Knowing the Important Stuff about Noah

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Noahs-Ark-Logo

Yesterday we began our sermon by watching the trailer for Noah which is coming out in a few months (Russell Crowe is Noah...how much cooler does it get?!!!). You can see it here. We then spent our time in the sermon focusing on the stuff that is most important in that story so that when everyone is talking about the movie, we can be prepared to know what we want to say to people. What a wonderful opportunity! Instead of getting all upset that Hollywood may not stick 100% to the text (did they say they were trying to do this?) and instead of getting all caught up in the minor details (although those are fun to talk about!) we want to make sure people know the Gospel message that underlies the story. So I said we can boil down Genesis 6-9 to three things: 

  1. The passion of God
  2. The plea of man
  3. The promise of God

Below are the questions I received during and following the message: 

@Marvman73 How bad do you think things have to get, for God to come back and level the playing field again? #hcpreach

Marvelous question! Thankfully, we know God will never again "level the playing field" as He did in Genesis 6-9. God promises to never send a flood again! One of the verses in our reading plan says this, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). Why has God not put a stop to all the evilness and depravity we see around us (and even within ourselves)? Because God is compassionate and patient with us! God is giving humanity ample time to come to Him. This is a wonderful and yet difficult truth. It shows us God's delay is a result of God's extreme love for us. But it also means we have to deal with evil in the meantime. But then again, that is what Christianity is all about anyways - being a light in the darkness. Lord, give us strength to be thankful for your loving-patience...

From the Congregation: 

Can you explain again "man's plea"? 

Yes, especially since this is one of the central points of the story. As we saw in service, many children's books make it seem that Noah was saved from the flood BECAUSE Noah was a good man. But that is not correct, nor is that a harmless misreading of the text. If this was true, this could lead to the belief that our goodness can somehow earn for us safety or comfort or blessings, etc. But Scripture says the opposite! No one does good, not even one! Instead, when we look at Scripture we see it says first and foremost that God found favor with Noah (Gen. 6:8). This is another way of saying, "God was graceful to Noah." And that statement is the central one we need to focus on in the story. Noah didn't deserve to be saved any more than anyone else did. Instead, God was graceful and He offered grace to humanity since God didn't want all of us to be destroyed. This means man's plea is not man's good works. Man's plea is first and foremost, God's grace. 

I get that we are saved by grace. Praise God. But don't you feel there are things we have to "do" - obedience to good works?

Thank you, to whoever asked this! The answer to the above question begs us to answer this one! If grace is the primary plea of man, then what role does obedience have in our lives as Christians? Here we need to realize that we are not talking about opposites. We are talking about a continuum. As I mentioned in the sermon, what we find in the story of Noah, and also throughout all of scripture, is that obedience never comes before grace. Instead, obedience is always the result of grace. It's important that we see what comes first, and what follows from that. The only reason we can do anything worth anything is because God was gracious to us. He saved us "while we were still sinners." That is grace through-and-through. But the Christian life never stops there. As one of my favorite writers has said, "the great challenge of the Christian life is to find a God who we've already found" (A.W. Tozer).

When we experience God's grace we find we are changed by it. Like a grateful child who finally understands how much their parent loves them, the least that child can do is listen to what her parents have to say. This is exactly what we see happens to Noah. Once Noah receives grace, this then gives him the capacity to take God at His word, to trust God, and later we are told "Noah did everything just as God had commanded him" (Gen. 6:22) It is because of this whole process that Noah is declared as a righteous man. The error is in thinking that Noah was "righteous" b/c Noah was good. In Noah we see God's grace and we see Noah responding properly to it. That is righteousness in action, in real-life! Of course we find out very quickly this doesn't mean Noah was a perfect person, or even an always sober person (Gen. 9:20), which brings us back to being thankful that God gives us grace in the moments we don't deserve it. That's what grace is in the first place! Man's plea is not our own works. It is always God's grace. And obedience is the proper response to that grace. In a way, grace and works should always go together. They are always connected yet they are not the same thing. When we think of God's grace, we should always think about the sort of transformation it leads to, which is, obedience. 

