Summary: The story of the flood tells us that God holds the world accountable for its behavior. He is in control, but he is patient, and he rewards the righteous.
On January 1st I told my wife that I hoped I would never hear the phrase Y2K again. I was so tired of hearing it all through 1999, only to have it go by without a glitch. But then we had to wait until the first business day before we really knew if we got by Y2K A.O.K. Still, not the slightest hint of something going wrong related to computer hardware or software. But the reports were foreboding. Planes were supposed to crash. Bank computers would scramble our accounts. The stock market would plunge. Stores would run out of food. Traffic lights would not work. So people stock piled food, topped off their gas tanks, bought lots of bottled water, took out large amounts of cash from their banks, stayed away from planes and stayed home on New Years Eve. And then the clocks struck 12:00... and nothing happened. Neither did anything happen the first business day. There was plenty of food. Planes flew; traffic flowed; accounts were correct; lights were on and there was water at the tap. All of the talk of terrorists activities proved unfounded. In fact, life continued on so normal that it was almost boring.
There were people who prospered during the whole enterprise. Some people sold lots of books. Others sold great quantities of dried food, guns and ammo, generators and batteries. The food banks are benefitting by people giving away what is now unnecessary surplus. Suddenly, freeze-dried turkey doesn’t seem so desirable.
Christians were not without their share of guilt in adding to the frenzy and hype. Many were selling books and materials to get people ready for the impending disasters associated with the coming of the new millennium. (Interestingly enough, this is not really the new millennium. The next millennium starts January 1, 2001.) Some Christian leaders were advising people to stockpile dried foods and even telling them to have plenty of guns. I was personally grieved to hear this, not because people were told to be prepared, just in case, but because there was no Christian voice advising people to stockpile in order to share with others if a crisis did come about — which, of course, would be the true Christian response.
But many others were predicting the return of Jesus Christ at the stroke of midnight, January 1st of this year. Christians gathered in Jerusalem, and some even sold or gave away all their possessions in preparation. But nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. There were no computer glitches, no planes crashed and there were no terrorist attacks. And most of all, Jesus did not return. For the most part this is all good news. Our lives are allowed to continue unimpeded by the problems which were predicted, and the world has not come to an end. But there is a hidden danger here as well. The result may be that the people of the world are not only breathing a collective sigh of relief, but they now believe that since nothing did happen, nothing can happen. And the danger is we will continue in our self-assured arrogance. There may be an unrealistic feeling that we are in control and that we are in charge of our destiny. The temptation is to ignore the problems we are facing and believe that they will go away as quickly and easily as all the recent prophesies of doom and gloom. The apostle Peter warned: “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also 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 3:3-7).
So what happens when the warnings are real? What happens when God is saying something we should take seriously? What happens when God is about to do something? What do we do now about the fact that the Bible says Jesus Christ will return to the earth and that someday the world will end? What if we don’t take what God is saying seriously and fail to make the right kind of preparation? Jesus, in talking about the end of the world said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:35-39). What he was saying was that people will be going about life as usual, believing that nothing will happen.