When we read the story of the flood in Genesis, “mercy” isn’t likely the first word that comes to mind. It seems like the opposite of mercy. We see God wiping every living thing off the face of the earth, giving the impression of a vindictive God, not a merciful one. If we look more carefully, however, we can see the merciful heart of God through this apocalyptic story.
“Human wickedness was widespread on the earth,” and this was not an overnight occurrence. Since the fall in Genesis 3, people had progressed deeper and deeper into rebellion against God. Creation as a whole had turned against its Creator God. He had been profoundly patient when His created world turned on Him—that is mercy.
Even in the flood, God showed mercy. He could have eliminated all of creation, but He gathered Noah and his family and instructed them how to be saved. What is more, He commanded them to bring “two of everything—from the birds according to their kinds, from the livestock according to their kinds, and from the animals that crawl on the ground according to their kinds” (Genesis 6:20). God’s intent was to redeem creation, not vengefully eliminate it.
After mercifully sustaining Noah’s family and all those creatures on the ark for many months, God then gave visible, tangible symbols of life and promise through the raven and the dove that Noah sent out. God gave proof of life (Genesis 8:11).
In the aftermath of the flood as Noah’s family faced a bleak and empty world, God showed His heart of mercy most clearly. After commanding and blessing Noah to fill the earth and rule over it, God offered the rainbow as a sign that He would never again flood the earth. Then He said, “I will remember my covenant between me and you and all the living creatures: water will never again become a flood to destroy every creature” (Genesis 9:15). He gave a sign, a physical and beautiful manifestation of His mercy. God is not whimsical or capricious. He will not condemn the earth again in this way—He will keep His covenant of kindness to the whole earth, and we can look to the sky on a rainy day for proof.
In this beautiful sign of God’s mercy, we are reminded of His constancy. Our merciful, patient, and restoring God has never changed. He is the same God that came as Christ to redeem His people and creation. Christ and His cross are the ultimate signs of God’s mercy. They are God’s offer of salvation, by grace, to all who believe. So we remember and celebrate God’s unmatched mercy and unwavering faithfulness to wayward people.