This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: Genesis 6:1-22
Dear congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The flood story is a fairly well-known story—not only in the church but also in our culture. It is interesting that there are other religions and cultures that have flood stories too. Flood stories are found in Europe and Asia. They are widespread in Australia and the islands of the Pacific. They are widespread in the native communities of North America as well—among the Mikmaq, Cree, Iroquois and Squamish.
Why is that? Why are there flood stories everywhere? Is this just a fluke? Or is there something deep in our historical DNA that knows that long ago our world was destroyed by a flood? I suppose we’ll never know.
Congregation, there are many flood stories out there but it’s only the Biblical account that emphasizes that it is the Lord God who sends the flood. He is sovereign over it. He controls it. Why does God send the flood? God sends the flood to destroy sin—all so that he might save his people! All other flood stores miss these points altogether. Yes, in the Biblical account we hear the story of the saving work of our Triune God!
Notice then, this story is all about God. And so we must see what God is doing and what God is saying—not only to Noah but also to us. Today we look at the introduction to it all. We look at Genesis chapter 6. The title of this sermon is, “God Announces the Flood”.
We turn to Genesis chapter 6: 1. Says the Word of God, “When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them that they chose. Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.’”
You get the gist of this. What happens here is that the sons of God basically marry the daughters of men and God is not pleased with this, and so he says, “They’ve got 120 years to change their ways—for that’ s when my patience will run out. If they don’t change—that’s when the clock will stop…and I will destroy them all!”
There is some debate about who exactly the ‘sons of God’ are in our text who marry the daughters of men. Who are these sons of God? There are basically three different views out there. The one theory holds that the ‘sons of God’ are actually angels. Those who follow this view read the text as follows: “When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the angels saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and they married any of them they chose…” So you see the great sin of the time; Angels and people started marrying each other.
Now to some of us, this may sound a bit far-fetched but don’t discredit it too quickly. This view is defended today by a number of competent conservative Christian scholars who point out this view is the oldest view in the church. In the early church this is what everyone believed. I should point out that angels are often called “sons of God,” not only in extra-biblical literature, but even in the Bible itself. In the Bible angels are referred to as sons of God.
Now, of course, this view is not without its problems. First of all, nowhere else in Scripture do we read of angels marrying people, and second of all, it’s difficult to understand why it is the people of earth who are judged when it’s the angels who commit the sin. Why are they not judged?
Another theory holds that the ‘sons of God’ are actually kings or rulers. And so their reading of Genesis 6:1 goes like this, “When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the kings of the earth saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and they married any of them they chose…”
And they married “any of them” that they chose… The emphasis is on that last part. The idea is, kings, they just stole women from all over the place, forcing them into marriage and forming large harems—against everyone’s wishes. Exegetically (that is, when you look at the details of the text) that view does hold. The weakness of this view is that while this sin is certainly bad, is it enough grounds to warrant a world-wide flood?
The last view suggests that the ‘sons of God’ are simply the ‘followers of God’, the ‘believers’ of the time, the ‘church’ of the Old Testament. Those who follow this view read Genesis 6:1 to say, “When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the church, the believing community saw that the daughters of the world were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose…”
You follow the idea. The basic sin is that the believing community of God no longer recognized the distinction that exists between the church and the world. And so their sin is that they blurred the boundaries. They no longer recognized the antithesis, the spiritual warfare that exists between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the evil one. They just blended together, they intermarried—so that the gospel basically fell away!
This is the view that most people follow. It’s the basic Protestant view, defended already by the Reformers of the sixteenth century. It’s the view that goes all the way back to St. Augustine of the fourth century A.D. The people of the church and the world get married and try just to blend together.
Notice a big similarity in all three views though. In all three views an underlying issue is some kind of blurring of established boundaries. In the first view the boundary between angels and people is blurred. In the second view the boundaries regarding how you get married are blurred. And in the third view the boundary between the church and the world gets blurred.
