The book of Genesis shows so much of God’s character – the way He thinks, the way He feels, and the way He makes His perfect plans. Genesis 6-9 tells the story of the great flood, Noah’s ark, and the everlasting covenant God makes with man and with all living things after this. Reading these passages again, I felt a sense of awe at the depth of God’s sorrow, the power of His judgement, and yet the magnitude of His grace. What moved God to destroy the earth with a flood? What made Noah stand out amidst that generation? What was the significance of God’s promise in the rainbow? At the center of the whole story, I see a God of unrelenting love, a God who never changes, a God who is perfectly just, and a God who redeems us with an everlasting promise.
God’s Response to Earth’s Corruption
When God made Adam and Eve, He gave them purpose and identity. They were made in the image of God. God blessed them, and God said to them:
“Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – [Genesis 1:27-28]
Adam and Eve sinned, and sin’s consequences came into the world, but it could not reverse God’s word. Man was still made in God’s image, and man was still ordained to be fruitful, multiply, and rule over the earth. However, man was also made with free will and Genesis 6 shows us how God felt as He watched sin corrupt man’s intended glory.
“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.” – [Genesis 6:5-7]
“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.” – [Genesis 6:11-12]
There are many records of cities and nations being destroyed for their sins later on in the Bible – Sodom and Gomorrah, Babylon for example. However, the flood was unique in that this event wiped out every living thing on the earth except for Noah, his family, and two of every animal. Just how evil was the earth in that day? Genesis 6 tells us about the “Nephilim”, giants who were the result of heavenly beings (the “sons of God”) taking human wives (the “daughters of men”). These beings walked the earth in Noah’s day, and after the flood, they were no more. Instead, the earth was repopulated from the line of Noah, described as a righteous man in his generation, and a descendant of Seth, Adam’s third son.
God’s reaction to the evil on the earth comes with emotion, justice and a plan for redemption.
- EMOTION in that God is grieved. This is the Creator God who made the earth in expression of His glory, who made man in His own image, who created all things and saw that it was good. Other translations record that the situation of sin on the earth “broke God’s heart”, and “deeply troubled” it. Did God change His mind about creation because of this? The Hebrew word “nacham” is translated as God “being sorry” that He created man on the earth. This verb actually has a few uses and in this passage, it comes from the Hebrew root that speaks about “consoling oneself” rather than changing one’s mind. Moreover, we know that God’s plan has been the same from the beginning, that He never changes, and that despite sin’s appearance in the world, God remains faithful to man and loves us. The Bible is full of the descriptions of God’s zealous, unrelenting love for man. He made us to experience the fullness of life, and it grieves Him to watch sin distract us from this. As Numbers 23:19 says:
“God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”
- JUSTICE in that God destroyed the wickedness on earth with a flood. There are consequences for sin. In fact, the consequence of sin is death – this is highlighted in Leviticus and plainly stated in Romans 6:23. God is just and He is good. We do not always understand why things happen on earth, but we can know that God’s word is true, and that He remains just and good. After the flood, God highlights the value of man’s life and shows us His justice. He says,
“Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.” [Genesis 9:5-6]
Man was made in the image of God and violence is not a part of what God intended on the earth.
- REDEMPTION in that God restored man to their original, God given purpose. After the flood, God blesses Noah and his sons, and reaffirms the purpose He gave to man from the beginning:
“…Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand.” [Genesis 9:1-3]
Nothing can come against God’s perfect plan for mankind. Genesis 10 lists the descendants of Noah and tell us that “These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood.” [Genesis 10:32] The flood was not the last time God stepped in to remind man of their true purpose. God has had to remind us continually of who He is, who we are, and what His plan for the earth is. He reminded us at the tower of Babel and with the Ten Commandments. All the way through history God reminds us: “I am God, there is no other”, “You are made in My image”, “You are made to be with me for eternity”.
There is coming a day when Jesus returns. Jesus, the Son of God, died on the cross and completely paid the price for sin so that whoever believes in Him would be saved. As Romans 6:23 puts it – this is the free gift of God, grace and eternal life in Christ Jesus.
The whole story of the flood and Noah’s Ark foreshadows that will happen when Jesus returns. Luke 17:26-27 says:
“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”
No-one knows when the day of the Lord will come. However, we know it is coming and we have been given instruction to keep watch. Just as there was unprecedented destruction of evil in Noah’s day, Jesus will return to destroy everything that opposes His love, and His kingdom. In that day, we will again see God’s emotion, justice and redemption clearly.
- EMOTION in His zealous love for man, and anger against the fullness of sin in the world.
“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
- JUSTICE by His word and His truth.
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war… Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of the Almighty God.” [Revelation 19:11, 15]
- REDEMPTION in the New Jerusalem, where God’s dwelling place will forever be with man. At this time, we will see the perfect fulfillment of God’s command that man should fill the earth and rule it as sons and daughters of God. We will be co-heirs and rulers with Christ.
“And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” [Revelation 22:3-5]
“Ark on the Flood” (No.3 in “Genesis to Revelation: A Musical Journey”)