(4) So God said to Noah, “…make yourself an ark…” – Genesis 6:13-14

Adam and Eve have sons and daughters and one of their sons, Cain, becomes so angry with God and his brother Abel that he kills him. The seemingly little act of disobedience committed by Adam and Eve has developed into murder in the next generation. Five generations on from this and we find one of Cain’s descendants, a man called Lamech, boasting to his two wives – note how the position of women has deteriorated – that he has killed a man.

The Bible uses the word sin, meaning ‘to miss the mark’, to sum up the tendency that men and women have to do the wrong thing when faced with choices. At the root of it is selfishness, a focus on ourselves rather than on God. As someone said, “Sin is a three letter word with I at the centre”. We see how sin takes deep root in mankind in these early chapters of Genesis.

By the time we get to Genesis chapter 6 we read that God’s view of the human race was that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). ‘Every’, ‘only’, ‘all’ – this sentence provides a devastating indictment of the power of sin. God’s reaction to this is to decide to wipe mankind off the face of the earth as he is grieved at what his creation has become.

But, against the flow of wickedness that God saw across the world, one man finds favour in God’s eyes. Noah was a righteous man and God tells him to “make yourself an ark” (Genesis 6:14), a huge boat, capable of keeping his family and pairs of all kinds of animal safe through a flood so that the world can be repopulated after the waters had subsided.

It took decades to build the ark and Noah must have attracted considerable ridicule from those around as he built a boat on the land with no means to launch it. He must have had moments of doubt but didn’t give up and so demonstrated great faith in God’s word to him.

The account in Genesis chapter 7 describes how “the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened” (Genesis 7:11) bringing forty days of continual, heavy rain which results in every mountain being covered with water and every living thing on the earth perishing, including all men. We are not told how this was possible but the expressions used indicate that this was a one off catastrophic event that had a significant impact on the entire surface of our planet. Only Noah and his family and his floating zoo remained alive for the year that the flood covered the earth.

Once the ground had dried out they were able to re-emerge onto the land where vegetation was starting to take root once again, providing food for all the creatures. Noah built an altar, a stone construction used to sacrifice animals as offering to God, where he offered thanks for their deliverance. God said that he would never flood the world again and gave Noah the sign of the rainbow to remind him and us of his everlasting promise.

The flood account brings out two key aspects of God’s character, his justice and his love. God’s sense of justice demands that sin, where people put themselves before him and before others with bad consequences for all, must be punished, ultimately in death. But alongside that requirement for justice, God’s love of the people that he created shines through and he is prepared to save those who follow him from his judgement and give them a fresh start, as he did for Noah and his family through the ark.

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