Reading 3 THE CLEANSING FLOOD Genesis 6–8“I will wipe mankind . . . from the face of the earth” (Gen. 6:7).The bright promise of God’s original Creation had been blighted by human sin. Now Genesis introduced a theme which echoes throughout Scripture. God is moral judge of His universe. God will not shrink from His responsibility. God will surely punish those who sin.
Freed from restraint, men dedicated themselves to evil, and a saddened God determined to cleanse the earth (6:1–8). Noah, earth’s sole righteous man, obeyed God’s command to construct a gigantic ship (vv. 9–22). After Noah’s family and breeding stock entered this ark, God caused a Flood which wiped out all other people and animals (7:1–24). A year later Noah’s family emerged on a cleansed earth (8:1–20). After Noah worshiped, God promised not to destroy all life again—until the day of final judgment (vv. 20–22).
Understanding the Text
“Nephilim” Gen. 6:4. The meaning of the term is uncertain. Some take it to mean giants, produced by a union of fallen angels (“sons of God” being His direct creations) and human women. While verses 1–2 and 4 are obscure, the thrust of the passage is clear. Human wickedness reached new heights until “every inclination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil all the time” (v. 5). “Grief and pain” Gen. 6:6. Note the text does not say “anger and outrage”! God takes no pleasure in punishing those who sin. Instead He is deeply pained—by the hurt His creations cause one another and by the necessity of punishing persons made in His own image. “A righteous man” Gen. 6:9. When applied to human beings in the Old Testament, “righteous” and “blameless” never imply being without sin. Instead they are used to portray persons who respond to God wholeheartedly and who honestly seek to please Him. Only Noah merited this description. “450 feet long” Gen. 6:15. The ark was a massive ship even by modern standards (see illustration). It was intended to carry breeding pairs of various animal kinds and provisions for them, as well as to bear Noah and his family. Many different models of the ark have been designed, but the text gives us insufficient information to accurately portray the giant boat. The illustration on this page gives some sense of the size of the ark in relation to ancient and modern vessels. “Everything . . . that had the breath of life in its nostrils died” Gen. 7:22. Many debate whether the Genesis Flood was local or universal. Certainly the text suggests a cataclysm, with subterranean and atmospheric waters surging on an earth wracked with earthquakes. The statement that “all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered” has been taken by one side as evidence that the Flood was local, for there is not enough water on earth to top such peaks as Everest, Ararat, and McKinley. The same statement is taken by the other side as evidence for a universal Flood. The pressure of the waters may have caused earth’s then unstable surface to thrust up modern peaks and to depress seabeds. Yet this debate obscures the point the text emphasizes. Three times Genesis 7 repeats it. “Every living thing that moved on the earth perished” (v. 21). “Everything on dry land . . . died” (v. 22). “Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out” (v. 23). The Flood is not fodder for geological debate, but history’s great affirmation that God is mankind’s judge—and that God will judge sin. The tossing seas on which Noah’s ark floated are a reminder to keep before the eyes of those who scoff and follow their own evil desires. Peter calls on such persons to look back—and then to look ahead. “They deliberately forget that. . . . the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:5–7). The Genesis Flood is history’s grim reminder that sin merits divine judgment, and that sinners will be judged. “Never again” Gen. 8:21. After a year in the ark (cf. 7:11; 8:13), Noah emerged to worship the Lord. At that time God made a solemn commitment never again to destroy all living creatures “as long as the earth endures” (v. 22). Complete and cleansing judgment is now reserved for history’s end.
Blameless among the People of His Time(Gen. 6:9–22)
Noah is one of the most impressive men of the Bible. He lived in a totally corrupt society. Yet he himself was committed to godliness and succeeded in living a blameless life. Even more impressive is the fact that when told by God to build a giant ship in a time when rain was unknown (2:6), Noah immediately set out to do so! Noah and his sons cut and shaped ton upon ton of beams to form a keel and skeleton. They sawed uncounted thousands of planks for siding. They planted, gathered, and stored crops to serve as food for themselves and the animals God would bring when His time was right. And all the time they must have suffered the ridicule of their neighbors, who came to listen to and scoff at mad Noah’s predictions of water about to fall from the sky and destroy them all. How long did Noah and his sons labor? Genesis 6:3 tells us. When God made His decision to judge, mankind was given 120 years. It was during that time Noah and his sons accomplished their herculean tasks. And during all that time Noah bore the jokes made at his expense. He ignored the loud whispers he was intended to hear. And he kept on working, surrounded by the tittering laughter of his neighbors. Despite it all, Noah remained faithful. He had heard God speak. And Noah “did everything just as God commanded him.” Chris, the teenage son of our pastor, Richard Schmidt, can understand the pressure on Noah. In the locker room he was ridiculed for his determination to remain sexually pure. “It’s what I believe,” he said, “and it’s what I’m going to do.” Probably you can understand too. There are so many in our modern world who laugh at people who have heard God’s voice and try to do “everything just as God commanded.” Imagine! Noah knew just that pressure, from everyone, and for 120 years! Yet Noah remained faithful. And you and I can remain faithful too. Peter gives us a special insight into what Noah’s faithfulness meant. Yes, Noah’s faithfulness to God’s word meant deliverance for himself and his family. But 1 Peter 3:19–20 suggests that by the agency of the Holy Spirit Christ Himself spoke through Noah in the long decades that “God waited patiently” for Noah to finish his assigned task. How important our faithfulness is. As we like Noah bear up under the pressure brought on us, Christ by His Holy Spirit speaks through us to the very persons who laugh and doubt. And this time, they may respond!
Our faithfulness when others jeer speaks more powerfully than the words of the most gifted preacher the world has ever known.