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A Man Called ‘Rest’

Date: 17 March 2024, 9.30 am

Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong Sermon Text: Genesis 5:1–9:17 

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TRANSCRIPT

We’re journeying through the book of Genesis as a church this year, and we come to today to the story of “Noah’s Ark”.


The story of Noah and the Ark is one of the most well-known and well-loved stories amongst Christians, but is also, ironically, a story that non-Christians seem to read better than Christians do.


When Christians conjure an image of Noah’s Ark, it tends to look something like this:


The sun is brightly shining, the rainbow is in full display. Noah and the animals on board the ark are happy and smiling, and invariably, the pair of giraffes are sticking their heads out of the sun roof of the ark. Why there would even be a sun-roof on the ark, what purpose would it serve, remains a Christian mystery, but there is always one.


A non-Christian illustration of Noah’s Ark appears something like this:


The ark is there, the animals are there, but there are no smiling faces, they are, in contrast, sickened to their stomachs at the sight of the dead animals floating all about the ark. They survivors are surrounded and confronted by the reality and stench of death, which is a detail often overlooked when we think about Noah’s ark.


Part of the reason we fail to see the truth picture of Noah’s ark, might be because, we have been set up to fail, with children songs such as this:


The Lord told Noah, there’s gonna be a floody floody.


The Lord told Noah, to build him an arky arky.


It’s the story of the flood set to a happy tune, and it’s the final stanza that truly takes the cake.


The Sun came up, and dried up the landy landy.


And here it comes,


Everything was fine and dandy, dandy, Children of the Lord.


Almost every single living creature on the face of the earth had perished in the floody floody. You would be hard pressed to imagine a scenario that is further from “fine and dandy dandy”, than that.


Imagine singing that to the survivors of the 2004 Tsunami that decimated the coastal cities of South Asia. “Everything was fine and dandy dandy”.


They would tell you: “Listen, nothing is fine and dandy dandy. There is death and destruction and decay everywhere we look.”


In our zeal to get our children interested in bible stories, we have PG13-nised the story of Noah’s ark. We have glossed over the deaths, stripped the story of its tragedy, blunted its offensiveness, and in so doing, we risk missing its point.


The point of Noah’s Ark, first and foremost, is about death.


Which our first point of today’s sermon.


The punishment for sin is death.


Death doesn’t just occupy center stage in the story of Noah’s ark, it is also the way we are introduced to the story. The story is set up by the subject of death.


Genesis 5:1-5 This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.

And we will hear that refrain in the rest of chapter 5.


and he died.


The preface to the story of Noah’s Ark is an obituary. A list of people who died. And it is a reminder of mankind’s Fall in Genesis 3 and its resultant curse.


GENESIS 2:16-17 “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

But Adam and Eve ate of it.


GENESIS 3:19 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

And therefore they shall surely die.


The punishment for sin is death. And the introductory verses to the story of Noah’s ark makes it explicit.


GENESIS 6:5-7 5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

God is neither stoic nor impartial about human wickedness and sin. He is grieved by it and he will not allow to long endure, he means to eradicate it.


7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

And what comes next? How does Genesis 6:8 read?


…so the Lord blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens.


Everything on land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.


The End.


That’s what we should expect to read, isn’t it? God was grieved by sin, he said he would blot out mankind from the face of the earth, and so he did. It fits, it flows.


But that is not what verse 8 says. Verse 8 begins with a BUT.


GENESIS 6:8 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

In the face of imminent, universal human death, there is hope yet! Death need not spell the end of man. There is hope. And it is found in a person called Noah, who has found favor in the eyes of the Lord.


Now who is this Noah? What do we know about him?


GENESIS 5:28-29 28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”

The name Noah, sounds like Nuakh, the Hebrew word for “rest”. When Noah was born, his father Lamech, not the Lamech we read about in Genesis 4, by the way. Noah’s father Lamech, named him “rest”, in the hope that he would be the one who will reverse the curse of Adam and bring rest and relief from the painful toil of work.


And his father’s hope, it appears, is not completely unfounded, because read how Noah was introduced to us.


