Great Moments in Bible History
Things had gotten out of hand
Time to Clean It Up
It is hard for us to imagine God being sorry about anything. After all, He is God. He can do anything He wants. Nobody can tell Him what to do. If He decides to do something, nobody is able to stop Him. But the Bible tells us that God really was sorry. “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” (Genesis 6:5-6)
In the first issue of this paper we saw that God took a big risk by creating humans. They were the only creatures He made on earth that had the ability to choose good or evil, to say, “I love you” to God or to say, “Leave me alone, God. I want to live life my way.” By Noah’s day there may have been millions of people on earth. Nearly all of them, unfortunately, just wanted God to stay out of their lives. God’s creation looked very much like a giant failure.
I said earlier that if God decides to do something, nobody is able to stop Him. God had a plan in mind for this earth. Although it certainly looked like His plan would never work out, God was still God. In spite of millions of people all telling God to stay out of their lives, God was still determined to bring about His plan, not theirs. “So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ ” (Genesis 6:7) Yes, God will accomplish His goal, but He will do it without all those people who were behaving so badly.
But just when it looked the bleakest for this earth, a ray of light shone out. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8) Among those millions of people all telling God to leave them alone was one man who was different. Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9). And with that one man God would yet accomplish His plan for this earth.
The first step in moving God’s plan forward was to clean up the earth. “And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 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 6:12-13) As the story continues we learn that God was going to bring a huge flood on the earth and drown everyone except Noah and his family. All the violence and corruption would get washed away leaving only righteous Noah and his family to begin a better race of people on earth.
The First Covenant
Human society could not exist without trust. None of us could survive in this world without the services of many others, and oftentimes we must trust someone else to do what they said they were going to do. It is a great thing when it works. Unfortunately, humans have a tendency not always to keep their word. When two people need to make promises to each other that are so serious that it is critically important that each person keeps their promise, they can make a covenant. A covenant is the most serious promise that humans can make.
The most common covenant in today’s world is the marriage covenant. In marriage a man and a woman make a solemn promise to stay with each other through thick and thin. No matter what happens, each one can depend on the other to keep their promise. Unfortunately, in twenty-first century America it seems like it is almost easier to find examples of people breaking that solemn promise than it is to find people keeping it. Nevertheless, there are people today who are showing themselves faithful in very difficult situations. It is a beautiful thing.
God, of course, has no need to make a covenant. If He says He is going to do something, He will do it. He never lies. He never breaks His promise. So it is somewhat of a surprise to us to learn that, in fact, He does make covenants. In fact, it became a major part of his dealings with us humans.
The first covenant mentioned in the Bible was made just after God told Noah about the coming flood. “For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” (Genesis 6:17-18) In this covenant God made a solemn promise not to let Noah and his family drown in the flood. He only made that covenant with Noah. As a result, Noah’s family were the only ones who survived the flood.
In later years it became common practice for people to sacrifice an animal and then eat a meal together when they made a covenant with each other. That would certainly increase the solemnity of the promises made in that covenant.
The last covenant in the Bible was made by Jesus. He used the sacrifice-and-eat-a-meal method to make the greatest of all covenants. At what we call the Last Supper, we read, “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ ” (Matthew 26:27-28) There has never been a more expensive covenant than the one that Jesus established with us by shedding His own blood.
Who Is The Main Character?
The story of Noah and the flood occupies chapters 6 through 8 of Genesis. In those three chapters there is a lot of dialog. Nineteen verses consist of what someone said. The strange thing, though, is that God is the only one who does any talking. We have not a single word from Noah in the entire story.
Plenty of people have talked in the book before this story. Noah, in fact, will talk in one of the stories after the flood. I have to believe that the fact that we do not have any speeches of Noah in the flood story is because of a deliberate plan of Moses (the author of Genesis).
The story of Noah and the flood is so well known that it has become part of popular culture. A cartoonist can draw a picture of a boat with animals sticking their heads out of the windows and everyone knows immediately what the cartoon is about. So who is the main character in that story? Everyone knows it is Noah. He is the one who built that huge boat. He is the one who brought all those animals into it. He was the captain during their long stay in it.
It appears, though, that Moses would disagree with us. He did not make Noah the chief character of the story. God is the main character. Every speech is by God. Every decision made in the story is by God. God told Noah how to build the ark. He told him when it was time to get into the ark. The flood came at God’s command. After they had been floating on the water for five months we read, “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.” (Genesis 8:1) After they had been in the ark for over a year, God finally said, “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.” (Genesis 8:16)
This is not to take away from what Noah did in the story. He had a great deal to do. But everything he did was at the command of God. God did not need Noah. Noah needed God.
And that, I believe, is the lesson Moses wants us to take away from this story. It is far too easy for us to get so caught up in the excitement of what we humans are doing that we forget that God is the one in control. God is the one making the decisions and controlling everything. He does not need us. We need Him.