What are some of the things that first come to mind when you think about Noah? An ark, of course; ditto on the animals; perhaps people mocking Noah for building an ark while living in a dessert. Those raised in Christian homes might immediately have the children’s song, Rise and Shine, come to mind as the authorized account of Noah and the ark [Sing first verse]:

“The Lord said to Noah, ‘There’s going to be a floody, floody.’

“The Lord said to Noah, ‘There’s going to be a floody, floody.

“‘Get those children out of the muddy muddy,

“‘Children of the Lord.’”[1]

The song goes on to tell how the animals came in by “twosies twosies”—complete with “elephants and kagaroosies roosies.” And how it “rained and rained for forty daysies daysies” that “nearly drove those animals crazy crazies.” Now far be it from me to pick on a song intended to teach our children this important story from the Bible in a happy and fun way but I’m constrained to do so for there is nothing, and I do mean nothing, that is happy and fun about this historic flood.[2] As often occurs, the popular understanding of this tragic event has captured little to nothing of what matters most in this account. For the story of Noah is a story about a flood, yes; and it is a story about God telling Noah to build an ark, yes; and in it God tells Noah to bring animals onto this ark, yes. However, what is most important in the story of Noah is why the LORD commanded Noah to build an ark in the first place. He did so because of the results of the Fall that had occurred when our first parents disobeyed God’s good commands and chose instead to follow the serpent’s evil enticements. Subsequently not only were death and evil introduced into God’s good, lush, living creation but by the tenth generation in the time of Noah evil seemed to be winning out. And but for Noah, the LORD would have wiped out the human race he had created. Yet because of Noah, God chose instead—not for the first time and definitely not for the last time—to deliver humanity from evil.

Two weeks ago[3] we noted how the line of the serpent and the line of the promised Messiah were followed by Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Seth, respectively. Whereas Cain’s line followed Satan’s murderous ways, the birth of Seth and his descendants kept alive the line of the promised Messiah. And, again, in the select genealogy provided in Genesis 5, Noah is the tenth generation from Adam.

Yet to fully appreciate Noah, it’s important to first note the multiplication of evil that had culminated during his lifetime. As stated in the opening of Genesis 6, “1 When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal’”—or “corrupt”— “‘their days will be a hundred and twenty years.’” Now in all likelihood the “sons of God” were human leaders rather than some kind of fallen angelic beings. Remember that in answering a question posed by the religious sect of the Sadducees concerning marriage in heaven, Jesus responded in part, “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”[4] If angels don’t marry, then it’s unlikely angels are being referred to here. Also in the passage read for us earlier from 2 Peter 2, verse 4 states that “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment.”[5] Again, if the angels were put in chains of darkness it’s unlikely that these “sons of God” are angelic beings.

I think a better interpretation is to understand the “sons of God” to be evil leaders or judges. The fact that they saw and married “daughters of humans” as “any of them chose” may mean that they “married” in the sense of forming harems for themselves.[6] The women would not have had a say in these “marriages.” That these “sons of God” were probably evil leaders is further indicated by the LORD stating that he will not contend with humans forever, i.e., he won’t continue to struggle against them. For since the time of the Fall humanity’s contentious nature would rather argue against and question God’s word, and work against his purposes, rather than submit to God, embrace his word, and work with his purposes.

As to the Nephilim mentioned in verse 4, since only Noah is singled out as being righteous whereas the rest of the human race is said to be wicked, the Nephilim—people of great size and strength[7]—were also probably wicked. In fact in the Hebrew the word “Nephilim” means “fallen ones.” Therefore, as one commentator suggests, “[t]hey were viewed by people as ‘the heroes of old, men of renown,’ but in God’s eyes they were sinners (‘fallen ones’) ripe for judgment.”[8] So the Nephilim, too, were part of the wicked line descending from the serpent and Cain.

Verse 5 goes on to note how considerably the line of the serpent had grown: “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” The deception—and hatred—and animosity towards God typified by the Satan, the Devil, that ancient serpent[9] had been successfully passed along the serpent’s line such that evil seemed to be winning out. No longer did people cry out to the LORD or proclaim his name as they had begun to do during the time of Seth.[10] No, evil had increased to such a degree that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” This is the natural outcome when God’s image-bearers deny their image and instead follow in their own ways and in those of the serpent. The end result will always be wicked thoughts as wicked hearts become more and more hardened, and wicked ears become more and more deaf, incapable of and disinterested in hearing—and listening—and turning to their Maker.

