Be Ready for When God Cleans Up
A sermon based on Genesis 6 (select verses)
Sunday, November 27, 2011 – Advent 1B
Do you have guests coming for Christmas? Have family joining you for dinner? Then it's time to clean up! Time to clean the house, wash the dishes, pick up, put away, and tidy up. Time to clean up before Christmas. This Advent season as we get ready for Christmas by cleaning our homes for guests and cleaning up ourselves for special holiday events, we see how God cleans up for Christmas too. He cleans away the wickedness and sin to make us ready for his Son's coming.
This morning we hear how God cleans up the earth, scrubbing it clean of all wickedness and sin. He scoured the earth once before by a universal flood, wiping the evil off the face of the earth. And he will scour the earth again at the end of the world when Christ comes again, destroying all evil and wickedness from the world once and for all.
And God tells us how he's going to clean up well in advance so we can get ready. This morning as we recall the account of the flood, we get ready for when God cleans up again. Listen now to Genesis 6, select verses…
When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."
5 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. 6 The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them." 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
9 This is the account of Noah.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.
17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But 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. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them."
22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
I. God Will Clean Up the Mess
Why does evil exist? Ever had that challenging question fired in your direction? "If God loves everyone, and God is all powerful, then why does he permit evil? Why not stop it and put an end to all evil once and for all?"
Why does evil exist? Because God gave mankind freewill—the freedom to reject him, to serve ourselves, and to ruin his creation. And ever since Adam and Eve, fallen mankind has rejected God's will and chosen to serve self instead. It wasn't long after creation that, "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."
Earth was covered in the disgusting muck of sin. And it broke God's heart to see his perfect creation so filthy. And God was ready to clean up the evil and wipe up the mess. So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth… for I am grieved that I have made them."
This week someone pointed out to me how Noah's ark is often depicted as cute and cuddly in pastel colors all over baby's room. But the flood was really an act of God's condemning judgment in his holy wrath. There wasn't anything cute or cuddly about it. (But it is still a good idea, by the way, not to paint people drowning on baby's wall.) But with a universal flood, with God's wrath poured out in his fury, the earth was scrubbed clean.
…But it didn't stay clean.
You see, Noah passed his sinful nature on his sons and they passed it on to theirs. And even after God scrubbed the earth clean by the flood every person born was still born dirty, filthy, covered in the muck of sin. How God described that sinful nature before the flood hasn't changed since: "Every inclination of the thoughts of [man's] heart was" [still] "only evil all the time."
And it remains that way today. Just look at the wickedness that surrounds us: The murder and rape, the child porn, the "adult" porn, the scandals and corruptions that we hear about every day. The world is still evil, just like it was before the flood.
And so once again God will don his rubber gloves so to speak and will scrub the earth clean. But sometimes when you try to scrub a stain clean water just won't cut it. You need something more powerful. The next time God cleans the earth of evil, he won't use water. He'll use fire.
He said through the apostle Peter (in 2 Peter 3:3-7): 3 …you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come… 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." 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago… the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 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.
"Why does evil exist? Why doesn't God put a stop to it and end all evil once and for all?" Oh, don't worry. He will. Just as God sent his judgment against the world by the flood, so he will most definitely judge the world again by fire. The question is will we be ready for that day when God scrubs the earth clean of evil a second and final time?
II. God Has Cleaned Up Our Mess
You see, it's not just those evil people out there that are by nature objects of God's wrath. You and I received that sinful nature that Noah passed down through our parents. And you and I were born dirty, filthy, covered in the muck of sin. What God said of mankind in verse 5 was true of us by birth: "Every inclination of the thoughts of [my] heart was only evil all the time." We weren't just kind of evil, but every inclination was! We weren't just a little evil, but only evil, with nothing good in us! And we weren't only evil once in a while, but all the time!
"Why does God permit evil? Why not stop it and put an end to all evil once and for all?" I love the way the movie, Road to Emmaus, answered that question: Jesus turned to the disciple who asked that question and said, "Why doesn't God just wipe out all the evil people? …Then who would be left? Would you?" Evil exists because God is being patient. He's waiting for more evil people to come to faith and be clean. But eventually his patience will run out. He will scrub the earth clean of all evil.
God said through Peter, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But 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.
And even though the day is unknown, God doesn't want to surprise anyone by his judgment. The ark may have taken 80 years to build! And all that while Noah was preaching to those around him of God's coming judgment by the flood. But even though God gave people plenty of time to prepare for the flood, all but eight ignored the warning. And all but eight were swept away.
And God is warning us about his impending judgment by fire today! Jesus warned us not to be caught off guard by that day. He said in Matthew 24:36-39, 36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man."
"Don't be like those people," Jesus warns, "who should have, but never did see it coming." So… are you ready?
Not all were caught off guard by the flood. Noah and his family were ready. And the day of the flood wasn't a day of judgment for them, but a day of salvation as they were rescued from the wicked and corrupt world around them. What made the difference? What made them ready?
Well, verse 8 says, "Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." And verse 9 adds, "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time…" Is that to say that Noah earned God's favor by how well he behaved? No, not really. You'll notice he wasn't blameless before God, but blameless among the people of his time. Before God, "Every inclination of the thoughts of [Noah's] heart [too] was only evil all the time."
No. Verse 9 explains how Noah could find favor in the eyes of the Lord and be considered righteous. It says, "and [Noah] walked with God." Hebrews 7:11 explains what that means: "By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith."
Noah had faith in the promise of the coming Messiah, a promise that Adam could have shared directly with Noah's father, Lamech, by the way (since Adam died only about 120 years before Noah's birth). He trusted that someday God would send one of Eve's offspring to crush Satan's head and make him righteous. And by faith in that promise, "Noah was a righteous man, blameless…" before God.
Make no mistake, God will scrub the earth clean of all evil again. Last time he did it with water. Next time he'll do it with fire. Are you ready?
In Christ, you are! By faith in the Messiah who came, you are clean! God has cleaned up your mess of sin and wickedness already! He has made you righteous and blameless in his sight! By the waters of baptism he has washed you clean of all your sin, just as Peter wrote in our Epistle lesson: "This [flood] water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…"
We are ready through Christ, made clean through his death and resurrection. Now, may you daily remember your baptism and drown your sinful nature again and again. May you keep your trust in Christ and always stay ready.
Then we won't be caught off guard when God is ready to clean up once and for all. And Judgment Day won't be a day of terror for us, but a day of salvation as we are rescued from the wicked and corrupt world around us. And we'll stay clean forever in heaven. Are you ready for that day? In Jesus, the answer is, "Yes!" Amen!