Saved Through Water
Sermon 1740 Genesis 7.17-8.1 April 11, 2021
I am breaking a cardinal rule of journalism today. No, not the one that says you should get all the important information in the first paragraph. That rule went out long ago. Have you ever tried to read stuff on the internet? They actually say, “Read on to find out what.” The writing should be so compelling the reader wants to know more. It’s like fiction writing. You show the reader, you don’t tell him. Not to let the reader put two and two together would be as infantile as, say, having everybody at the end of a movie clapping and smiling at the hero just so the audience knows that’s how they should be feeling. Oh, wait, they’ve been doing that ever since the second Star Wars movie. Hollywood is irritating.
No, the cardinal rule of journalism I am breaking today is “Never let a catastrophe go to waste.” Focus on the bad news. Bad news sells. What story would you rather pay a buck to read? “Fire and freak tsunami poaches San Francisco’s Mission District” or “Dog misplaced in move finds family three hundred miles away?” You’d pony up for the San Francisco story just to see if Alioto’s was having a sidewalk sale on steamed clams!
The Word of God before us today is Genesis 6-9, Noah and the Flood. I will focus on just a part of that story
Saved Through Water.
1. Delivered from sinners.
2. Delivered to God’s grace.
“Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth (21-23a).”
Imagine buying a home. You have to consider the neighborhood. There are places in our valley where the homes are priced much lower than in other areas of our valley. Yes, the housing may be older, but there is more to it than that. You drive by and every house has iron bars on the windows. Some of them have barbed wire on the fences surrounding the property. In one or two of them there’s a mean as a junkyard dog barking at any shadow that moves. People are victimized by crime. They are afraid of their neighbors and others who are passing by. Your car, with four matching tires, may be a real spectacle for them. “Let’s pay more and live elsewhere,” the wife suggests. You agree. A costlier, yet safer neighborhood will be way less expensive than always having to buy more stuff after yet another burglary or armed robbery.
Now imagine that crime infested neighborhood was your world and you couldn’t escape. That’s the reality Noah and his family faced. Genesis 5 traces the line of believers in the pre-flood world. Seth, Enoch, Methuselah and Noah, among others. But Genesis 4 traced the line of unbelievers in the pre-flood world, guys like Cain, Jubal and Lamech. Lamech is all you need to know the whole family tree is rotten. He brags to his two wives that he killed a man who had accidentally injured him. If anybody tries to exact vengeance on him for it, let them pay seventy-seven times! Big man on campus that one. Quick to anger, a dagger and sword always at his side.
Genesis 6 says that the believing line intermarried with the unbelieving line. If one bad apple spoils the whole bushel basket, think of what half a bushel of bad apples does! The moral trajectory for the human race was set. Down, down the drain. Pride and hatred, violence and lust and above all, godlessness. It finally got so bad that, once the aged believers died and were taken to heaven, only Noah and his family were left as believers in the promise God had given to Adam and Eve, the promise of a hero who would take care of sin so they could live forever with the LORD.
The Lord decided to save Noah and his family by water. Now when the Bible says God “decides” or “turns” or “grieves” it isn’t saying God has experienced a change of plans. His plans have always remained the same. The Lord who knows everything and can do everything needs no contingency plans. He always fights against sin with the promise of a Savior. Where that promise is rejected he sends hardship of one type or another as a way to get people to wake up and smell the coffee. And with each call to repentance ignored, the stakes are raised. It’s like a mother who turns the alarm clock radio up higher and higher in a futile attempt to get her sluggish teenager out of bed. If he doesn’t learn his lesson, he will go deaf. The unbelievers living in the time of Noah had gone deaf. There was now no more room for heightened measures against them for their repentance. Swift judgment in the Flood was going to come—120 years down the road! The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. For 120 years Noah and his sons were building the Ark. For 120 years they were faithful preachers in the midst of a wicked world. “Repent, turn to the forgiving Lord, or this is what will happen.”
When the Flood came, Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives were delivered from sinners.
The Lord often works that way. Look what he did with Jesus. He raised Jesus from the dead and delivered him from the threats of sinners. If the religious leaders were insisting Jesus was still dead, they would have been absolute fools to try to hunt the risen Jesus down and put him on trial all over again, even if Jesus weren’t in full control of his heavenly powers. Jesus’ enemies had some real problems initially even recognizing the miracles worked by the apostles in the name of the risen Jesus. How could a dead man still be doing all these things? The unbelief of the religious leaders had painted them into a corner.
Look how God delivers us from sinners! The Holy Spirit creates a repentant heart within each one of us that we repent of the misdeeds of our sinful human nature! We don’t keep digging ourselves in deeper and deeper. We cut our losses and return to the Lord! That’s the biggest deliverance, because, let’s face it, we are our own worst enemies. Yes, God in his protecting care of us often keeps evil away from us. Terrible people do not darken our doorstep. Sometimes God uses the police to do that. Sometimes something the world calls serendipity, but we call God’s providence happens. Either way, the Lord keeps us off the path to destruction as we walk with our Savior, Jesus.
Saved by water. Noah and his family were delivered to God’s grace.
“Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded (7.23b-8.1).”
