Genesis 7:1-16 “The LORD then said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.’ And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him. Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month – on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth for forty days and forty nights. On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the LORD shut him in.”
There were four major periods of redemptive history when God gave men the grace to perform miracles, during the exodus from Egypt, throughout the time of Elijah and Elisha, in Babylon in the life of Daniel, and finally when the Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles were on earth. Yet there were other one-off occasions outside those periods when God broke through and suddenly a stupendous supernatural act was witnessed; a donkey spoke, the sun stood still, a man was preserved inside a whale for three days, and fire fell from the sky engulfing a city. Men were not given miraculous gifts at such occasions; the signs were done by God alone as he perforated their histories. Noah’s flood is one such miracle. The message he preached of the Coming One who would bruise the serpent’s head and their need to live righteously was believed by only 7 people during a century or more of his evangelism, but during all those years God gave no gift of the ability to perform miracles to Noah. In fact the majority of the Spirit-filled leaders whom God gave to the church in biblical times did no miracles; Enoch, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph, and Samuel, and David, and Solomon, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Amos, and Hosea, and Jonah, and Ezra, and Nehemiah, and Timothy, and Titus were not given the charisma of performing wonders. They were mighty faithful men in periods of utter resistance to the gospel, and what God gave them was gumption.
1. THE FLOOD WAS THE GREATEST OF GOD’S MIRACLES OF JUDGMENT.
My point is this, that miracles were not exclusively life enhancing and healing works of God. They were not all displays of God’s power over demons, disease and death. Mixed in with those miracles have always been mighty judgments which were signs of God’s hatred of sin. In other words, those acts of divine condemnation were foretastes of the Day of Judgment at the end of the world when the false prophet and the beast and their followers will be thrown into the lake of fire.
What miraculous judgments am I referring to? One would be the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah when the city and all its inhabitants were destroyed by God raining down burning sulphur upon them. There is a barren land around the Dead Sea but there is no certain evidence in that place of the destruction of those cities. There is no Pompeii and Herculaneum type remains of those cities of the plain. You wouldn’t receive any explanation or proof from archaeology of what happened in Sodom. We know about that judgment of God only from the Scripture, and you come across similar judgments in Israel’s history, for example, in Numbers 11, verses one, two and three; “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them.” Something similar occurs during the ministry of Elijah when on three separate occasions fire fell from heaven and consumed companies of fifty men led by their captains when they had been sent to arrest the prophet. Again fire burst out of the burning furnace at the time of Daniel and destroyed the men who were planning to incinerate the three young believers. We believe that this event occurred only because of its testimony in the Bible.
Can you think of other miracles of judgment? There was the collapsing of the walls of water of the Red Sea on Pharaoh and the chariots of his Egyptian cavalry? Then there were also diseases, and poisonous snakes, and ravenous bears, and plagues, and cowardice in battle which came upon the people of God. In the ministry of our Lord Jesus there were not many miracles of judgment because God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Christ might be saved, nevertheless you get glimpses of his judgments. He’s not the pussy cat of the tribe of Judah; he is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. So a fig tree was smitten and it withered away, a herd of swine plunged over a cliff into the sea and was drowned, an earthquake shattered the rocks in Golgotha, the sun was blotted out for six hours. During the ministry of the apostles of Jesus Christ a couple of married liars named Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead within a congregational meeting; King Herod was smitten by an angel; Elymas the sorcerer was inflicted with blindness, and an earthquake shattered the prison in Philippi and the jailer became suicidal.
When Jesus speaks of the end of the world he predicts another time of judgments coming on the world; “But in those days, following that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mk. 13:24-26). The apostles of our Lord learned this message well and we find Peter warning, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat” (2 Peter 3:10-12).
These are all utterly supernatural judgments; we will find no anticipation of them in what we see around us in the world. When we are not expecting them they will come upon us like a thief in the night. They are caused by God directing those elements which have been created and focused by him with such force and magnitude that sometimes his whole world is changed. At the end God will take the cosmos apart atom by atom and put it together again. We are told that sometimes by means of fire, and occasionally water, he will purge every element of sin from a certain situation, and one day it is going to be removed from the entire universe, making a new heavens and a new earth replete with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
I am saying that you can neither explain Noah’s Flood, nor explain away Noah’s Flood, by such factors as the amount of water in the atmosphere or in the oceans of the world. The Flood was not some natural disaster but one hundredfold increased. It was not that at all. The Flood was a supernatural judgment; the only explanation for its origin and duration and effects was a extraordinary act of condemnation by the Creator, he who had – by a word – made the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in a twinkling of an eye. Where did the original waters come from? The Lord God made them all. That is it. So we are told in verses eleven and twelve of this seventh chapter, “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month – on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth for forty days and forty nights.” The Lord of the deep and the Lord of the heavens commanded waters to go forth. Then we are told in Genesis 8 verses 1 to 3, that God “sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down.” As miraculously as it began it ended. What scene do we have here at the beginning of Genesis 8? It is a new creation. A wind is blowing, sent by God, just like the Spirit of God moved over the face of the water in the opening verses of chapter one. Re-creation begins by a work of God.
