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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:In wrath God remembers mercy
Text:Genesis 6:9-22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 89:1-3

Psalm 51:1,2 (after the Law of God)

Hymn 14:1,2,5

Psalm 111:1,4,5

Hymn 55

Scripture reading:  Matthew 24:29-51

Text: Genesis 6:9-22

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,

It’s said that if you give someone a fish you feed them for a day, but if you teach them how to fish, you feed them for a lifetime.  One of my goals in preaching is to teach you how to fish, so to speak.  Not only do I want to tell you what the Bible says and what it means for your life, I also want to teach you how to read the Bible for yourself. 

One of the most important things to grasp is that the Bible is a revelation of who God is.  Any time we’re reading or studying the Bible, we ought to be asking the question:  “What am I supposed to be learning about God?  What is this saying to me about who he is?”  When we ask that first, we’ll also be in a better place to know how the passage applies to our lives.

We’re going to see how that’s true in our passage from Genesis 6 this morning.  We have to approach these verses as a revelation from God which is first of all about who he is and what he’s done in Jesus Christ.  As we do that, we’re going to find that God’s wrath and his love are the focus here. 

Before we get to looking specifically at Genesis 6, I just need to say a couple of words about the wrath and love of God.  Sometimes people line those up against each other as if they’re in tension or as if they’re opposites.  They’re not.  Scripture says in 1 John 4 that God is love.  Perfect love exists between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It’s exactly because of that love that God has wrath towards sin.  Because the Father, Son and Holy Spirit love one another, they have a holy wrath towards anything and anyone who would undermine, disobey, or dishonour God.  If you love someone, you don’t put up with others attacking them or disrespecting them.  So God’s wrath comes from his intra-Trinitarian love.  It also arises from his justice.  God is righteous, the very definition of what it means to be upright.  When his standards are violated, there will be a just holding to account.

That’s what happened with the Flood in the days of Noah.  God acted out of the love that exists within the Trinity, but when he did he also displayed loving mercy to us.  So the theme of the sermon is:  In wrath God remembers mercy.

We’ll consider God’s:

  1. Coming cataclysm
  2. Continuing covenant commitment

In the beginning, right after God created Adam and Eve, he gave them the command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…”  Now here we are in Genesis 6 hundreds of years later.  The earth has been filled according to verse 11 – it’s been filled with violence.  Humanity is disregarding God and the result is ugly chaos, injustice, and bloodshed.

In the beginning, after God saw everything that he had made, he regarded it as “very good.”  It was exactly the way he wanted it.  But now here we are in Genesis 6 hundreds of years later.  The earth is now corrupt in God’s sight according to verses 11 and 12.  This is because of human wickedness:  “all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.”  Human beings have spoiled what God created good.

Now if God is love, how should he respond to this violence of humanity and their corruption of what he made?  The temptation might be to say that if God is love, he should just tolerate it.  He should just be patient and let things go.  But remember what I said earlier, exactly because God is love he hates sin and he will punish it and those who do it.  When it comes to creation, that’s his handiwork.  God the Father is said to be the primary agent of creation.  That’s why he gets mentioned in this regard in the Apostles’ Creed.  But the Son was also involved, according to John 1, and so was the Holy Spirit.  If someone is spoiling the Father’s work of creation, wouldn’t the love of the Son and the Holy Spirit lead them to a just and holy wrath?  If someone is spoiling the Son’s work in creation, wouldn’t the love of the Father and the Holy Spirit lead them to a just and holy wrath?  And if someone is spoiling the Holy Spirit’s work in creation, wouldn’t the love of the Son and the Father lead them to a holy and just wrath?  Yes, yes, and yes.  It’s because God is love that he says what he does to Noah in verse 13:  “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.”  Judgment is coming. 

In verse 17, God finally announces how his judgment will come.  There will be a flood of waters – a deluge.  It will wipe out everything, especially the wicked human beings who have vandalized God’s creation.  This is the coming cataclysm -- the huge, violent judgment.  Violence begets a violent judgment, a cataclysm the likes of which the world has never seen before or since.

There are three things we should note about this coming cataclysm. 

First, it involves water.  Why does it involve water?  Several reasons.  God has created water with enormous power.  You’ve seen floods on this earth.  They all pale in comparison to the water that poured over the earth during Noah’s Flood.  Water has power to carry out God’s judgment.  Water is for cleansing.  The earth has been spoiled and ruined by human sin.  It needs to be cleansed and water is how you do it.  But water is also life-giving.  As we’ll see in other sermons on Genesis, it’s God intention to bring new life to the earth after the Flood.  Even though the waters bring judgment, they also ensure that new life can take hold afterwards.  Finally, because God also created buoyancy, the waters themselves can save anyone in a large enough ship.  Because God created buoyancy, because things float, the waters are going to carry Noah and his family in safety.  The means of judgment can at the same time serve as a merciful means of salvation for 8 people and the animals with them.

