There are a couple of important points to make about the flood story:
- The flood account reveals God’s wrath against sin.
The flood story makes clear that God’s wrath is kindled because of sin. We’re reminded of the foundational truth of Genesis 1 — that we were made in the likeness of God, created to image God. But sin corrupts and distorts that image — it has the power to “uncreate” God’s good creation. And God doesn’t like it when anyone or anything gets in the way of His purposes. So His wrath burns against sin and it’s power to uncreate.
In the story of Noah, we see that God does not turn a blind eye to the sin in the world. He pronounces judgment — because He would fail to be the just and holy God if He ignored sin and its power.
Years ago, there was a church in town that had an interesting slogan on their sign. It wasn’t one of those church signs that was changed out every couple of weeks, either; it was permanent. Just underneath the name of the church, the sign said, “God’s not mad at you, no matter what.” And that always struck me as an odd thing for a church to put on the sign because the Bible is filled with story after story of God’s anger burning against sin — AND against people who commit those sins. Throughout the Old Testament, God tells Israel that His anger burns against them. Jesus expresses anger in the form of righteous zeal when he cleanses the temple in His ministry.
Based upon what I find in the Bible, I think it’s entirely possible for God to be mad at me sometimes — in fact, in those times when I’ve committed sins even though I knew what I was doing was wrong, I think God was DEFINITELY mad at me.
If we assume that God has somehow mellowed out with regard to His attitude toward sin, we should think again. We would do well to remember the Israelite picture of God as a Divine Warrior. After He delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh, Moses sang, The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name, (Exodus 15:3). This was on the heels of the parting of the Red Sea — similar to the flood account in that they are both acts of judgment and deliverance through water. And both stories reveal God as a warrior who always fights against the “uncreating” power of sin.
It seems that we should hear the flood story as a dire warning. God does not take sin lightly. It is a grave matter to Him. The sin in our lives is a problem that needs to be addressed. And thankfully, that’s the other important part of the flood story.
- The flood account reveals God’s covenant-making, promise-keeping character.
God is a divine warrior, but He is much more than that, too. God is a covenant-making God. He does not desire to wage war against you, but against the sin in your life. He knows full well the power of sin, but He responds by entering into covenant — by making promises and keeping them. Think about that: God’s way of fixing what is broken is to make promises.
This points us to God’s faithfulness as an enduring hallmark of His character but also as the most powerful force in the universe. The reason we can have hope today is because God makes and keeps His promises.
The sign of this covenant promise is the rainbow. God says, I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. In the Scriptures, the word “bow” usually describes a weapon of war — like “bow and arrow.” I think we’re certainly right to think of it this way in light of the destruction of the flood. The Divine Warrior has been engaged in battle against sin and wickedness. But now, on this side of the flood, the “bow” is not a weapon of war any more. The bow God sets in the clouds is a reminder of peace. It is the sign of the covenant treaty. It signifies that God has laid down His weapon. One Jewish rabbi says the rainbow symbolizes this because it is a bow pointed away from the earth. God says He will never again destroy all flesh in this manner — and the rainbow stands as the eternal reminder of this covenant.
This may the most important point of all: God believes in promises — He believes in making promises and keeping those promises. The rest of the Scriptures testify to His covenant-making, promise-keeping character:
- Psalm 105:8, He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations…
- In Revelation 4, John is granted a vision of the heavenly throne. And around the throne he sees a rainbow (Rev. 4:3), an eternal reminder of God’s covenant with all humanity.
The flood account tells us of the great power of God’s promises. And these covenant promises find fulfillment one day in Jesus, the Messiah.
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you…was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.2 Corinthians 1:19-20
God’s covenant-making, promise-keeping character is most fully demonstrated in Jesus. Everything God ever promised comes to fulfillment in Him.
Today, we need to hear this as a strong word against sin. If there is sin in your life, repent and turn to God. Ask for His forgiveness, for His wrath is kindled when we sin — because of sin’s power to “uncreate.” But the flood story also reminds us that God’s response to sin is to provide a cleansing through water. In 1 Peter 3, Simon Peter compares this to baptism. Speaking of the flood, the Apostle says:
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…1 Peter 3:21
There is an act of new creation that comes through the water. It comes through confessing our sins but also through confessing the lordship of Jesus. It comes through the cleansing flood of being immersed in Jesus — that’s what the waters of baptism represent. And it comes through His gracious promise to redeem you and to make you whole.
God believes in making and keeping promises.