God's Saving Grace
American Journal of Biblical Theology, www.biblicaltheology.com
There are probably few ancient stories as well-known as the account of the world-wide flood and the ark built by Noah that carried his family and a host of animals through the disaster. An ABC poll revealed an amazing 60% of Americans believe this event took place. Such confidence in a literal world-wide flood is defensible, not only in the recorded narrative of Genesis 6-8, but a flood narrative is included in the ancient history of virtually every well-established people-group across the globe. In most of these a god communicates to a person that the flood is coming, and commands the building of a large boat. Also, most of these ancient narratives connect the flood with a judgement by their god or gods upon the people for their wickedness.
It is curious that virtually all of these world-wide narratives date back to a period long before the writing of the book of Genesis. There is no realistic means by which the entire set of world-wide communities would share the same basic story unless the event was truly world-wide. Also, the consistency of those narratives with the Biblical account further defends the voracity of that account.
With the ancient flood event so widely and universally believed, there has been much speculation as to what global physical event could cause such a flood, theories ranging from a meteor impact in the Indian Ocean to the collapse of what to that point in time was a thick cloud layer that covered the entire globe wherein the atmosphere contained considerably more moisture than it did after the collapse. The few biblical descriptions of the climate prior and after the event support this latter view.
Among the ancient flood narratives, the biblical account includes the historical context and meaning behind the flood event. God created man with a few attributes that separate him from all other creatures on the earth. God granted to man an eternal spirit that has the capacity to know Him and have a relationship with Him. Furthermore, God gave to mankind the attribute of moral agency: the knowledge of good and evil. The combination of this spiritual nature and the ability to choose, allows mankind to choose to have a relationship with God, or to reject God and live lives apart from His purposes and blessings.
The earlier narrative of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden explores the natural bent for rebellion against God that is a part of our nature. God has promised an eternal relationship with Him for those who place their faith and trust in Him. However, most people reject that offer.
Genesis 6:5. And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
The narrative of Adam and Eve describe their sin, and their lack of remorse or regret, and their failure to seek forgiveness from God. This is a pattern that defined most of human culture prior to the flood. The first recorded person who had faith in God was Adam’s son, Abel. However, his other son, Cain, despised God and hated his brother for his faith, and murdered him. Again, this event that takes place in the “first generation” of man serves as a metaphor for human culture that persecutes and kills that which is good and godly.
Genesis 6:6-7. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
God created man to have a relationship with Him, but given the choice, and without something or someone to guide them away from destruction, mankind always chooses sinfulness. The state of human culture from the time of Adam to the time of Noah is simply evidence of man’s choice of rebellion. This was a time when there was not a significant presence of people of faith to lead and teach the people in righteousness. They had no collective history of sin’s consequence to draw from. Consequently, though God would have preferred that His creation would turn to Himself in faith, the world could not. Mankind needed to understand the consequences of sin.
The biblical narrative states that the sinfulness of mankind and their universal rejection of His Lordship grieved His heart. Of course, an omniscient God is not surprised by the character of man, but rather God intimately knows and understands the nature of the people whom He has created. However, like a parent that grieves the necessity of harsh discipline for child who is deep into rebellion, God grieves the necessity of disciplining His creation.
The rendering of the Hebrew word that is translated as “repented,” yinnahem, appears in only two other passages in the Pentateuch. The rendering “repented” may be unfortunate, considering that the word for “repent” which means to turn around and go in a different direction, is used in three biblical passages that indicate that God does not repent. This seeming contradiction simply informs us that there is something interesting going on in the text.
The word that is used simply reinforces the “grief” that God felt “in His heart,” an anthropomorphism that helps us to understand how God can feel pain when He must act in judgment upon His creation.
Genesis 6:7. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
When we first encounter this concept of the destruction of life across the planet, our response is probably one of disbelief. We would consider world-wide death to be the worst possible event that could ever take place. However, we might consider how the event appears in the context of God’s creation and purpose. All life dies. Every person and animal that would die in the judgment of God would die within a few years anyway. God is simply creating an event that brings all to the end of their lives at the same time, and by so doing will make a pronouncement to the world to come that will be clearly heard.Genesis 6:8. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
God’s purpose of salvation has never changed. The promise that God made to mankind is simple: He will be faithful to bring to Himself those who place their faith and trust in Him. When God looked across the human population, He did find a man of faith: Noah. From what we learn of Noah we find that his faith in God was unshakable. Because of that faith, Noah found “grace in the eyes” of the LORD. Using another anthropomorphism, the idea is simple: Though Noah did not deserve to have God intervene on his behalf due to his imperfect nature, God granted grace to Noah because of his sincere faith. God’s offer to bring the faithful to Himself is an act of grace, an act of favor that none of us deserve, for we all fall short of the model of godly perfection that He would require.
