A Covenant God
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.[i] (Genesis 1:1, NLT) This phrase starts the Bible, and it forms the foundation for all of our understanding of the world.
In the first chapter of Genesis we learn that God created a man and a woman to whom he gave the earth He had created. In chapter 2, we learn more specifics about the man and the woman and their circumstances.
The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made . . .” (Genesis 3:1, NLT) This phrase starts the third chapter. In chapter 3 we are introduced to our enemy, Satan, and to sin, the curse and to grace.
These are all beginnings.
Genesis is a book of beginnings.
Until chapter 4 of Genesis there are only two people, Adam and Eve. These two people are all that exists of the human race. There are no ethnic groups. There are no borders, divisions, schisms or factions. This changes very quickly as Adam and Eve’s first born son kills their second born.
Chapters 4 and 5 list genealogies and give names and ages for people. We see how mankind is instantly divided as Cain’s family is marked by violence and division.
We also see the ages of people and are given the names of the line of Seth. If we stick just to the dates, names and individuals given, we can calculate the flood started in year 1656 after creation.
This next thing is speculation, but it helps us to understand the setting at the time of Noah. If we calculate the generations and the child bearing ages and 3 to 5 children per family; as well as the longevity indicated, we can calculate the population at the time of the flood was anywhere from 1 to 40 billion people.[ii] We do not know actual mortality rates, birth rates and such so fixing a number on the population is wildly speculative. However, my point is that extremely large numbers are possible mathematically.
Genesis 6 starts with the statement that men began to multiply on the face of the earth. We know from chapters 4 and 5 that cities were established. With cities established and population multiplying, I tend to think of a significant worldwide population.
From chapter 4 verse 22 we know that iron and bronze were being forged. We are given little information about the world prior to the flood. We do not know what kind of technology they developed, and how they lived their daily lives. However, we are told that the sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives. These unions produced children who became giants, heroes and famous warriors. In this pre-flood world, there were cities. There were iron tools. There were wars and fighting.
In chapter 6 verse 3 God says, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.” (NLT)
In this pre-flood world, it was possible to have a direct relationship with God. We are told in chapter 5 verse 24 that Enoch walked with God. The Law of Moses was not yet given. God’s relationship with man was still based on the Garden of Eden standard where God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. They also had the advantage of extremely long lives in which to learn and perhaps find God.
In Acts 17:26-27, the Apostle Paul gives an interesting perspective. He says:
From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. (NLT)
After less than two thousand years of men living long lives without law but with direct access to God, the conclusion was:
The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. (Genesis 6:5-6, NLT)
I would like to believe that at least some people were good. But, the truth of the matter is: “Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.” (Genesis 6:9, NLT)
Did you catch that: “The only blameless person living on the earth at the time?”
This is the beginning of the story of God’s dealings with humanity. The age from creation to the flood represents his first administration. It involved no rules and an open invitation to walk with God.
From the flood to Abraham was the second administration. The rules were no meat with blood still in it and no murder. And, God promised never again to flood the entire earth. The open invitation to walk with God was still there.
From Abraham to Moses was the next administration.
We see a pattern in the Bible of which the story of the flood is just the beginning.
For example, God sent Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. When they left Egypt they numbered anywhere from 1 to 2 million people. How many of them were able to enter the land of promise? Two people were allowed to enter, Caleb and Joshua. Everyone else died in the wilderness because of their wickedness. 2 out of a million are at least better numbers than the 1 out of a billion of Noah’s day.
Each administration shows that no matter how God deals with humanity: “everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.” It broke God’s heart at the time of the flood. It breaks God’s heart today.
At the time of the flood, there was only one godly man. We are not to that point in this, the Church age. There are many who love the Lord Jesus and who walk in close fellowship with God. However, the days are evil. In many places in the world, Christ followers are persecuted for their faith, and compared to the total population of the world true followers of Christ are not in the majority.
The story of Noah gives us a picture of how God dealt with the world when it was at its worst.
First, given that in such a short time after creation there was only one godly person, why would God spare anybody or even start over? However, God is not willing to destroy the godly along with the ungodly.
Genesis says, “Noah found favor with the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8, NLT)
This is remarkable to me. The word translated “favor” here in Genesis 6:8 is used in other places to describe ladies who are outstanding because of their beauty and grace. It carries the idea of being pleasing to the eye. We know that God looks on the heart. David was pleasing to God because of his heart. We know that neither David nor Noah was sinless. But because of their heart toward God, they found favor in the eyes of the Lord. They were attractive to God.
This is something that begins here in Genesis and is consistent throughout human history. In a word, “. . . he offers his friendship to the godly.” (Proverbs 3:32, NLT)
The world was at its worst, but God would not destroy this one godly man.
Second, God tells his plans to Noah, and tells him how to escape the coming judgment.
This also is a consistent part of God’s character. Psalm 25:14 says, “The LORD confides in those who fear him.”[iii] (NIV)
What is more, we know from 2 Peter 2:5 that Noah was a preacher. Over the 100 years he spent building the ark, Noah was telling the people of his day of the coming judgment.
In the days of Jonah, God warned Nineveh of his intention to judge them. They repented and were spared. I believe if the people of Noah’s day would have repented, they too would have been spared.
It is the same today. Romans 10:13 tells us, “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” (NLT) God makes His appeal through us. We plead with men on behalf of God to be reconciled to God. We tell of His love. We tell how Jesus died to pay for our sins. We tell of God’s willingness to forgive all of our sins and even to adopt us as His own children. And yet, those who would spread this message are often persecuted and even killed for sharing such good news.
There are those who believe and are saved. In the days of Noah, it was not so. For one hundred years he preached without a single convert, not even one.
Third, God confirmed His covenant with Noah.
This shows once again a consistent part of God’s character.
Genesis 6:17 & 18 say:
Look! I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die. But I will confirm my covenant with you. (NLT)
God is a covenant God. He makes promises that He never breaks. His promises are so sure that even if the mountains move and the stars disappear from the sky, His promises will never fail.
One morning this week I was driving west after having dropped Jonathan off at school. The rising sun was behind me, and a grey sky of clouds and rain was in front of me. As the sun shone against the clouds before me, a beautiful rainbow arched its way across the whole sky. It was stunning, and I was reminded of the promise that God made to Noah so many years ago.
God made a covenant with Abraham, and there is still a nation called Israel these thousands of years later.
God made a covenant with David, and Jesus Christ is the eternal descendant of David with the right to sit on David’s throne.
Do you know that God offers His covenant promises to you? 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (NIV)
There is a promise of rest for the people of God. There is a promise of freedom. There is a promise of forgiveness. There is a promise of eternal life. There is a promise of a home in heaven, a place in paradise. All these promises are there for the person who will but call on the name of the Lord. We do not earn these. We receive them by asking for them.
God has promised to judge the world again. We know it is coming. We know it will come suddenly. Just like in the days of Noah, Noah went into the boat he had built and the floods came. People were living in cities, forging bronze and iron, marrying and having children until the day the flood came. It will be the same when Jesus returns with one difference. There will be a seven year pause, known as the tribulation, in which mankind will have one more chance to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.
Call on Him today.
[i] Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[iii] Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.