away with a wagon carrying a little boy. Seeing the child in danger, a young man risked his life to catch the horse and stop the wagon.
The child who was saved grew up to become a lawless man, and one day he stood before a judge to be sentenced for a serious crime. The prisoner recognized the judge as the man who, years before, had saved his life; so he pled for mercy on the basis of that experience.
But the words from the bench silenced his plea, “Young man, then I was your savior; today I am your judge, and I must sentence you to be hanged.”
In the same way there will come a time when the day of grace runs out. Jesus will say to those who have rebelled against him, “during your time on earth I was the Savior, and I would have forgiven you. But today I am your judge. Depart from me, you cursed of God, into everlasting fire.”
I pray that you will not let this happen to you. But rather you would let today be the day of salvation.
The flood was a baptism for holiness
Before we close I would like to mention one last thing about the flood. It is something that I find most appropriate for today. In just a little while we will be going up the road and we will have the chance to worship the Lord through the sacrament of baptism. But I find it most appropriate that this text comes before us on this occasion.
For what we have here is nothing other than a baptism. It is a baptism of the earth. (And it is one that we can all approve of, because it involved sprinkling and immersion!)
Throughout history theologians have seen a parallel between baptism and the flood. And this is why: In the flood, what we have is a cleansing. By these waters, God washed away the filth of sin. And in doing so he established a realm where sin would no longer have dominion.
And this is exactly what is symbolized by Christian baptism. As the waters roll over you, that flood portrays the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit. It reminds us that we are new creatures in Christ and no longer under the dominion of sin.
Those of you who are coming for baptism today, as the waters roll over you today this is something that you must remember. You must understand that the evil in your life must die. Because of the cleansing of Christ, you must pursue purity before God.
And everyone here who has been baptized, the same is true for you. As you witness the sacrament, you must remember your own baptism. And in doing so you must hear the echo of its call upon your life, telling you what kind of life you are live before the Lord.
It is not appropriate for you to permit that tempestuous spirit to live on. Now that the blood of Christ has cleansed you, you must not let the contamination of broken promises and unchristian speech live on.
These things must change. And you must show that you are a new creature in Christ.
You young people might have had the experience where you’ve gone to a friend’s house and asked them to come out and play. But they respond to you that they can’t because they just took a shower. They recognize that it would be wrong to defile themselves after having just been washed.
That is a most accurate description of how we should feel towards sin. Now that we have been showered with the flood tides of Christ’s blood our response must be that we distance ourselves from the filth of sin.
I typically send an email out to the worship team early in the week. In that email I let them know the text we are going to be looking at. I also try to include some song suggestions too.
I do this because we like to try and achieve some semblance of uniformity to the service. In other words, we don’t want it to look like a committee has put together the service.
The Lord told Noah to build him an arky, arky.
Build it out of gopher barky, barky!
Children of the Lord.
Or, some of you might have this one:
Who built the Ark? Noah! Noah!
Who built the Ark? Brother Noah built the Ark!
We are going to talk about the ark today, and we are going to address a number of things. We are going to talk about its size, the construction of it, and ultimately, the purpose for which it was built. But, because of those songs and your Sunday School background I want to begin by talking about the reality of it.
I. The reality of the Ark
I want to begin by affirming the truth of this story. There really was a guy by the name of Noah and he really did build a very large ship which we call an ark.
I’m not knocking kids Bible songs. They can be well and good. But I do want you to be aware that they can sometimes trivialize things. Sometimes the things we learn from Bible songs (or maybe even children’s storybook Bibles!) end up doing the exact opposite that we intend. Instead of giving us an accurate picture of God’s story, they end up making it out to be somewhat silly or fairy-tale-ish.
Singing “The Lord told Noah to build him an Arky, Arky” might have an adverse affect on kids. Here is a story about some serious stuff. It is a story that details the wrath of God. But these songs are yippy-skippy little diddies. The two don’t really go together.