GENESIS 6:9-10 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 

This phrase, “walked with God”. What does it mean? What does it suggest?


This phrase appears in the previous chapter, in this manner.


23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

In the midst of an obituary, Enoch stands out like a sore thumb. He does belong there. Because he didn’t die. Unlike every other single person in the genealogy listed in Genesis 5, Enoch’s entry did not bear the refrain, “and then he died”.


Simply, Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.


In other words, we see in Genesis 5, a clue of how one can escape the punishment of sin, and avoid the fate of death. And that is by “walking with God”.


And Noah is such a man, and we shall expect to see him do the same – avoid death. There is a hint within the story, that Noah would escape the blotting out of all mankind on the face of the earth.


In other words, so far, the story of Noah’s ark goes like this: the punishment for sin is death, but hope can be found in a righteous man who walks with God.


We have a tendency to see ourselves as the main character of a story. Every girl believes she’s a Disney princess. Every boy thinks he’s the Marvel superhero. So before you imagine yourself to be Noah in this story, let me assure you that you are not.


Notice how Noah is described in the following chapters.


GENESIS 6:22 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

GENESIS 7:5 Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.

GENESIS 7:8, 16 as God had commanded him (7:8, 16)

Noah does everything that God commands – a righteous man. One who walks with God.


You have not done everything that God has commanded of you. If your life story was written into the bible you will not be introduced as “a righteous person, blameless in your generation”. I may not know you very well, but I say it with confidence.


And if you are not Noah in this story, then you are part of “the rest of humanity”, which is thus described:


GENESIS 6:11-13 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

If we are not Noah, and everyone else is destined for death, how shall we escape from the flood?


Well, not everyone will perish in the flood. There are others, who were not righteous, in and of themselves, but who were nonetheless saved along with Noah from God’s judgement. Who might they be?


They are Noah’s family.


 GENESIS 6:17-18 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you.

GENESIS 7:1, 7, 13 1 Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.
7 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood.
13 Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark,

 

GENESIS 7:17-2317  The flood continued forty days on the earth… 19 And the waters prevailed so mightily... 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.


Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.


Here’s the story so far, the punishment for sin is death, and we all deserve it, but there is salvation for the righteous man, and all who belong to his family.


But that’s not fair! That’s not fair right, his family members were sinners like the rest of mankind. Noah alone was blameless in his generation. It’s not fair that they, sinners all, are saved along with the righteous Noah.


Yes, it’s not fair. Fair means everybody dies, save Noah alone. Noah’s family were not saved by fairness, they were saved by grace. They were recipients of a salvation they did not deserve; they were saved on account of a righteousness they did not have, and that they did not earn. They were saved on account of Noah.


And what does this salvation consist of? What does salvation look like in the story of Noah?


It looks like life in a new creation. And the reason I say that is because Noah’s flood is portrayed as de-creation of the world.


Remember what the world was like before the 6 days of creation.


GENESIS 1:1-2, 9 ​In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

It was tohu -wabohu, without form and void, a desolate wasteland, inhospitable for life. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.


And what God did to make it hospitable for life was to separate the waters, and for dry land to appear. And then he began to create and multiply life on earth.


The flood was a de-creation event; it reverted the earth back to a state of tohu-wabohu, the separation of the waters from the land was undone. The waters covered the land. And rather than fruitfulness and multiplication of living creatures over the face of the earth as was intended at creation, the living creatures now found themselves on the brink of extinction, with only a pair of each left on earth.


But if Noah’s flood is act of de-creation, then Noah’s ark is a hint of re-creation.


And so we witness, once again, day 3 of creation – the separation of the waters from dry land.


GENESIS 8:1-3 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters receded from the earth continually.

The earth once again is made hospitable for life. The dry ground signaled a new lease of life for Noah and the animals.


GENESIS 8:13, 18-19 13 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.

And once they disembarked from the ark, God repeated the creation mandate he had given to the first humans on the 6th day of creation.


GENESIS 9:1, 7 1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

The exact same words he spoke to Adam and Eve.


