Pulpit Today Sermon
Robert D. Pace
Noah’s Impossible Assignment
Five chapters had been written in Genesis, and 2000 years had elapsed since God had created Adam, but when the narrative of Genesis 6 unravels we find a lurid depiction of humanity. Notice how Moses characterized the world:
Genesis 6:5 says: “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” The operative words here are wickedness and evil. and they describe the depravity of mankind.
Verses 11-12 elaborate on man’s decadence by employing the words, “corrupt [and] violent.” The Hebrew word corrupt actually indicates the process of man’s depravity. For the first 2000 years mankind had steadily deteriorated.
Then the word, “violent,” describes man’s barbarity. This is perhaps the most dreadful description of all because the earth was filled with a savagery that threatened everyone. Here is how the Amplified Version of Genesis 6:11-12 reads: “The earth was depraved and putrid in God’s sight, and the land was filled with violence (desecration, infringement, outrage, assault and lust for power). (12) And God looked upon the world and saw how degenerate, debased and vicious it was; for all humanity had corrupted their way upon the earth and lost their true direction.”
It’s really difficult to imagine Earth’s state of affairs. It was the worst possible time to live. That’s when one of the most sobering verses of all Scripture was written. Genesis 6:6 says, “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.”
But this is where Noah steps into the picture. Noah surfaces as the divinely sent man to rescue the entire human race. He was entrusted with the duty of building a ship larger than a football field, in an area 200 miles from water, and in a world rife with wickedness. Noah was to gather his family, along with every land-breathing creature, into the boat. God planned to drown the earth, dry it, and then jump-start civilization again. How’s that for assignment? That doesn’t sound too difficult does it?
(Transition) Before stating the impossibilities of Noah’s assignment I want to mention three important facts of this narrative.
A. First, this story is not allegorical; it’s factual!
Secularists have scrutinized this phenomenon perhaps more than any other event in the Bible and opinion has weighed in both ways. Many have simply relegated this account to mere fancy, or mythology. Other secularists admit a worldwide flood occurred but have accused Moses of plagiarizing the account from Mesopotamian records (Grolier’s Multimedia Encyclopedia). On the other hand, many respected scientists point to geological findings that support an ancient worldwide flood. Even historical findings of primitive civilizations record a catastrophic cosmic flood.
But the most persuasive of all accounts comes from the fact that Jesus referred to Noah’s Flood in the New Testament. Jesus would have never documented Noah’s Flood had it been mere myth. The Bible is clear: the Flood is more than legend; it’s an actual account of history!
B. Another important fact we learn from the Flood is how it reveals God’s judgment against sin.
God is never passive concerning sin. At some point, sin will always face its judgment. God is good, holy and just. And because He is good, holy and just He must reckon with sin. His justice will not permit Him to ignore sin and let it pass without due sentence.
Did you know that no era of human history has escaped God’s judgment against sin? God has judged the sin of every human dispensation. A dispensation, or era, is a time frame characterized by God’s distinctive dealings toward man. A dispensation is analogous to the way historians divide history. (The ice age/s, the stone age, the bronze age, iron age, etc.) It’s interesting that the Bible chronicles eight human dispensations, with each of them ending in judgment!
First, there’s the dispensation of Innocence.
This is the brief period of time Adam and Eve lived free from sin. But once they disobeyed God, they were judged and death entered the world.
The Dispensation of Conscience followed, which lasted from Adam’s fall to Noah’s 600th year. And this dispensation culminated by the judgment of the Flood.
Then came the Dispensation of Human Government, which lasted from the Flood to Abraham. This age ended with the destruction of the Babylonian tower and man’s dispersion into the earth.
The fourth was the Dispensation of Promise, which spanned from Abraham to the Exodus. This consummated with God’s judgment against Egypt.
Then there was the Dispensation of Moses’ Law, which stretched from the Ten Commandments to the First Century. This dispensation witnessed the cruelest of all God’s judgments—the death of Christ on the Cross.
Today we live in the Dispensation of Grace, which is marked from Christ’s resurrection until the Lord’s Return. And at Christ’s Return the earth will endure a grueling Seven-Year Tribulation, which will try men with unparalleled judgment.
The next dispensation on the calendar is Christ’s Millennial Reign. This era will conclude with a final climactic judgment against all the nations at the battle of Armageddon, when God will overthrow every vestige of evil. Satan and his minions will be eternally banished to the Lake of Fire and the eternal kingdom of Christ will ensue with perfect peace.