It is almost like playing Mozart’s symphonies with a kazoo. The gravity and glory of Motzart cannot be accurately communicated through such an instrument. As a matter of fact, it would be making a mockery of Motzart’s works and trivializing his work by doing that.
The same can be true when we try to communicate what is said here the way we do with these songs and cute-sie little pictures.
As a matter of fact, my kids have a my children even have a Noah’s Ark Little People set. And it is all so cute. There’s Mr. & Mrs. Noah and all these cute little animals. And my kids can have a fun time with all that stuff.
But that’s just the thing, we’ve made it into play. And we are saying that it is all so cute-sie. That’s unfortunate, because there is nothing cute-sie about what is said here. Everything that is talked about here and in the upcoming chapters is quite serious and should be thought of with the utmost sobriety.
Again, I’m not trying to preach against fun little kid’s songs or telling you to throw out your kid’s Bible CD’s. I’m simply saying that there are many Christians today who look at this text and relegate it to fairy tale land. They think that Noah was something that happened “long ago and far away.”
So I want to make sure that we realize that everything that we read here is not a part of some imaginary story or child’s fable. This is talking about real situation and it is communicating truth about what God has done in history.
Now that we have established the reality of the ark, let’s start thinking about what the text actually says about it.
I think the best place to begin is in verses 15 and 16. In these verses God lays out the floor plan for the ark. This is where the Lord gives Noah the blueprint sketch of the Ark. And what I want you to see is the immensity of this thing.
II. Its immensity [15-16]
This boat was enormous. The text tells us that it was 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits. Now, if you take a cubit as approximately the length which spans from your elbow to your fingertip, you come out with a measurement that spans approximately 450 feet. That’s about 1 ½ football fields. You also have to keep in mind that it had three levels. So the proportions of this thing are absolutely amazing.
As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until the 1800’s that we had another ship rival the size of it. The boat that Noah constructed was still twice the size of the largest wooden boat ever built. So, for recorded history, the largest wooden ship wouldn’t even take up a football field.
It wasn’t until metal ships started being constructed that you had serious rivals come along. Today, your average metallic cruise ship is about 1000 feet long and 70 feet high. So if you would line them up side by side the ark would be about half the length a modern cruise ship, but it would be just as tall.
So, for its time, the ark would been an engineering monument. It would have been enormous! Most likely, it would have been featured on some Discovery channel back in its day.
I mention this because I want you assure you that it is most certainly capable of holding all the animals needed to repopulate the earth.
Keep in mind that you don’t need every single animal in the world. Ocean bearing animals could fend for themselves. All you need to have are roving animals. Even there you don’t need every single species of land roving animal. The text says that he was to bring two of every kind. Those of you who are familiar with biology, you know that animals are classified by kingdom, phylum, class, family and species. Noah didn’t need every species of animal. Perhaps “kind” was God’s way of limiting the number of animals, and allowing them.
And again, you probably need to tweak what you might have learned from Sunday School back in the day. All the pictures that you see in children’s books and SS materials show full grown elephants and giraffe’s lining up to enter the ark. It’s more likely that Noah brought young animals onto the boat. And given the fact that most full grown animals are smaller than a sheep, we starting to see that there may be quite a bit of room on the ship. (and that’s even including the dinosaurs!—but that’s a discussion for another time).
Commentators can give more specifics. But the end result is that when it is all broken down, the animals could have fit comfortably in just half of the ship. And that leaves plenty of space for food and provisions and living space for Noah and his family.
All this is to say that we are not a bunch of loonies if we believe the text. A lot of skeptics will scoff at what is said here. But the fact of the matter is that the truth of Scripture is rock solid and there is no reason to question any of it.
Those who do thumb their noses at the text are simply showing that they don’t want to believe what it says. All that has been said is not that hard to figure out. It doesn’t take rocket science or a leap of blind faith. The truth is they don’t want to admit it because they don’t want to acknowledge that there is a God in the heavens to whom they are accountable.
