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The Deluge

The Flood (The Life of Noah)

Part III

Series: Genesis: The Foundations of the Faith

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Sep 20, 1998

Genesis 7:1-24

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Genesis 7:1-24

The Deluge

If you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Genesis, chapter 7. We have recounted the story of primeval history recorded for us here in the first six chapters. We've seen the work of creation recorded in Chapter 1. We've seen God's special favor towards man highlighted in Genesis, chapter 2. We've seen the saddest moment in human history spoken of in Genesis 3, which shows that sin came into the world through one man, and thus death through sin. And in Genesis 4 we've seen a contrast between sin and grace in the human family. In Genesis 5 we've seen Moses recount the original creation, and then the effects of sin as he records the godly line from Seth all the way to Noah.

Now we've seen several things recurring in these passages. For instance, Genesis 1, among other things, reminds us that we live in an impersonal universe. A sovereign God made this universe, he spoke it into being, he controls this universe. We are not merely the victims of fate, we are not simply cogs in a great cosmic wheel that generated itself and is spinning off into oblivion. We are part of a personal universe. That's made clear in Genesis 1. In Genesis 2 it's made clear that man is made in the very image of God, and that he's in a covenant relationship with God. In Genesis 3 we have a picture of man in sin and there we see that this is a moral universe, and that God makes distinction between right and wrong, and man's rebellion is apparent there. That theme continues in Genesis 6 through 9 which stresses that this is a moral universe and God will bring judgment against sin.

Now as we begin our study of Genesis, chapter 6, especially in verses 1 through 8, we saw there a summarization of the culmination of sin in the Adamic world, in the world prior to the flood in the line of Adam all the way down to Noah. You remember that these verses, Genesis 6, verses 1 through 8, are still in the book of Adam which began in Genesis, chapter 5, verse 1. The book of Noah begins in Genesis chapter 6, verse 9, where we started our study last week, gives us a picture of God's judgment and grace on the last generation in the old Adamic world.

And so tonight we come to Genesis 7, verses 1 through 24 and the deluge itself. Let's hear God's holy and inspired word beginning in Genesis 7, verse 1:

Genesis 7:1-24

Our Lord and our God. we ask that You would teach us the truth of Your word. That we would not merely learn of the history of Your dealings with Your people, but that we would see this truth for our own hearts and lives in a perilous and wicked time. We ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen.

Three successive stages can be seen in the events leading up to the flood. The first begins with God's announcement of condemnation of the people who populated earth. We saw that in Genesis 6, verses 1 through 8. It is likely at that time that God called Noah to be a preacher of righteousness to his generation. That title "preacher of righteousness" is specifically assigned to Noah by Peter in II Peter, chapter 2, verse 5. The second stage prior to the flood begins with God's command to Noah to build the ark and gather these animals and provision for them. And the third and final stage begins seven days before the deluge itself when Noah and his family and the animals are called into the ark by God. In our passage tonight, we have arrived at that third and final stage. Judgment is now upon the world. That is made clear again, that when we see a judgment this comprehensive, with all those with breath in them on the face of the earth under judgment. Our minds naturally ask, "Is this fair?"

Genesis 6 and Genesis 7 provide you at least three arguments to make it absolutely clear that what God is doing here is just. First of all Genesis 6, verses 1 through 8, gives you a description of the kind of people that God was bringing judgment against. And it lets you know that this world deserved judgment. Second of all it is made clear from Genesis 6, verses 1 through 8 following that this world had ample time to repent. Not only had the line of Seth steadfastly witnessed to the truth of God throughout their generations, worshipping corporately as we are told in Genesis, chapter 4, in the very last verse of the chapter. But for at least 120 years God's word of judgment had been announced to the world, and yet the world had not turned from its sin. Finally, we are told that not only was this world wicked, and not only had the Lord given many, many hundreds of years of advance warning, but the Lord had given a very faithful preacher to this world. Noah, the preacher of righteousness, whose job was, among other things, to call this world to repentance. Through those three things, this passage makes it clear that what God does is entirely justified. It is entirely fair, it is entirely right, no matter how severe it may be.

