Ruin or Renewal
Passage: Genesis 6:9–8:19
How do we escape ruin and experience renewal?
When Katie and I were in the hospital with Hudson, we would take breaks to eat in the family lounge and flip the channel to HGTV. We always hoped for Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines, but we’d settle for whatever was on. If you aren’t familiar with HGTV, you see a lot of shows where people are buying houses and then fixing them up and selling them.
One day, the show was Flip or Flop: Las Vegas. In it, a husband wife duo buys houses that need work then flip them for a profit. On this particular episode, they were looking over a house that didn’t look like it needed much work. They were thinking they’d make a greater profit because they were going to spend less fixing it. But as the husband began looking further, he was smelling pee and discovered that the previous owners had dogs that peed in the house. If that wasn’t bad, it got worse. He dug a bit further and discovered that the pee was inside the walls and the moisture of the pee was creating mold inside the walls. The house would need to be gutted.
When they first walked in, they were thinking this house would just need a fresh coat of paint and would be ready to sell. But then they discovered the issues with the house weren’t just surface level. They couldn’t just paint over them. The issues with the house went deeper than that.
As we continue our “Beginning the Journey Home” series in the book of Genesis, we are in the middle of a section that is impressing upon us how bad sin is. It’s showing us that the consequences of choosing our own way over God’s way are disastrous.
Today, we are covering a famous story in Scripture: the story of Noah and the flood. In chapter 6 verse 9, we once again see the title: these are the generations of [blank]. We’ve heard the story of heaven and earth. We’ve heard the story of Adam and his family. Now we are going to hear the story of Noah and his family.
During Noah’s life time, God looked out at his creation and sees how corrupt humanity had become. He sees their wicked deeds and see that these wicked deeds flow out of evil hearts. In other words, the problem isn’t only on the outside; it’s on the inside. Like that house on Flip or Flop, this is going to require more than a fresh coat of paint on the surface. The problem is deeper than that. The problem is in the walls. The problem is in the human heart. So God determines to do what he said he would do back in Genesis 2 if humans chose to reject him: they would die. After generation upon generation and thousands of years of patience, God is true to his word. Every promise that the serpent made to the first humans was empty. But God is true to his word.
The big question this passage answers is: how do we escape ruin and experience renewal? How do we escape ruin and experience renewal?
We learn our answer to this question through Noah’s response to God.
We were introduced to Noah last week when God saw the wicked deeds and evil hearts of humanity. God was filled with anguish and anger and decided to blot out humanity from the earth. But Noah found favor in God’s eyes.
We learn in chapter 6 verse 9 why. It says:
9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Genesis 6:9-10)
In comparison to others living at his time, Noah is righteous and blameless and he walks with God. Righteous means he treats others rightly. Blameless means he treats others rightly in all he does. This doesn’t mean Noah is perfect and never does anything wrong or never sins. But it does mean when he does do something wrong, he makes it right. That’s how you treat others rightly in all you do.
But Noah doesn’t only treat others rightly, he also walks with God. He has a right relationship with God and with others. You could say that he follows what Jesus calls the two greatest commandments of the Old Testament: love God and love people. When God looks out at his world, he sees a world of people who don’t love him and don’t love each other. They only love themselves. In contrast, Noah loves God and loves people. Because of that, God chooses to use Noah.
For us today, we can be encouraged that if we love God and love people, God can use us too. We don’t need to be perfect and never do anything wrong or never sin. But when we fail to love others as we should, we love them by making it right and asking for forgiveness. When we fail to love God as we should, we love him by turning to him and asking for forgiveness.
Verses 11 through 13 remind us of God’s assessment last week:
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence.12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 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. (Genesis 6:11-13)
God wanted humans to fill the earth as representatives of his goodness. But God sees the earth is filled with violence. The word “violence” here translates a word that speaks to the total disregard for the rights and dignity of other humans. You could say that God sees the world is filled with humans violating each other. Often disregard for the rights and dignity of others leads to violence, but we can also disregard the rights and dignity of other people by ignoring them in their time of need. Instead of loving them, we ignore them in favor of our own comfort and justify our actions by telling ourselves, “They got themselves into this mess. They are someone else’s problem. If they really wanted to get on their feet, they would work hard and do it.”