But for us, we recognize the authority of God and his word. And we understand that the immense size of the ark could have easily allowed God’s plan to be carried out.
But it does make you think though. Given the dimensions of the ark and the enormity of it, you have to think about the actual building of it.
III. Its construction 
Now, the only thing said here about the construction of the ark is found at the end of our text. It says, “Noah did this, he did all that God commanded him.”
It doesn’t sound like much, but in that little sentence you have what was probably 100 years of work. Think about how monumental a task this would have been for Noah. He didn’t have modern machinery. He didn’t have any cranes or semi trucks to transport the logs.. He didn’t have any chainsaws or mechanical tools to grind the logs down to size and make into make into planks. Everything had to be done the old fashioned way. He had to do it all by hand.
It might be that he had some help. We usually think that it was just Noah building the ship. But the text doesn’t say that. He might have had some more helpers. It might have been that some of his ancestors that we read about back in chapter 5 helped him along the way. But even if you had a whole city of men, it would have taken quite a length of time given the crude tools they had at their disposal.
You all have heard how the Creation Museum is constructing a life size replica of the ark. Well, needless to say they are fast tracking this thing. It is supposed to be finished in just a few years. But Noah would have to cut down the tree, haul it home, trim it down, create all the pegs and so forth. That would have taken a long time, perhaps up to 100 years.
Now think about what the situation would have been like. Here is Noah building his boat. Day after day he is out there chopping wood and hammering pegs. Trees are felled and hewn each day for the first year. Then the second year. Then the third. Meanwhile, all round there are these wicked people observing all this. Just think of how all this had to have panned out.
The first guy walks up, “Hey Noah! What’ch ya doing?” “I’m building a boat.” Wha’ch ya doing that for Noah?”
“It’s going to rain.”
“Rain? RAIN? Ha! No really, Noah. Wha’ch ya doing?”
Now you have 100 years for all the snickers and wise cracks. “There goes Crazy Noah!” “Hey Noah. How’s your boat doing?”
But it’s no wonder that Noah is called a “preacher of righteousness.” In his second epistle, Peter calls Noah a preacher of righteousness. He would have had no end of opportunities to explain himself and why he was building this boat. And as the gigantic work continued to rise off the ground, the message would have been clearly issued forth. Noah and his work declared in loud volumes that God was a just and holy God. And everyone would have heard, whether audibly from Noah or simply by witnessing the construction of the boat, that God was God who could not stand the presence of sin.
But I believe this antagonism is why you have what is said in 18. It says, “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark.” Noah must have been a lot like Jeremiah. Jeremiah is commonly known as the weeping prophet. He was rudely treated all his days, mocked and mistreated for his faith. And there were times when Jeremiah wanted to give up.
I wouldn’t doubt that Noah felt that way too. For 100 years he had to endure the scoffers. There can be no doubt that Noah would have been despised and cruelly treated by the throngs of wicked people around him. You have to wonder what keep him going that whole time. What kept him pushing ahead day after day after day? I believe it was the fact that God had covenanted with him.
God had made a promise to Noah. He promised to love him and keep him all his days. Basically, God was promising Noah that he wouldn’t be swept away in the wrath. And the fact that God had entered into this relationship with him, no doubt is what kept him pressing forward.
And the same is true for you. What keeps you pressing ahead today? When you are mocked and ridiculed for your faith, what is it that makes you determined to continue on? I no doubt believe that it is the fact that God has promised you eternal life and unbroken fellowship with him. If you have ever known what it means to have the eternal God draw near to you and pledge to not let you be swept away in the fury of his wrath, then you can’t help but respond by serving him all your days, not matter what opposition you face.
There is one other item we need to address from this text though. It is something that we have already hinted at. It is the purpose of the ark. We’ve look at its immensity, and seen that it really could have served its purpose. And we’ve considered its construction, and what it would be like building it. But what was it all for?
