God controls and is in control of all things.
Genesis(93) (Part of the Origins(91) series)
by Marc Webb(59) on May 30, 2021 (Sunday Morning(291))
Today’s scripture deals with a couple of major themes: one of them being the sovereignty of God. And I want to start out with wrestling with that this morning. First of all, the sovereignty of God is not an easy subject to wrap our heads around. Second, I believe we have a hard time with the sovereignty of God because it makes us uncomfortable. So, I am going to read a definition of the sovereignty of God and as I do I want you to think about the parts that make you uncomfortable.
God’s sovereignty is defined as His complete and total independent control over every creature, event, and circumstance at every moment in history. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent, God does what He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. He is in complete control of every molecule in the universe at every moment, and everything that happens is either caused or allowed by Him for His own perfect purposes. Unlimited in power, unrivalled in majesty, and not thwarted by anything outside Himself, our God is in complete control of all our circumstances, causing or allowing them for His own good purposes and plans to be fulfilled exactly as He has foreordained.
Did anybody feel uncomfortable? That is the God we serve. That is God who cannot be put in a nice, neat, little box. But isn’t that what try to do? We put God in a box and really only interact with him when it’s comfortable to do so or when we can understand what he is doing in our lives. But God is so much greater than what our finite minds can grasp. At the last Secret Church, the subject was God and David Platt commented that we don’t give God the awe, the reverence, and the holy fear that he deserves. We don’t take the time to truly understand who God is. He is so much higher than we are. He is perfect and holy and just and loving and compassionate and we could go on and on and he does all those things perfectly together. We can rejoice in our God’s sovereignty, because it is overshadowed by His goodness, His love, His mercy, His compassion, His faithfulness, and His holiness.
When I look back on my life I can see the sovereignty of God at many different times. I can see that he was in control of my life in that he kept me from trouble and harm. Not that I never got into trouble or was never in harm’s way but it could have been much worse than it was. I can also look back and see times where he was guiding my life. A lot of those times are very evident in the jobs that I have had, in fact, I believe that me speaking to you this morning is proof of the sovereignty of God in my life. He was in control of my life and circumstances that directly brought me to Idaville Church. I have two personal examples of the sovereignty of God in my life to share with you this morning.
I will start with the earliest one which is my marriage to Judy. When I look back on how, when and why I met her in the first place, the path was not a straight one. It was full of so many far-fetched and random events that had to take place for us to even meet, much less get married. Of course those events weren’t random. He has been in complete control of my life and circumstances, causing or allowing them for His own good purposes and plans to be fulfilled exactly as He has foreordained.
The next example was the car accident I had in July 1999 on Rt. 34 just outside of Mt. Holly. Now it’s not the fact that I am still alive today that proves to me that God is sovereign even though that was part of it. To me the proof of his sovereignty are the events in the month prior to the accident. In the middle of June 1999, I had driven a van load of youth down and back to Kentucky. Then the next week, I drove youth to the Creation Festival. Then the following week Judy and I were counselors at our Church camp in Waynesboro and I had to drive up and back twice that week to Uriah Church to fulfill the secretarial duties I had at the time. What proves the sovereignty of God to me is that he was not only in control of my accident but he controlled my accident. The consequences of falling asleep at the wheel could have been so much worse than totaling my car, spending three weeks in the hospital and having to eat by an IV for four months. He was in complete control of that event and even controlled it, causing or allowing it to happen for His own good purposes and plans to be fulfilled exactly as He has foreordained.
What about you? Have you seen the sovereign hand of God at work in your life? How do you feel about it? You see a lot of people are not ok with God controlling and being in control of their lives and we can see that in their rebellion against Him. I believe that the problem is one of submission. They don’t feel that they should have to submit to God or that God doesn’t deserve to be submitted to. Romans 9:20-21 says this, “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” God is our creator and as creator he has the right to control and be in control of our lives. Too many people want to tell the creator how it should be used. Worse yet, many times the creation doesn’t want anything to do with the creator. But guess what? The creator is still sovereign and in control whether we want him to be or whether we believe he is or not.