You will look in vain for some rational or scientific explanation for the flood. There is none; it is simply an impossible event from the perspective of contemporary geology, meteorology, and oceanography. Based on those criteria it cannot have happened. For the sea level to rise for 150 days until it covered the tops of the mountains and then to subside during another 150 days is simply an incredible phenomenon. You are thinking in terms of about 630 million cubic miles of water, weighing three million, million, million tons – if the mountains were as high then as they are today. It is an unimaginable volume of water utterly transforming the earth, building new mountain ranges and land masses and changing the earth’s climate. There is no way anyone can explain how the resources of the creation, all by themselves, could first thrust forth and then remove such a flood. It was a one-off judgment miracle, the most audacious of them all, performed by the fiat of God. Let all mortal flesh tremble before it. God’s word devised the Flood, God’s word accomplished it, God’s word sustained it, and then God’s word ended it. These are the comments of the apostle Peter as relevant today as when first preached, “First of all, 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? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water 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 reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:3-7). So by an incomprehensible judicial action, but not by an irrational or immoral action of God the flood destroyed the Cainite civilization of Noah’s day.
2. HOW PLANTS COULD HAVE SURVIVED THE FLOOD.
Almost thirty years ago a science student came to Aberystwyth University to work for her Ph.D. Her name is Nancy Darrall, and she attended our congregation during those three years when her whole approach to the Bible was clarified and greatly strengthened. She became a firm believer in the opening chapters of Genesis, which happens in the English churches of mid-Wales only if you become an attender of this congregation. It is the only pulpit that treats with deadly seriousness this portion of the word of God. People say so lightly that “Aberystwyth is blessed because it has all those evangelical churches;” – would to God that it were so.
Dr. Nancy Darrall has put Christians in her debt by using her expertise in her suggestions as to how plants survived Noah’s flood. Her work on this theme is found in a copy of the Biblical Creation magazine [ Autumn 1986, BC 24] and I will provide a photocopy for anyone who would find it helpful. You will appreciate that the problem which plants faced at the time of Noah is one caused by a double disaster coming upon them. Firstly, the problem was one of survival during fierce storms and flooding, and secondly, propagation in the harsh conditions remaining once the flood waters went down. The original soil on the land surface would have been completely destroyed, and deposits ranging from clay and sand to rocky ground and decomposing debris would then be in its place.
There are only a couple of references to plants in these chapters. We are told of Noah gathering the food that was to be eaten and storing it in the Ark (Gen. 6:21), and then in the eighth chapter we are told that the dove returned to the ark with a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak (Gen. 8:11). We know from God’s ‘book’ of creation – that is from examining the coal deposits – that there evidently had been prolific growth of plants and lush vegetation before the Flood. For example, in the London Clay Flora, 314 different types of seeds have been found. A similar picture emerges from sedimentary rocks all over the world, and then came the Flood. So how did plants survive?
i] The first answer is that many did not. We know of some plants only through the fossil record. Plants like club mosses and horse tails are now extinct.
ii] The second answer is that plants survived because God closed the door of the Ark (v.16). You think that that was to keep people and animals safe, but there was another reason and that was also to preserve the indispensable plant life on which we all survive. God closed the door in order to keep the grasses and herbs and seeds that Noah had brought into the Ark to feed the animals, and for future agriculture.
iii] The third way that plants survived was by their fruit and seeds remaining dormant. When there is drought and low temperatures then plants survive in the shape of their seeds. An acorn for a few months can lie dormant and still retain the capacity to germinate, while an Indian water lily can retain its capacity to germinate for over a hundred years. Charles Darwin himself did a number of experiments in 1859 on seeing how many seeds would survive in salt water and for how long, and the conclusions to which he came today seem obvious that the larger the seed – a bulb, a tuber, a coconut – the longer it would survive. If seeds floated on rafts and drifting logs they would survive the best.
