Last week we looked at the key difference between Cain’s fruit and Abel’s offering. This week, we’re asking why the Lord commanded Man to be fruitful and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28) but later wiped all but one family from the face of the earth (Genesis 6:6ff). That can raise serious questions in anyone trying to be fruitful for God’s blessing: “Is God a hot head? How bad is too bad, and how good is good enough for God? What hope do we have to bear fruit that pleases the Lord?” And legitimate concerns deserve legitimate answers.
In one of his Christian comedy routines, Tim Hawkins rightly asks us to think about how we sometimes decorate the walls of babies’ bedrooms. Noah’s ark usually shows a variety of tightly packed but happy animals with Noah’s family smiling on smooth seas. They don’t show everyone else drowning in the downpour. Yet, the Lord did both.
Again, where does that leave us now?
But before we look at the problem of the flood and our hope in Christ, we need to be honest about what’s probably our deeper concern. It’s the same one that others expressed to Jesus in Luke 13:1-5. Some ask it this way, “why do bad things happen to good people?”
The Galileans had lost many of their own people in two different disasters. Pilate obviously orchestrated a man-made massacre, but they likely saw the fallen tower of Siloam as an act of God. Jesus’ audience was implicitly asking Him the common philosophical question about both tragedies: “How can an all-powerful and good God allow evil in the world?” That question is usually followed by the implicit or explicit statement “Either He is not all-powerful or He is not good.” That is an either-or fallacy.
Jesus’ answer probably took the Galileans completely by surprise. To paraphrase the Lord, He told them “Your question shouldn’t be ‘why did these things happen to them?’. You should be asking ‘why don’t these type of things happen to all of us every day?’ Everyone deserves God’s immediate and complete judgment. Do not seek His justice for you. Seek His mercy and grace.” That’s not what they (or we) really wanted to hear.
The flood we see in Genesis 6-8 is God’s rightful worldwide judgment. Why did the Lord initiate the complete and effective rescue of Noah and his family? That’s the real question. We don’t like to think that none of us deserve God’s salvation, but that’s what His Word consistently teaches (Genesis 6:5, Psalm 14 and 53, John 2:23-25, Romans 3:23, etc.).
But you may still have other legitimate questions about God choosing Noah to continue bearing fruit. At face value, we could think that the Lord selected Noah because he was a good man. After all, Genesis 6:9 does describe him as “righteous” and “blameless”. We need to read that in the larger context of all Scripture and the immediate context of the passage. One of the consistent themes of the entire Bible is that the “righteous” live by faith in God (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38, etc.), not by faith in themselves or their works. The immediate theme of Genesis 6 is the constant, worldwide corruption of human beings. Noah is comparatively blameless. But before I sound too much like a moralist, we can easily see the nature of Noah’s blamelessness and righteousness by his response to God. Noah acted by faith in Him (Hebrews 11:7).
Before we conclude, let’s note a few more things about Noah’s faithfulness to continue bearing the fruit of God’s image in the face of worldwide opposition to God.
First, notice that the Lord initiated salvation before Noah even new he would need rescuing. In Matthew 24:37ff and Luke 17:26ff, we see an allusion to the same hope of the Lord’s sudden intervening grace before His worldwide judgment. Second, not even Noah deserved the Lord’s salvation. When we read Deuteronomy 34:10-11, we see that no one was closer to the Lord than Moses. Yet dishonoring God one time in front of Israel kept him from Canaan (Numbers 20:2-13). God is holy alone. He declares us so by His grace. Third, Noah’s hope to continue bearing fruit is less about anything in Noah and more about God’s great patience (1 Peter 3:18-20). And fourth, the true account of Noah is an early foreshadowing of Jesus’ true return to save those who follow Him by faith and to judge the rest of the world (2 Peter 2:4-10 in context). One more note on that last point.
Genesis 1-11 is a blueprint of the gospel: our obligation to God simply because He’s our Creator, His calling to bear the fruit of His image (see earlier articles in this series), our call to rest and rejoice in Him as Savior for covering us by the death of another (Genesis 3:21), the two differing lines of faith in self (Genesis 4:17-24) versus faith in Him (4:25-26), the exponential growth of “rotten fruit” over time (Genesis 5), the Lord’s intervening grace to save the few who trust in Him and judge the rest (Genesis 6-9:17), the continuing message that not all of the physical children of the faithful are the spiritual children of God (Genesis 9:18-10:32), and the final straw of false peace when the world comes together to make a name for themselves instead of spreading out to make a name for God, by bearing His fruit (Genesis 11). This is God’s garden of seed and weeds (Matthew 13:24-30).
Genesis 6-9 reminds us of God’s judgement and salvation, in Noah’s time and in Jesus’ return.
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