The Real Question
For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. 18 The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. 21 Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died.23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. – Genesis 7:17-23
I’ve been accused by those who love me of regularly (over)using a phrase: “The real question is…” And it’s difficulty to deny: I do love to ask questions. I also love to ferret out the foundational issues we are facing. I don’t tend toward simple surface answers. I want to get to the heart of the matter. So when I imagine I’ve discovered it, I’ll say, “The real question isn’t whether it’s going to rain today, it is whether or not the weather will ruin our day.” Bad example, but you get the drift.
One of the real and big questions in regard to this account of Noah and the Ark has to do with God’s punishment of the whole human race and the earth itself in such a dramatic fashion. Martin Luther offers a thought here:
“It was not easy to believe that the entire human race would perish. The world regarded Noah as exceedingly stupid for believing such things; it derided him and without a doubt also made his structure (the ark) the object of ridicule. In order to encourage him in trying circumstances, God speaks with him several times and reminds him of the covenant…that [Noah] firmly believe that Christ will be born from his descendants and that God, in His great wrath will let a seedbed of the church remain…[That little church] will be saved not only from the violence of the water but also from eternal death and damnation.” (Thanks to Rev. Paul Doellinger for this quote)
Indeed, if you want to be dismissed today, simply convey a word of judgment on anyone for any reason. People will accuse you of hate speech, judgmentalism, and a view of God that is loveless. God would never do that! So it is thought. We prefer a domesticated god. We want to keep God in the dock. We believe he must conform to our sensibilities. We’re not ready to let God be judge.
I don’t particularly struggle with this idea. I’m pretty well convinced that God is God. We answer to him. We creatures will give an account to him, the Creator. We cannot require God to give an account to us.
But let us never lose sight of the fact that the judgment has already taken place! Two thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth stepped into our world, took on our sins, and stood in the dock for us. He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us. The judgment was brutal. Excruciating. Humiliating. Deadly. And if I want to understand how vile sin really is, and how serious God is about justice, I will look beyond Noah and the flood to Jesus and the cross.
The real question is, therefore, Am I willing to believe God’s words of grace and truth shown ultimately in Jesus? God put Jesus in the dock for us, and by his loving grace offers salvation to all who believe in him. The real question is whether or not I see this as the anchor for my soul. Do you?
Sorry…no audio version today. Technical difficulties. Maybe next week.