Since the time of Adam and Eve’s rebellion the earth had steadily gotten worse. Some 1600 years had passed from the time of Adam to Noah. During that time sin increased not only in number but in intensity. In Genesis 6:5 we are told these incredibly sober words about mankind: “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” A more grievous statement about the condition of unregenerate man cannot be found in Scripture. It is the bitter fruit of original sin. What could be worse than being in a condition where everything within you is inclined toward evil continually?
And yet the people of Noah’s day are completely unbothered by their disobedience. Their conscience is seared. Everything is going just fine as far as they’re concerned. They are working and partying and marrying. Nothing about their sin and rebellion against God bothers them in the slightest. What is more, the furthest thing from their minds is judgment.
In the past God gave the world men like Enoch to show that there is a better way to live. God demonstrated through Enoch that there was a way to have eternal life. But God goes even further in Noah’s time by giving the world an additional 120 years to repent during which Noah diligently works at building the ark and preaching the righteousness of God. In 1 Peter 3 the apostle calls this the patience of God.
In Genesis six we are told that the whole situation of man’s sin grieved the heart of God. This is not the insecure grief of man. It is the righteous and justified grief of a holy God. He is not dispassionate. He is not aloof and detached from the condition of those He created. The increasing degradation of mankind cried out for divine judgment. Only a morally ambiguous universe would leave such depravity unanswered.
The reality that drives God’s judgment in Genesis seven is His purity. He is radically free of sin. He is 100% pure. He is undiluted holiness. He is unadulterated righteousness. Not only is it not wrong for God to judge this way but it is good and right for God to judge this way. And so in verse four God announces His intentions to Noah: “For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”
The rain fell and the ground waters burst forth for 40 days and forty nights. For 150 days the earth would be covered with water. Every land and air animal except for what was on the ark died. Every man woman and child on earth except for Noah’s family died. This bothers many people which is appropriate. We ought to be grieved by the death of the wicked.
What is not acceptable, however, is to move from grief to disbelief or accusation. For some the solution to dealing with Divine judgment is simply to dismiss the biblical teachings of God’s wrath as relics of primitive thinking. This is certainly common in our own day. Far more people believe in heaven than hell. Some of the most influential “evangelicals” today deny the biblical teachings on judgment and hell. How foolish for frail, finite, and sinful men to sit at a distance and critique the ways of God.
Noah built and preached for 120 years and no one listened. No one except Noah’s family believed. No one believed themselves to be sinners. No one believed that judgment was coming. This is our culture, our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, even some within our church family.
In chapter seven we are that God shuts the door on the unrepentant. “And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the Lord shut him in.” (v. 16). This is an interesting detail. In the Gilgamesh epic (the most well known of the Mesopotamian flood myths) the hero is depicted as closing the door himself. What a seemingly small detail upon which the two accounts should differ. But the Bible does not waste our time with meaningless details. The inspired writer wants us to know that it was the Lord Himself who shut the door to the ark.
If it had been left up to Noah, that door may not have shut. He may have kept the door open too long not because he is more kind than God but because as a sinner he was less pure than God. We identify with the wicked. Noah had far more in common with the wicked facing judgment than he did with his holy God. Could you have closed the door? Would you have waited until the drowning began? Again, this is not because our kindness exceeds that of God. It surely does not. It was left for God to shut the door because His purity so exceeds ours.
Our hearts are divided. As Calvin said, our hearts are veritable idol factories. We are like what Paul describes in Romans 1. We end up worshiping what is created rather than the Creator.
In chapter eight we are told that the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (Turkey). The people groups of that region worship Mount Ararat as a god. It is tragic irony that the people living in the shadow of one of the great reminders on the planet of God’s justice and purity worship what is created rather than the Creator. What does this say about the human heart?
Who will be able to accuse God of injustice when He once and for all judges? The purity of God ought to draw out of us a love for purity; a love for holiness. Jesus pronounces blessing upon those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. In both Old and New Testaments God calls us to “be holy for I am holy.” Just as in Noah’s day the world needs to see something of the purity of God. For some it will be a means toward their repentance and salvation. For others it will be further evidence against them as they stand before God’s bar of justice.