Summary: When life is at its worst God is at His best
Contrary to what some teach, Jesus never promised us that if we would follow Him we would have an easy life. So as we gather here this morning, it’s pretty likely that all of us are experiencing some kind of difficulties or trials in our lives – obviously some much more severe than others. But that is why I’m so excited about this morning’s message. As we look at the account of a man who undoubtedly experienced far more challenging trials that any of us have ever gone through in our lives, we’re going to discover this good news:
When life is at its worst
God is at His best
A lot of what we know, or at least think we know about Noah comes from the cartoon-like Sunday School lessons that most of us experienced as kids. For some of us, our ideas about Noah have been influenced by movies and television programs that make his story seem like one of those Hallmark movies where everyone lives happily ever after. But this morning, I want to take us on a journey through Noah’s life that will hopefully give us a much more realistic view of what his life was like. And I’m convinced that as we do that we’re going to be so encouraged because we’ll see that for Noah, and for us, God really was at His best when Noah’s life was at its worst.
Although we can’t possibly cover all of Noah’s life, which comprises six chapters in Genesis, I do want to briefly review several important aspects of that account before I focus on one brief section at the end of chapter 8 and the beginning of chapter 9.
Last week, we ended with the birth of Seth. Adam and Eve’s son of promise. at the end of Genesis 4. In chapter 5, we find the genealogy that takes us from Seth through 7 succeeding generations to the birth of Noah. The chart on the screen gives you a pretty good idea of how these generations overlap. What is really interesting to me is that Noah is actually born only 14 years after Seth dies, even though there have been 7 intervening generations.
Noah’s name means “rest” or “comfort” and ironically we’re going to find that throughout most of his life he had neither of those. Interestingly, his wife is never named in the Bible. But at the end of chapter 5 we find that Noah begins to have children when he is 500 years old and he fathers three sons – Shem, Ham and Japheth. That should probably be a clue right off the bat that Noah isn’t going to have a lot of rest and comfort in his life. Can you imagine having three sons when you’re 500 years old? Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?
As we get to the beginning of Genesis 6, we see that God looks upon the earth and sees that the wickedness of man is great. And in verse 6 we read that God “regretted” that He had made man. This is the first of many anthropomorphisms that we’re going to see in this account. That’s just a fancy word that means that human qualities are attributed to God. This usually occurs in one of two ways:
• God is described as having the physical characteristics of man. In the Bible we read about God “setting his face” or “stretching out his hands” or “stooping down”. Obviously since God the Father is a spirit being and doesn’t have a physical body, He doesn’t physically have a face or hands or legs, but the Biblical writers uses those descriptions to help man, with his finite mind, to better picture and understand the nature of God.
• The Bible also frequently attributes human emotions to God, like it does here when we read that God “regretted” making man. Again we need to recognize that the Biblical authors were doing their best to describe God using terms that man can understand, but we also need to understand that God’s emotions are not equivalent to ours. God isn’t sorry here in the sense that He did something wrong when He made man. Nor does the wickedness of man surprise Him or catch Him off guard.
To a large degree God’s regret here stemmed from His holiness. God knew that man’s sin deserved to be punished and that was going to require Him to pour out his wrath against that sin. And that broke his heart.
But when man was at his worst, we see God at His best. In Genesis 6:8, we see God’s grace and mercy is about to be poured out:
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
This is 100% God’s grace. As we’re going to see, Noah was far from sinless. So there was nothing in his life that merited God choosing him.