Second, this coming cataclysm will be universal.  Some of you have the ESV Study Bible, maybe you even have it with you this morning.  On many things the notes of the ESV Study Bible are good and trustworthy.  But on verse 17 there’s a note in the ESV Study Bible which introduces the view that the Flood wasn’t necessarily global or universal.  That view is categorically wrong.  The language in Genesis 6 is comprehensive.  Just note how many times you find the word ‘all.’  Verse 17 says, “Everything that is on the earth shall die.”  “Everything.”  Not just human beings, but also animals – all of them.  A flood of that scale would have to be global.  If it weren’t, that raises the question of why all these animals had to go in the ark with Noah.  If it was just a regional flood, surely there’d be enough animals in other regions to repopulate the flooded region.  Finally, in the next chapter, in 7:19, it says “that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.”  That’s not a regional flood.  That’s something global.  Loved ones, those who argue for a regional flood are just refusing to believe God’s Word, because they believe science says something different.  Listen, God was there and he’s told us what happened.  He can be trusted.  Believe him.

Finally, this cataclysm in Genesis is intended to remind us of another coming cataclysm.  It’s the one spoken of by our Lord Jesus in Matthew 24.  When Christ returns, there will be a judgment.  It will be unexpected.  Jesus says in Matthew 24 that the coming of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah.  People were just going about their business, living their lives, eating, drinking, marrying, until the day “the flood came and swept them all away.”    

The coming cataclysm of judgment will be unexpected, and it will also be extremely violent.  God says in 2 Peter 3:7, “But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”  The world was once cleansed with the waters of judgment, but there’s a judgment coming that will not be wet.  Instead, it’ll involve fire.  Loved ones, just like he called Noah to prepare for the cataclysm in his day, God also calls us to prepare for the ultimate coming cataclysm at the return of Christ.  Be prepared by looking to Christ as your only Saviour.  Be prepared by hating sin and fleeing from it.  Be prepared by living your life now in eager anticipation of meeting the Saviour who loved you and died for you.  If you’re prepared, then the coming cataclysm won’t terrify you and won’t be able to harm you.  If you’re in Christ, you’ll be safe, just like Noah and his family were safe in the ark.

So in this passage we see God’s wrath in the coming cataclysm.  But we also see mercy in his continuing covenant commitment.  Now, a covenant is a special relationship, an intimate bond of fellowship.  Covenants contain promises and responsibilities on both sides.  God’s relationship with his people is a covenant relationship.  The Bible teaches that all believers and their children are in covenant with God.    

In verse 18, God says to Noah, “But I will establish my covenant with you…”  That’s actually the first time the word ‘covenant’ appears in the Bible.  But it’s not the first time the idea or concept appears in the Bible.  God first entered into a covenant with Adam before the fall into sin.  It’s often called the covenant of works, but you could also call it the covenant of creation.  Hosea 6:7 explicitly calls that pre-fall arrangement with Adam a covenant.  Hosea 6:7 says, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant…”  After that covenant was transgressed with the fall into sin, it pleased God to make a second covenant, the covenant of grace.  We find the first promise of that covenant of grace in Genesis 3:15.  God promised there that a child of the woman would come to bring salvation from sin by smashing the skull of the serpent.  He promised it.  That’s important background as we look at Genesis 6:9-22.

With all this talk of global cataclysmic judgment, you might think to yourself, “Well then, what happens to what God promised in Genesis 3:15?  Has he just set the covenant of grace aside?  Is there no hope for sinners?”

After the covenant of grace was announced in Genesis 3, there were two lines in the human race.  In the one line were those who rejected God and lived in unbelief.  There were men like Cain, who killed his brother, and Lamech who boasted of killing two men.  But then there was also the line of Seth.  Seth was another son of Adam and Eve.  Through the line of Seth, God would work to bring about his plan for salvation, the fulfillment of his covenant promise in Genesis 3:15. 

This is where Noah comes in.  Noah is in that line of Seth.  He’s part of God’s covenant plans to bring about salvation for sinners.  We’re told in verse 9 that “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation.  Noah walked with God.”  This is saying that Noah was a believer and he lived like one.  It’s not saying Noah was sinless.  Just that he was someone who took God seriously and it showed.  How did Noah get to be like that?  People only become believers through God’s grace.  God mercifully worked in Noah’s heart with his Holy Spirit to generate faith, and then from that faith, the Holy Spirit also worked the fruit of a godly life.  But it was God’s work in Noah.  And it was for the cause of his covenant of grace established in Genesis 3.  It was for the cause of the gospel, the cause of the coming Christ.  God wasn’t going to turn his back on what he had promised.  In his mercy, he kept a believing remnant with righteous Noah.  From that remnant, he would fulfill his promise. 

In that same covenant mercy, he spoke to Noah and warned him of the coming cataclysm.  God told Noah what was about to happen so Noah could prepare for it and be saved, he and his family.  He was to prepare for it by first of all building the ark. 