IV. Its purpose 
Perhaps it is obvious enough, but it ought to be mentioned. It was God’s appointed means of salvation.
In verse 13 the Lord speaks to Noah. He gives Noah special revelation of what is about to happen. And he says, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” And then, in the very next breath he says, “Make yourself an ark…” The implication is that this boat is your only hope. I have appointed this ship as the sole means of escaping my wrath and curse.
And that is why the ark is a type or a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. It was a picture of pointing forward to the ultimate means of God’s salvation. As it says in the book of Acts, “There is only one name under heaven given among men whereby you may be saved.”
My friends, I want you to recognize the importance what is being communicated here. This story of Noah is really challenging each and every one of us as to our faith in Christ. It is reminding us that there is absolutely no other way to escape the punishment that is due to us for our sins.
Our bother Caleb did a superb job a few weeks ago reminding us of the impending judgment of God. Caleb reminded us that God judges nations and he judges each and every individual upon the planet.
And we need to remember that each and every one of us deserves God’s wrath and curse. This passage reminds us of that. As a matter of fact, it repeats it 3 times in 2 verses (i.e. verses 11-12). And you heard how the previous passage described us. It stated that ‘every intention of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil all the time.” There in the very root of our being, the thoughts, the intentions, the heart of our soul, it is nothing but evil all the time.
I mention this because it is important to recognize our need for a savior. I want you to understand just how great your predicament is. Unless we see ourselves as drowning in sin, we will never see our need to come to the rock of salvation.
We all too easily flatter ourselves with grand notions of how wonderful we are. As a matter of fact, you can go to the Ronald Regan Memorial at the Library that was dedicated to him and you will see this. There on that great wall of marble is inscribed these words, “I believe in my heart that man is good and that what is right will always eventually triumph.”
That lie is engraved on every human heart. And it is only when you come to recognize that such a statement is unilaterally false will you see your need for the saving power of Jesus Christ.
And the great thing is that if you do come to Christ you will be safe in the day of Judgment. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. And you can be assured that all who put their trust in him are as safe as Noah was in that boat.
DL Moody once said that the little fly was just as secure on Noah's ark as the Elephant was. That's because their safety wasn't due to their size or strength. It was the ark that saved both.
The same is true for us. Salvation has nothing to do with how righteous we think we are or how much good we think we can do. The only way we can be safe in the day of God's visitation is by trust Jesus Christ and what he has done to atone for your sins.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to hear my good friend Jason Strong preach. He began his message with one of the most dramatic introductions I have ever heard.
He said this, “My life was affected by a decision that was made in the 1640’s.”
He could renounce his Protestantism and continue to live his life uninterrupted, or he could rot in an English prison, or he could move to the New World and begin a life of exile in America.
He chose the latter, and he came to America without having anything except his family and his Bible. Pastor Strong then went on to recount how that decision had repercussions for the next 400 years. From that man came a long line of godly men who devoted themselves to the service of God. It is interesting to hear how many ministers and elders came from that family over the course of that time. Some of you might even be familiar with Strong’s Concordance. That was developed by one of Great Grampa Strong’s descendants.
But it all began with Great Grampa Strong. It all began with a man who had an unwavering devotion to Christ, and a desire to see it flourish for generations to come.
It is interesting to see how the history there is not just a tail of the the Strong family, but it is a testimony to Strong faith!
The story of the Strong Family fits in well with our study in the Book of Genesis. For in this study we’ve been tracing the stories of two family lines. We’ve heard about the heritage of the the faithful and the faithless. That is to say, we’ve been looking at God’s family and we’ve heard the story of Satan’s family.
And this morning I we are going to talk a little more about that. I want you to realize that faith and family are two things that typically go hand in hand. The passages that we read today show how family and faith are often interlocked.
I began our reading with Chapter 5 because I thought it is important that we go back and hit one point we skipped over last week. I want you to be sure to notice how the faith was preserved. If Chapter 5 tells us anything, it tells us that God blesses faithful families.
