Prepare for That Day of Wrath
A sermon based on Genesis 6:9-22, 7:11-23
Sunday, December 1, 2013 – Advent 1A
On March 28, 2014 this movie is scheduled to be released. And already the reviews are starting to come in now. It would seem that the movie goofs a few things up: First, there's some confusion over the Nephalim. Where it says the sons of God married the daughters of men they portray the false notion that angels and people had hybrid babies. But Jesus said angels can't marry or be given in marriage. We just looked a that text a few weeks ago. I've also read that they make Noah out to be a shaman or witch doctor who's kind of a tree-hugger, not a righteous man clinging to the promise of the coming Savior. And I've read that movie suggests that the people's great sin is not taking care of Mother Earth instead of disobeying God the Father.
But for all it's failings (and I'm sure there will be many more), the movie looks intriguing. The special effects look promising. And I'll probably try to go see it in the theater (in 3D if I can). Maybe we can make it a church event and discuss the movie over drinks after we watch it.
But today, we look at the script, well, at least one scene from the script. We examine the Biblical account of the great flood and see how Noah and his family prepared for the day of God's wrath and Judgment. And we do it in view of the fact that we too will soon face a day of God's wrath and judgment. And we prepare because we know the day is coming. We prepare, certain that in that day God will lift us up. Our text is from select portions of Genesis 6 and 7…
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. 15 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. 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.
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.
13 On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. 14 They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. 15 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.
17 For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. 18 The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. 21 Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.
I. The Day is Coming…
On the National Geographic channel there's a show called "Doomsday Preppers," which shows people going to great lengths to convert their homes into underground bunkers and fallout zones, building storehouses of canned and dehydrated foods and building massive security systems and stockpiling ammunition.
Now some of you might sympathize with such thoughts. Better to be safe than sorry, after all. Others might think these overzealous boy scouts go a little overboard in their efforts to always be prepared.
But think how ridiculous Noah must have been. He wasn't building a secure fortress or a stockpile of weapons, but a giant boat when there may not have been water in sight for miles. He was building it to prepare for a massive zoo when the animals might not show for several decades. Can you imagine how Noah must have been the laughingstock of all his neighbors, considered a cracked pot that went off the deep end in his old age. After all he was more than 500 years old now. And he may have been at this job for a century or more! How ridiculous he must have seemed.
And how ridiculous we must seem to people today! I just watched a documentary on Netflix called "Hellbound?" (with a questionmark at the end of the title). In it, popular theologians denied the existence of hell and mocked those who believe in it's existence (as Jesus taught) as right-wing nut cases using religion to control people and start wars by their fear mongering.
But laugh as they will, we know that Judgment Day is in fact coming. That's what the Great Flood was really all about—a warning to all who would follow that God's patience will only last so long. People today are just as wicked as they were in Noah's day. Couldn't it be said today that, "God [sees] how corrupt the earth [has] become, for all the people on earth [have] corrupted their ways."
Judgment Day is coming. Of that fact, we can be certain. And it won't happen a third time. The second Day of Judgment (the Great Flood being the first) will be the end of the world. The rapture will end with some left behind only to face destruction and hell. That was Jesus' point in Matthew 24: That the end will come suddenly and unexpectedly and will mean the deliverance of some, and the destruction of others, not some false idea that some will be left behind for a second chance. They will face the same fate as those destroyed by the flood. And no bunker or shelter, no amount of security or ammunition, will spare people from that disaster.
So, here's the key question: Are you ready?
The sad truth is that it could well be said of us, "God [sees] how corrupt the earth [has] become, for all the people on earth [have] corrupted their ways." You and I are just as sinful, just as guilty as the rest of the world. Just as Noah was a sinner, just as guilty as the rest of the wicked men who surrounded him.
Ah, but there's a big difference. Noah was called "righteous" not because he was so well behaved, but because he trusted in God's promise to send a Savior who would take care of his problem of sin. And so, God chose to rescue Noah and his family. He was ready for the flood because he had built the ark and stockpiled food and "did everything just as God commanded him."