Now this scene is very sketchy. We don't have a great deal of detail about what was going on in those days leading up to the flood itself. There have been many wonderful speculations about that. And I want to read a brief section from a very restrained one. If you've ever read Spurgeon on Genesis, Spurgeon will tell you that the best commentary on Genesis is Candlish's commentary on Genesis. He will say, "If you have no other commentary on Genesis, you need to have R.S. Candlish's commentary on Genesis." Now Candlish was a Scottish Presbyterian minister, I'm glad to say. And Spurgeon loved his commentary and listen to the words of Candlish describing this moment that we have arrived at here in Genesis, chapter 7: "Now his task is done. One brief week is yet to elapse, and then shall we say it is the eve before the Sabbath. The day has been spent in getting all into the ark, his wife, his sons, his daughters-in-law, and the whole crowd of living creatures following. Noah himself enters and the Lord shuts him in. Thus, the Sabbath begins. The last Sabbath of the old world. Within the ark there is sabbatic rest. The quiet assurance of faith chastened by solemn dread, an awful expectancy, without, on the earth there are mingled sentiments of wonder, contempt and bitter triumph. Sometimes a lurking fear. Again a feeling of glad relief. Men have got rid at last of the preacher of righteousness, and if we assume as is not improbable that during this very week, the aged Methuselah was taken from the evil to come. It might seem to be the very jubilee of unrestricted and unreproved lawlessness that had now arrived. True, it had been said. Yet seven days, and I will bring the flood. But how can this be? The heaven is serene. The earth is smiling. All nature is gay and joyous, it being as some reckoned, the first breaking forth of spring. Now is the season of mirth, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, and Noah, the gloomy sensor of the world's harmless joys, where is he now? In Muir in a bask dungeon, buried alive, self-immolated, as good as dead. And at any rate, he is well out of the way. What a contrast during that awful week. That mysterious pause while the elements are gathering their strength for the sudden crash." That is where we are tonight, in Genesis, chapter 7. I want to point your attention to two or three things in this great passage as we study it briefly tonight.

I. The Lord sees the righteousness of His people.

First of all, as you see the final countdown in verses 1 through 5. Here we are reminded again of a truth that echoes throughout this section of Genesis. The Lord sees the righteousness of His people. You remember that when we say the Lord sees that verb is as beautiful a word as the word the Lord remembers. For the Lord sees does not mean that he stands in detached objectivity and observes. But when the Lord sees, the Lord provides. Do you remember what Abraham says when the ram is caught in the thicket bush on Mt. Moriah and the sparing of Isaac, his son, the Lord sees. The Lord saw, the Lord provided exactly what Abraham needed - a substitute for his son. And so when Moses tells us here that the Lord sees Noah in his righteousness, we are reminded that the Lord cares about the righteousness of His people. And in this case, makes a distinction between His people and the world.

Now you’ll notice in our reading of the passage, over and over the instructions are given again and repeated again and again about who is to come into the ark and how they are to come into the ark and how they are to come into the ark. The repetition of these instructions is a didactic device. Derek Kidner says this: "The effect of amplifying the instructions of Genesis 6:18, only to retell them again a third time on their fulfillment, is to emphasize God's careful provision and the steady approach of the crisis. The reiterations are deliberate and highly effective."

Notice in the passage that God is the one who gives the command for Noah and the others to enter into the ark. And in verse 5 you will notice that Noah is shown to be an obedient servant throughout. The words are repeated, not for the last time. Noah did according to all that the Lord had commanded him. And we said again, that as Moses wrote those words, those same words would be written regarding the work of Moses in the building of the tabernacle: "And Moses did all that the Lord commanded him." And so those words are filled with tremendous meaning. They show that God's estimation of Noah's righteousness is correct. Notice that strict obedience here is connected with God's estimation of righteousness. And it is also important to look at verse 1 and note that because of the singular righteousness of Noah, his whole family is spared. "Enter the ark, you and all your household for you alone," you singular there, "I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time." Noah is righteous, his family enters. Listen again to the words of Derek Kidner, who says this: "If as few as eight souls are saved, seven of these owe it to a single one and this minority inherits the new earth."