I. How the faith was preserved / God blesses faithful families
Chapter 5 is all about a godly family line. Each of these men were guys who feared God. More than that, he is a man who was no doubt diligent to train his children to do the same. How do I know that? I believe that something is said right there in the first three verses. Chapter 5 opens by telling us that God created man in his image. And then it goes on to say that Adam bore a son in his own image. Seth was born after the likeness of his father.
What does it mean that born in the likeness of his father? Why wasn’t Cain born in the likeness of Adam? What is the difference between the two?
James Montgomery Boices says that it is significant because it introduces the heritage of godly line. Boice says that Seth “retained the likeness of Adam in that he followed Adam’s lead in the worship of the true God.”
Really, what you have here in Chapter 5 is a testimony of grace in the home. Here in chapter 5 we have a string of men who no doubt were diligent to disciple their children in the fear of God.
Of course, we recognize that this godly seed is due primarily to the working of grace in the hearts of these men. But we cannot doubt too that this chapter is a testimony to how God often blesses the efforts of parents.
Think about it: Seth didn’t just come out of the womb saying, “Praise the Lord!” No. He had to be taught that. Especially given the society that he lived in. Things were probably not too different from what it is like now. The line of Cain was increasing just as rapidly, and the pressures to conform to the idolatry of his time was no doubt prevalent.
How then did Seth and his children come to believe? It had to be because they were taught the fear of God. They had to have spent time with their children. They had to have talked about the things of the Lord on a regular basis. They taught them about the promises of God that they heard from their fathers, and the mom’s sought to inculcate in them spiritual truth.
The kids were able to replicate the faith of their parents because they had been steeped in it as grew up.
And I just want to take this opportunity to remind you that this is the normal way God works in the world. Yes, God can use evangelistic meetings and big tent revivals. Yes, God can draw people to himself from every corner of the earth. But his normal way of extending and preserving the faith is though godly men and women training up godly sons and daughters. And that’s the way it has been ever since the beginning of time.
It is my hope that you have the same vision as Adam and Enoch and all these other men. It is my hope that you may be able to say with the apostle Paul, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”
Now, as we skip ahead to Chapter 6, we are going to see something very different. If chapter 5 tells us about how the faith was preserved, chapter 6 tells us of how the faith was lost.
II. How the faith was lost / God curses faithless people
Chapter 6 starts off by telling us that the “sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.” Then it goes on to talk about the Nephilim, and it seems to indicate that these Nephilim were the product of these marriages.
Now, historically speaking, there are two ways this verse can be taken. It depends on how you interpret the phrase “sons of God.”
There is a line of interpretation that takes this to mean that fallen angels came down to earth and began to intermarry with human women. It sounds rather sci-fi, I know. But there are many respectable theologians who hold to this position.
Why do they say this? The main reason is that the phrase “sons of God” is used three other times in the Bible. And each time it is used in reference to angels. For instance, those of you who are familiar with the book of Job know that it says that the “sons of God presented themselves before the Lord” and Satan himself came among them. That is a clear reference to spirit beings.
Now there are a number of other reasons take this this line of interpretation. I’m not going to go into them because they are rather involved and technical in nature. This is the main reason for their argument though.
But their point is this: Here you have the battle between Satan and the seed of the woman. What better way for Satan to wipe out mankind than by creating a mixed hybrid of humanoid and demonic being.
Whatever you think of this view, you have to give these people a great deal of credit. They are to be commended because they are seeking to be Biblical and they are trying to interpret Scripture with Scripture. That’s very good.
There is another line of interpretation though. This view says that the phrase “sons of God” indicates those who were the descendants of the Sethites. In other words, they were they children of the godly line. So this view says that the people of God began to apostatize. Instead of being faithful and marrying women who feared God, they went after the “daughters of men” (i.e. women who were of the line of Cain and not inclined towards God at all). You might say that they married for looks rather than for faith.
So what you have here is a great apostasy. The faith was lost because the homes were no longer centered on Christ.
