This is an edited and amended loose transcript of a sermon I recently preached. Hope it blesses you!
You know, this really is a striking passage. We’ve just seen God’s good creation descend from perfection to literal chaos in the space of six chapters. In fact, the situation is so dire, human beings are so sinful, that God floods the entire Earth in order to bring an end to the madness. Once again, all that exists is without form and void as God’s righteous judgment on sin engulfs the entire world. This is a pretty frightening story, right? If we believe the Lord when He says that “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth,” and this is what God does to sin, then we’re in some trouble, and not only us, but the entire world. The picture of man we see in the story of Noah and the Ark is a pretty bleak one, and the picture we see of God is a purely righteous one, for this God is one for whom there is no place for imperfection. Things aren’t looking good for the crown jewel of God’s creation up through the beginning of Chapter 8. But, thank God, that’s not where the story ends.
The flood eventually subsides, Noah sends out a few birds, and then gets off the Ark at God’s command. The interaction between God and Noah in the verses that follow are what are so surprising. On reading the story of Noah up to this point, we might at the very least expect a sort of crushing moral burden. We might expect God to say, “you’ve done well so far, which is nice. But slip a few times and you’ll be under that Ark instead of in it next time,” and we might expect Noah to say, trembling, “Yes sir.”
Of course, that’s not at all what we see. We see what appears by all accounts to be a joyful exchange. The first thing Noah does is build an altar to the Lord and sacrifice to Him on it. God responds not by saying, “Good ‘nuff to keep you safe for now,” but that He will never curse the ground again! In fact, God tells Noah that in the midst of the chaos of the fallen creation, God will continue to supply order, and He will continue to graciously uphold that which He has made. He says that, “while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Even in a disordered creation marred by sin and its effects, God continues to rule over His creation.
Bound up in God’s promise to Noah, too, is that in the midst of great transgression, God continues to bless His people. He blesses Noah in Chapter 9, Verse 1, and says to him and His sons, “Be fruitful and multiply.” And then later on, He says to Noah, in verse 16, that He will remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God tells us that this covenant is everlasting. Even Noah and his sons, who will sin their own great sins down the road, cannot outrun God’s everlasting love for His people, and we see this love clearly shown to us on the cross, as Romans 5:8 tells us when we read that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Finally, and this is important, we see that in God’s covenant with Noah, even in the midst of man’s violence and injustice, God proves His own justice. God’s justice appears to us in a harrowing way in this flood, as He judges sin with the judgment it deserves. But God’s relationship with His own justice is not merely punitive. For His own people, His justice restores them to fellowship with God. It is God, from the very beginning, who brings Noah safely through the flood and in His gracious provision supplies him with a sacrifice, and it is God who, ultimately, will send Christ to die on the Cross to suffer for our sins. The Triune God takes all of our sin, the sin we know of and the sin we don’t, the sin we confess and the sin we don’t, and pays for it Himself. The debt you and I incur, Christ pays for it in the economy of God’s justice.
These three points are definitely important. In God’s covenant with Noah, we see God’s love for us in His consistency and authority over creation, His love for us in blessing us, and His love for us in meeting the demands of justice on our behalf. Those are all biblical things, and things for which we should thank and worship God. All that said, what’s really important for us to draw out from those points is this: You matter, I matter, every individual matters. Christ came and died for us so we could go to heaven, absolutely. Cheers and amen, and what wonderful and amazing news and hope that is. But He didn’t just do that for some generic “you,” or “me," but rather, if you’re joined to Christ by faith, He had your name in His mind when He climbed up on that Cross. The Flood, and Noah’s covenant with God, both point to Christ in all the ways we mentioned earlier, because the whole Bible points to Christ, and to what He did for you and for me. Christ sees us, He calls us by name through the power of the Holy Spirit, and He whispers to us in His Word that everything He did, He did so He could bring us back to Himself for His own glory. Amen.