Between May 14 and May 16 of 2006, fourteen inches of rain fell in our region in what has come to be known as the Mothers’ Day Flood. As a result of those few days of rain, the water flow levels in the Ipswich River went up 27% higher than in any previous flood. Many here this morning may remember the damage done to buildings and cars and property as bridges were overrun by fast-moving water. At its peak, four out of five Ipswich River bridges were closed. Several wouldn’t reopen for months and, in one case, years.[1] If this was the outcome of a few days of rain, imagine the destruction that would result from a forty-day period during which the rains never cease. This is what happened when God’s judgment fell upon the unrighteous, violent, and corrupt people living in the days of Noah.

But as we noted last week, Noah proved to be the one exception to the earth’s wickedness. For “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.”[2] Therefore God spared him and his family by providing Noah instructions to build an ark in order to save him from the flood that was to come. Now interestingly, in Genesis 6 Scripture provides only a few general descriptions concerning the ark Noah was to build: It was to be about 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high containing a roof with an opening of about 18 inches all around. Additionally, the ark was to have a door on the side along with lower, middle, and upper decks.[3] And what is surprisingly missing from the Scriptural account is any indication of how others reacted to Noah’s building such an ark. Thinking about this is irresistible—even our beautiful special music piece[4] this morning attempted to re-create what some of the reactions of others may have been. I confess that having heard such descriptions, which I assumed to be true in sermons I heard about Noah, I still remember my incredulity the first time I read through Genesis on my own. I looked in vain for where it told about people mocking Noah, making fun of him for this fool’s errand of building an ark in the desert. Neither did I find any descriptions of people begging Noah to please let them in as the waters began to rise. None of this is stated in Scripture.

In general, given the magnitude of what took place at the time of the flood, we’re provided surprisingly few details about the events leading up to it:

For starters, we’re not told how long it took Noah to build the ark—although some have speculated, based upon Genesis 6:3, that it took Noah 120 years to build for we read there that upon seeing humanity’s wickedness, “…the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.’” This has been interpreted to mean either that given human wickedness, the years humans lived would be shortened or that given human wickedness, God would wipe out humanity in 120 years. Under the latter reading, it would mean that Noah, who lived a total of 950 years,[5] took 120 years to build the ark;

But additionally, we’re not told where precisely Noah lived;

We’re not told if he had any help building the ark;

We’re not told how he did so or what tools he used;

We’re not told where he found the wood;

And, again, we’re certainly not told how those living during this time reacted either while Noah was building the ark or after he had built it and had brought his family and animals on board. The closest we find is what Jesus said in verses 38–39 of Matthew 24 read for us earlier: “38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.” In other words, all we’re told is that the wicked people living in Noah’s time took no notice. Therefore they were caught completely unawares when God’s judgment came upon them by way of the unrelenting rains that eventually fell upon all creation.

Now as we also noted last week, because God made his image-bearers to rule with him and be stewards over the earth, the fate of the animal creation is tied to humanity’s. Therefore, the creatures living under the wicked people who neglected God’s mandate to care for them would perish with them. But God would spare some of the creatures by means of Noah’s righteous obedience and stewardship. As we saw stated in Genesis 6:18 and following last week, when God promised Noah that he would establish his covenant, his agreement, with him, he had him bring onto the ark not only his sons and wife and sons’ wives but also two of every creature and enough food to feed both people and animals.[6] As chapter 7 opens Noah has now completed building the ark and “The LORD then said to Noah,”

Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2 Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate,”—the extra animals would be used as sacrifices[7]—“and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. 4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.

Again, and as we noted last week, this task of gathering the animals wasn’t one that Noah had to do alone but rather in the LORD’s providence and by his guidance, God told him that “Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.”[8] As the LORD God had brought to Adam, Noah’s ancestor, all the wild animals and birds in the sky to see what he would name them,[9] so now the animals would come to Noah in order that he might bring them onto the ark to be kept alive.[10]

And important to note in all of this is what Scripture says concerning Noah. When Noah was initially told by God to build an ark, we read at the close of Genesis 6 that “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”[11] Noah, through whom God would preserve Adam and Seth’s line to the promised Messiah, believed God. Though he had never seen rain in such epic proportions, he did as God commanded. He built an ark for which there seemed to be no pressing need. Next, having built the ark, verse 5 of chapter 7 once again declares, “And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.”[12] For Noah again demonstrated his belief in God in the way in which he obeyed God by bringing his family and the animals onto the ark. This is what faith looks like in practice:

Though no rain had yet begun to fall on earth, Noah built an ark because he believed God;

Though no rain had yet begun to fall on earth, Noah nonetheless brought upon it his family and the animals that came to him.

