Just out of college, I shared an apartment with three good friends. The apartment itself was the first floor of an old, run-down, probably-not-up-to-code house, and it was small—so small that I had to store most of my worldly possessions three hours away. Books, photos, furniture, and a few sacred odds and ends from my twenty-odd years of life were squirrelled away in boxes in the basement of my sister’s house.
Then, one day I got a phone call from my sister. She was in a bit of a panic. Her area had been the target of heavy rains for the previous few days and that morning she had awoken to a small lake in her basement. Everything that wasn’t up off the floor had been soaked, which meant that most of my belongings were forever ruined. That weekend, I made the trek to her house to survey the damage, and what I could salvage fit neatly on the floorboard of the passenger’s seat in my car with room to spare.
Water is amazing. It gives new life and washes clean. But it also has the power to destroy whatever lies in its path. In the sixth chapter of Genesis, God used a flood to wash the earth clean. It was the end of the world—or it would have been had God not rescued Noah and his family.
Why Noah? The Bible says that “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). He was righteous, though that doesn’t mean he was unbroken and without sin. It means that he trusted God and lived his life in a way that reflected God’s good heart. At the time, this was a fairly unique trait for a human being. Wickedness had overtaken the earth, and “every inclination of the human mind was nothing but evil all the time” (v.5). So God decreed a fresh start for His world, and the rains came in obedience to His command.
When we open our Bibles and begin reading from the beginning, we only get a few pages in before we have to wrap our minds around the judgment of God. And wrap our minds we must. What does it say about our Creator that He could wipe out so many? What does it say about humanity that we could sow such evil? The flood is a stark reminder that things are not as they should be. Every moment of every day, God could destroy the world, and it would be perfectly just for Him to do so. He is our Maker, and humanity is (still) living in outright rebellion.
Even after the waters receded, God’s evaluation of the human race was pretty bleak: “the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth onward” (Genesis 8:21). This evaluation still stands. It’s never been rescinded, and the wages of sin is still death (Romans 6:23), remember?
The flood narrative is there to show us how things could be. It’s there as a reminder of what we would face apart from God’s grace. You and I have been given the Noah treatment. We’ve been saved from the flood so that, by the grace of God that is ours in Jesus Christ, we might, like Noah, walk with God.
Written by John Greco