Were the commandments known prior to being written down? Why did Noah get drunk?


The commandments of YAHWEH God were unknown prior to God making them known. However, Scripture doesn't pretend to give us an entire history of the world. Scripture just gives us the highlights. So although we don't see Israelite law being codified until later, this doesn't mean they didn't already have it in some form. One example of this: The concept of the necessity of sacrificing to God was known by Cain and Abel before the sacrificial law was codified. God must have communicated to them or given them an understanding of particular laws beforehand (and we aren't told in Scripture how or when this happened). Perhaps God made all the necessities known by way of other communications, and then later in history, when the time was right, He gave us the 10 commandments, etc. That would seem to be what is happening in Scripture as I see it. 

Why did Noah get drunk? Because Noah is a sinful man like all of us and he made a mistake, like so many of us! As a man of Adam, Noah is mortal and must continue to struggle with the curses of Genesis 3. Once we realize Noah was just like us, this helps us to realize him getting drunk isn't all that surprising. Notice, Genesis doesn't give an explanation or an excuse for this behavior. The real question is - why does God continue to give him (and us) grace?!!!!

See Gen 9:25 - Why did Noah curse Canaan instead of Ham? What happened to Ham? 

This is such a strange passage for us to read especially as it comes right after God's wonderful promises to Noah and right after we see the rainbow as God's sign of covenant love. It's like we are entering back into the real world...and it isn't pretty. Unfortunately, it isn't 100% clear to us exactly what is going on... The Bible says that when Noah became drunk, he lay uncovered in his tent (this was a shameful state of being).  Ham, who was the father of Canaan, saw this and told his brothers Shem and Japheth who then covered their fathers' naked body. No mention is made of Canaan's particular sin, but apparently he did something which, when Noah awoke, got Noah upset and Noah then cursed Canaan. But why? Unfortunately what would have been obvious to the original readers is not obvious to us and we are left kinda guessing. Without getting too technical, it appears that some of the nuances of the Hebrew in this passage speak to some possible sexual boundaries being crossed so it may be for our benefit that Scripture doesn't make explicit what exactly is going on. What is implied in the text is Canaan did something to Noah that he wasn't supposed to do. And that is really all we know. 

But let's not stop there...we should also realize how this story helps us to have the bigger picture of Genesis 1-11 and even the whole Pentateuch in mind. This narrative is, while completely true, also at the same time functioning to help the Israelites to understand why things are the way they are - it actually helps the Israelites to understand why everyone at that time (when Moses was writing this) was not getting along. In many ways this passage is functioning as an explanation of current political realities. From the broader context we can figure out that Shem probably represents the Semites and likely anticipates Israel. Japheth is impossible to identify, though as an ally of Israel against Canaan, he is often thought to be a representative of the later Philistines. But the passage is more concerned with Ham (the third son of Noah) and his son, Canaan. In this passage we see Shem-Japheth (Israel?) is blessed and Canaan is cursed. Similar to how Eve had been betrayed previously, Ham is also betrayed by his eyes. Eve saw that the fruit was desirable, and Ham saw his father's nakedness. Moreover, both Eve and Ham seek to entice others to join them in the offensive act. Adam failed, but Ham's brothers resist. The curse that Canaan then receives is one which concerns fertility of the family and fertility of the ground.

Actually, this curse is not in the same category as prophecy from God. This was not a message from God, and it does not necessarily reflect God's will nor is God obliged to fulfill this curse. But it would have been taken very seriously. This is a curse from an angry father. According to the curse, Canaan will still be fruitful and multiply, but his descendants will be slaves. So the reason why the curse on Canaan is preserved for us here in Genesis is obvious to us when we place this text in its greater context. This is where we come to find out the "why" of all the animosity between the Canaanites and the Israelites. This is where the Canaanites got off on the wrong foot, thus, it helps the Israelites to understand why (especially during the time of Joshua) Canaan ended up being one of their primary political rivals. 