Genesis 6:9-10. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. 10And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Noah is described as “walking” with God. This description characterizes his life. The idea is that Noah maintained a relationship with the LORD throughout his life, and that relationship positively informed all of his choices. Making godly choices, Noah is described as “a just man.” Where walking with God describes Noah’s relationship with the LORD, his description as a man who is just describes his relationship with others. He was different from others in his culture, a difference that was informed by his faith. Noah was a man of integrity, one who could be trusted. He treated others graciously and dispensed justice in a godly manner. The phrase “perfect in his generation” is an allusion to the simple fact that he maintained this character throughout his entire life, and impressed his faith upon all who would be in a relationship with him, including his sons. The word rendered perfect refers to a level of completion. The integrity of Noah’s faith was evident throughout his life.
Genesis 6:11-13. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. 13And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
Having already noted the corruption that characterized the people of the earth, the narrative also notes its violence. Starting with Cain’s murder of Abel, the spirit of violence characterized man. When the boundaries of godly behavior are removed from a culture, hatred and violence always erupts. One needs only to look at the state of people groups in the world today to note the violence that characterizes those who lack true faith in the God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Noah’s relationship with God is further revealed by the simple statement that God communicated to Noah His plan to end the violence and corruption. Noah’s faith in God included continual prayer. God could communicate to Noah. Noah could hear the voice of God as the Creator of the Universe could “talk” to Noah just as He does with the faithful today through prayer and through that “still-small voice” that speaks through their hearts.
It is evident that Noah is quite aware of the ungodliness of the culture in which he finds himself immersed, and though the concept of the upcoming destruction would be shocking to hear, we will find that Noah understood God’s purpose.
Genesis 6:14-16. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. 15And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. 16A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.
Given the technology of their time (or the lack thereof), the building of such a floating wooden box would have been a formidable task. With an overall dimension of 450 ft (150 m) in length, 75 ft (25 m) in width, and 45 feet (15 m) in height, it would dwarf any wooden boat made until attempts to recreate it have taken place in the current generation. There would have been no knowledge of how to build such a structure that could float, much less hold together, given the stresses of waves. It is rarely stated that the building of such a craft so long before the technology was developed to do so is one of the greatest miracles recorded in the Old Testament.Genesis 6:17-18. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. 18But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.
In this passage the LORD reveals the contrast of His purposes for those who live lives of wickedness and those who live lives that are characterized by humility and faith in God. Those who have rebelled against God, who desire to keep the LORD out of their lives will get their wish, as they will be destroyed, separated from Himself. However, God established a covenant with Noah as a response to his faith. This would be a covenant of salvation that would begin with the command to enter the safety of the ark. Furthermore, Noah’s family would be included as, we have already noted, his was a family of faith in God, a remarkable tribute to Noah’s faith. The legacy of Noah’s faith would survive the flood and serve as the seed of faith for many generations to come.
Genesis 6:19-21. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. 20Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. 21And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.
The gathering, housing, and feeding of animals, two-by-two, is one of the remarkable tasks that Noah would perform when the ark was made ready. Again, just as the building of such a structure was a miraculous task, so was the gathering of animal pairs. It was not possible for Noah to go out and gather together such a vast array of life. Consequently, the animals came to Noah where he could guide them to their places on the ark.
This task also involved the gathering, preparation, and storage of food. Noah (and his family) would be required to gather together enough food to last for a little more than a year, the period of time between the start of the flood and the final exodus from the ark. Consequently, the types of food that Noah prepared would be non-perishable. Certainly, Noah become the greatest zookeeper in the history of mankind.
Note that the LORD gave to Noah a relatively complete set of instructions, included His intent, what would take place, and the purpose behind what would take place.
Genesis 6:22. Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.
