“The God of the Flood”

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord… Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.…  Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark…”

Genesis 6:5-9, 11-14a

Noah lived in a world of chaos and corruption, a world in which humanity had fallen far from the God in whose image and likeness they were created. Imagine trying to live faithfully, raise children and protect a family in such a world. In response to this human wickedness,  the heart of God was “grieved.” The verb here can carry different senses depending on the context: (1) to be injured (Psa. 56:5; Ecc. 10:9; 1 Chr. 4:10); (2) to experience emotional pain; to be depressed or worried (2 Sam. 19:2; Isa. 54:6; Neh. 8:10-11); to be embarrassed or offended to the point of anger; to be insulted (Gen. 34:7; 45:5; 1 Sam. 20:3, 34; 1 Kgs. 1:6; etc.). There may be several aspects to God’s grief but human sin did not merely wound God emotionally; it prompted him to strike out in purifying judgment against the source of his grief (v.7). This terrifying story of divine judgment also teaches us comforting truths about God’s character and the human condition.

God is just, therefore salvation is needed — God is patient but his justice cannot allow evil to continue unchecked. In the New Testament, the flood is used as a type of the final judgment to come (Mt. 26:36-41; 2 Pet. 2:5). While it is certainly good news that evil will not get the last word, our situation before such perfect justice is imperiled. No one can stand before God justified on his own (Rom. 3:21-26). Therefore, God’s justice highlights our need for salvation.

God is gracious, therefore salvation is provided — How did Noah find “favor in the eyes of the Lord”? The passage speaks of Noah’s righteous character in verse 9. In contrast to the evil world, Noah was “blameless” and “walked with God.” The point is not that he was sinless and, thus, deserved salvation but that he lived in such a way as to be in fellowship with God. Noah lived “by faith” (Heb. 11:7). This squares with the larger biblical picture of salvation coming “by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8-9). As God pronounced long ago, “The righteous shall live by his faith” (Heb. 2:4; cf. Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38; Jn. 3:36). God is gracious and provided salvation in Christ to all (Titus 2:11), but he determined that his gift of salvation can only be accessed by faith (Rom. 1:16).

God is powerful, therefore salvation is effective — The flood also demonstrates God’s might. The world he created through water is now unmade through water. God’s power in judgment is equal to his power in salvation. In fact, God’s salvation often comes through judgment, not apart from it. Noah’s safety in the ark points to our salvation in Christ—the true Ark. Our salvation is effective because of the security of the Ark that is Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 3:20-22). That is, Christ and his achievements are the foundation for our confidence in being saved from God’s just judgment, a judgment which will come not through water but fire (2 Pet. 3:8-13). Therefore, like Noah, we must be sure we are “in the Ark” and warn others of the coming judgment, beckoning them to Christ with loving urgency (2 Pet. 2:5). God is just, gracious and powerful.