GENESIS 1:28 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.

Now I want us to notice another significant detail. In between the commands to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, God says this

GENESIS 9:1, 5-6, 7​ 1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. 7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

What this tells us is that God treats human life seriously. He has just exterminated most of mankind and the land animals. But we are not to assume that he’s a trigger-happy, blood-thirsty God who delights in the death and destruction of humanity.


On the contrary, he takes human life seriously. He values human life greatly. He demands that human life will not be taken without consequence, because man was made in his image.


This is a God who, in his justice, punishes sin with death, yes, but who does not delight in the death of the wicked. He is a God who delights in life, a God who desires that man may live. Because mankind is made in his image – the image of the eternal God.


So one of the first things God does when Noah begins life afresh in this new creation is to make Noah a promise.

GENESIS 8:20-22 20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

He promises that life will persist, rather than death. Life will endure, rather than end.


And he makes a covenant with Noah. Genesis 9:8-17 is about the covenant. We know because it keeps being repeated. Covenant, covenant, covenant.


What is the covenant about?


GENESIS 9:11 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

Again, it is about the promise to sustain life and not destroy it.

 

So we pull all these threads of the story of Noah together and what do we get?

We get something like this:


The punishment for Sin is Death (and we all deserve it)...

But through a Righteous Man (by belonging to his family)…

There is the promise of Life (in a new creation)

And what does all this mean for us?


When the Lord Jesus was on earth, he spoke about the story of Noah, and he says this:


LUKE 17:26-27 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.
27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

He describes the story of Noah’s Ark, not as a happy, fine and dandy bedtime story, but as a cautionary tale for our day.


The people of Noah’s day did not expect a judgement day. They did not think that there would be a day of reckoning for their sins, for their rejection of God. And even if they did, they did not imagine it would arrive on the day that it did.


By all accounts, it was an ordinary day.


LUKE 17:26-27 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage,

They were doing ordinary day-to-day things, in day-to-day life. Because they assumed that there would be another day for them.


The day of the flood, to the vast majority of humanity in the days of Noah, looked like an ordinary day.


I assume much like today. The thought of death and judgement are not at the forefront of your concerns. Ordinary things occupy your mind, such as, where should I go for lunch? What homework for my kids must be completed before school on Monday? I wonder if the company has made a decision on the retrenchment exercise we’ve been hearing about?


Judgement day is not your google calendar. Faith and repentance are not on your day’s to-do list. Like the people in Noah’s days, ordinary, secular concerns dominate your mental horizon and thoughts of God and judgement and eternity are far away.


And just as it was for the people in the days of Noah, it would be a mistake to live off that assumption.


The day of Judgment could be closer than you think, it will be a day of all-importance, every secular concern you may have this day will pale in comparison to the concerns of that day.


And if it comes today, will you be found innocent before God, who sees all things, who knows our every thought, whose passing grade is perfection? Dare you trust in your own righteousness to acquit you before the judge of all the earth?


His judgement is swift, it is severe, and it is sudden.


And the day of his wrath could well be today. So we would do well to settle where will be, on the ark awaiting life in new creation, or outside of it, beneath the waters, in the flood.


There is a righteous one whom we sinners can turn to, for salvation. For a place on the ark.


His name is Jesus Christ.


1 JOHN 2:1  My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

Through faith in him, we can be part of his family – like him a child of God.


JOHN 1:12 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

He will acknowledge us, who believe in him, who follow him, as his brothers and sisters.


MATTHEW 12:46-50 46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.
48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

The will of the Father is that we may believe in Jesus his son, and so be saved.


The name Jesus means, God saves. And Jesus says to sinners such as you and I, “come to me, you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”.


Jesus is the giver of an eternal rest that Noah himself could not offer. He is the giver of an great salvation, which Noah’s ark can only point towards. He is the promise of a new creation, in which all who believe in him shall live in bliss and rest forevermore.


The story of Noah’s ark for us is this:


The punishment for Sin is Death, a death we all deserve fairly and justly.But through Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, through faith in him,There is the promise of Life with him in his kingdom forevermore.

 








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