Arguably, the most amazing part of this introduction to the event of great flood is Noah’s response to this revelation from God. There is no indication that Noah raised any significant doubts about what the LORD had told him. Certainly he was a first-hand witness of the violence and wickedness that characterized the world around him. Noah understood the nature of the LORD and would have easily accepted the LORD’s declaration of judgment against the wicked. Still, as faithful as Noah seems, he must have been shocked and overwhelmed at the reality of God’s plan and purpose. It does not appear that Noah waited, but instead began immediately on his task. Tradition holds that it took Noah about 75 years to build the ark, though this speculation is based only on the reference that Noah was 500 years old when he is introduced to the narrative and presumably fathered his three sons, and 600 years old when he entered the ark. The first twenty five of those 100 years would have required the maturation of his sons since they entered the ark with their wives.
One can only wonder when considering the life of Noah in those years. 2 Peter 2:5 refers to Noah as a “preacher of righteousness.” He would have been scorned and ridiculed during the years of building the huge boat on dry land, yet his faithfulness and his desire to tell others of God’s grace endured. Since he and his family entered the ark alone, it is reasonable that he was not successful in convincing a single person to come to the LORD in faith. This also serves to illustrate the depth of depravity that the world had fallen into.
Genesis 7:1. And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
Again, the LORD ties together His graceful act of salvation with Noah’s faith. This is an argument that is consistent across the entire biblical narrative, that God works to bring salvation to those who place their faith and trust in Him, and he works to separate from Himself those who live lives of wickedness and rebellion against Him.
Furthermore, God revealed to Noah that He is aware that Noah, who is leading his family in righteousness, is immersed in a wicked world. Noah’s faith stands out from all the others in “this generation.” When one lives a life of faith, the LORD notices. There is little or no reward on this earth for living a life of faith when immersed in a community of unrighteous wickedness. Wicked people will scorn, ridicule, persecute, and even kill people who will not compromise their faith in God. This is one reason why it is so important for people of faith to come together in this fallen world so that they can support and encourage one another. Noah was able to complete his tasks without the support of any people of faith, other than his own family. One can imagine that the years of building the ark in such difficult circumstances brought tremendous stress on Noah’s family. We find the same stressors today when families of faith come under attack by the critics of righteousness. Like Noah, those who suffer most are typically the pastors and preachers who, with their families, often find themselves abused by the wickedness and arrogance of the people around them, including those who profess to be faithful Christians.
Finally, as the LORD recognizes the righteousness of Noah, is he alone in this status. Will the LORD be raining death down upon any righteous people? The traditional, and seemingly logical answer is that there are no righteous people left, and the LORD is saving what is left of His remnant of faithful from the impending doom. Noah was not the only man on earth who was faithful to God when he first received the command from the LORD to build an ark. There were several others: Methuselah, grandfather of Noah and son of the godly man Enoch, and his son, Lemech, the father of Noah, were living as Noah was building the ark. They also had families. Noah’s was a family of faith. Methuselah means “God’s judgment when he dies.” This name, given to him by his father approximately 900 years before was a prophecy of the coming flood. Consequently, the flood occurred shortly after the death of Methuselah. Noah’s family was aware of God’s plan, and may have assisted Noah in preaching to the lost in those last years. However, by the time of the flood there were no recorded patriarchs alive, save Noah.
When one maintains their faith and the spiritual and physical integrity that such faith engenders, the LORD notices.
Genesis 7:2-4. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. 3Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. 4For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.
This command of the LORD comes one week before the ark would be subject to the deluge. We often teach that Noah brought the animals into the ark in pairs. However, prior to the loading of the ark, the LORD commands Noah to bring seven pairs of all “clean” animals. These are animals that the LORD had set apart for the unique service of sacrifices. The LORD would call upon Noah to sacrifice some of these upon the day when the exodus from the ark takes place.
Genesis 7:5-10. And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him. 6And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. 7And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. 8Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, 9There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. 10And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.
God was true to His promise. Noah, through many miraculous interventions by the LORD, was successful in building the ark and preparing it for the coming of the animals. As the LORD brought the animals to Noah for preservation, we might be reminded how the LORD brought the animals, two-by-two to Adam to be named and cared for. The LORD had created Adam to care for the animals, but it is evident that this responsibility has been long abdicated. Though the event of the flood, this responsibility for the creation of the LORD was returned to Noah, a main of faith who both understood the need and was prepared to fulfill it.
