Judgment and Mercy.
Genesis 5-6, Matthew 3
The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6 So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. – Genesis 6:5-6 NLT
We have been introduced to Satan, who helped bring sin into the world. But we have also been made aware of the “seed” who will prove to be more than a match for Satan, someday defeating him, and bringing an end to his reign and rule on earth. The purpose behind the genealogy of chapter 5 of Genesis was to link the one to come, who would fulfill the curse on Satan, all the way back to Adam. The coming “seed” or offspring of Adam would be a man, a descendant of Adam and He would bring judgment on Satan for his role in the fall of man. So as chapter six opens up, we see that man has multiplied and, at the same time, so has sin. But there is a glimmer of hope in the story. Redemption is coming. All is not lost.
What does this passage reveal about God?
The creator of the universe is faced with a creation that has been marred by sin. He is not caught off guard or surprised by this situation, but He is grieved at what He has to witness. All that He had made and deemed “good” has been damaged by sin. Man’s decision to reject God’s authority and doubt God’s Word has led to a world that is quickly losing its original glory and a human race that is quickly losing any semblance of having been made in the image of God. “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil” (Genesis 6:5 NLT). Time has passed, and generations of men and women have been born. Sin has increased and so has the extent of wickedness among men. God, as holy and righteous, must deal with the sin of mankind. He cannot stand idly by and do nothing. His sense of justice demands that He punish the guilty for their rebellion against Him. “So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. And the Lord said, ‘I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them'” (Genesis 6:6-7 NLT).
But there is a glimmer of light in this dark scene. We are told that “Noah found favor with the Lord” (Genesis 6:8 NLT). At first blush, it would appear that Noah was somehow deserving of God’s favor. Among all the other men who lived at that time, he was the only one who lived up to God’s standards. But this would be inconsistent with what we know about God and man. The Psalmist wrote, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! The LORD looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!” (Psalm 14:1-3 NLT). This would have been true of Noah as well. Was he better than the rest? More than likely. But he was no more deserving of God’s favor than anyone else living at the time. The point of the story is that God, in His grace and mercy, determined to show His favor on Noah. In the midst of His fully justified judgment, God chose to extend mercy to a few.
All of mankind was deserving of God’s judgment, and yet God chose to redeem a few. Chapter six tells the story of God’s judgment in the form of a worldwide flood. But it also tells the story of a miraculous deliverance. God commands Noah to do the impossible: build an ark or large boat, in a land where there are no lakes or seas. God required Noah to step out in faith, taking Him at His word, and place his trust in something he had never seen before. The ark would prove to be Noah’s source of salvation. It would shelter he and his family, providing protection from the judgment to come. God, the judge, would prove to be the Savior as well. In Noah, God would preserve an offspring of Adam, so that ultimately, the “seed” would be born who would eventually bring spiritual salvation to mankind. The flood did not remove sin from the earth. It punished the sinners, but sin remained in Noah and his children. They would quickly end up perpetuating the problem.
But this story was meant to be a precursor to an even greater event to come. The book of Matthew records the coming of the “seed” of Adam. Jesus, the Son of God, was born as a man, a descendant of Adam through the lineage of Mary. The gospel of Luke records in painstaking detail Jesus’ family tree all the way back to Adam, the first son of God. And Matthew gives us the record of the inauguration of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The place was the river Jordan. Jesus has been baptized by His cousin, John the Baptist, and “after his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him” (Matthew 3:16 NLT). God Himself announces Jesus as “my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy” (Matthew 3:17 NLT). Noah would survive the flood, but so would sin. The flood did not eliminate the problem, it just postponed the inevitable. The ark could only forestall the future punishment to come. God was still going to have to deal with the problem of sin, and Jesus was to be the solution. The story of the flood is a story of God’s redemptive nature. He wants to preserve. He desires to show mercy and extend grace. But He must also punish sin. To not do so would be inconsistent with His character as God. But the good news is that God had a plan that would satisfy His justice and illustrate His love at the same time. The story contained in Matthew and the other gospels is the unveiling of that remarkable plan.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Man is sin-saturated. In spite of all that God had done for them, the descendants of Adam had continued to rebel against God, listening to the lies of the enemy and seeking their own selfish agendas. In just a few short generations, things had degenerated to such a degree that God was forced to conclude “that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil” (Genesis 6:5 NLT). Not a pretty picture. While Noah was somewhat of a bright spot in the darkness of the day, even he was undeserving of God’s mercy and grace. He too would prove to be a sinner just like the rest. Given enough time, he would show his true stripes and reveal that sin was part of his nature. And yet God showed grace. God redeemed the irredeemable. He gave hope to the hopeless. He extended mercy to the undeserving and grace to the unworthy. Apart from God, all men are without hope. Sin has so infected us that we are damaged beyond any hope of restoration – if left to ourselves. But the good news is that God has not left mankind without hope. He provided a Savior, a better ark, who will rescue mankind from the judgment to come. But like Noah, man must place his faith in the unknown and do the impossible – take God at His word and trust His plan for salvation. Jesus proved to be an unlikely source of salvation. He was not what the people were expecting. But He would prove more than sufficient to save any who would place their faith in Him. The ark saved Noah from physical annihilation. Jesus saves mankind from spiritual extermination. No matter how bad things may appear to be, there is always hope in Jesus.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
God is not one-dimensional. His judgment and justice is balanced by His love and mercy. I can find it so easy to view Him from my limited perspective and lose sight of the fact that God is far what I can see. Ultimately, God is a god of redemption and restoration. It is far too easy to focus on His judgment and miss the real story of the Bible. Yes, judgment is coming. It is inevitable and will be fully deserved. But there is also salvation coming, and the amazing thing is – it is totally undeserved. It is the product of grace, not merit. Man’s coming judgment is well-deserved and completely justified. But his salvation is a gift, provided for by God, and an illustration of His incredible love, mercy and grace. The story of the flood and the coming of Jesus both remind me that I have a God who is far more complex than I can comprehend. I have no business judging His actions or questioning His motives. I need to learn to spend more time trusting Him rather than questioning Him. He has proved Himself faithful over and over again. The Bible is a record of His unfailing faithfulness and unwavering love for mankind – in spite of our ongoing unfaithfulness and lack of love for Him.
Father, forgive me for the many times I have judged You and questioned Your goodness. I have no justifiable reason to doubt You. Yours is a story of constant faithfulness and love. Your relationship with mankind has been marked by incredible patience and mercy. We have been repeatedly unfaithful and ungrateful. And yet You have provided a way for us to escape our well-deserved punishment and enjoy a restored relationship with You. Your redemption of mankind is an amazing aspect of who You are. Never let me forget just how guilty I was before You showered me with Your grace. Amen.
Ken Miller Grow Pastor
& Minister to Men firstname.lastname@example.org