Until now, all five dispensations preceding this Age of Grace have culminated with sweeping judgment. If no other dispensation has escaped God’s judgment “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”
(Transition) But one more fact we must remember about this event is, despite God’s displeasure and judgment of sin, God’s great mercy is exhibited here.
C. Noah’s Flood reveals God’s mercy.
Do you realize God’s patience waited to destroy the earth until only one righteous man remained? The testimony of God within man had dimmed until only one man held the torch. God was forced to issue His judgment! But what’s remarkable is this: About a thousand years before the Flood Noah’s grandfather had a son that he named Methuselah. And Methuselah’s name means “in the year of his death it shall come.” It’s interesting that Methuselah lived 969 years and is known for outliving every man. Do you realize that God’s grace and divine patience waited 969 years before judging mankind with the Flood? Yes, God issues judgment, but only after much reluctance! The Psalmist said God “abounds in mercy” and the prophet Micah said the Lord “delights in mercy.”
(Transition) With these facts mentioned, let’s investigate Noah’s Impossible Assignment. Actually, God gave Noah a series of impossible tasks that I want to discuss. First, God asked Noah to live as one righteous man amid a completely corrupt world.
I. Noah’s Impossible Task was to Live as one Righteous Man Amid a Completely Corrupt World
That certainly cuts against the odds—one solitary man serving God in the midst of a world completely corrupt. Besides Noah, mankind was totally degenerate!
(Application) Some people contend their lack of immediate Christian influences makes it impossible to maintain a Christian testimony. Their lack of fellow Believers on the job, at school, or at home prevents them from serving God. But that isn’t what the Bible teaches. The Bible asserts that Christianity can be practiced anywhere and under any circumstance.
Noah, against the tide of all humanity, overcame the world’s temptations and surged to the crest of human history. With conditions as they were I’m certain Noah was lampooned and ridiculed by the establishment. Can you imagine the cock-eyed looks he attracted as he explained the purpose of building a 450’ ship 200 miles from water?
But there has never been a point in history when serving God was easy. People of all ages have had to contend for their Faith. We fight battles that rage from every imaginable angle. If the world isn’t pounding us externally we feel stress and anxiety mounting internally.
So here is Noah, in the midst of a corrupt generation, described as possessing the twin virtues of “righteousness and blamelessness.” The whole world was lying, fighting, cheating, and stealing—virtually self-destructing—but here was one man whose character couldn’t be assassinated and whose principles couldn’t be compromised:
- When you did business with Noah you were treated honestly.
His word could be deposited in the bank.
When he committed to something the job got done.
There was nothing phony about him. And these virtues are commodities for today’s market!
How did Noah do it? How did he live uninfected from the world’s contagion? Genesis 6:9 reveals his secret when it says “Noah walked with God.” When the Bible says “Noah walked with God” it didn’t mean he had a nominal understanding of God’s character and nature; it meant Noah had a genuine relationship with the Lord.
- In order to “walk with God” we have to develop a relationship with God. We have to love Him, obey Him, converse with Him and spend time with Him.
“Walking with God” means you deliberately exercise yourself into God’s presence. And you do this by studying His Word and practicing His precepts. It doesn’t happen accidentally.
“Walking with God” means that you place yourself in the hands of the Heavenly Potter to fashion you into His image.
As Noah “walked with God” he illustrated the possibility of serving the Lord despite the absence of godly people, despite evil permeating society and despite the threat of aggression toward him. He purposed . . . he resolved . . . he made up his mind, to walk with God!
(Application) Some of you are the only Christian in your immediate family and that makes it difficult. But unlike Noah you will never serve God alone. There are multiplied millions of Christians around the world as part of your extended spiritual family. God has structured the Body of Christ with a supporting cast of interacting members and you will never face life alone.
Even during a crisis when you may not have another Christian physically at your side, you can know the prayers of Believers are being offered on your behalf—something Noah never experienced.
(Transition) So the first impossibility Noah conquered was one you will never face: He served God in the midst of a totally corrupt world. But let’s look at Noah’s second impossible assignment. Noah’s essential task of constructing the ark was impossible.
II. Noah’s Essential Task of Constructing the Ark was Impossible
Turn to Genesis 6:15-16 and let’s read. God told Noah: “This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. (16) Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks” (NIV).