Where did Cain's wife come from? And who were the people Cain was afraid of? 

Great question! This is easy: We don't know! :) Let's not forget the Bible isn't acting as a complete history of the world and all of humanity. Instead, the Bible is a history of what we need to know about how God found a way to redeem His people. When it speaks of Cain getting married it helps us to realize that other people were also living on the earth and also, since Cain was afraid of them, we know Cain knew of them. We don't know how many were there, how long they had been there, or anything else really. We are left to make our best guesses. I'd love to know what you think?!!! 

Since God knows the future why did he regret creating man? 

Unfortunately the Hebrew word that is used there (nhm) has no equivalent in English. It is tricky to translate. In the NIV alone there are ten different English words that are used to translate that same Hebrew word as they appear in different contexts in Scripture. This reminds us that words, as parts of language, are complex and mean different things in different contexts. It seems clear to me as I look at the context of the passage that God is saddened and grieved by the evilness and wickedness of the world. That is the main "feeling" behind the word and behind the passage in general. But that doesn't exhaust the full meaning of that word, "regret."

That word, "regret" most literally in the Hebrew can be best understood in accounting terms. In bookkeeping,  the ledgers must always be kept in balance. If it gets out of balance, something has to be adjusted. God "regretting" that he made humankind is another way of saying in the English, "God began to act so that personal, national, and cosmic 'ledgers' would be balanced." We see this same thing at other points in Scripture where God sets a course of punishment which is then counterbalanced by an act of grace which revokes that same punishment (Jer. 26:13; Jonah 3:9-10). In this passage, God is disturbed by the result of inbalance caused by wickedness. The people refuse to balance their ledgers with repentance (like we also see in Jeremiah 8:6). Because God is Just and Holy, He cannot allow evil to forever stand on the books. God always balances evil with either grace and mercy (Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2) or punishment (Jeremiah 18:10). "God regretted" = God is finding a solution to the problem. God is bringing balance and order into the chaos. God at that time had to create a system of checks and balances as part of the equilibruim that he is maintaining in the world (thus the rainbow and the promises at the end of the story). Here God is auditing the human accounts. God sees the human account is unbalanced - and God then finds a way to fix the problem. He does this both through just punishments and through unmerited grace. You will find that Christianity is the only religion where mercy is given through justice. In every other religion, mercy is enacted at the expense of justice. But in Christianity, mercy is offered through justice. Yahweh God is the only God who is both fully Holy and fully Loving all at the same time. 

 

 

 

3 Comments

Thanks Kaeley, I'm glad you liked it. Wendy, those are great points...too often we forget how our disobedience makes God feel. But God loves us with an everlasting love, how could He not be sad when we harm ourselves? The following is the quiz I gave you all on Sunday. I made the claim that all of these common assumptions are false (you won't find it in the text):

1. People ridiculed Noah for building the ark
2. Noah traveled around collecting animals and preaching to people
3. Noah could have brought others onto the ark or would have tried to do so
4. There had been no rain prior to the flood
5. It took 120 years to build the ark

Wow! learned a lot. Thanks, Pastor Mike!

Can you please send me the 5 questions you asked at the beginning of the sermon.
I was really enlightened concerning the sermon.......we always think about how we are doing in our Christian walk and our accountability but do we ever stop to think how we have hurt God and grieved Him in our disobedience.. We don't stop to think how God feels. We seem to think that judgment is coming our way or that we are going to suffer consequences. We don't think of God's feelings at all.
I think we only think about how ( I), we ourselves can please God and not think at all that maybe God is hurt. I hope you can get the jest of what I was thinking and saying. In others words, I was just thinking.

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