iv] The fourth answer is that there are numerous examples and studies of the recolonization of areas that have been flooded. The area around Krakatoa after the famous 1883 volcanic explosion was rapidly recolonized by plants, as was Mount St. Helen’s after its recent explosion. New islands were formed around Iceland forty years ago, and it took about nine years for 83 different plants to be growing on those newly formed rock outcrops.
v] The conclusion is that there is general agreement that earliest agriculture in the world was established in the Near East in the vicinity of the Mount Ararat range of mountains. Noah would have made preparation for the time when he, his family and the animals would leave the Ark and agriculture would begin again. For example, wouldn’t Noah have taken some cuttings of vines with him? I like to think so. The family surely would have taken seeds with them, and from that epicentre of the Near East the various tribes of the earth spread forth. Isn’t the Bible concerned with seeds? Wasn’t our Saviour someone who often spoke of seeds? He certainly spoke of the sower going forth to sow and the different response there were to seeds falling in thin soil or amongst weeds or in rich soil. He spoke of the seed secretly germinating and growing, and that the smallest seed, the mustard seed, can produce a mighty tree. Unless a seed is planted in the soil it is destined to die alone, but if it is buried deep in the soil it will produce much fruit. So the salvation of the Ark was for Noah and his family, and for the animals too, but also for plants, and if Almighty God cares for seeds how much more will he save and keep you who confess him as your God?
3. HOW ANIMALS SURVIVED THE FLOOD.
Noah was told to take on board the Ark pairs of each land creature and bird, and also food for them since they wouldn’t be miraculously nourished. God could have restarted creation and made all the animals all over again as he’d done at the beginning, but he spared them in this way, binding men to their care and they to men. The animals in the Ark would number enough for eight people to take care of for a year, and so there must have been a significant and representative selection of animals related to Noah’s environment on board the Ark. Most land animals are quite small, and of the few large animals those that were young would presumably have been taken on board. None of the animals which God intended to render extinct would have been on the Ark. Noah and the boys didn’t have to go walking off to round up the clean and unclean animals. We are told in verse fifteen that, “Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark.” The instinct for survival and migration is strong in animals and birds; God focused this on this newly completed immense vessel with its open door which Noah had built.
Seven pairs of clean animals included oxen, sheep, doves, gazelles and so on were taken on board, and one pair of unclean included donkeys, pigs, horses, camels, ravens and the like. This curious animal distinction was part of the simple message taught to Israel during the centuries of its childhood that the children of Israel were to be holy to the Lord, and all the other nations worshipping their idols were unholy. Every part of Israel’s life – eating and drinking, what God’s people wore, and how they worked, and who they married, and what they taught their children – was to be a clean, holy, separated life unto God. This was underlined in the distinction between clean and unclean animals on board the Ark. One deck would have been for unclean animals I suppose and another for clean animals, and yet the clean and unclean animals were together there and were provided for in this ‘kingdom’ of Noah. The profane son Ham as well as the holy sons Shem and Japheth were together in the Ark. This visible congregation of the Lord’s people – this ‘ark’ we are sitting in now – will always be mixed; there will be a Judas among the twelve, and an Ananias and Sapphira as members of the early church.
We can imagine the awesome silent scene as over a few days thousands of animals came out of the forest in pairs and walked to the Ark. The sky was black with birds and their sounds. Noah had been preaching to the people of the villages around to come to the Lord and be saved from the destruction to come. He had preached that message for years and no one at all outside his own family had come, and yet here are these animals coming to Noah and entering the Ark. Christ spoke of the stones crying out in praise to him if the people refused to sing Hallelujah. Balaam’s donkey could see what his master failed to see and so did the beasts and birds at the time of Noah
Here we see God’s love for the animals he designed and made. Do you remember the startling note at the end of Jonah’s prophecy especially as we find it in the Authorized Version? “And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jon. 4:11). If God cares for animals shouldn’t we? Hear how God portrays the glories of the world to come when the great judgment will be over; “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:6-9).
4. THE LORD SHUT NOAH IN.
Noah was safe in the ark and all who had responded to his invitations and warnings were also there with him. His wife, his three sons and their wives were all there too. This was the day Noah had long spoken to them about. All the animals, clean and unclean, the reptiles and insects were all there too, content in the places that had been assigned to them. Everything was done as God had said, and so God acted and he shut the door (v.16). He had often revealed himself to Noah and was with him now, but he didn’t say, “Noah, the time has come for us to float away. Lock the door.” He didn’t tell Noah to give orders to the boys to slide it closed and throw the lock. Their safety in the flood was not going to hang on themselves. The Lord himself throws the lock; he did it who when he opens “no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open” (Rev. 3:7). God sealed the door and ensured the complete security of all he had constrained to enter the Ark. The women wouldn’t wake up the first night on the Ark and nudge their husbands and say, “Did you remember to lock the door?” All eight persons on board knew that the Lord had done it. They could rest in peace month after month. They were all perfectly safe. The Lord who had come to Noah all those many years ago and told him to begin this work had himself completed it by closing the door fast.