If you ever find yourself in Williamstown, Kentucky, you’ll need to visit something called the Ark Encounter.  There you’ll find a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark.  It’s based exactly on the specifications found in verses 15 and 16.  So it’s huge:  150 meters long, 25 meters wide, and 15 meters high.  Inside it has over 42,000 cubic meters of space spread over three decks.  The ark was a real giant of a ship, especially for those days.  It was to be the means by which God would save Noah and his family and also mercifully keep his covenant commitment.   

Noah was also to prepare by expecting at least two of all the animals to join him on the ark.  In his mercy, God would also preserve the animal species he had created.  For that reason, God commanded Noah to gather food for himself and his family and also the animals.  God wanted everyone on the ark to be alive when they came off the ark.  Again, this is because of God’s faithfulness to his covenant, this is because he wanted to bring Christ into the world to save sinners like you and me.

Loved ones, you need to see that God’s covenant of grace is a reality that existed before Christ’s incarnation, before David, before Abraham, and before the Flood.  It’s that covenant and the promises leading to Christ which are the reason why God has dealings with Noah in our passage.  God isn’t fickle.  He doesn’t abandon the promises he’s made, but is faithful and fulfills them.

And he gives comfort to those included in the covenant of grace.  That’s what’s behind verse 18, where God says to Noah, “But I will establish my covenant with you…”  This is assurance to Noah that God is committed to his welfare.  The best way to understand these words is that God is saying something like, “Noah, before this flood happens, I assure you that you are in the line of the covenant of grace.  Therefore you can be confident that you and your family will be saved.” 

How does Noah respond to God?  He believes him.  Noah believes that God is both going to bring a cataclysmic Flood and that God is going to save him and his family.  Then from that faith, he goes and does what God says.  He is obedient to God.  But it starts with his faith, his trusting God.  Here you can think of what the Holy Spirit says in Hebrews 11:7, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.  By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”  Noah responded to God in faith and then obedience followed.  If you think of it like a tree, faith is the tree and obedience is its fruit.  But the life flowing through the tree, keeping it alive and helping it to produce fruit, that life is the work of God.  This is what the Holy Spirit does in a believer.  Ultimately, the Holy Spirit helps a believer respond to God’s covenant promises. 

This is how things go in the covenant of grace.  A baby is born.  Prior to baptism, God has already been involved in that baby’s life.  Listen:  a baby of believers doesn’t become part of the covenant of grace with baptism, just like Noah didn’t become part of the covenant of grace in Genesis 9.  No, the baby’s been part of the covenant of grace since conception.  God’s promises have been addressed to that baby all along, just like they’re addressed to all of us. Baptism is the public sign and seal of those gospel promises.  It makes public the promises that have been there all along. 

However, in the covenant of grace there are not only God’s promises, but also our calling.  We don’t receive what is promised in the covenant of grace automatically.  We have a calling, a responsibility.  Our calling is to do what Noah did:  believe God.  Take hold of his promises in faith. Christ is the Mediator of the covenant of grace.  That means he’s the One who goes between God and us to make this relationship work.  Embrace him as your Mediator.  Believe that it’s only in him that you’re safe from the judgment you deserve.  Believe he took God’s cataclysmic judgment in your place when he bore your hell on the cross.  Then following on from that, we also desire to live a faithful, obedient life.  We want what was said of Noah to be true of us too:  that because of God’s work in us, we are righteous and blameless in our generation. 

Ultimately, we realize we can’t fulfill our calling in the covenant of grace without God’s ongoing mercy.  We need him.  We need his Holy Spirit to create faith in us and to maintain faith in us.  We need the Holy Spirit to drive our lives towards holiness and godly living.  It’s a covenant of grace because we’re dependent on God and his grace for everything.  He gives us his promises in Christ, but then he also gives us the means to embrace those promises and respond with a thankful and godly life.     

Brothers and sisters, God is love.  In his love, he sends judgment.  And in his love, he also gives his covenant and promises to be faithful to it.  That’s who he was and what he did in the days of Noah, and that’s who he is and what he’ll continue to do in our day.  Our loving God can always be trusted.  AMEN.


Merciful and loving God,

Thank you that you are the very definition of love.  Thank you for your covenant faithfulness and mercy.  You have always been faithful in the covenant of grace and it’s such an encouragement for us.  In Genesis 3, you promised to bring us salvation and in Genesis 6 you were working towards that goal.  You fulfilled it in Christ and we praise your great Name for that.  Please help us now with your Holy Spirit to trust your Word and look to Christ.  We pray that you would help each one of us be ready for the coming cataclysm of judgment.  Please help us to have our eyes fixed on Christ and to be eagerly waiting for his return.  We pray that you would not only give us a rich measure of faith, but also help us to do what you command.  Please work in our hearts with your Holy Spirit so we live according to your Word, that we live within your covenant, for your glory and because we love you.         

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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