We are warned a number of times of this in Scripture. The most vivid example is that of Solomon. You remember that Solomon took wives from all the nations around him and eventually he was led astray by them. A lesser known story is that of Balaam. Balaam was called upon to curse the people of God. He tried to, but it didn’t work. So he implemented plan B. Balaam said, “If you want to get rid of these people, here’s what you do: Go and marry them. Begin to intermingle with them and lead them away from their God that way.”
Paul tells us that we should not be unequally yoke with unbelievers. And for good reason. It is because apostasy is the normal product of such relationships. And I want you young people to remember this. You need to understand that as you seek a spouse, you need to seek a man or a woman who fears God. That’s not something you can compromise on.
If you latch on to a guy who doesn’t love Jesus—or if you start developing a relationship with a girl who isn’t walking with the Lord, then you are making a serious error. And just how serious is seen right here.
In verse 3 the Lord says, “My spirit shall not abide with man forever…his days shall be 120 years.”
Now again, there is some difference of opinion as to what this means. Some take this to mean that men will not live to be 8-900 years old anymore. Instead man’s lifespan will be 120 years at the most.
But I believe that this is talking about how long it would be until the flood comes. Think about it: God is mad. He is being provoked by people who are turning from him and chasing idolatrous women. And when God gets mad, he usually talks judgment. That is why I believe that this number is God’s time frame for the flood. He’s saying, “Don’t think that I will allow sin to go unpunished forever. I’m only going to permit it for so long. Eventually, you will meet your just dues.”
And you must therefore understand that the Lord will not tolerate anyone who flippantly disregards him or turns away from him. The Lord has promised to come again, and he will once again wipe the earth. He will not be cleansing it with water. He will cleanse it with fire. And everything that is foul in his eyes will be removed.
Perhaps then you are wondering about your present estate. You recognize that the relationships that you have entered into have not been pleasing in God’s sight. Perhaps you have been one who has turned away from the Lord in the past. What then? Hearing this news of his coming judgment will likely make you uneasy.
If that is your case, then I want you to focus your attention upon what is said in the last part of Chapter 5.
In verse 29 Lamech says of his son Noah, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one will breing us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”
Lamech hoped that his son would be that promised seed who would remove the curse that came upon the earth due to Adam’s sin.
In a sense, Noah did bring that hoped for relief. The world was wiped and there was a renewal of the world through those waters. But it was not complete by any means. The toils and pains of the curse were still widespread even after Noah’s day.
That is why these words point us ultimately to the Lord Jesus Christ. It was Jesus that is spoken of here, the one who brings relief from our works in his death on the cross. As he died he underwent the curses of God, he endured the wipe. And it is he who promises to bring us the full redemption of the world.
The story is told of one of the fires that raged across the plains out west, as they often do. On one farm there was a hen been scourged by the flames that was running here and there had. Yet it had not yet exhausted its life. Finally, the charred bird collapsed, dead. Then, out from under its wing came a few chicks. Though the mother had been had been so deeply singed, they were completely unharmed by the flames.
So it is with anyone who is found to be in the Lord Jesus Christ. When the fires of Judgment come, you will not be touched. For Christ has brought you relief.
Just to let you know, this is not the position that I hold. I think that there are some problems with this line of reasoning. For one, we know that the angels and spirit beings are not sexually driven creatures. Remember, Jesus said that at the resurrection we won’t’ be given in marriage, but we will be like the angels. The idea there is that angels they are not made to copulate. They don’t have a sex drive or the ability to reproduce.
What’s more is that this view fails to take into consideration the immediate context of the book of Genesis. The context is telling us of the two different lines, a godly line and an ungodly one. The seed of Satan has already been defined as men who are under the power and dominion of Satan by virtue of their sin. The seed of the woman are those who live by faith.