Noah, against the evidence of his eyes, believed that God would do just as he had promised. This isn’t only what faith looks like in practice but is also what human righteousness looks like in practice. For the only thing needed for us humans to be declared righteous by God is that we believe him and demonstrate that belief by doing as he tells us in his Word. We see this as well with Abraham of whom Scripture declares that he believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.[13]

Verse 6 of Genesis 7 notes that “Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth.” The verses that follow reiterate how Noah and his family entered the ark “to escape the waters of the flood,” verse 7, noting how, in verses 8–9, “8 [p]airs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, 9 male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah.”[14] Then, seven days after all were secure on the ark, verse 10, “the floodwaters came on the earth.” Verse 11 underscores the specific day in Noah’s life when “all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.” Notice that the waters didn’t merely come from above but also from below, from “the springs of the great deep” that “burst forth.” Verse 12 again confirms the fulfillment of what the LORD had stated would occur for “…rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.” Verse 16 states, “the Lord shut him in,” highlighting yet again God’s providence in delivering Noah from evil as he shut him into the ark in order to protect him and all who were with him from the deadly waters that would prevail.

The remaining verses in the chapter provide a brief description of the calamity of this divine deluge:

Beginning with verses 17–18, we see that the ark Noah had built was a worthy vessel. “17 For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. 18 The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water.”

Verses 19–20 briefly describe how high the water rose: “19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits.”—or about 23 feet;

Finally, verses 21–23 describe the devastating effects of God’s judgment upon human wickedness. As the LORD had warned Adam in the Garden that death would certainly come should he disobey and eat of the forbidden fruit, by the time of Noah, human corruption and violence had grown to such an extent that death certainly did come to all but Noah and those who were with him for “21 Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth.” There’s a poignancy here in indicating that everything that “had the breath of life in its nostrils died” in verse 23. For when God first made Adam he formed him “from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”[15] So, too, we’re told that when God created Adam and Eve in his image and gave them the creation mandate, he went on to tell them, “‘And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so.”[16] Whereas human and animal life had once been given goodness and the breath of life from its Creator, now the enormity of human wickedness resulted in that very same Creator removing the breath of life from its nostrils.

But, again, the one exception to this devastating judgment upon evil is noted at the end of verse 23: “Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.” Only Noah and those with him in the ark were delivered from the destruction of evil, from the waters that came upon the earth for forty days and nights whose result is recorded in verse 24: “The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.” For five months the waters from this epic deluge remained upon the earth.

What we learn from Noah, and what Scripture confirms time and time again, is that humanity’s hope in being delivered from evil is to be found in fulfilling the call given to all of God’s image-bearers to be righteous. Now though a call to be “righteous” may seem intimidating, the fact of the matter is that everyone is called to be righteous. Again, scripturally understood, to be righteous is to be not only a hearer of God’s Word, but a doer of that Word. As James, the brother of our LORD Jesus, wrote thousands of years after the time of Noah, the only way to “get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent” is by humbly accepting God’s word, not merely listening to it and thereby deceiving ourselves, but by doing what it says.[17] Noah was righteous not in and of himself but because he believed God and evidenced that belief by doing all that the LORD commanded him. First, he built an ark in a desert; Then he populated that ark, seven days before the rains came, with his family and the animals that came to him to be saved. Noah did these things because his LORD and Maker had told him to. That was all Noah needed. As God told him to do, so he did. And for doing so, for believing God, he was declared righteous.

Now as we heard read for us earlier, Jesus used the account of Noah to address a particular question posed to him by his disciples: “…[W]hat will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”[18] He responded by warning them of events to watch for. And though not part of our reading this morning, in verses 12–14 in Matthew 24 notice that part of what he said was, “12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” This description of the increase in wickedness presents a stark parallel to what occurred in Noah’s day. Next, after reminding his disciples that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away,”[19] Jesus responded to their question saying, “36 But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” And then, as we noted earlier, he provided the analogy of the flood: “37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”[20] In other words, as those living in Noah’s day didn’t bother looking to their Maker and therefore grew more and more evil—and corrupt—and violent until the day the floodgates from heaven broke forth, so, too, those living on earth will grow in wickedness, ignoring their Maker, until the day Jesus returns. They will similarly be caught completely unawares. For no one, believer or non, knows when Christ will return. It can happen at any moment. This is why Jesus warns, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”[21] When Christ returns, those  living on earth will have no more opportunity to turn to God than did those living in Noah’s day. Those who choose to live without God now won’t be given a chance to turn to our LORD Jesus Christ on the day he returns. As the doors of the ark were closed, so will the doors of Christ’s kingdom be closed as he cleanses his good earth from the evil humans have done, wiping away, once and for all, all hatred—and crime—and injustice—and lying—and stealing—and illness—and evil—and murder—and death; wiping away and destroying, once and for all, that ancient serpent, Satan, the Devil, [22] the father of lies,[23] and all who have chosen to live according to his evil and harmful ways rather than in the good and merciful ways of our loving and heavenly Father.