What God sees in his world are a bunch of people who don’t love others like they want to be loved. That assessment still describes our world today. We still have a problem treating everyone with the dignity they deserve as a person made in the image of God. Just look at the history of our country and the movements today that are still arguing for the equality of blacks and whites. Racism is alive and well. We still struggle as individuals and as a society to treat the poor, the refugee, former inmates, the homeless, and the orphan in the same way we would want to be treated if we were in that situation.
The word “corrupt” is used several times in these verses. The earth is corrupt in God’s sight. Everyone has corrupted their way on earth. So God determines to corrupt or destroy the earth. In other words, humanity has ruined the earth, they’ve ruined their way, and now God will ruin them along with the earth. In many ways, God is ruining something that is already ruined. And the way he is going to do it is with a flood.
When we read about this flood, we need to remember that God isn’t flying off the handle with a bunch of pent up rage. We read last week that God sees what humans have done and is grieved. He is filled with anger, but he is also filled with anguish. The feeling you would have if you heard your son had been killed or your sister had been raped is the feeling God has when he sees what humanity has become.
We also need to remember that God told them that this would happen. He told Adam and Eve that if they rebelled against him, they would surely die. God separates them from his presence, which is spiritual death. And they are dying off naturally. But now after thousands of years of gracious patience, God is taking action in fulfillment of his word. He told them what would happen but they did it anyway and so now the consequences have come.
Interestingly, other groups from this time period have stories of a giant flood that killed everybody. This makes sense if everyone dies except Noah and his family and then through them God repopulates the earth. Noah’s sons and their families would tell the story to their kids and their kids and their kids about how God wipe everyone out through a huge flood.
But there are important differences between the Bible’s account of the flood and the stories from other groups. First, God's reason is different. In the other accounts, the gods send the flood to deal with an overpopulated earth. Humans are breeding too fast and making too much noise so they send the flood to wipe them out and reduce the noise. In the Bible, God sends the flood as a judgment against humanity’s sin. The reason is justice, not annoyance.
Second, God's control is different. In the other accounts, the gods send the flood to deal with human noise pollution and overpopulation but then they can’t control it. They actually cower before it in fear. God is in complete control. He sends it. He decides when it is done.
Third, God’s grace is different. In one of the stories, the flood hero is tipped off by two gods who don’t agree to destruction by a flood. He is saved because he has insider information from two gods that don’t agree with their boss. After the flood, the boss god comes down to survey the earth and is surprised to discover survivors. In the Bible, God decides that Noah will be saved. Noah finds grace in God’s eyes and God gives him instructions for saving his family from the flood. God is in control of both judgment and salvation.
We see God’s total control over the flood in chapter 8 when we heard that God “remembered” Noah. This doesn’t mean God was unleashing the flood and suddenly goes, “Oh yeah, there was that Noah guy. I forgot about him.” When God remembers in Scripture, it means he takes loving action. We read God’s decree to send the flood and the rising of the waters, but let’s read about God’s loving action in chapter 8 verses 1 through 19.
1 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, 4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.
6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7 and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9 But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11 And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.12 Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.
13 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons' wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark. (Genesis 8:1-19)
If you add all the days up, Noah and his family are in the ark almost a year. The act of the flood takes us back to Genesis 1:2 when the earth was without form and void and was covered by water. God returns his world to that state before he formed it and filled it. He formed seas and dry land but now it’s all water again. He filled it with creatures and humans but now it’s empty again. But God does return the world to this state to just leave it there. He un-creates so that he can recreate. He floods the earth so that he can renew it.
If you remember when we covered Genesis 1, I used a Lego Table to illustrate what was happening. God created and the earth was formless and void. The raw material was there, but it was without form and was empty and waters covered it. Then God formed it. He separated the waters to create dry land and he put the sun, moon, and stars in the sky. And then he filled it with animal life and humans. It's like all the Lego pieces are on the Lego Table but they need to be formed into a creation and then you add the animals and people. In the flood, God is sending the earth back to that uncreated space, covering it with water and making it empty once again.