Blurring the boundaries, that’s what made for chaos! And that’s what makes for chaos even today! People of God, we need to understand that God has established certain boundaries for this world: Boundaries for the Kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, boundaries also for marriage. We are not allowed to marry just whoever we want, or whoever happens to look beautiful! We are not allowed to redefine what marriage is about. We are not allowed to make up our own definitions. When we mess with things like marriage, then the whole concept of family begins to disintegrate. And when family begins to disintegrate, society begins to disintegrate and order begins to break down. And then the people who take control in the midst of chaos are the ones who have the most muscle and the most power.
It’s interesting that in verse four we read that the “Nephilim were on the earth in those days and also afterward- when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were heroes of old, men of renown…” Who were these Nephilim? Well, we can’t be sure exactly. Part of the problem is that we are talking about a world that doesn’t exist anymore; that world was washed away. Nephilim comes from the Hebrew world ‘to fall.’ And so these guys are ‘the fallen ones’. They are evil people who’ve got power and might to cause chaos everywhere- and yet people admire them! They exploit evil—breaking down the boundaries of God even further!
Verse 5 reads, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
A few comments about Noah: Verse 9 says that Noah was a “righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” Three things there: He was a righteous man; that means he knew what was right. He understood the boundaries that exist in this world and he stuck to them. Number two: He was blameless among the people of his time. That is, people could not find fault with him. He had a reputation of godliness and integrity. And so he was a witness in his time! And the text says “he walked with God”. That’s covenant language. Noah and God have a relationship. They do things together; they walk together. And so Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord.
And then we know what happens: God announces to Noah the coming of the flood. He calls him, commands him; he announces the flood. I turn to verse 13, “So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: the ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.” In verse 18 God announces, as well, that he will establish his covenant with Noah. God will officially, legally, ‘bind himself’ to Noah under oath—promising to walk with Noah as he builds the ark, as he endures the flood, as he comes through the flood—all so that that God might continue his plan to someday send his Son to save the world from sin. You understand, the flood is not the end of the story. No, God’s covenant with Noah is. It’s all part of God’s covenant plan to send the seed of the woman to crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15)—all so that he might ultimately save his creation.
Verse 22 records Noah’s response—which is the last verse of our passage. “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”
Congregation, you see then what Genesis 6 is essentially all about. In Genesis 6 God announces the flood and so Noah begins to build the ark. Put differently: God announces that judgement day is coming and so the faithful respond accordingly. It’s interesting that God announces the same kind of message today. Think about that with me. Today God announces to you and I that judgement day is coming and we also need to respond accordingly.
We need to say something about where we are in Scripture in terms of Biblical history.
Where is the flood story in the Bible? It’s not in the New Testament or in the middle of the Bible; it’s found near the very beginning—which is very important, very significant.
It’s noteworthy that in the beginning chapters of the Bible the scope of what and who God deals with is very wide. In the early chapters of Genesis God’s actions are very cosmic in scope. In Genesis 1 God creates the whole world. In Genesis 3 the whole world falls into sin through the sin of our first parents. In Genesis 7 the whole world is destroyed in the flood. The scope of things is very wide. That’s because we are in the beginning. It’s after the flood that the scope of things begins to narrow dramatically. Sure, in Genesis 12 God calls Father Abraham. Basically God says to him, “Abraham, from now on I deal with you. I deal with you and your descendants”—which is what we find in Scripture. Scripture follows the life and times of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the people of Israel—all the way up to the New Testament where we meet Christ. Everything finally zeroes in on him. Sure, in the New Testament Jesus Christ comes. He wins our salvation through his death and resurrection. And he ascends into heaven and becomes the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And it’s from there that things begin to widen out again. Right before his ascension Jesus says in Matthew 28, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations…” In Acts 1 Jesus says to his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” This is the way Scripture is put together. Scripture starts out very wide, narrows down to Christ, and from there widens out again. It’s creation/Christ/recreation!
Corresponding with all of this is how judgement day fits into all of this. It is noteworthy how in the very beginning, soon after creation we have a judgement day by way of the flood. In the end, near God’s recreation, we have another judgement day coming. Judgement day acts as a set of brackets for all of world history. As it was in the beginning- so it will be in the end—which means there is stuff we can learn from the flood story as we wait upon our judgement day at the end of history. Doesn’t that make sense? This is certainly how Scripture understands it.
