Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lessons from the Flood - Genesis 6-9

Questioning the “Flood Story”

I remember a Biology teacher that I had back in high school.  I loved his class and delighted in learning about the amazing living things we share our planet with.  One day in class, one way or another, it came up in the conversation that he was a Christian and he was talking about his belief in the Bible.  However, he made sure to point out that in spite of his belief of the Bible as the Word of God he did not believe in the account of the Great Flood because it was just “too unbelievable”.

Let’s briefly examine a few common objections that unbelievers bring to the debate about whether or not the Great Flood actually occurred:

Where would all the water come from?
Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, earning it the nickname “Blue Planet”.  The majority of that water is saltwater, with the rest consisting of freshwater.  And most of Earth’s freshwater is found in snow, glaciers and ice caps, including the those found in the polar regions.  It’s interesting that many of the same people who decry the Bible and, subsequently, the Flood account easily forget that one of the major environmental concerns of our time is the melting of the polar ice caps and rising sea levels due to the rising of Earth’s temperatures!  The preacher of the church I studied with while in college believed that Earth was as populated as it is today (His reasoning: “Why would there be a need to flood the entire planet if it wasn't fully populated?”).  There certainly seems to be enough water in one state or another that would make this possible!  The Biblical account mentions, in addition to rainfall, the "...fountains of the great deep were broken up..." (Genesis 7:11).  While this may have been considered beyond comprehension at one time, current scientific discoveries lend some support to this mysterious phenomenon mentioned in Genesis.

How would one man collect all of the known species on the entire planet?
This was probably my Biology teacher’s gripe with the Flood account.  The biodiversity of our planet is staggering: There are millions of species on planet Earth today and new species are being discovered every other day it seems.  This does not take into account the number of subspecies that additionally exist.  For example, just think of the different types of frogs around the world adapted to the most diverse of ecosystems.  People who question the Flood account point out just how difficult it would be to gather all of these creatures and put them on a boat.  Honestly, I’m not sure how Noah went about doing this and we can only speculate.  Perhaps God intended for him to collect the major species (or "kinds" as Genesis mentions) of the planet, not counting the various subspecies?  Is it possible that the species that Noah collected for the Ark adapted to their present ecosystems following the Flood?  While some Christians may debate the plausibility of Darwin's theory of Evolution, there is no denying micro-evolution which is proposed to lead to the various species and subspecies we encounter.  Is it possible that the various subspecies we see today descended from the Flood survivors?

It’s just too unbelievable!
This is the one that gets me...  It's understandable to hear this from scoffing nonbelievers, but I'd like to shift focus to believers for this particular point. I've actually heard people claiming to have faith (like my Biology teacher) say this!  The thing I can’t believe is the audacity of these “believers” to pick and choose verses that they will accept and those that they won’t.  To me, it just goes to show weak faith and poor respect for God’s Word on their part.  You think that he Flood is too difficult to believe?  So you’re saying that you believe the accounts that detail God’s ability to resurrect the dead are true (the very basis of Christian faith), but the Flood account is false?  These accounts are written in the same, divinely-inspired book!  The Bible is full of "unbelievable", miraculous things, but one of the fundamentals of our faith is that we have an all-powerful God!  If God created the world, the forces that govern it, and the creatures that inhabit it, surely He is powerful enough to make the bring about the Flood!  Certainly, with an all-powerful God, nothing is impossible if it is in His will!

Yup...  Among other things.  What of it?

Possible Evidence from other Sources - Despite the many people that would seek to discredit Flood account, it’s interesting to note that numerous ancient cultures around the world (Native American, African, Asian, European) have their own “Flood myth” that are somewhat similar to the account in the Bible.  Is it possible that this account had been handed down through generations since the time of flood as humanity repopulated the planet and broke off into their own cultures?

In the end, it all comes down to faith.  Obviously non-believers will always doubt the intangible.  Whether it is an event that occurred long, long ago or an all powerful God, all we have to rely on is our faith... And we shouldn't be ashamed of that!

Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

But rather than debate and discuss the validity of the Flood story (After all, as Christians, we ought to believe the entire Word of God), let us examine a few lessons that the Flood account from Genesis can teach us about the nature of God, the importance of obedience, and a few other points.

God’s Attitude toward Sin  - Genesis 6:1-7

Our study of the Flood account brings us to the 6th chapter of Genesis.  One of the first things we can learn from this account is God’s attitude toward sin.  Genesis 6:5-7 states, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 

Even the Earth itself seems to have been affected by the iniquity of man.

Genesis 6:11-12 - The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

Due to the sinfulness of man, God decided to wipe the Earth clean through a great flood.

God gives Grace (To those who walk with Him) - Genesis 6:8-9

Despite the wickedness of all of mankind, Genesis 6:8 tell us that “...Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”  

Genesis 6:9 gives great credit to Noah, stating that “...Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.”

Today, just like in the time of Noah, we should know that it is possible to live righteously in an unrighteous world!  Today, just like in the time of Noah, God gives grace to those who walk with Him!

God spoke to Noah

Throughout the Flood account, we see that “God spoke to Noah.”  This phrase (God spoke to Noah or said to Noah) is repeated numerous times through the account of the Flood.

Through His Word, God speaks to us even today.

Are we listening as Noah did?

Noah’s (Obedient, Working) Faith - Genesis 6:13-22

God gave Noah a list a very specific instructions concerning the construction of the Ark and the gathering of the creatures that would be taken onto the Ark.  

Despite the specific and tedious commands that God imparts...

- Never once do we see Noah questioning God (Wouldn't cedar be just as good as gopher-wood?)

- Never once do we see Noah adding to what God commanded (What about adding another window?)

- Never once do we see Noah taking away from what God commanded (Do I have to take the snakes aboard?  I hate snakes!)

Genesis 6:22 simply states - Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.

A major theme in the book of Hebrews is the concept of faith without works being a dead faith.  God is pleased by an obedient, working faith.  In Hebrews 11:6-7, we are told that we should strive to be as faithful as Noah -  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Noah could have easily ignored God’s warning, but when he was warned, he moved with godly fear.  Just imagine how different the account of the Flood would have turned out if Noah had not taken action!

However, it would appear that Noah took God seriously and was completely obedient in following God’s instructions.  Do we have the same attitude?

God is True to His Word - Genesis 7

God pledged to destroy every living thing back in Genesis 6.  Sure enough, by the end of Genesis 7, God has done what He said He would do.

There are many who claim to be believers today who choose not to believe in the existence of Hell, arguing that a loving God would not condemn anyone for eternity. However, Hell is declared as a harsh reality throughout the Bible.

2 Peter 3:1-7 - Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

Just as God said He would bring about the Flood, He will also bring about judgment to all.

As scary as that may be, God offers us a means of escape, just as He did for Noah.

God Saves the Faithful Genesis 8

Once again:  God promises that Judgment is coming!

Matthew 24:37-39  But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

We must realize that God is not slack concerning His promise.  Just as the Flood was promised to cleanse the Earth, Jesus will return and we will be judged someday.

2 Peter 3:8-9 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

God offers us salvation from our sins through His grace.  Just like Noah, He commands us to take action!

1 Peter 3:20-21 ...In the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

God has a plan for our salvation.  Baptism is likened to the waters of the Flood, only now water serves as a means of our salvation.  Instead of building an Ark to be saved from the condemning waters of the Flood, God offers the cleansing, saving water of baptism and repentance.

Do you desire the salvation God offers?

Are you willing to obey as Noah did?

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