God drys up the waters to bring form to the earth once again then Noah, his family, and the animals leave the ark to fill it once again.
The big question this passage answers is: how do we escape ruin and experience renewal?
We learn the answer by looking at how Noah responded to God. If you have your Bible open, look at chapter 6 verse 22. It says: 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him (Genesis 6:22). Then look at chapter 7 verse 5: 5 And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him. (Genesis 7:5) Now look at chapter 7 verses 8 and 9: 8 Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9 two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. (Genesis 7:8-9) Finally, look at chapter 7 verse 16: 16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the Lord shut him in. (Genesis 7:16). Noah is a man of obedient faith. He responds to God with trust and obedience.
The big question this passage answers is: how do we escape ruin and experience renewal? We get two answers from Noah.
First, believe God’s warning of ruin. To escape ruin and experience renewal, we need to believe God’s warning of ruin. God told Noah what was coming and what Noah needed to do in order to escape it. But Noah would not escape ruin unless he believed that God was sending it. It’s easy to think that believing and obeying God was a no brainer for Noah. “There’s going to be a flood that will drown everyone? Of course I’ll build an ark that will save my whole family and pairs of each animal.” But if you think about it even for a couple seconds, you realize how crazy it is. There are many things that could have deterred his obedience.
For one, he looks silly. His actions look crazy to those who don’t believe God’s warning. He’s building this big boat for a flood while the sun is shining and there are no rain clouds. There’s no sign of a huge flood. People would perhaps ask, “You really think there’s going to be a judgment? You really think there’s a God that is mad at you for how you are behaving?” To those who don’t believe there is a flood coming, he looks ridiculous.
Today, people think the same thing. Some people think the story defies reason. “Really? There’s a God who flooded the earth because of human evil?” Others think it goes against God’s love. “Don’t you believe God is loving? He would never punish everyone like that.”
As followers of Jesus today, our world lives under a similar warning of ruin. In Jesus’ first coming, he came to save. In his second coming, he will come to judge. Jesus says that the time of his coming isn’t known to anyone except the Father so we must be ready. He uses Noah and the flood as a lessons in Matthew 24. He says:
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:36-39)
People were going about their daily lives totally unaware that God’s judgment for their sin was coming. And when it came, it swept them away. Jesus says that everyone living today is just like the people in Noah’s day. Jesus is coming back to judge the earth and when he does, he will bring ruin to everyone who has not trusted in him for salvation.
People may look at us and say, “Really? God is so petty he keeps tabs of my behavior? Come on.” Or they say, “I don’t believe a loving God would ever do that.” Jesus sends us to warn people of the coming judgment and people may look at us as if we are silly and confused. But we must not let it deter us.
Obeying God was also costly for Noah. He looked silly to people and he had to give up a lot. He built an enormous boat which required time and materials. But he believed God’s warning and acted accordingly.
How do we escape ruin and experience renewal? First, we believe God’s warning of ruin. Second, believe God’s way of rescue. To escape ruin and experience renewal, we need to believe God’s way of rescue.
God chose the way to be rescued from ruin and there was no other way. God chooses the means of salvation. We don’t. Noah didn’t say, “Building a boat that can fit all the animals is too hard. I’ll just build a smaller boat or go up on a high hill.” No. Noah obeys God. We can easily try to come up with our own way to be rescued from the coming judgment but it’s God’s way or no way. It’s either death or life. Many people are coming up with their own way of salvation and they hope it will work when Jesus brings the flood of judgment but all of them will sink.
It’s important to see that God rescues us from something, but he also rescues us for something. Noah doesn’t only escape ruin but he gets to experience renewal. He gets to live in God’s new creation. He is a part of God’s new world. In the same way, Jesus rescues us from judgment for citizenship in his kingdom. And when he returns, he will usher in a new creation. Followers of Jesus are rescued from God’s judgment for life in God’s new world.