This is why it’s so important that we turn to Christ now, while there is still time. For the awesome news of the Gospel is that Jesus will always respond to those who seek him; Jesus will always respond to those who heed his call to be righteous as he is; Jesus will always respond to those who heed his call to believe in God, that is, to believe in him. As God shut the door of the ark in the days of Noah, one day he will shut the door to his heavenly kingdom. Therefore now is the time we must turn to Christ Jesus. For now is when our LORD Jesus has promised to open the door to anyone who knocks. As he taught his disciples, “7Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”[24] And even those in the materially wealthy but spiritually vacant lukewarm church of Laodicea, mentioned in the book of Revelation, were called by Jesus to repent for they were, in his words, “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” He therefore sought to refine them by his fire[25] as he said to them, “19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”[26]

Dear brothers and sisters, now is the time when Christ Jesus, the only gate to the Father, is open for Jesus is the only way of salvation. He alone is able to provide life, and that in the fullest.[27] This is what we celebrate this morning and every morning—that God in Christ and by his Holy Spirit has given us ears to hear his call to be righteous; that God in Christ and by his Holy Spirit has given us faith to believe that he is God. As Paul in his letter to the church in Rome taught about Abraham, “20 …he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God,”—i.e., to make him a father of many nations despite his being a hundred years old—”but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’”[28] But then notice what Paul goes on to say: “23 The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”[29] Did you catch that? What we need to do to be righteous is to believe God who raised Jesus from the dead. For Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. He was raised to life in order that we might be declared righteous in the sight of God. To be righteous is to believe that if we repent and give God in Christ our sins, we will receive the cleansing waters of his Holy Spirit and be received into his eternal Kingdom as we enter the gates of heaven into the loving arms of our heavenly Father.

Let us then, as Jesus taught, be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when we don’t expect him;

and let us then as did Enoch and Noah and Abraham and all of God’s saints before us, own our call to be righteous by walking faithfully with God;

let us, like Noah, do our level best to help one another do according to all that God commands in his Word;

and let us live as those who believe God are called to live, loving him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and each other as ourselves. [30]

Let us pray.

[1] All of this according to: https://historicipswich.org/2015/05/14/2006-mothers_day_flood/

[2] Genesis 6:9.

[3] Genesis 6:14–16: 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress[The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain.] wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.[ That is, about 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high or about 135 meters long, 23 meters wide and 14 meters high] 16 Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit[That is, about 18 inches or about 45 centimeters] high all around.[The meaning of the Hebrew for this clause is uncertain.] Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.

[4] Oh, Didn’t It Rain. Africa American spiritual arranged by Harry T. Burleigh: “Forty days forty nights when the rain kept a-fall-in’, The wicked climbed the tree, an’ for help kept a-call-in’, For they heard the waters wailin’ Didn’t it rain, rain, didn’t it rain Tell me Noah, didn’t it rain Some clim’d the mountain, Some clim’d the hill, Some started sailin’ an’ a-row-in’ with a will; Some tried swimmin’ an’ I guess they’re swimmin’ still, For they heard the waters roarin’ Didn’t it rain, rain, didn’t it rain, Tell me Noah, didn’t it rain Didn’t it rain.

[5] Genesis 9:28: Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.

[6] Genesis 6:18–21: 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

[7] See Genesis 8:20: Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.

[8] Genesis 6:20. Emphasis added.

[9] Genesis 2:19: “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” After the flood God also gave him the animals for food. See Genesis 9:3: Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

[10] This is stated again in Genesis 7:15: Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark.

[11] Genesis 6:22.

[12] Genesis 7:5.

[13] Romans 4:9b, 18, 22–25: 9…We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness…. 18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.; Galatians 3:6: So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”; James 2:23: And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.; Genesis 15:5–6: 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

[14] This is reiterated in verses 13–16: 13 On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. 14 They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. 15 Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. 16 The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord shut him in.

[15] Genesis 2:7: Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

[16] Genesis 1:30.

[17] James 1:21–22: 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

[18] Matthew 24:3. See similar passage in Luke 17:20–37.

[19] Matthew 24:35.

[20] See parallel in Luke 17:26–27, 30: 26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all…. 30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”

[21] Matthew 24:44.

[22] Revelation 12:9: The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.; Revelation 20:2: He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

[23] John 8:44–45: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!”

[24] Matthew 7:7–8.

[25] Revelation 3:14–18: 14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

[26] Revelation 3:19–20.

[27] John 10:7–10: “7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” See also John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

[28] Romans 4:20–21. Paul is referring to Genesis 15:5–6: 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

[29] Romans 4:23–25.

[30] Matthew 22:34–40:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” and Leviticus 19:18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”