Again, more could be said. But I think it is sufficient for now to say that
At first glance, there might not seem like there’s a lot to the passage. But my goal today to help you see that this is not just a list of hard to pronounce names and a bunch of begats. These verses contain a great deal of solid doctrine. And I hope that by the time we are done you’ll see that this passage speaks volumes as it deals with one of our greatest problems as humans.
And as we begin, we really need to start with addressing the numbers we find in this text. For they may sound a little problematic.
I. The Supposed Problem in the text
When you read this and hear it saying that people lived to be 8 and 900 years old, it’s likely that your first reaction is to say, “Is that for real?”
And I will admit to you that this one of the reasons that a lot of people don’t actually believe the first 11 chapters of Genesis are truly legit. A lot of people out there today say that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are not to be taken as real history. They would say that this stuff is more legendary or mythological in nature; the real stuff starts up with Abraham in Genesis 12.
And it is agreed, we’ve got some pretty fantastic stuff in these first 11 chapters, don’t we? We have an instantaneous creation. That God spoke and everything popped into existence sounds rather absurd to the modern man. To the guy who has been told that that kind of thing just simply cannot happen, it will sound a little loony.
And in a few weeks we are going to be talking about a world-wide flood that wiped out the world’s population. That’s rather hard to swallow for a lot of people. It sounds just a little too farfetched. And that is just another reason why they shy away from taking this stuff seriously.
And here, you have this tale of people living almost a millennium. That’s a lot of candles on the birthday cake! To the modern man, that’s going to be a little bonkers! It goes against all our experience. And they say, “We all know that people can’t live that long, right? We know that you’re lucky if you get to be 90 years old.”
These numbers just sound a little too unbelievable to a lot of people. So a lot of people just say that these first 11 chapters are not a real recounting of actual history. They would rather say that these chapters are to be taken as neat little stories that have been made up to teach us some nice little faith lessons.
Now, there is another group of people that we should be aware of. There are others, who are a little more serious about the Bible. There are others who want to try and keep the integrity of Scripture. They don’t want to write it off as fictional. But, they are not to the point where they want to accept it outright either. It still sounds a little too far fetched to them. So they say that what we have here is a textual boo-boo. These would say, yes these are real people with real lives, but they really didn’t live 8 and 900 years. In their opinion, what must have happened is some overly zealous scribe somewhere along the line who tacked another number on the end or moved the decimal point. So, they say that Adam really didn’t live 930 years. He lived 93 years. That sounds more reasonable, doesn’t it?
So what do we do? Do we write this off as fiction? Or do we try and blame a monk for messing with the text? Or do we do something crazy and actually believe that what is said here is true? Could these men really have lived this long? Or do we try to find some other way around this?
Sure we can!
There is a very easy way to explain this. Why can’t we say that men lived this long? I mean, we were originally designed to live forever! If you think about it that way, 900 years is not so long in comparison to eternity.
What’s more, in this early stage of history the conditions could have easily allowed men to live this long. There would not have been a lot of disease at this point. Sin is still relatively new on the scene and its ravages probably have not yet come to full bloom.
What’s more, the flood has not yet occurred. It may very well be that the flood, having the drastic effects on the world that it did, radically changed the environment. The tides that over ran the earth might have some how limited the living conditions and made it so that men could not live as long as they did prior to the flood.
So yes, men could indeed live this long. There is no problem with the text. And there is no reason to try and explain it any differently than what is actually recorded here.
What I find extraordinary is that these so called “scholars” miss the real problem in the text. You know, Spurgeon once said that most Ph.D.’s are fiddle-dee-D’s. That’s true. They make much out of nothing, and they completely miss the real problem that is leaping out of the text!
II. The Real Problem in the text
The real problem is not how long they lived; the problem is that they didn’t live any longer! The real problem is that they died!
The passage is a reminder of the curse of the fall and inescapable consequences of sin! You hear it again and again: And he died. And he died. And he died. You almost get the feeling that this isn’t so much a genealogy as it is a record of names that you would find at a morgue or a cemetery. These are not so much records of births as it is records of deaths!