Don’t we find the theme of the closed door of protection running through the Bible? In Sodom Lot was standing in the street trying to speak sense into the ears of a wicked lustful group of men, and then God’s messengers pulled him into the house and shut the door against them all to protect him and his daughters. They were safe. In Egypt the angel of death didn’t push open the door of the Israelites and take the lives of their firstborn sons when he saw the blood of the lamb on the door frames of their houses. The door was secure; death did not enter their homes; they were safe. In Jericho Rahab and her family went into the house, the door was closed and while the rest of Jericho was destroyed they were safe. In Jerusalem the prophet Isaiah was God’s spokesman addressing the remnant of Judah who were taking refuge from the Assyrians as they invaded the land, “Go my people, enter your rooms and shut the door behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by” (Isa. 26:10). They were safe. Are you safe behind a door that’s locked tight by God whom no man and no devil will ever open to destroy you? Can you say,
“Should storms of seven-fold thunder roll,
And shake the globe from pole to pole,
No flaming bolt could daunt my face,
For Jesus is my Hiding-place.”
Our Lord Christ told the story of ten women on their way to a wedding, and half of them were very foolish because they failed to bring any oil for their lamps. They sat around waiting hours for the bridegroom to arrive and finally off to sleep they went. Then suddenly he was there! The bridegroom had arrived in the dark street. Where were the cheers, the welcome, the applause, the swinging lanterns? Half of the welcoming women bounded out into the street and lit their lamps of greeting. Half of them? Weren’t ten invited to be the matrons of honour? A meagerly five women turned up? This was the wedding day of a great man, never to be repeated. Where were the rest? I’ll tell you where they were, knocking on the doors of friends and iron-mongers looking for someone who’d sell them oil for their lamps at that late hour of the night!
So the bridegroom concluded, “Better five than none at all. Come in! Welcome to the feast!” And in they went, secure in his joyful presence. He brought them into his banqueting house and his banner over them was love, but then he locked the door. Then the feasting began and all the joy of being with the radiant bride and her handsome groom. As time went by they could all hear knocking on the door from out in the darkness. They could hear shouts, “Sir open the door to us! It’s us! Please open for us to come in!” But the opportunity for opening the door had gone by. The door to the wedding feast was for ever closed to those foolish women. They made no preparation for the greatest event of the year.
The men and women of Noah’s day were being confronted with the greatest event of the century. They had all seen the vast Ark for decades. It was the most famous building in the world. It was Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building and the Kremlin all rolled into one. But they had never seen the door of the Ark closed. It had always been open as the boys went back and fore carrying tools and wood, and their wives coming bringing them food and drink, and Noah preaching to the curious and the mockers in front of the open door. That was what they thought of when people asked them if they had seen the Ark.
But had they recently seen the Ark. “No. Why?” Visitors had been struck by the silence. No more hammering. No more sawing. No more areas of wood on the Ark unpitched. Hadn’t they heard what had happened for a week. “Haven’t you heard? They say it’s true, and you haven’t heard? It’s quite incredible, hundreds of animals have been pouring into the Ark day after day for a week, perfectly orderly, no fighting at all.” What had the old crazy man told them to do? They couldn’t remember; they didn’t want to remember. “It’s a rum old business, his preaching to us like that for years and his building that giant ship, out here, far from a lake let alone the sea. He must be crazy, but he’s a kind old boy, and his sons . . . the whole family . . . so generous and sincere . . . I don’t know.”
Then it had began to rain; the skies were black with clouds, and the lightnings flashed and then came a deluge as they’d never known before. The rain came down like the Niagara Falls and never stopped for a week, the rivers quickly overflowed their banks, and the waters rose and filled their houses and swept them away and then the water level crept up the mountains, up and up, never stopping day or night, never slacking, down it came, but the people who hadn’t wanted Noah and his righteousness in life still didn’t want him and his Ark as death came near. Not Noah. The Flood rather than Noah. Drowning rather than Noah. Death and an angry God rather than Noah. And God closed the door.
Today the Ark of salvation stands open. It is the Son of God Jesus Christ. God said to Noah, “Come. . . into the ark” (Gen. 7:1). Isaiah said, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isa. 55:1). Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). At the end of the Bible we read, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev 22:17).
1st October 2006 GEOFF THOMAS