The story of Noah
is one of the best known of all the Bible stories. Even after the recent tsunami
in the Indian Ocean, one little boy was overheard to comment on Noah and God’s
Here we are in
“Ordinary” time. I realize that doesn’t refer to the nature of the time, rather
to counting it. But it’s the play on words that’s interesting. There is nothing
“ordinary” about this story.
Taking up four
full chapters of Genesis, this story captures a number of lessons Moses wanted
Israel to remember. Our reading today hits the highlights (Genesis 6:9-22;
So, what do we
Man is a mess,
most of the time.
Just before our
reading begins, Moses says “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness … and the
Lord was grieved…” (Gen. 6:5-7). In another era, Isaiah announced, “I am a
man of unclean lips and I leave among a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5).
Jeremiah said it this way, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond
cure” (Jer. 17:9). Solomon phrased it, “there is a way that seems right to
a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Pro. 14:12). Paul remarked, “for
all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
A quick look at
the news only confirms the Biblical statements. Reuters and other news services
report that children were being kidnapped and taken into slavery (physical and
sexual) following the tsunami. The New York
Times reports that ten former board members from WorldCom will pay
huge settlements for their part in the stock frauds. A local policeman is jailed
for growing marijuana in her basement.
Man’s a mess and
God has no choice but to exact justice. So, a flood to cleanse the earth.
And a promise – never again. Every rainbow not only reminds us that God is
good, but that man is bad.
Not all men
are a mess.
Noah was a “righteous
man” (Gen. 6:9) and “he did everything as the Lord commanded him” (Gen. 6:22).
Noah believed God when believing was hard (enter Bill Cosby-“build me a boat”).
And he did so in faith that God could be trusted (Heb. 11:7).
A quick look at
the history of the church only confirms the biblical truths. Men do not always
make the right choices (Matt. 7:21-29), but they sometimes do. And when they
do, we are the richer for it. Where would we be if Augustine had not penned
his confessions? Or if Luther had not nailed his theses? Where would we be
if Mother Teresa had not knelt in Calcutta? Or if that elder had not loaned
the congregation the money? Or that Christian sister had not shared her faith
Man may be a mess,
but there is a spark of life in him that can be fanned into living flame. And
that flame, empowered by the Spirit of the Living God can bring man to place
of great accomplishments.
God can be trusted.
There were no doubt
endless days of questioning for Noah. After all it took a while to build that
ark. But, somewhere, somehow, he had learned to trust the voice of God. And
in that trusting, became what God needed in that moment.
In the mystery
of it all, there is a power that comes from God. It is the power of His word.
We call it the gospel in the New Testament. And it has the power to save (Romans
1:16-17). It can take messed up women and men and turn them into useful vessels
And in doing so,
stir up one of the great mysteries of the faith. That mystery may be captured
in the question, “was Noah righteous because he believed God or because he obeyed
God?” The answer is, “yes.” He found that mysterious place of Biblical paradox-the
junction of faith and works. Faith that God can be trust; trust that God must
be obeyed. And in that place of mysterious uncertainty, man becomes a part
of the redeemed. And as a part of those redeemed people, finds choosing the
narrow gate, building the solid foundation, riding the rough waves in an ark
of gopher wood, the wisest choice of all.
Noah has quite
a story to tell. The moral of which might sound like this: God is good, even
when man isn’t.
Sermon brief provided by: Chuck Sackett, professor of preaching at Lincoln
Christian Seminary in Lincoln, IL