Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Flood, Genesis 6

I was driving through Bridgeport the other day and I saw a sign that said, "Talking Dog for sale".  I stopped and knocked on the door and asked to see the "talking dog".  The owner said, "Sure.  Come around here."  We went around to the back of the house and sure enough there was a dog chained to a tree.  He didn't look like much and so I asked the owner if this was the talking dog and he said yes.  So, I looked at the dog and asked him, "So, are you the talking dog?"  And to my astonishment, the dog said in perfect English, "Yes I am."    I didn't know what to say exactly so I just asked him what his story was.  He said he was originally bred by a local policeman and became a K-9 officer.  He would wander around crack houses and find out who the bad guys were and report back to headquarters.  He had gotten several medals of commendation for that but then the Army found out about him and he did basically the same thing for them in Iraq, snooping around behind enemy lines reporting troop movements.  He said he was actually the one to find out where Saddam Hussein was hiding.  I asked the owner how much he wanted for him and he just said, "10 bucks".  "10 Bucks!  Why so cheap?"  The owner said, "That dog's such a liar.  He never did any of that."

I wonder sometimes how much of the Bible we really believe.  Most all of you here would agree with me that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and that all of it is true, without error.  But do you really believe some of the stories in it?  Do you really believe Jonah was swallowed by a whale?  Hard to believe.  Do you believe that a young boy really killed a giant with his slingshot?  Do you know without a doubt that Balaam's donkey spoke audibly to him?

I love the story of Noah and the ark.  Every child knows the story but is that all it is, a child's story like Mother Goose?  Or did it really happen?  I find a lot of the story to be hard to believe.  Noah built an ark 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high with no power tools.  He then loaded it with every kind of animal with his 7 family members and enough food and water for all the people and animals for about a year.  Then God shut the door and the whole earth flooded so high it covered the mountains.  And then Popeye came out and ate his spinach and lifted the ark high over his head, right?

While all of that is hard to believe, some people have a hard time believing another part of this story.  I heard the other day about a couple who enrolled their young child in a Christian school.  The first day after school the child came home telling about how Noah built an ark and God flooded the whole earth, killing everybody except Noah and his family.  The parents were outraged that the school would teach that and promptly withdrew their child saying, "Our God would never do that."

How do you feel about that?  Does God have the right to kill thousands or millions of people because He wants to?  Is He some divine psycho bully who kills everybody when he doesn't get His way?  How can we say He is a God of love if we believe this really happened?

Those are good questions and I hope to show you how the Bible answers them.  Let's read some of the story in Genesis.  Since it takes up over two chapters, we will only read part of it.  I think most of you are aware of how the story basically goes.

I have 3 points this morning.
#1 God's holiness demands justice. 
#2 God's love provides grace.
#3 Our faith determines the outcome.

Read 6:5-7

As we have made our way through Genesis I have told you not to think of Genesis as a novel that will tell you all the details and not to think of it as a book of history with lots of cool stories but instead to think of it as an autobiography about God.  Each passage should tell us more about God and the flood narrative is no exception.

We are left with lots of questions about the flood.  It's hard to believe it rained for 40 days especially when it hasn't rained here but maybe twice in 6 months.  But, what if, in this autobiography we learn something about God that is disturbing?  This passage will be controversial in Hebrew but even more so in English.

The first time I read this it looked to me like God is admitting He made a mistake.  It sounds like he regrets doing something and now He has changed His mind.  If that is the case then I need to rethink some things I thought I knew about God.  James 1:17 says God never changes.  In Psalm 139, David says that God knows everything.  How then can He wish that He had never made mankind?

The key to understanding this is to understand how it was written in the original Hebrew.  I don't know about you but Hebrew is all Greek to me and so I have to rely on some good commentaries written by people who can translate and explain what it means.  The phrase we are looking at is translated to the English language as nhm.  I can't read it in English much less know what it means but I will cut to the chase and try to explain it like this:  it is an accounting term which means to balance the books.  That's as close as we can get to understanding it.