Now the LORD who knows all things wasn’t surprised by this rejection by his human creation but, as verse 6 states, he did regret “that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” God’s holy and pure nature is always troubled by evil; God’s holy and pure nature is such that he cannot abide evil. Therefore he set out a plan to do away with the evil that had multiplied and infiltrated into his good and glorious creation. “So the Lord said,” verse 7, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” As we’ve previously noted,[11] God had made his image-bearers to care for and be stewards over the earth in which he placed them. He made them to do so not in isolation from him but in concert with him and one another as together they cared for the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, and every living thing that lived upon the earth.[12] Therefore when humanity rejected its God-given task of rulership, the consequences extended not only to humans but also to the world of nature over which they were to reign. Because God made humans to be stewards to reign beneath and with him, the fate of animals is tied to our own. Yet in the LORD’s providence, one man found favor in his eyes. As stated in verse 8, that man was Noah.[13] As his father, Lamech, had said when Noah—whose name in the Hebrew sounds like the word for “comfort”—was born, “[he] will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.”[14] As we’ll see in the coming weeks, Lamech’s words end up being prescient for God did indeed bring comfort by way of his servant Noah.

By way of Noah we learn how the LORD delivered this favored one from the extraordinary evil that had spread across the earth. As stated beginning with verse 9, “This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.” As we saw Enoch,[15] Noah’s ancestor, walk faithfully with God and eventually be taken away by God,[16] so now we’re told that Noah similarly “walked faithfully with God.” Walking faithfully with God is what we were made for. Walking faithfully with God is the only path to righteousness. Walking faithfully with God is the only way we can be found blameless before him. For our gracious LORD is the only hope we have of living the holy lives he intended us to live—lives marked by depending upon him and seeking him and trusting him and loving him fully; lives marked by caring for others and doing for others and loving others; lives marked by caring for this earth and the creatures God has placed upon it. Yet at this time, only Noah, descended from the line of Adam and Seth, walked faithfully with his Maker and LORD. Therefore God delivered Noah and his family from evil.

As reiterated starting in verse 11, “11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.” Evil hearts lead to evil acts. As Cain’s heart became evil and he resorted to violence by killing his brother, Abel, now others in his line, the line of the serpent, similarly resorted to evil—they were “corrupt in God’s sight” and “full of violence.” By choosing to follow the way of the murderous serpent,[17] “all the people on earth”—Noah excepting—“had corrupted their ways.” Again, evil and violence are the inevitable outcome of turning away from the ways of our good—and holy—and righteous—and life-giving Maker and LORD. This continuous rejection of their God-intended purpose resulted in God saying to Noah, verse 13, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.”

Verse 17 states how this destruction would come about: “I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.” The way of the serpent, the way of antagonism towards and rejection of God, will always lead to violence and corruption. Therefore God determined to cleanse the good earth he had made of the evil filth with which his image-bearers had filled it by means of a massive flood. And in referring to how God saved Noah and his family from this flood, the Apostle Peter states “this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”[18] As Christian baptism represents God’s cleansing us of all sin and delivering us from evil by the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ, and the sanctification of the Holy Spirit he gives to indwell us[19] both individually and corporately, so would this flood cleanse and deliver God’s good earth from evil while preserving his servant, Noah.

And as the way of unrighteousness leads to death and destruction, the way of righteousness leads to life and preservation. As we see God telling righteous Noah in verse 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.” As noted earlier in this passage, Noah had “found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”[20] Of all those living on earth at the time, only he was found to be righteous and blameless; only he was walking “faithfully with God.”[21] Therefore God made a covenant with him. A covenant is an agreement or a contract. By way of this covenant God made a commitment and a promise to him—namely, that Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives would be saved from the flood.

Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives would be delivered from evil. By way of God’s deliverance Noah would carry on the line of Adam and Seth that would lead to Messiah’s coming; by way of God’s deliverance, Noah and his wife and sons and sons’ wives would be enabled to carry out the creation mandate, first given to their ancestors, Adam and Eve, to “be fruitful and increase in number; [to] fill the earth and subdue it; [to] rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”[22]

For God would not only preserve the human race by way of the ark but he would also preserve his creatures. Therefore God told Noah, as stated in verses 19–21, “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.” Interesting to note here is that God didn’t tell Noah to go and find these animals but rather Noah was to bring into the ark the pairing of creatures that would come to him to be kept alive. In other words, God’s sovereign hand took the lead in this monumental task by having the animals come to Noah so that he could bring them onto the ark he would build. Our ruling the earth is never to be done independently from God but always in concert with him. This is his earth and he ever reigns and rules over it. And we are to reign and rule over it only in dependence upon and with him. In response to the LORD’s leading, righteous Noah, verse 22, “did everything just as God commanded him.” Therefore, as we’ll see next week, God delivered him from evil.

And as we’ll see in working our way through the Old Testament, though God destroyed this initial profusion of evil, evil was not yet completely destroyed for the ancient serpent continued to wreak havoc on earth and human nature remained fallen and in need of a Savior. This is why the apostle Peter, writing thousands of years after the time of Noah, was still warning early Christians about false teachers who by their “destructive heresies,” as we heard read earlier, denied “the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.”[23] For make no mistake, God who is holy—and good—and just—and merciful will always destroy evil and he will always deliver those are his from that evil. As already noted, Peter went on to say,

4 …if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;” and

5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others;” and

6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;”

7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless;”

9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.”

Dear sisters and brothers, herein lies our hope. Even with but this initial glimpse we can begin to appreciate how the story of Noah isn’t intended to be seen as a happy tale about smiling animals being paired up and taken upon the ark in “twosies twosies.” No, the story of Noah is a historical account that also serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of seeking God’s ways above all else as we seek to follow the examples of Enoch and Noah and walk faithfully with God as we turn to him in our attempts to live the lives he intended us to live. Walking faithfully with God is what we were made for. Walking faithfully with God is the only path to righteousness. Walking faithfully with God is the only way we can be found blameless before him. For in the end each generation, as Joshua taught, is called to “fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness.” Each generation must choose this day whom it will serve. And ideally each generation will say, along with Joshua, “as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”[24] Dearly beloved, let us ever remember and proclaim the good news to all around us that those who choose to serve the LORD in faith and by God’s grace will be delivered from evil both in this life and in the one to come.

Let us pray.

[1] Lyrics found on https://genius.com/Traditional-rise-and-shine-the-arky-arky-song-lyrics.

[2] There are other ancient accounts of flood such as that found in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Atrahasis Epic in Mesopotamian literature.

[3] See sermon preached on February 9, 2020, Walking in the Image and Likeness of the LORD on Genesis 4:25–5:5, 21–32.

[4] Mark 12:25.

[5] See also Jude 6: And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

[6] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Genesis 6:2 suggests another possible interpretation, i.e., the “sons of God” were from Seth’s godly line and the “daughters of men” whom they were marrying were from Cain’s evil line. Yet if this were the case, it seems odd that they only found the women from Cain’s line to be beautiful, i.e., surely there were beautiful women they could have married from Seth’s line as well.

[7] See Numbers 13:31–33: 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

[8] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Genesis 6:4. Emphasis added.

[9] 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.

[10] Genesis 4:26b: At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.

[11] See sermon preached on January 12, 2020, Why Did God Create Us? on Genesis 1:26–2:25.

[12] Genesis 1:28.

[13] Genesis 6:8: But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

[14] Genesis 5:28–29: When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. 29 He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.”

[15] See sermon preached on February 9, 2020, Walking in the Image and Likeness of the LORD on Genesis 4:25–5:32.

[16] Genesis 5:22, 24: 22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters…. 24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

[17] (Jesus is speaking) 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!”

[18] 1 Peter 3:21–22.

[19] 2 Timothy 1:14: Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

[20] Genesis 6:8.

[21] Genesis 6:9.

[22] Genesis 1:28.

[23] 2 Peter 2:3.

[24] Joshua 24:14–15: 14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”