Commentary by Walter Albritton
Story of the Flood Reminds Us of God’s Great Mercy
Genesis 6:5 – 9:17
Key Verse: When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth. – Genesis 9:16
As evil as the world seems today, it was worse at one time. In the days of Noah, wickedness was so prevalent that God became sorry that he had created the human race. Genesis says evil was so all embracing that God was “grieved in his heart.” In other words, humanity’s evil broke God’s heart.
So disappointed was God that he decided to destroy the human race. Evidently, for a moment, God determined that the grand experiment had failed. Chilling indeed are the words of the Lord, “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” (Genesis 6:7).
The good news is that this was not the end of the story. The very next sentence should be so precious to us: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” My heart skips a beat as I read those two words, “But Noah…” We are here today because one man walked blamelessly with God! Except for Noah, earth would be no more populated today than the planet Mars! Stand back for a moment and ask yourself, “What is Genesis trying to tell us about our God?” The answer is both transparent and exciting: that our God is the God of a second chance!
Try to imagine what life would be like without a second chance. None of us would have made it past the days of our “terrible twos.” Our parents gave us a second chance, repeatedly. Our friends, at least most of them, have given us a second chance more than once. Our employers have given us a second chance. But most of all, God has given us a second chance, and a third, and a fourth. In every relationship, life is impossible without a second chance, because no one is perfect.
Genesis tells us also that God takes sin seriously. Evil breaks the heart of God. He expects us to choose to obey Him. Obedience allows the Spirit to make us godly, and godliness is what God wants from us. When we disobey God, our disobedience grieves him. Enoch obeyed God. Genesis calls that “walking with God.” Noah walked with God. Walking with God is doing what God says do, and walking where God says walk. The shining truth about Noah is that he did everything (“all”) that God commanded him to do.
When it comes to our walking with God, most of us are not asked to do something extraordinary, like building an ark on dry land. Godliness for us is doing the Christlike thing on the job, in school, on the street, and at home. We walk with God when we consciously choose to forgive those who hurt us, provide loving assistance to the poor, and offer encouraging friendship to hurting persons. We walk with God best when we love others as Christ loved, which is exactly what he commands us to do.
The smell on board the ark must have been almost unbearable to Noah’s family. Yet the safety of the ark helped them to tolerate the stench! When the waters subsided, Noah was surely relieved to release the animals and breathe fresh air again. However, the first thing he did after getting off the ark was to build an altar and make a burnt offering to God. The first thought of the man who had found favor with God was to erect an altar. His first thought was of God, not himself or his family.
Genesis tells us that God was pleased, so pleased that he made a beautiful covenant with Noah and his descendants: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Genesis 8:21-22). The sign of this covenant, God said, will be his rainbow in the clouds.
The old command, first given to Adam and Eve, was repeated to Noah and his sons: “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” This was a new beginning for humanity, because God believes in a second chance. The story of the flood is the story of God’s mercy. Can we dare ever read it without falling on our knees and crying, “Thank God for the mercy of God”!
Years ago a friend fell out with me. Our friendship was ruptured by a careless word on my part. The loss of his friendship grieved me. Finally, I went to his home and asked his forgiveness. That night, by the grace of God, we were reconciled. Our friendship was restored by my friend’s gift of mercy. He could be merciful because he was made in the image of God, whose nature is to offer mercy to his children.
If we neglect or spurn our Father’s offer of mercy, we do so at the peril of our souls! Let us come boldly to the throne of grace and avail ourselves of His mercy – while we can! The people in the days of Noah waited until it was too late to repent of their evil and walk with God.