This morning, we continue with the flood narrative. We have seen that Noah has totally submitted his will and his life to the sovereignty of God. And as the flood has begun, God has been in control of many things. He has been in control of the waters of the great deep and the floodgates of heaven. This morning we will see he is also in control of life and death, in control of his judgment and his grace and in control of the lives of Noah and his family. Two weeks ago, Pastor’s big idea was that God is in control of his creation and this morning we will see he is in control of re-creation as well. Ultimately God is in control of all things but he also controls all things and we need to be willing to come to grips with those truths in our lives. That brings us to our big idea this morning: God controls and is in control of all things.
I don’t know about you but that makes me exceedingly happy. I for one am glad that human beings are not in control of our world or of my life. I want the one true God, the Creator of the Universe, the Alpha and the Omega in control of not only this world and what happens in it but my life and what happens in it as well. And I hope you do too. Before we dive into our passage this morning, let’s pray: Sovereign God, we thank you for being in control of our lives because you are the only one who can do it perfectly. Help us to accept your rule and reign in our lives. Continue to pour out your Holy Spirit on us as we learn from your Word this morning. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
We will be looking at two points this morning. The first is indescribable judgment and that is found in Genesis 7:17-23a. This is what God’s Word says, “For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth.”
Earlier in the chapter we were told that the rain fell on the earth for forty days and forty nights. Now we are told that the flood kept coming on the earth for forty days and we can suspect that not only the rain fell for that period of time but also the springs of the great deep kept bursting forth for forty days. Next, we see the effect that the flood had on the ark, on the earth and on every living thing. Each statement that is made about these three things builds upon the last to gives us a picture of the devastating effects of the Flood.
First, we see the waters affected the ark. As the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. That statement is built upon as the waters rose and greatly increased on the earth and the ark floated on the surface of the water. Second, we see the waters affecting the earth. As the waters rose greatly on the earth all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. That statement is built upon as the waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits or about twenty feet. This means that the water rose to a height of more than twenty feet above the highest mountain. This would have allowed the ark to float over the surface of the water without running aground. In verses 18, 19 and 20 when it says the waters “rose” it means the waters “triumphed or prevailed.” This word is a military word for succeeding in battle. In the battle between the earth and the waters the waters won and is proven by the fact that the waters covered the mountains above and beyond to a height of more than twenty feet.
Third, we see that it effected every living creature that moved on the earth including mankind. Our scripture states that every living creature that moved on the earth perished. That statement is built upon as everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died, and then it even continues to be built upon in that every living thing on the face of the earth was not only wiped out but wiped from the face of the earth. All the birds, all the livestock, all the wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth and all mankind died. In fact life did not simply die, it was wiped out and wiped off the face of the earth. Hamilton says, “The use of “perished” or “died” instead of “drowned” reinforces the idea that the loss of life is a divine penalty rather than death due to natural catastrophe.” This is a picture of the devastating effects of the flood. Everything outside the ark came under the indescribable judgment of God. The process of creation that God started in the beginning has now been reversed.
I want to pause here talk a little bit about the universality of the flood. Maybe you have never questioned whether the flood was universal or not or maybe you never even thought about it. But I can tell you scholars are split. For instance, some use science to say there is no way that the flood was universal in scope and others use science to say that it was. I want to give you some compelling arguments for a universal flood and then I will give you my thoughts on the subject. Many of these arguments come from Whitcomb and Morris’s commentary.
The first argument for a universal flood is that the language used in the flood narrative is definitely universal. But the opponents of a universal flood would say that the same all-inclusive language used in Genesis is used elsewhere in the Bible and doesn’t mean all-inclusive in those passages. Also, some scholars say that because man had not scattered all over the globe, a universal flood was not necessary. They say that a localized flood would have been good enough to accomplish the purpose of the flood, which was universal judgment. The second argument is the concept of displacement. Our scripture says that the flood covered over and above the mountains by twenty feet. If it covered the mountains in one area it had to cover the mountains in every area of the world because the water would have had to have been displaced somewhere. Whitcomb and Morris state that “the fact that water seeks its own level seems to be decisively against a local flood.”
