How does it feel to see blatant injustice and nobody is there to stop it?
I saw a guy get what he deserved one day as he was passing other cars dangerously. A cop saw him and pulled him over. Oh the exhilaration!
Justice showed up that day. It was Judgment Day for that horrible driver.
It’s an awful feeling to see injustice without anyone in sight who can do something about it, isn’t it? And it’s such a great feeling when someone actually does step in and justice is handed out. We feel so vindicated!
But… What happens when the shoe is on the other foot?
On the final day of a vacation my wife and I were driving back to Michigan and we got pulled over. I had a lot of excuses in my mind, but the bottom line was, I broke the law. I was still going too fast when I passed the 45 mph sign. I deserved what I got. I got justice. It just felt a lot different when it was happening to me than when it was happening to that other guy who really deserved it.
That sets up a question about our passage today.
“What was it like in Noah’s day?”
In the story of Noah, you could picture things being so bad that Noah could look around at the wickedness and blatant injustice and ask, “Where’s God when you need Him?”
There were about 1,600 years between Adam & Eve and Noah and the ark. The earth’s population had grown quickly. Unfortunately, so had evil on the earth. It’s quite possible that there were several million people on the earth at the time, though it’s impossible to estimate accurately.
What did God think about the evil in the world?
“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5, NIV).
“The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” (Gen. 6:6, NIV)
Since God can’t repent as we humans repent, this term is misleading. Regretted is still imperfect, since if we are not careful it can sound to us like God thought he had made a mistake.
Here’s what we do know about God. He never changes. “I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob are not destroyed.” (Malachi 3:6)
He knew in advance that free will would result in human beings making destructive choices. But he made them anyway. So he didn’t suddenly think, “Oops. I shouldn’t have done that!” He was broken hearted, yes. But he had not made a mistake. He grieved because of the pain humans had brought upon themselves through free will.
Joy and I talked with a dad who discovered that one of his kids had taken a picture and sent it to a friend. The subject of that picture was highly inappropriate. The parent was so grieved in his spirit and so angered by the action of the child that he threw the cell phone on the ground and crushed it with his boot.
Was the parent’s anger just? Did that parent’s anger mean that he no longer loved his child? Let’s leave this hanging for a moment and I’ll provide some context for what I think is a valid answer.
In Noah’s day… God’s justice was evident.
So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—(Gen. 6:7a)
“…for I regret that I have made them.” (Gen. 6:7b) [Another anthropomorphism]
In the case of the dad who smashed his kids’ cell phone, why was his anger so strong? The dad who expressed his anger told us later that he didn’t regret that he had that child. He was very sad and angry over a choice his son had made that could have become destructive. He was angry that his son had exercised his free will in a potentially destructive way.
He knew that there are evil people preying on innocent people with a scam that entices the person to take a picture that could then be used against them. The scammer will tell the guy who has been duped into thinking he is sending a compromising picture to a beautiful young woman then tells the guy to electronically send a certain amount of money or else they will post that picture and ruin their reputation.
Did this dad’s anger mean that he no longer loved his son? No. He loved his child and was angered by something that would bring harm to that child. His anger was justified.
The dad knew more than his son. That’s why the boundary was put in place.
Why was God’s anger so strong?
He knew the evil in the hearts of humans and that it had become so pervasive that it had nearly taken over the entire planet, affecting all of creation. They would destroy themselves and God couldn’t bless them the way he wanted to because of their sin.
He knew more than the people he had created. That’s why he had established boundaries. And yet the humans had exercised free will by stepping WAY outside the boundaries, without a single thought about possible consequences.
Here’s some good news. In Noah’s day, God’s grace was also evident.
However, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8).
Why Noah? Noah became a great example for us about God’s great Rescue Plan.
This also shows us how God, when He chooses to do so, can use imperfect people who desire Him as their ultimate source of satisfaction, to accomplish His will.
Peter describes Noah as “a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Peter 2:5)
How was he a preacher?
Think about how long it had taken Noah to build that ark!
Do you think his gawking friends and neighbors had some conversations with him as he was building it? “Why are you building this thing, Noah?”
“Well, I’ll tell you why…”
Noah had spent years warning his friends and neighbors about the judgment God had planned for the earth. And Noah knew that this judgment was going to happen in his own lifetime.
What was the reaction from those gawkers?
Did they say, “Oh wow, thanks for the warning, neighbor! We’ll get packed. In fact, we’ll start building boats of our own!”?
Nope. (They could have though.)
But they didn’t. No one listened. Or if they listened, they scoffed. (“Noah’s cheese has slid right off his cracker.”)
Several hundred years later Jesus even taught about how the people actually reacted to Noah’s actions and warnings about God’s impending judgment. Jesus was describing his own second coming and the events surrounding that future event, and he said,
Jesus said, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” (Luke 17:26)
“They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:27)
Based on Jesus’ own words, we know that the people in Noah’s day were completely self-absorbed and completely evil. They weren’t the least bit concerned about the judgment Noah had told them about. The ark was a symbol of impending judgment that could not be ignored. And yet they dismissed it.