God’s anguish and anger toward sin is real. There will be another judgment when Jesus returns. But know this: Know that Jesus is your lifeboat. The only way to escape the flood of God’s judgment is in the lifeboat he has provided. If you trust in Jesus, you have boarded the lifeboat God has provided. You’ve entered and God has shut you safely inside for safe passage into his new world. In Christ, we safely pass through God’s judgment into new creation.
Judgment for sin is coming but for all those who trust in Jesus, he has taken that judgment for us. On the cross, he drowned in God’s judgment on our behalf. The ark took the beating of the storm. Jesus takes the beating of God’s judgment. The ark took downpour of the rain. Jesus takes the downpour of God’s wrath. The ark took the crashing of the waves. Jesus takes the crashing of the penalty for evil and sin. Once we have trusted in Jesus, we can rest in God’s way of rescue.
The problem is, even when we say that we trust in Jesus for our rescue we still don’t rest. We are still scared of God and his judgment. But if you are in Christ, you are loved and protected by God himself. There is no flood of judgment that can drown you. You are safe. You can rest. Rest in Jesus and what he has done for you on your behalf.
When we don’t rest in Jesus, we are shrinking his work on the cross. We can minimize Jesus’ work on the cross in two ways. First, we can pretend that our sin isn’t that bad. We pretend that we are better than we really are. We hide just like Adam, Eve, and Cain. We make excuses and blame others, “It’s your fault I acted that way. It’s because I had a bad day that I was unloving. I’m not really that way.” We are pretending we are better than we are and it’s other people’s fault or our circumstances. Or we compare ourselves to others, saying, “I’m not as bad as those people.” We are hiding behind others. Or we can get others to focus on the good we have done instead of the bad so that we seem better. All of this is pretending our sin isn’t that bad. We know we have done wrong, but we are trying to convince ourselves, God, and others that we aren’t that bad.
Second, we can perform. This minimizes God’s goodness. We think that if we just perform well enough that we can meet the standard. God’s goodness and holiness is something that we can measure up to. We bring our performance at being a mom or a dad to the table, or our performance at work, or our performance at church and we say, “Look God, I’m good enough to escape judgment.”
Both of these are like hearing a mountain high flood is coming and putting up a wall of sandbags to stop it. Neither can actually rescue us from God’s judgment. Neither actually gives us rest and security because we know deep down that we need more. Jesus is the only lifeboat that will rescue.
It’s only when we know how bad sin is that we will know how good God’s grace is. As long as we think that we deserve to be forgiven and that we deserve God’s love, we will never fall on our knees in grateful praise for Jesus. God’s forgiveness and love are the opposite of what we deserve. We do not deserve them. We deserve to be consumed by the flood of God’s judgment. But God gives grace.
When we look at how Noah responds to God, we need ask whether that’s how we are responding. Do we respond to God with a trusting “yes” or do we take what he says under consideration? When we hear God’s Word in the Bible, do we do what he says or just say, “That gave me something to think about.”
We also need to think seriously about whether we believe Jesus is coming again to judge the world. If Noah didn’t do what God had said, he would have died. Responding to what God says is a matter of eternal life and death. It’s a matter of life and death for us. It’s a matter of life and death for everyone we know. Every person in your family, in your neighborhood, at your workplace. Every person in Woodstock, in McHenry County, in Chicago, in IL, in the world. Every person you have ever met and who has ever existed is either on a path toward condemnation and death for eternity or forgiveness and life. It’s all based on how we and they respond to God’s word. He has warned us about the judgment to come. He has told us the way to be saved. Will be believe him? And if we believe him, how should that affect the way we live? How should that affect what we care about? How should that affect how we spend our time? How should that affect whether we let fear and busyness and apathy get in the way of warning others and telling them about Jesus?
God knew that his world needed more than a fresh coat of paint. He knew the problem with humanity was deeper than surface level so he sent the flood to bring newness. But in bringing judgment, we also see the depth of God’s grace to save even some of the humans who ruined the earth. Next week we will learn about God’s promise to let us live here even though we haven’t changed.