Here in chapter 7, verses 1 through 5 clean and unclean animals are said to have been taken into the ark. That distinction is very important. Clean animals were necessary both for sacrifice and for the provision for the humans after the flood was over. And interestingly enough, this picture of seven days prior to the judgment, appears again in Daniel and in Revelation.

Isn't it interesting that the Lord will use that symbol of seven days. For instance in Daniel, chapter 9, verse 27. In fact, Daniel's words about the coming judgment may actually be reflecting or recollecting this first closing of the day of grace.

What is the message of Genesis, chapter 7, verses 1 through 5? The Lord sees the righteousness of His people. Righteousness does make a difference. The Lord sees it, and He cares. In this passage we are called to love righteousness as believers because the Lord loves it. A distinction is made between God's people here and all those outside of the ark who did not trust in the Lord. And the Lord brings appropriate judgment.

II. The Lord protects His people in the midst of the greatest of judgments.

Then in verses 6 through 16 we see this account of those who are saved in this ark of salvation. And we learn again a second lesson. That is the Lord protects His people in the midst of the greatest of judgments. Look at verses 6 through 9. The process of boarding is again described. And what we have in the repetition of these boarding instructions is a picture of complete order. All chaos is about to break loose, but there is complete order in the repetition of God's instructions and commands about Moses and his wife and his sons and their wives and the animals of the various kinds just like we have recorded in Genesis 1. The animals and their various kinds coming into the ark. What a contrast to the chaos which is going to characterize the world under judgment. God's order. The chaos of sin.

The precise date of verse 11 is something else that we ought to look at closely. In the 600th year of Noah's life, in the 2nd month, on the 17th day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the deep burst open and the flood gates of the sky were open. That date recorded there in verse 11, has all the marks of a fact well remembered. I can remember speaking with my father over time, and he can tell you exactly where he was when he heard the announcement that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the Japanese. Many of you can still remember where you were standing or sitting when John Kennedy was assassinated. There are certain events which are marked in the mind which never, ever are forgotten. You could tell that Noah never, ever forgot the day that the deluge came. It was the 600th year of his life. It was the 2nd month. It was the 17th day. Just like Isaiah's vision of the Lord lifted up in holiness was indelibly imprinted on his mind so that he could remember that it occurred in the year in which King Uzziah died. So Noah remembered the day that the catastrophe came.

The language of verse 11 is utterly cataclysmic. It is a picture of the reversal of the creation we saw in Genesis 1. In Genesis 1, do you remember how it is stressed that God separated the waters from above and from below. Here in Genesis, chapter 7, verse 11, now he brings together again the waters above and the waters below, and he brings destruction upon the whole of the earth as those waters join.

By the way, isn't it interesting here that we're explicitly told that Noah and his sons were monogamous. Noah has one wife, and each of his sons has one wife. The only polygamist that we have seen so far in Genesis is in the line of Cain. And it will not be until the story of Abraham that we first see a polygamist in the godly line. And so again we see a clear affirmation of the creation ordinance of one man, one woman as the ideal for marriage.

And then you see those words in verse 16. "Those that entered, male and female of all flesh entered as God had commanded him, and the Lord closed it behind him." The Lord closed the door behind him. God commanded - the Lord closed. I wonder if Moses meant to emphasize something by the switch in the names or titles of God used there. Moses knew the significance of the name, the Lord. We remember that from our study of Exodus, chapter 6, when the full meaning of that divine name began to be revealed. Moses reminds us that it is the Lord God who calls these eight into the ark. But he specifically stresses that it is the Lord, the one who is the God of His people, the one who is a God in covenant with His people who closes the door behind them. Perhaps Moses is indicating the fatherly care of the Lord of His people because he knows the full meaning of that divine name. The Lord protects His people. Out in the world, only death and destruction. Within the ark, carefully sealed in the Father's care, safety and protection.