The third argument is that the floodwaters covered the earth for more than one year from the time that Noah entered the ark until he left it. No local flood in history ever lasted that long and for the water to have covered the earth for that period of time shows it was a universal flood. The fourth argument is about the size of the ark. If it was a local flood why did God command Noah to build an ark the length of one and a half football fields and 30 feet high. If he only needed to save the indigenous species of Mesopotamia he could have built a smaller boat. Honestly if it wasn’t a universal flood Noah and the animals could have just walked out of the flood area. Which brings us to another interesting thought. If it was only a local flood and Noah and the animals could have just walked to another area to get away from it, why couldn’t the rest of humanity done the same thing. In that scenario, God’s judgment would have been thwarted and we have seen that was not the case.
The fifth argument for a universal flood is the testimony of Peter in 2 Peter 3:3-7. Peter says, “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” Peter is saying that at the end of the age God will destroy the world in fiery judgment. He bases the universality of that judgment on the universality of the flood judgment in Noah’s time. If Peter is teaching a universal judgment by fire at the end of the age why would he compare it to a local flood in Noah’s time.
Here's one last argument: If the flood was not universal, why did God give the rainbow as a universal sign of his covenant. We see the all-inclusive language in Genesis 9:11 and 15, which says, “I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And verse 15: “I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” Weirsbe says, “God promised to never send another flood like the one he sent in Noah’s day. But if the flood was a local event God didn’t keep this promise.” We see instances of flooding every year in the world. If Noah’s flood was a local event like, for instance, the Jamestown Flood, then God’s promise and the covenant sign of the rainbow meant nothing. The flood bears witness to universal sin and universal judgment.
Now I said I would give my thoughts on the subject. There are two things I want to say and I want to preface the first one with this: I believe that the flood was universal. With that being said, God is all-powerful. Could God have used a localized flood causing no water to be displaced in order to bring about judgment on those outside the ark? I believe he could because he is all-powerful. The second thing is, this argument is not the point of the flood narrative. Just like the point of the story of creation is not how God created the heavens and the earth but that it was God who created them; the point of the flood narrative is not whether it was universal or local but it’s about God’s sovereignty over his creation. He has the right to rule and he rules rightly. But it’s also about his judgment and his grace being poured out on his creation perfectly.
And that brings us to our second point this morning which is indescribable grace. We see his indescribable grace in the midst of his indescribable judgment. Look at verses 23b-24 with me. This is what God’s word says, “Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.” God out of his infinite love not only for Noah and his family but ultimately for us saved a remnant from out of the world so that he could continue to be in relationship with his creation, so that he could continue to show his love and care for his creation and it overflowed out of his perfect sovereignty. I find it interesting that in this passage there are seven and a half verses describing the judgment of God and only one half of a verse describing the grace of God. Everything outside the ark came under the judgment of God and everything inside the ark came under the grace of God. Everything outside the ark died and everything inside the ark was saved. God’s purpose of judgment had been achieved but also God’s purpose of grace was achieved in the midst of judgment.
Hamilton says, “The use of two passive forms of the verbs to describe the fate both of the ungodly and of the righteous Noah suggests strongly that it is Yahweh’s action which controls eternal destiny.” They were saved not because of anything they did to deserve it but solely on the grace and mercy of God. Hamilton also notes that “Noah is saved because of Yahweh and Noah’s family is saved because of Noah. Every human being in this narrative owes his preservation to someone else.” We also see this in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot is saved because of Abraham and Lot’s family is saved because of Lot except for his wife. In God’s perfect sovereignty he gave his grace and mercy to Noah, his family and the animals on the ark. He did this because he is in complete and total independent control over every creature, event, and circumstance at every moment in history. He is subject to none, influenced by none, and absolutely independent. He does what He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. He is in complete control of every molecule in the universe at every moment, and everything that happens is either caused or allowed by Him for His own perfect purposes. He is unlimited in power, unrivalled in majesty, and not thwarted by anything outside Himself. Our God is in complete control of all our circumstances, causing or allowing them for His own good purposes and plans to be fulfilled exactly as He has foreordained. THE BIG IDEA
Lastly, we see that the waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. The water continued to rise for another 110 days and then reached its peak. The forty days and forty nights of rain and the earth being flooded for a hundred and fifty days demonstrates that no living thing could possibly have survived by escaping to a high place or by clinging to floating debris. Try to imagine what that would have looked like. Wenham says, “This section closes with an awe-inspiring picture of the mighty waters covering the entire earth as though the earth has reverted to its primeval state at the dawn of creation, when the waters of the deep submerged everything.”