And so, as I said earlier, today God announces to you and to me that judgement day is coming. As God announced it to Noah long ago—so does he announce it again to us—and we need to act accordingly.
It’s interesting that in Noah’s day everyone seemed to be so oblivious to God’s warning. They seemed to be so unaware that the clock was ticking. It makes me think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 24: 37. Jesus says there, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, ‘marrying and giving in marriage’ up to the day Noah entered the ark and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man…” Somehow the world needs to wake up! It’s interesting, too, that in Noah’s day, the church went through a lot of hardship. Very much so! It shrunk, didn’t it? By the time the flood came we only had 8 people left! Well, the church of Jesus Christ will also suffer such ‘shrinkage’ in the last days as well. People will ridicule the church, ridicule the Bible, and the faith we profess. We need to be aware of these things. Peter warns of these things in II Peter 3:3, “You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say ‘where is this coming’ he promised? But they deliberately forget that long ago, the earth was formed out of waters and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are kept for the day of judgement…”
And here is something else to think about. It’s noteworthy that in Noah’s day it was the church that really struggled with complacency. We need to listen up: In Noah’s day all the problems started—where? They started in the church! Assuming that the ‘sons of God’ in Genesis 6:1 refer to the Old Testament church—what does that text say? It says, ‘When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the believing community—they saw that the daughters of the world were beautiful and they married any of them that they chose…” You follow: It was the church that began to blur the boundaries! They didn’t care. They said, “Ah, what difference does it make who we marry?” They had no concept of the antithesis, no concern for righteousness, for God’s law! It was because the church was no longer doing its job of being a righteous community, that’s why God said, “Ok, we better stop this before it’s too late!” We live in such times! We do not know when Jesus is coming back but no one can deny that we live in a post Christian world in our culture today. The church is shrinking through persecution—but also through complacency! We blur the boundaries like everyone else! It’s time to wake up! Today God announces that Judgement Day is coming. It’s coming! And it’s coming for sure because Jesus Christ is Lord!
Here’s the thing: Jesus has come! Why did he come? He came to set people free from their sin and misery! He came to bring restoration. He came to bring order back to the world. He came to put the boundaries back into place; boundaries for marriage, boundaries for family. He wants things restored! He offers that! That’s why he came; to bring shalom, peace, order. He forgives all! He gives new beginnings! He does it all because he died and rose from the dead. Now he’s on the throne. And he’s coming again.
This is the message for today: Judgement Day is coming. May we not be oblivious. May we act accordingly. May we repent and believe the gospel. Today as we enjoy the “boundaries” of rest and worship on this Lord’s Day may we not forget the message. May you reflect on that. May we go forth knowing that God will walk with us as we walk with him. Amen!
Prayer of response:
Father in heaven, we thank you for your word. May we truly understand that judgment day is coming! May we respond accordingly. May we turn to Jesus! May we repent and believe the gospel! We thank you that Jesus has come to restore boundaries. May we experience that grace in our marriages, our families, our lives! May your Kingdom come! In Jesus name we pray! Amen!
Order of Service
WE GATHER IN GOD'S PRESENCE
Welcome and announcements
Call to Worship: Psalm 95: 6, 7
Silent Prayer concluded with “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” PsH# 625
Votum: “Our help is in the name of the LORD who made the heavens and the earth.”
Prayer for God’s Greeting, “May God’s grace, mercy and peace be ours in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Opening hymn: “Now with Joyful Exaltation” PsH# 95: 1-3
SERVICE OF RECONCILIATION
Prayer of Confession
Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 130: 7-8
Hymn: “Not What My Hands Have Done” PsH#260
God’s Will for our Lives: Exodus 20: 1-17
WE HEAR THE WORD
Hymn: “Break Now the Bread of Life” PsH#282
Scripture Reading: Genesis 6: 1-22
Sermon: “God Announces the Flood”
Prayer of Response
Hymn: “Day of Judgment! Day of Wonders!” PsH#614 (alternate tune is 464)
WE DEPART WITH GOD'S BLESSING
Prayer for God’s blessing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.”
Doxology: “By the Sea of Crystal” PsH#620