III. God is not mocked: punishment will be visited on the wicked and the world cleaned.

And then we move our eyes to verses 17 through 24 where we see a picture of the judgment itself. And again we learn another message. God is not mocked. Punishment will be visited on the wicked and the world will be clean. Look at the succession of events. Noah enters the ark in his 600th year, the 2nd month, the 10th day. For seven days they wait and then the deluge comes. The rain begins to fall on his 600th year, the 2nd month, the 17th day, and it rains for 40 days and 40 nights. And then the rain ceases, and on the 600th year, the 3rd month, the 26th and 27th day at the end of that 40 days, we see the waters still rising, and they rise for 110 days we are told in this passage.

Now some people have come to this passage and suggested that this is merely a local flood being described here. That the language of all is simply symbolic, that it's being used in a symbolic way as it might be used in other figurative passages. But I want to give you several reasons why we ought to understand this as a universal flood. In fact, I'd like to give eight reasons why we ought to understand it as a universal flood.

First of all, notice in Genesis 7, verse 19 that we are told the depth of the flood. The flood waters covered all the mountains of the earth to a depth of twenty-three feet. Now even if he is only speaking of the local mountains, it would be very difficult for a local flood to cover the local mountains to a depth of twenty-three feet.

Notice also that we are told the duration of the flood. If you add up the numbers in Genesis 7 and 8, this flood lasted for three hundred seventy-one days. Now even if you remember the 1979 and the 1983 floods, you recognize that three hundred and seventy-one days is an awfully long time for a flood, especially a local one.

Thirdly, notice the geology of the flood. In Genesis 7, verse 11, the language that is used is the language of cataclysm, something primeval, cataclysmic and utterly unique is going on here. God is doing nothing less than reversing the work of creation.

Fourthly, contemplate for a few moments the size of the ark itself. With ninety-five thousand seven hundred square feet of deck space, isn't that a little much for a local flood? What about the need of the ark itself. If the flood were local, wouldn't migration be easier than spending a hundred and twenty years building an ark?

What about the testimony of Peter in II Peter, chapter 3, verses 3 through 7. There Peter relates creation, flood and judgment, and he views each of those three events as universal in scope. What about the purpose of the flood? We are told in Genesis, verses 5 through 7 and verses 11 through 13 that God's purpose was to bring universal judgment.

And finally, what about the words of the Lord Jesus who, in Luke, chapter 17, verses 26 through 30 connects the flood as a foretelling, a type, a picture of the universal judgment to come. For all those reasons, we have good reason to believe that this flood was universal. That is how it was presented here in Genesis, chapter 6 through 9.

Now as we close, I'd like you to turn with me to I Peter, chapter 3. Because according to Peter, this flood has tremendous significance for us as Christians. It is a type of the meaning of baptism. Notice what he says here in I Peter, chapter 3, beginning in verse 18: "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit in which He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons were brought safely through the water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you — not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him. Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God."

Notice what Peter does there. He says that the picture of the flood is the picture of what God does in judgment in order to cleanse sin. With the waters of the flood, He judges all the sin on the earth. And in the ark, he brings through Noah and his family for the purpose of establishing a new world, a new world in righteousness. And so Peter says as the flood was used to cleanse the world, so also your baptism symbolizes the cleansing from sin that you have received by the Lord Jesus Christ. And as you have been washed with the waters of baptism, so you have been recreated in Christ in order to live to righteousness in a new world in the kingdom of the living God. And so Peter's words are a call to us even though we live in a wicked world, God will not be mocked, and God has saved us and spared us through the judgment by the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ in order that we might be different. And that means loving righteousness and following righteousness all the days of our life. May the Lord help you to do so in a dark time. Let us pray.

Our Lord and our God we praise You for the truth of Your word. We ask that you would write it upon our hearts, for Christ's sake, Amen.

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