Deliverance Through Judgment:
III. Destruction by Water (Chapter 7)
The first part of this chapter (vss. 1-10) records the final instructions of God to Noah just a week before the flood came. Again, the obedience of Noah is marked (vs. 5) as he brought into the ark those appointed unto salvation and so all things were ready for the judgment to come.
Our attention in this chapter is to be directed mainly to the flood as the judgment of God by which the wicked world was destroyed by water. We cannot treat this in detail but will note a few of the main points.
Our starting point we may take from II Peter 3:5-7 so that we are mindful that this judgment is a type of the final judgment of the world. This is also suggested in Christ’s words in Matt. 24:37. Hence, the outstanding feature of the judgment of the flood is that it is universal, i.e., its destruction included the whole world and from it there was no escape. “The rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights” (vs. 12) Forty is a symbolic number. It is four times ten. Four symbolizes the earth and ten denotes completeness of anything as determined by the counsel of God. Forty then represents the full measure of the outpouring of the wrath of God upon the earth. God destroyed the world utterly.
The judgment of the flood was a divine wonder. This was no ordinary rain. Verse 11 tells us “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” We take this in a sense figuratively but the meaning is obvious. There was a universal upheaval, catastrophe resulting not simply in great water-damage but in radical, structural change in the very earth itself. Many of the so-called problems of science can be answered if this aspect of the judgment of God in the flood be remembered. A divine wonder too, that the ark is preserved in such a storm. Which of our modern ocean liners could survive it? Lenski says, “ . . . these mighty waters did actually prove themselves ‘mighty’. What power behind raging, surging waters! On the one hand, how God’s power in keeping the ark amid such dangers stands out the more distinctly! On the other hand, what opportunity for working vast geologic changes lie dormant in these ‘mighty’ waters! The native force of gabhar is enhanced by one me’odh, ‘exceedingly’ in v. I8 and by doubling of the same adverb — a Hebrew superlative — in v. I9). When will geologists begin to notice these basic facts?”
Verses 19-24 stress the fact that destruction was total and universal. The waters rose “fifteen cubits upward,” i.e., approximately twenty-five feet above the highest mountain. We do not picture people and animals attempting to climb these mountains to escape. This was impossible. The destruction came with such rapidity as to disallow this. GOD is judge and terrible as it is to fall into His hands, there is no escape.
To be noted yet is the fact that the very element (water) by which the church is saved (I Peter 3:20) is the element that destroys the world. Even so is the church now tried and purified as it were by fire and so shall the world perish.
- Salvation in the Ark (Chapter 8:1-19)
In this passage, we are told how Noah and the other occupants in the ark spent the year and ten days that the flood waters prevailed and the earth was again made ready to be inhabited. The details are meager. Questions of curiosity remain unanswered. Most important is the fact that God saved and preserved them in the ark.
Here we may consider the truth that the ark is the symbol of Christ. True, 1 Peter 3:20 tells us Noah was saved “by water” but “in the ark.” The water, symbolizing the flood of Divine wrath, destroyed the wicked and by it the church was saved. The ark, which is Christ, was in the midst of those waters but not destroyed. Christ was engulfed by the wrath of God against our sins but He did not perish, He died but also rose again. A beautiful picture directing us to the reality of our salvation in Christ.
When Noah, etc. entered the ark “God shut him in.” (11:16) This means not only that when God shut the door no one else could possibly get into that ark but also that those who were in could not again get out. God seals His people in Christ and none of them shall perish. “The foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His.” (II Tim. 2:19)
A key expression in this passage is found in verse 1, “And God remembered Noah …” This cannot be interpreted to imply that there was a time prior to this that God had forgotten him. This is certainly not true. Rather it points to the fact that the remembrance of God is the deepest reason for their preservation and salvation. In this remembrance, God warned Noah, instructed Noah, strengthened him during the hundred twenty years while the ark was prepared, brought him into the ark and delivered him through the flood. If only God remembers us, we need not fear. His remembrance is our salvation for he works all things to our good.
That Noah sent out a raven and dove is of significance only as means of determining to what extent the waters of the food had abated. We attach no symbolical meaning to this as, for example, that the dove here represents the Spirit, etc. Neither is this a sign of impatience or unwillingness on Noah’s part to await God’s time when he will be let out of the ark. This is only a natural sequence of events.
- Post-deluvian Worship (Chapter 8:20-22)
With Noah, his family, and every living creature God had established His covenant. This was not a general covenant of nature but the covenant of grace as established with the church and realized in Christ. Further discussion of this may be taken up in connection with chapter 9.
The church then, represented in the family of Noah, is led from the ark and the first thing they do is an act of worship. “Noah builds an altar unto the Lord” and offers a sacrifice. This sacrificial act is first of all an expression of gratitude for the wonderful deliverance wrought. In it is also a confession of sin and an acknowledgement of unworthiness of all this. Certainly, Noah knew and felt that he did not deserve this. This is expressed by the “bloody sacrifice.”
God’s response to this sacrifice of Noah. Verse 21 says the “Lord smelled a sweet savour.” The sacrifice was pleasing to Him. Immediately God says that He will not again curse the ground or smite every living creature as He had done. There would be no more flood such as this. This determination of God is not prompted by the fact that man is no more evil and that the thoughts of his heart are now good. The contrary is the case. But the point is first of all that God will not again destroy the world temporarily as He did in Noah’s time. The next destruction will be permanent and final. Then, too, this will not again be by water but at the end of time the Lord will consume the world by the fire of His wrath. Till then He will maintain the ordinances of His creation for the sake of His Church. That church which He loves eternally in Christ He delivers through judgment that they may show forth the praise of His wonderful grace with abiding sacrifices of thanksgiving.