Geologist Claude Prepetit had been warning government officials in Haiti for a decade leading up to the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Prepetit had read the papers from research done in the area and knew that a major quake was going to happen. He just couldn’t pinpoint exactly when. It’s a vague prediction so it’s understandable that some officials wouldn’t want to take it seriously. But Prepetit was certain that they would have a quake unlike any they had seen to date and that it was probably going to hit in a location where poorly built buildings would collapse and kill thousands.
Prepetit was sure that a major earthquake would turn his country’s capital into “a vast cemetery.”
In the year leading up to the quake of 2010 Prepetit wrote papers on the impending quake, spoke before international audiences and even contacted government officials directly. Haiti’s leaders turned a deaf ear toward Prepetit and instead of spending money on tearing down dangerous buildings and rebuilding earthquake-proof buildings, they spent money on themselves, adding swimming pools to their own homes and buying fancy 4-wheel-drive vehicles to drive around in.
On January 12, 2010, Prepetit’s predictions were tragically validated.
How did people react to warnings in Noah’s day and in Port au Prince, Haiti? They refused to listen to predictions of disaster.
Do we see anything today that reminds us of society in Noah’s day?
Unfortunately yes. Just this past week our daughter-in-law told us about a shooting that took place in the stairwell in a large building where she works in downtown Chicago.
An off duty police officer was shot and killed that day.
The very next day we were sickened by another tragic school shooting, this one in Florida. Several people had sent warnings about the young man’s unstable condition, including credible tips to the FBI. The warnings went unheeded.
If you want to see what the world was like in Noah’s day all you have to do is watch the evening news today.
But, like a rainbow, God’s grace comes into view, against the backdrop of the storm, giving us hope.
Even though God destroyed the entire world – the most merciful act He could perform at the time – (except for Noah and his family), He also put in place a plan to Rescue all who would turn to Him from the consequences of the curse of sin.
When will this plan be put in place?
We don’t know exactly, but we know we should be ready at any time.
Jesus said that the world will be much the same (as it was in Noah’s day) before He returns to set up His earthly kingdom (Matt. 25). Jesus will come back and there will be a separation of those who are in Christ and those who are not.
He warned us to “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matt. 24:44)
God’s judgment was just.
First, it was just because he created everything. The Potter can do with the clay what he wishes.
Second, everything that was destroyed was done so because of the consequence of their breaking His rules. Free will was used in a destructive way and it cost humans everything. They knew the rule. They broke it. They paid the price.
The great flood of Noah’s day revealed the powerful judgment of a just God. The Bible says the flood wiped out “people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds”—everything that breathed air (Gen. 7:23).
Does that make God a bully?
As long as there have been sinful people in the world, there has been criticism that God is unjust. That kind of criticism is another evidence of the blame shifting we humans have developed as a fine art.
Remember Adam’s response when he realized that God was aware of his sin? “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit” (Gen. 3:12)
Adam was saying, essentially, “It was the woman’s fault, and you’re the one who gave her to me, so…”
You can’t lessen the severity of sin by blaming someone else. I guess I could have blamed God for making a downhill run on the highway just before the 45 mph sign, causing me to get a ticket. It wouldn’t change the fact that I had broken the law.
Claiming that God is unjust for sending the great flood doesn’t diminish our own sin.
After the great flood there were several instances when God displayed his righteous judgment. God judged Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24-25), Nineveh (Nahum 1:14), and Tyre (Ezekiel 26:4).
None of these were as widespread as the great flood because God also made a covenant to never again destroy the entire population of humans and animals with water the way he had done with the flood. And he gave us the rainbow as a sign of his promise.
And God’s final judgment will result in all the wicked from all time being cast into eternal punishment, the “lake of fire,” which pictures eternal suffering. (Revelation 20)
The message of the Bible is as unmistakable as a huge ark sitting on Noah’s property, namely, that God has judged, continues to judge and will judge sin; whether by an invading army, by fire and brimstone, or by a catastrophic global flood. And he will one day judge everyone, once and for all time.
Even though He is just, God still displays His Grace.
As always, God’s judgment is still accompanied by his grace.
God doesn’t “take pleasure in the death of the wicked.” Rather, He desires that the wicked would “repent and live.” (Ezekiel 18:23)
Delayed judgment throughout history shows God’s patience and His desire that people would repent and live.
There is another judgment coming. The story of Noah is a vivid reminder that, like it or not, there is another judgment coming: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37). Are you ready?
John 10:7 – Jesus says that He is the Door to the Sheep. He is not only the Good Shepherd, but He is also the Door, through which we can enter and be saved.
Will you enter through The Door?