Summary: The sober message of Noah for today
“Noah—for Adults” Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus Massachusetts Genesis 6-9
Outline: A. Depravity; B. Deluge; C. Deliverance
I’m calling today’s sermon “Noah for Adults” because Genesis 6-9 is really not a children’s story. Kids enjoy hearing about the animals, the rainbow, and how God rescued Noah. Yet we know it is a sober account of severe divine judgment upon humankind. And when Scripture details the moral state of human affairs back then, we find it uncomfortably close to describing life in our day. Just the other day I was visiting a member of our church who was distraught over how low we’ve sunk as a culture; he stated, “We’re bound to be worse now than the people of Noah’s day.”
The world knows little about the Bible, but nearly everyone is familiar with Noah’s ark. There are jokes, cartoons, movies, clothing, jewelry, toys and sculptures depicting this Biblical event. On all continents and among almost all peoples of the world ancient catastrophic flood accounts have been found; anthropologists have collected roughly 275 early flood stories.
Last Sunday’s Boston Globe ran an article on “popular culture” about the recent books and movies that glamorize serial killers. Killers are cool, because of our “culture of death” in a morally toxic society. People seem attracted to dark humor and decadence, or to borrow a word from our Puritan past, the world is drawn to malice—evil for its own sake. Our attraction to evil comes from our innate depravity.
The first indication of God’s displeasure comes in verse 3, when He reveals, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever.” The word “contend” could be translated “abide, strive, remain, or put up with” There came a point where God decided His creation had crossed the line; they sunk to the level of “flesh” and forfeited all hope.
Consider the sorry state of human depravity in verse 5: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Then verse 12, “God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.” Another translation reads, “Now the earth was a wreck in God’s sight.” Although humankind had obtained the “knowledge of good and evil”, it had not been beneficial. People were choosing wickedness over goodness. They were choosing to reject God and were in a state of open rebellion.
In verse 6 God was “grieved” and “His heart was filled with pain”. Some translations indicate that God regretted He had created the human race. God was sorrowful over how His creation had responded to His provision. He purposed to respond to the wide-spread depravity by proving His laws are not optional and that He takes transgression seriously. We take sin too lightly, and we’re often unaware of how sin affects our heavenly Father. God holds us accountable for our thoughts and actions.
Verse 11 describes the earth as “corrupt”. The Hebrew word (shachath) could be translated “ruined”. The word was used to describe clothing that is badly stained, or food that is spoiled. Jeremiah uses the word to describe clay that is ruined in the potter’s hand. We’re also told that the earth was “full of violence”. The powerful were exploiting the weak, without regard for human rights. Evil inclinations were fanning out into an inferno. This reminds me of the former Belgian Congo. In his book Congo Kitabu, Jean-Pierre Hallet describes the chaotic anarchy that erupted when the country attained independence; we’ve recently seen the same thing in Somolia and Kosovo. The people were not concerned about God intervening, and figured sin would continue unchecked. Such thinking is fatal.
The world was corrupt, and God chose to send a message—He will not overlook sin. He is not indifferent. God chose to spare one man and his family, to start over. Noah is called in verse 9 a “righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.”
Noah walked step-by-step in faith as a living example to his generation. His name means “rest” or “comfort”, which he found in God. His lifestyle took courage, because no one else was walking in that way. Do we follow God even when those around us are going in other directions? Noah is called “righteous” (tsaddiq) because he conformed to God’s standards and expectations. The leader of a (ultra-orthodox Jewish) Hassidic religious community is called a tsaddiq. That which God sought in people was present in Noah. He is also called “blameless” which involves the idea of being “complete”. How was Noah able to find favor with God? Verse 9 explains why--“Noah walked with God”. This doesn’t mean he was sinless; it means he had an on-going relationship with God.