The remarkable feat of this undertaking is that Noah was even able to complete it! You remember how Genesis 6 characterized the world: “Corrupt, violent, wicked, and evil.” The crime and violence plaguing the earth stood in constant opposition to Noah’s assignment. It’s not a risky assumption to conclude that God providentially protected Noah and the Ark throughout the entire construction process.
When you consider the violence that plagued the world, the Ark’s gigantic dimensions and the time it took to complete the project the magnitude of the miracle is multiplied. According to many scholars it took Noah approximately 100 years to construct the Ark. And when the ship’s measurements are calculated, they figure to a staggering 1,518,750 cubic feet!
So how did Noah do it? Well, he didn’t do it alone! God was with him, and when you think about it God was more responsible for constructing the Ark than Noah! We give Noah the credit for hauling the lumber and swinging the hammer, but ultimately it was God that miraculously consummated the task.
Do you realize Noah endured a test that, in length, exceeded all other tests? His trial lasted for an entire century! Noah unwaveringly believed God, hammered, pieced and plastered together that gopher wood for 100 years. We don’t live a 100 years much less shoulder the burden of a trial that long. (I suppose if the “testing of our faith works patience,” then Noah was also the most patient of men.)
If Noah could build the Ark under such circumstances you and I can weather our storms, persevere through our tests, and complete any project God requires.
Covenants Are Enacted After Faithfulness
God honors faithfulness! Let me share an intriguing discovery I made while studying for this message. It concerns how God activates the major Covenants or promises of Scripture to man. First, God revealed His covenant or promise to someone; second, that individual underwent a probationary time of testing, and; third, if faithful, the covenant was enforced.
This procedure is consistent with every major covenant God made with man. For example, look at God’s covenant with Noah in Genesis 6:18. God said: “I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.” And for 100 years not one more word is mentioned to Noah concerning this promise until Noah builds the Ark, loads the animals, and weathers the storm.
Then when Noah exits the Ark and worshiped God with his sacrifice the Lord said in Genesis 9:9: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you (10) and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. (11) I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
God activated His covenant after Noah’s faithfulness and obedience!
- God’s covenant with Abraham operated the same way. God introduced the covenant to Abram in Mesopotamia but enforced it after he left home and started his journey.
The Law of Moses followed the same order. It was first pledged to Moses and then ratified after Moses stood before Pharaoh and demanded Israel’s release.
The Phinehas/Priestly covenant was presented and launched after Phinehas zealously purged Israel from its sin (NUM 25:10 13).
The Davidic Covenant was made and enforced with David after years of commitment and devotion to God. Turn to 2 Samuel 7 and let’s examine this.
2 Samuel 7:8-11
(Application) When God offers a covenant it’s predicated on the faithfulness and obedience of the people to whom it’s given. And a faithful response moves God to initiate the covenant. And I sense that some that are listening to this message have: (1) heard God’s voice; (2) obeyed his command; and (3) now stand in close proximity to God enforcing your promises. Like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David you have been faithful to follow God now, He’s ready to bless.
(Transition) Finally, Noah’s last impossible assignment was to Gather the world’s animals into the Ark.
III. Noah was Commissioned with the Impossible Assignment of Gathering the World’s Animals into the Ark
God said to Noah in Genesis 6:19, “You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you” (NIV).
Can you imagine that? How could anyone corral all the animals of the world into a ship? But Noah never whistled for dogs, brayed for donkeys, or chirped for birds. How was this impossible task accomplished? It was accomplished the same way the other impossibilities of Scripture were accomplished—by God’s miracle working power!
Genesis 7:15 says, “Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. (16) The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the LORD shut him in.” The Lord gathered the animals!
God’s grace and power always accompany His assignment. And as God did for Noah, He will do for you. He will divide the sea, quench the fire, stop the sun, flatten the walls, expel the devil or dispatch the angel for whatever mission He gives you. The Spirit’s supernatural power will assist you.
If you’re like Noah—faced with an impossible task—take heart! The Bible reveals that it’s God, not you, that will produce the miracle. Your responsibility is the same as Noah’s. And it can be summarized with a mathematical equation: Faith, plus obedience, equals God’s miracle.
If God has given you a mission to fulfill perhaps it seems like “Mission Impossible.” But don’t get disheartened! Your success will come through God’s blessing of grace, the power of His Spirit, and a baptism of His love. Remember, “With God all things are possible!”