This text forces you to come to terms with this dire reality. In the day you eat it you shall surely die. From dust you came, and to dust you shall return! This passage reminds us that the wages of sin is death. Death came through one man, and so all died.
And there is nothing you can do about it.
Even good old Methuselah! Here you have the oldest guy who ever lived. He chalked up 969 years. He is the epitome of human vigor. You would think that if anyone could do it, it was Methuselah. Now it took a long time, but eventually even he succumbed to it!
And this is a reminder to you that you are going to die. I don’t care how many carrots you eat. You can jog 60 miles a week and take your multi-vitamin religiously every single day. But you cannot avoid the inevitable. You are going to die.
Lately there have been some rather preposterous proposals, to say the least. Not too long ago a certain scientific magazine came out and said that in less than 40 years technology will have advanced so far that we will achieve immortality. No kidding.
You can check it out for yourself. There are scientists who are saying that we will one day be able to preserve the neurological functions in our brains, long after our bodies wear out. They say that we are already able to make robots move with our brainwaves. It is said that there have been people who are paralyzed who have had implants put in their skulls. And they have actually controlled robotic movements in machines hundreds of miles away.
And they say that in less than 40 years we will be able to transfer our brains into a robotic body and therefore avoid the reality of death.
But I got news for you. It’s not going to happen. Maybe there is something to what they say. But don’t think for a moment that science or technological advancements will give you any hope of skipping out on dying.
That’s because death is not just a physical, natural reality. It is not an evolutionary phenomena. It isn’t just because our bodies just wear out with time. Death is unavoidable because it is a curse. It is due to the fact that there is this thing we call sin. We die because the wages of sin is death.
When I read this text I am reminded of what Don Quixote’s side kick said in the book Don Quixote. Sancho said, “When death comes knocking at the door she is always in a hurry and nothing will stop her, not prayers or struggles nor scepters or miters.”
It is true. We might be able to put it off for a while, but eventually it will come.
And were it not for what is said here about Enoch, this text would be very dismal.
III. The Proposed Solution
You noticed that in this list there is one man who never enters the graveyard. It is the story of Enoch, which is found in verses 21-24. It says, “Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him.”
There is a ray of hope for us here in this passage. In the midst of all the corpse—in the midst of the graveyard, there is one man still standing. In fact, the oldest man in the Bible is not Methuselah. It’s Enoch. Because Enoch never died.
What is said here almost makes it sound like he was stolen. It says that “God took him.” The book of Hebrews records for us that “Enoch was taken up so that he could not see death and he was not found.” (Heb. 11:5)
It reminds us that though death be a bold faced reality, it is not the last say for the Christian. This passage doesn’t just remind us of death. It reminds us that our flesh is in heaven.
Just think how this was a testimony to the saving graces of God back then. People are dying all around, but one day Enoch is out with his family; Methusalah and his other sons and daughters were no doubt hanging around with him doing their normal activities. And all of a sudden they see him being taken up into the sky.
Right there they are reminded that the gospel promise is real and true. God will redeem us. Sin will be conquered and death will be vanquished.
Of course, we know the rest of the story. We know that this event points us to the resurrection. Our bodies will one day come up from the grave because Jesus himself was raise from the dead.
Technically Enoch is not allowed in heaven. God demands that there be death. He has to die. There has to be death. And that is why this passage points forward to Christ. Jesus Christ died in his place. And Jesus conquered death by rising again. Then, in the book of Acts, we are told of how Jesus ascended into heaven. Jesus replicated what happened right here with Enoch.
And this is what makes Enoch’s entrance into heaven legit. And it is what gives us hope that we too will one day overcome death and see the redemption of our bodies.
1st Thessalonians reminds us that one day we will all will be raised. When Christ appears, those who are dead shall be lifted out of their graves. And we who are left will be taken up, just like Enoch, to meet the Lord in the air. On that day we shall all say, “Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting? Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.