The title of the message this morning is Re-Creation and was really another of those major themes I mentioned earlier. God brought the judgment of the flood in order to re-create not only the earth but to re-create his image-bearer, mankind, as well. God was re-creating by sparing Noah and his family and the animals that were in the ark. Think about this idea of re-creation as God’s salvage operation of humanity. God so loved humanity and wanted to be in relationship with those that he created in his image that he salvaged Noah, his family and the animals. Salvaging involves retrieving something valuable from the wreckage. We see this in God’s heart so many times in his dealings with his chosen people the Israelites and we see it in individual’s lives such as Saul. God salvaged from the wreckage that was Saul’s destructive zeal for God and turned that valuable zeal into Paul’s apostolic vision for the church. God salvaged Noah from the wreckage of an evil world in his generation and turned it into a new beginning for the human race. God is able to restore even where he has brought destruction. The same God salvages the valuable parts from the wreckage of the sinful rubble of our lives and transforms our lives into a useful ministry on this earth for his honor and his glory and for his purposes.
As I studied this passage, I struggled with what the next steps this morning for us would be. What should our response to this passage be? I could have had a next step based on the sovereignty of God or on his re-creation or salvaging of us, but as I continued to study this passage I kept coming back to two things. The first is found in Luke 17:26-30, which says, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.” Jesus is describing the indifference of the ungodly in those days. The people of Noah’s and Lot’s time didn’t care about God and their lives were filled with evil. In fact about Noah’s generation, Genesis 6:5 says they thought about evil all the time. All they seemed to care about was living their lives in total submission to themselves. Jesus in the gospel of Luke is telling us that when the Son of Man comes, just like in Noah’s day, those people will not be prepared for the judgment that will come. It is imperative that we are ready for Christ’s return or for our physical death, whichever comes first. That is what God desires for every one of his creations. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and totally submit my life to him in every way. If you take this next step you will be ready when final judgment comes.
Also I believe that in the stories of Lot and in the Flood, Abraham’s and Noah’s heart was breaking for those who were going to perish. And we know that God’s heart is breaking for every one of his creations that has rejected him or will reject him. Our hearts should be breaking for those who don’t know Jesus, as well, whether it’s a family member, friend or even a stranger we come in contact with. We need to be like Noah and imploring our friends and family that don’t know Jesus to turn to him for salvation because judgment is coming. I did not have that as a next step but it is the most important step we can take for them and salvation is the most important step they can take for themselves.
The second thing I kept coming back to is found in 2 Peter 3. Earlier I read verses 3-7 in which Peter was comparing the universality of final judgment to the universality of the flood judgment. But if we move ahead to verses 10-14, we read these words, “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 done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”
The bottom line for Peter, as he compared the fiery judgment on the day of the Lord to the flood judgment, went beyond hope for the future. Peter wanted his readers to respond in a certain way right then and there. He wanted his teachings to impact the way they were living their daily lives. The point of the flood narrative for us today is the same. God’s judgment and grace are both real and we will see it played out in the end just as it played out in Noah’s time. We need to respond to this passage in a way that will impact our daily lives. But the question is how should we respond? God doesn’t desire to scare us by threats of judgment but to win us by acts of love, mercy and grace and our response to that should be to live holy and godly lives. Peter ends verse 14 with “since you are looking forward to this, (talking about the new heaven and new earth) make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him (meaning God). That brings us to the last next step which is to live a holy and godly life being found spotless, blameless and at peace with God.
As the worship team comes forward to lead us in our final song, let’s pray: Holy God, we praise you not only for your sovereignty but for your salvation that you freely provide for us. Help us to be holy people as you are holy. Help us to make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.