Now for us, God doesn't call us to get ready for the Day of his wrath by building a boat or a bunker or by stockpiling food and ammunition, but he offers another way of saving us: the Church. That's our ark that keeps us safe—our life boat through which we find safety in the day of wrath.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mean to suggest that people who aren't members of any church are automatically damned to hell. It is the Church with a capital "C," that is, all true believers in Jesus everywhere, regardless of their membership status, who are safe. But, while you might be able to swim and stay afloat in a flood without a boat, why would you ever want to? In the same way, while you might be a Christian outside of any church, trying to make it on your own, who in their right mind would ever want to?! Inside the boat you have comfort, safety, companionship while you wait out the rest of the storm that is this life.
Be a part of the Church and the church (both big "C" as Christians and little "c" as members of a church). Here, in this place, you hear the comforting truth that even though you have been corrupt, have corrupted your ways, and have not done everything just as God has commanded you, nevertheless, through Jesus' and his death and resurrection you too, just like Noah, are considered righteous in God's sight. Here you find safety and security in the day of wrath.
And here you can build up your faith. Stockpile it as you prepare for Jesus' return. That's what Advent is all about. The word means, "Coming!" We prepare for Christmas as we celebrate Jesus' coming to earth to rescue us from God's wrath. We prepare by staying in the Word where he comes to us today. And by taking such measures, we'll be ready when he comes to us again.
And then, when you're ready to go, safe and secure in Christ, don't just relax in the boat sure of yourself. Instead, sound the warning for others. We have a life boat with plenty of room. Don't let your friends go to their destruction. Share the good news with them! Throw them a life line! Invite your coworker or neighbor to the Children's Christmas program on the 15th. Don't just like our church's Facebook page, but go the next step and share a sermon on your page and leave a comment. Talk up the school. Share not just the great academic scores and the caring teachers, but share that Grace is the one school around that will best prepare kids for Judgment Day. Join the Evangelism Team, help pass out flyers, help come up with new creative ways to rescue others.
Get ready! Help them get ready confident that when you're prepared you know that Jesus will lift you up when he comes again…
II. …When God will Lift You Up
It must have been terrifying for Noah and his family. Even though they were safe and sound inside the ark, all sealed up, can you imagine what they went through? They must have heard the springs of the deep bursting with loud rumbles, the rain pouring down relentlessly for forty days and nights, the rivers rising, trees and building crashing. Did they hear the people screaming, begging to be let in? Did they hear the bodies thump against the ark as they floated to the surface?
But in spite of how frightening it must have been, Noah and his family must have also had an overwhelming sense of peace. Because throughout the terrifying experience, they knew that God was protecting them from all of it. And, by the flood, God was making a better world for them.
You see, the flood wasn't just destructive, it was also salvific. That is, it saved, or offered salvation to, Noah and his family. It saved them from the evil people who would have destroyed them. It saved them from the evil people who would have destroyed their faith. It rescued them from this sad, corrupt, wicked world. And by preserving their faith and by preserving the line of the Savior, it preserved them eternally too.
And this real, historical event of the ark saving Noah and his family from the universal flood, also serves as an illustration for us. In 1 Peter 3:20-21 Peter wrote: "God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this 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."
Just as the ark lifted Noah up above the destruction that was taking place below as God scrubbed the earth clean, so too, your baptism has lifted you up out of sin, scrubbed clean by Jesus' blood, guaranteed eternity by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. You have been saved. Things might seem scary all around you, with the economy and your finances, with your health and diagnosis, with your broken family or broken dreams, but you're safe in Christ. And quite frankly, "in Christ" is much better than being "in an ark." You're far more secure than Noah and his family. He was safe from physical death and destruction by the ark lifting him above it. You are safe from eternal death and destruction by Jesus.
So, now, when debt rises and the springs of the deep burst forth with new bills, you'll be okay. You'll rise above it. When relationships fall apart but reminders of that person constantly crash against your life, your relationship with Jesus will hold together and stay afloat. When your health begins to fail, your Savior never will. And when death or Jesus finally comes, you will be lifted up from this earth, from every tear and sorrow, from every fear and pain, from every depression or frustration. You will begin your brand new life with Jesus!
So rejoice! Rejoice that when you stay ready, Jesus return isn't a terrifying thing. It's our victory! Stay ready in the Word, in the Sacrament, in the church, in applying what you learn, in living out your faith. Keep sounding the warning cry to others and throwing the lifeline of the Gospel out to them. And then, when Jesus comes, you and they will be ready—ready to go! Ready to be lifted up to heaven.