The Lord gave to Noah seven days to lead the animals to their “nests” in the ark, and upon completion of the task, entered the ark with his family. The later narrative states that God “shut him in,” implying that the LORD closed the door from the outside. This is fitting closure to the miraculous enterprise that was just completed. Though the LORD used the faithful Noah to accomplish His purpose, it was God who was in control throughout the entire event. God’s ultimate purposes cannot be thwarted by the work of man, and His primary purpose is the salvation of those who place their faith and trust in Him.
The deluge of water would last for “forty days,” a common literary device that refers to a reasonable length of time, yet one that is necessary for a task to be entirely completed. The deluge was so dense that the depth of the waters is described as 45 feet, even on the tops and slopes of the mountains, taking 150 days to recede.
God’s salvation of Noah and his family is one of several examples found in scripture where the LORD is faithful to His promise to save those who have faith in Him from the judgment of those who do not. In Noah we observe the salvation of one who had great faith. In the salvation of Lot and his family from Sodom and Gomorrah we observe the salvation of one whose faith was very small. Even faith as “small” as a grain of mustard seed is saving faith.
Gods plan and purpose for mankind is simple, and is demonstrated in the life of Noah. God is a Just God, and cannot condone sin. Sin will always require judgment, and the penalty for sin is always death. The entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament, put in place by God’s command, is an archetype of God’s judgment upon sin, for without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.
Jesus described the final days of the age of man when He would come again and bring to Himself those who have faith in Him, and destruction will come upon those who have rebelled against God. Sin has eternal consequences, and all who sin have fallen short of any possibility of an eternal relationship with Him. Try as we might, we simply cannot live a sinless life. Without God’s grace we have no hope. God’s grace is demonstrated in the life of Noah, as cited by Jesus, when He saved Noah, not because of any great work, but because God chose to bring Noah through the disaster simply because of Noah’s faith in Him.
God’s plan for the salvation of man is simple: He has promised that, if we will place our faith and trust in Him, sin will no longer have the power to condemn us. Still, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. This is why the LORD, YAHWEH, came to us through the person of Jesus Christ, the Messiah who shared with us God’s plan for salvation by faith, and shed His own blood as an atoning sacrifice.
Though we still struggle with the consequences of our sin, if we have sincere faith in God, it will no longer separate us from Him since sin can no longer destroy us. All of us will face the LORD at the end of our lives on this earth and the LORD will give us the desire of our hearts. If our hearts desire is for the LORD, we will find an eternal home with Him. If our hearts desire is to keep God out of our lives, He will maintain our separation from Him for eternity. Salvation is found only in God’s promise of forgiveness to those who place their faith and trust in Him. That forgiveness came at a cost: the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary.
All people will face the judgment of God. Because of this I have often stated that all systems of religion, or lack thereof, will successfully usher its adherents to the throne of God’s judgment. However, only those who have placed their faith and trust in Him will find forgiveness for their sin, forgiveness paid for by Jesus. In this way, there is no salvation accept through the work of Jesus Christ in the heart of a believer, for faith in God is the same as faith in Jesus, who is the Messiah, LORD, YAHWEH in the flesh. To reject Jesus is to reject God.
There are many things in this world that compete for the hearts and minds of men (and women, of course.) Many would feed on our basic sinful nature to lead us away from faith in the LORD, and by so doing lead us away from Him for eternity. Let us consider the love that God has for us that while we are yet sinners, God reached through time and space to touch our hearts, offering to us eternal forgiveness if we would simply place or faith and trust in Him instead of the things of this world.
If we have placed our faith in God, we do not need to fear the flood. We do not need to fear the end-times prophecies. We can simply receive the blessings of God, praising Him for His grace, and seek to live out our lives in obedience to Him as we receive His love, and share that love with others.
That sure beats treading water……..
 For example, the garden is described as being watered by mist, and the rainbow that requires direct sunlight appears after the flood. The “greenhouse effect” of such a cloud layer would have given most of the earth a tropical climate, a theory defended by archeological evidence.
 Exodus 32:12,14.
 Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; and Psalm 110:4.
 Genesis 5:22.
 Genesis 7:5.
 Genesis 2:19.
 Genesis 6:14.
 Genesis 7:16.
 There are 140 similar uses of the number 40 in the biblical text.
 Genesis 7:24.
 Genesis, Chapter 19.
 Luke 17:6.
 Hebrews 9:22.
 Luke 17:34-36.
 Matthew 24:37-38; Luke 17:26-27.
 Romans 8:1.
 Romans 5:8.