Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sermon: Genesis 6:9 - 7:24 Mr Noah Built an Ark

I’m sure that Thomas has a few children’s Bibles at home. They normally don’t cover every chapter and verse of the Bible, but instead choose to tell some of the stories found in the Bible. I’m also sure that nearly every one of those children’s Bibles will have the story of Noah. Isn’t it a great story for children? A great big boat, and loads of animals, going in two by two - a floating zoo! So you’ll get lots of colourful pictures and smiling animals of Noah and his ark.

We’re so used to this kind of image that it’s quite a shock to read the Bible’s account of Noah, and think through the details. The reality is less colourful cartoon, and closer to the desperate attempts made by people climbing into containers or trailers in the hope of a better life and a new start. But while those 39 who died on Tuesday morning, were in the trailer through peoples’ greed and wickedness; Noah and his family are in their box, their ark through God’s grace and goodness.

Now, perhaps as you hear about Noah and the ark, you’re thinking to yourself, well, that’s a nice story for a children’s story Bible, but surely it didn’t really happen? Is it more like a nursery rhyme, something that was just made up? Well, the Bible isn’t the only place that we find some kind of flood story. In just about every continent there are folk stories about a worldwide flood. So the cultural memory of what happened has been passed down in some way. And in our reading we hear that Jesus affirms that Noah existed and entered the ark.

So let’s look at Genesis 6 and 7 under three headings; three instructions given to Noah; to see what God is saying to us in these chapters.

The first instruction is this: Build The Ark. We’ve already sung about it this morning, but how did it come about? And why was it Mr Noah in the first place? When we start to read from verse 9, it sounds as if Noah is good, whereas everyone else is bad. You see, in verse 9, Noah is described as ‘a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.’ And the contrast is there in verse 12, and we think it’s saying that everybody else had corrupted their ways. Noah good, everyone bad?

But that’s not what the Bible is saying! You see, in a little while, if not already, Thomas will be learning how to count. And when he does that, he’ll learn that eight comes before nine. Now, that’s obvious, isn’t it? But we need to see here how verse 8 comes before verse 9. You see, in verse 8, it says this: ‘But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD.’ That word ‘favour’ is another word for ‘grace’. Noah found grace - or, to put it another way, God’s grace found Noah.

You see, it wasn’t that Noah was good and everyone else was bad. Noah was just as bad. But God showed him favour. God gave him grace, showered his love upon Noah - to make him righteous (that is, in a right relationship with God) and blameless. And God in his grace freely chose to save Noah from the coming judgement.

God had made the world, and everything in it, and throughout Genesis 1 we heard the repeated chorus: ‘God saw that it was good.’ And on day 6 of creation, ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’ (Gen 1:31). But since then sin has entered the world, as first Adam and Eve disobeyed, and then one of their sons killed his brother, and then the spiral of wickedness has continued to get worse and worse. So now, in chapter 6, what does God see when he looks on the world he has made? Look at verse 12: ‘God saw how corrupt the earth had become.’

And so God is going to send judgement, in the form of a flood. The people and the earth itself will be destroyed. Nothing will remain. Everyone is under the same sentence, but for Noah and his family there is the promise of rescue, in a place of safety. And it’s inside the ark that Noah is to build.

We see the dimensions of the ark there in verse 15: 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, 45 feet high. Made of cypress wood, covered inside and outside with pitch (tar), with rooms on three decks. And we’re given the passenger list - Noah and Mrs Noah, their three sons and their wives; as well as two of every living creature to be kept alive; and enough food for them all.

So Noah is told to build the ark, and verse 25 tells us that ‘Noah did everything just as God commanded him.’ We read that one sentence and move on, but just think what it took for Noah to do everything just as God commanded him. The number of trees to be cut down, and then cut up, and hammered together. The hard work to construct the ark, and cover it with pitch. And on top of all that, the ridicule from his neighbours. You can hear them laughing at him: ‘So, Noah, you’re miles from the sea, and you’re building a boat? You say there’s a flood coming? That it’s going to rain and rain and rain? Sure there isn’t even a cloud in the sky. And you say that God told you to do all this? You’re having a laugh!

It can’t have been easy. Peter describes him as a preacher of righteousness, persevering in his task even when the whole world laughed at him. And that’s what it can look like to trust God. Taking God at his word and acting on it - even when it looks like foolishness to everybody else. God told Noah to build the ark, and that’s what Noah did.

The second instruction is this: ‘Go into the ark.’ All the hard work has finished, and the ark is ready. And now God says that it’s time to go into the ark. In just seven days, the rain will start, and the flood will come. Now, how many of each animal went into the ark? Two by two? Yes, but there were seven (pairs) of each clean animal and two of each unclean animal. We’ll see why next week.

The ark is the place of safety, but they had to go inside it. It wouldn’t have been enough to know that you would be safe if you went into the ark, if you didn’t then go into it! To be on the outside of the ark is to be wiped from the face of the earth. But there is safety inside. And so even though Noah had pleaded with his neighbours, they wouldn’t join him. Only Noah and his family went into the ark. Just eight people were saved. Because only eight were inside the ark, the place of safety.

God had told Noah to build the ark, and then to go into the ark. The final instruction is implicit, rather than stated explicitly in the text, but it is this: stay in the ark!

When Noah and his family are inside, then the rain starts and the floodgates are opened. It rained for forty days and forty nights - in Ireland we call that summer. And as the rain falls, the ark is lifted high on the waters. Imagine being inside - the darkness, the smell, the not knowing what the future would hold, the not knowing if the ark you had made would be watertight and would float. But, as you may have heard, the Titanic was built by professionals whereas the ark was built by amateurs, and only one of them didn’t sink.

The flood covered the earth, so that every living thing that moved on the earth perished. God had fulfilled what he had promised in advance. Everything wiped out. Everything, except (v23) ‘Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.’ Having gone into the ark, Noah had to stay in it. No matter how difficult it was going to be, he had to persevere in obeying God’s voice, by staying in the ark, waiting for the future that God would provide.

The apostle Peter mentions Noah in the two letters he writes in the Bible. And in one of them, he uses the story of Noah as a picture of baptism - just as by faith Noah was brought safely through the water, so we are brought through the water by faith to be united to the Lord Jesus and find salvation in him.

You see, Jesus has promised that some day, he will return to judge everyone who has ever lived. And we, like the people of Noah’s day, are corrupted. We don’t even live up to our own standards, let alone God’s standards. And so we are guilty; we can’t stand before God.

But Jesus has taken upon himself the wrong things we have done. He has stood condemned in our place, and was drowned in the flood of God’s judgement, for us. He is our ark, the place of safety in the flood; the only refuge from God’s judgement.

Today, we celebrate that God’s grace is being offered to Thomas. And it’s our prayer that Thomas will grow up to rejoice in the unmerited favour of God. But just like Noah, it has to be received by faith - today, on the part of his sponsors, but some day, we pray, when he will trust in Jesus for himself.

But God’s grace isn’t just for Thomas. It’s offered to you today as well. There is room in God’s grace for you, a place in the lifeboat if you’ll come to him, and trust in him.

One day Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. And right up to that point, life will be going on as normal, eating and drinking and marrying - just as it was when Noah entered the ark. But don’t be too late - get ready for that day now today. Receive his grace today.

This sermon was preached in St Matthew's Church, Richhill on Sunday morning 27th October 2019.

No comments:

Post a Comment