God sees that one side of the ledger is way out of balance and so He adjusts it accordingly.  It says in verse 5 that God sees that every thought man has is evil all the time.  In Jeremiah 8:6 God says, "I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness, saying, "What have I done?"
God is listening and waiting for them to repent but He will not tolerate evil for long.  Our God is a holy God who detests sin and so we should too.  When God revealed himself to Job, Job replied by saying "I despise myself".  When Isaiah caught just a glimpse of God he said, "Woe to me.  I am ruined!"  God cannot tolerate sin.  Just because God doesn't always punish a sinner immediately we think we have gotten away with it but God is keeping track of it. 
So this passage has nothing to do with God being sorry or regretful or having grief.  As a God of justice, He always balances the books.  Sometimes it is with punishment and sometimes it is with grace and mercy.
Read 8-21.
At one time, a group of theologians from different faiths and religions gathered in London, England, to discuss religion. On one particular day they were considering the question: “What separates Christianity from all other religions?” That is a great question. Is there anything about Christianity that is different or distinguishes it from every other faith? Quite frankly, the theologians were stumped until C. S. Lewis walked into the room. C. S. Lewis had a simple answer when he heard the question: “What separates Christianity from all other religions?” C.S. Lewis said, “That’s easy. It’s grace.”
God’s love provides grace.  God is a holy God.  Do you remember what “holy” means?  And because He is holy He cannot tolerate sin.  Sin is anything that displeases God.  We all have sinned.  Romans 3:23.  The wages of sin is death.  Romans 6:23.  The Bible says we will all be judged so it sounds to me like we are all doomed.  There’s no hope for us!  There is no good news!
Well, for Noah there was good news.  God provided a way for him and his family.  But can you imagine the conversation between Noah and Mrs. Noah after God told him to build an ark?  Hey Honey, God told me to build an ark.  What’s an ark?  Like a boat.  Oh, good I could use some sun maybe a little fishing, some skiing.  That’s good honey.  You can use the wood from the pile behind the house.
We don’t know what they said.  In fact, Noah doesn’t speak nor anyone in his family ever speaks.  Let me see if y’all have been paying attention.  Why do you think the Bible doesn’t tell us what they said or gives us any more details about the ark or Noah?  Because that’s not the point!  If we had more information, it would just distract us from what God wants to reveal about Himself.
And what does God want to reveal about Himself here?  He reveals that through His grace He has provided a way of salvation for Noah and ultimately for us.  I’m sure it was difficult for Noah to understand everything he was being asked to do.  We know from archaeology that most boats built in Noah’s time and even later were considerably smaller, made just for fishing just off shore. 
And when God told him to build it the skies were clear and sunny.  I’m quite sure Noah’s neighbors thought he was crazy.  That doesn’t make sense, Noah!  If you want a boat, just borrow ours for a while.  It works well for us.  It’s a pretty boat and you don’t have to be so radical building your own.
Read 6:22
And in Hebrews 11:7 it says, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. “
The task that God gave Noah was difficult physically and spiritually.  It didn’t make sense.  It was hard to believe.  It’s not what other people in the world thought he should do.  And it is exactly where we are today.  The world says it is too hard to believe what the Bible says and so we are going to explain it so that it does make sense.  And that is where every other religion and faith comes from.
I’ll say it again that everybody wants to know the truth.  When the truth of God is too hard to believe or too hard to follow, then they come up with something else that is easier to believe and easier to follow.  That’s where Buddhism comes from.  That’s where Islam, Hindu, Wicca, and yes, Mormonism come from.  They come from some guy sitting under a tree somewhere thinking that it’s too hard to believe what the Bible says so I’m going to make something up.
The flood narrative in Genesis is a beautiful foretelling of the Gospel.  It is what God wants us to see from this passage.  He wants us to see that He is a holy God who hates sin.  He wants us to see that sin is punishable by death but that through His grace and by our faith we can escape that punishment and be saved and unlike Noah’s salvation from the flood, our salvation is eternal.
This simple presentation of the Gospel can be closed with a simple verse.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

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