Here’s another word I have to explain when it comes to the Lord—remember. “God remembered Noah.” God had not forgotten Noah. God has a little better attention span than that. God never forgets the way we forget. When God remembers that means he acts after waiting for a period of time. When I was young I loved to fish—bobbers on the Mississippi. I’d sit there for hours watching that bobber as I talked with my friends. Some days it would be pushed by the wind. Some days there would be a lot of waves and you’d have to take that into account. But I’d sit there and wait until that bobber took a hard dive and then “Wham!” I’d pull up on the rod and catch a fish. I remembered! That’s like God. He waits until the right time and then he acts, just as he had it planned all along!
For one hundred and fifty days, half a year, the waters of the Flood had been on the face of the earth, 20 feet higher than the highest mountain. Did you know Mount Everest grows at an inch a year? Don’t expect Earth’s modern geography to look exactly like it did in Noah’s day. All life on earth was destroyed, everything that couldn’t swim, at least. Only Noah, his family and all the animals of every kind on the ark were alive. But God remembered Noah and sent a wind to dry up the waters of the Flood.
A new life was waiting Noah and his family. After a year and ten days on the Ark, God brought them out. God would make an agreement with Noah. Never again would he send a Flood to destroy the whole world. The mark of God’s promise with Noah would be the rainbow in the sky, so whenever we see the rainbow, besides marveling at how pretty it is, remember the Lord’s promise. Never again will he send a flood to destroy the earth. What did Noah and his family have to do? Nothing. It was a one-sided covenant. God would do it all. God would preserve life on earth until the end, no matter what.
God had a different type of salvation through water in mind for you and me. We call it baptism. Here’s where I came up with that crazy idea. It has everything to do with Jesus’ resurrection. Peter talks about the risen Jesus descending into hell.
“He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was building built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water (1 Peter 3.18-20).” So, the first thing Jesus did when he came back to life was to descend into hell and proclaim, preach, his victory over the devil among the devil’s hometown fans, all those souls who died in the years before the Flood. But the Flood of Noah wasn’t a message of total destruction and rejection. Noah and his family were saved!
“And this water [of the Flood] symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (19-21).” As Noah was saved from a world of sinners by the waters of the Flood, so we are saved by the waters of baptism. Baptism now saves you also. That’s what the English says. Any English teacher or student who has passed eighth grade English can tell you that.
God has saved us through water from our sinful selves (we’ve covered that in the first part of this sermon) so we can live a new life with him. Can you imagine how pleasant Noah’s life was without all those mockers taunting him and his boys as they were working on the Ark? “Hey, Noah! You’re going to have to put wheels on that thing if you ever want to get it to the river.” As violent as they were, it was probably a good thing God had told Noah to build the Ark out of gopher wood. Something dense enough to stand up to being submerged for a year would be hard for an arsonist to burn. Life is pretty pleasant without the guilt of all those sins haunting us.
But there’s something even better. Saved through water we are delivered to God’s grace. We have a good conscience towards God. I realized very early in my teens that if I was guilty, I could not have a good time. If I wasn’t supposed to be at a party, but I snuck out or lied so I could attend, it wasn’t that great. If you competed in a game or ran a race and you knew you hadn’t given it your all, well, it sort of ruined the whole day for you. A good conscience is important. A good conscience is vital. Only with a good conscience can you have a healthy relationship with someone. That’s self-evident when it comes to a relationship with parents, children or spouses.
A good conscience is vital when it comes to our relationship with God. “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?” a psalm asks. “He who has pure hands,” comes the reply. The only ones who will live with God in heaven are those who have been washed clean of all their sins by the blood of Jesus Christ. The only ones who will live with God in heaven are those who are certain their sins have been paid for because Jesus rose from the dead. You will ascend the hill of the Lord the day you die. I will ascend the hill of the Lord, too. Already now we are in the foothills of heaven, if you will. Already now we talk to our heavenly Father in prayer and he answers us. He answers us through his words in the Bible. We are certain of those answers—they are black on white. He answers us in response to our prayers as sicknesses go away, good things we asked for happen or something pops up we never dreamed to ask for. Although we can’t say exactly how God has answered us, because it isn’t black on white, we know he does answer us. We have a good conscience towards him. We expect only good things from him. We are open to his blessings.
This good conscience is so strong in us that we go to him in repentance. My grandson, Gunnar, is at that stage at a year and a half. Whenever he falls, he falls flat on his face. He has a big egg on his forehead, which is black and blue, he’s got a black eye and he’s got a cut on his chin. Guys who lose a UFC fight look better! But every time he falls, he goes crying to his mom. And every time she picks him up and holds him. There is no hesitation on his part. He immediately goes towards her. He knows he’s going to be held.
As long as we are in this world, we are going to be at that stage, too. We are going to fall into sin. But without hesitation, we are going to repent. We are going to turn from our falls. We are going to turn towards our God. He will always pick us up. He will always hold us by his mighty hand. He will always forgive us.
Saved Through Water.
1. Delivered from sinners.
2. Delivered to God’s grace.
So, next time you see a rainbow, you remember God’s goodness to Noah and all his descendants—you and me. No more Flood! And every time you see a baptism, we’ll remember how God has delivered us to a life led under his grace. It won’t sell many newspapers. But outside the printing of the Bible, the Gospel was seldom big in the publishing business.