A Whole New World
It was the day that Robin Williams died. We were sitting at our table with Andrew & Stephanie Vadnais. We had two dogs at the time, a dachshund and a great dane. We kept hearing the dogs whining in the basement, but we didn’t think much of it. Then I got a phone call from my sister. She asked if our basement was flooded too. I told her that I didn’t think so, but I guess I’d go check. Upon opening the basement door I discovered about a foot of water in the basement. Our great dane kept lifting his paws up like this to try and get out of the water, and the dachshund was up on two paws, or else he’d be under water. It was the great flood of 2014.
Vadnais and I drove down my street to 13 Mile where the road was completely submerged. We tried to drive Stephanie home that night, but only made it to 13 and Mound before we had to turn around. You remember the images, don’t you? 696 was like a river. Cars abandoned. People stranded. We got a glimpse of the damage serious flooding can do to a region.
And then you consider the worldwide flood of Genesis 6-9. It’s hard to imagine. That’s why some people explain it away as a fairytale. “Educated people can’t believe supernatural events like this in the Bible.” And yet they’re fascinated by it. Hollywood makes movies about it. Numerous ANE cultures all have a “flood story” that’s included in their world history. A group of Christians in Kentucky have created a to-scale replica of the ark. There’s universal human intrigue about the flood.
But why this morning? Why is this the word that God has for CCC this morning? If you’re newer to our church, what we do on either the first or last Sunday of every calendar year is meditate together about the New Creation. Every one is preparing for a new year, which means we’re considering New Year’s resolutions, planning New Years parties, scoping out the next Bible reading plan, or dreaming about the “new you” that’s going to magically appear in 2019. There’s a reason why we all do this. Deep down inside we long for new. We want to be better. On a global scale we all want world peace, an end to political division, the demise of violence, hunger, and illness. From an individual perspective, we all want to be more productive, healthier, we want good for our loved ones. We long for a new creation.
Turn back a few pages to Genesis 6.5. Every human being on the planet longs for the Eden that was lost in the fall. We’re made to enjoy Emmanuel. God created us to be with him. Adam and Eve ruled God’s creation in sinless perfection, and even better, they walked with God. But then they fell in sin. They rebelled against God’s command, and they were banished from Eden. What we see after Genesis 3 is the escalation and permeation of sin. Cain murders Able, the sons of God take the daughters of men, and then look at Genesis 6.5: the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
In verses 6-8 we see God’s judgment: And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. God would flood the earth in judgment of sin, and yet, even in the midst of his judgment, there’s salvation. Noah found favor – grace – in the eyes of the Lord. Noah deserved death just like everyone else. Noah was a sinner, and the wages of sin is death (Rom 6.23). But God, [pause] but God in his sovereign grace chooses Noah to perpetuate the promise of Genesis 3.15. There will still be a seed of the woman who crushes the head of the serpent.
And so YHWH does flood the earth and Noah and his family are saved in the ark, and we come to chapter 9 after Noah sends the dove out, and the flood subsides, and Noah and his family emerge from the ark into a new creation. Notice this new creation begins with God’s blessing. When the rain ceases, God reigns his blessing on his people. Verse 1, And God blessed Noah and his sons – וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֱלֹהִ֔ים. Just as the first creation in Genesis 1 was blessed by God and called “very good,” so is this post-flood creation. And notice that Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, recapitulates the language of the creation account. YHWH commands Noah and his sons, be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. He says it again in verse 7, and you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” Noah and his sons are given the same command that Adam and Eve are given. The cultural mandate must continue. Noah is like a second Adam called to fill the Lord’s earth with his blessing. What is his blessing? It’s right here in the text – more image bearers. God created the world so that the knowledge of the glory of the Lord might cover the earth like the waters cover the seas (Hab 2.14). In order for that to happen, the earth has to be filled with image bearers.
Here we see the difference between the Christian flood account and every other worldview. The Babylonians ended their flood story with a command to control the population. Even now the naturalistic worldview values the planet over people. Don’t mishear me, Christians do – or at least should – value the planet, but never at the expense of people. People are made in the image of God, nothing else, even angels, are. So when you hear people calling for population control, or love of creatures, or earth, over humans, you’ll know it’s not the voice of Jesus you’re hearing.
God promises provision for Noah as he does his work. Just as he gave the first Adam green plants to eat, now he gives Noah the plants and the animals. But even in God’s provision, we’re reminded that the world is broken. Whereas Adam had dominion over the animals, now there’s fear and dread between people and animals because of sin. In this new creation God will use brokenness to bring blessing to his people.
Not only does God reign his blessing, but we also see that this new creation is ruled by God’s justice. This too is tied to his image bearers. God tells Noah that under this covenant whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. In this new world God blesses life, and he judges the taking of life. With each new covenant we see a further revelation of God’s character. Remember under Adam’s covenant this wasn’t the case. When Cain murdered Able, YHWH didn’t require his life, but under Noah, the Lord will enact justice for the murder of his image bearers. It will be even further developed under the covenant with Israel as one of the 10 commandments will state, you shall not murder. The point is that God blesses a culture of life and he judges a culture of death.
God then promises Noah that he will always remember his covenant. He establishes his covenant with Noah, which also harkens back to Genesis 1-3. Throughout the OT when YHWH makes a covenant the Hebrew says that he “cuts (כָּרַ֧ת) a covenant.” But it doesn’t say that here. It says that God established (קוּם) a covenant with Noah. It could also be translated, “I will stand on my covenant.” He’s referring to the creation covenant. In so many ways the Noaic covenant is a recapitulation of the creation covenant. And God is promising not only that he’ll always remember never to flood the earth again, but that he still hasn’t forgotten THE promise. He still remembers what he said in Genesis 3.15.
And the rainbow will be his reminder. It is the sign of the Noaic covenant. It is the tangible picture that YHWH has set down his warrior’s bow against the earth. Never again will there be devastating judgment against every human, every animal, and the planet itself, from now on the focus will be hope. And for thousands of years God’s people would see that rainbow in the sky, in Egypt, in the wilderness, in the Promised Land, in Exile, and they would pray that God would remember his promise.
Until one day a unique Israelite stood up, and he went to the Jordan to be baptized. And he went into the waters just like Noah’s ark. And just like Noah sent out a dove that signified a new creation, so did a dove descend on him at his baptism to signify THE new creation. And even though the intentions of the thoughts of our hearts are only evil continually, Jesus of Nazareth found favor in the eyes of the Lord. He lived a life without sin, and on the cross, Jesus the Son of God, endured the flood of God’s wrath against sin. The same judgment that caused it to rain in the days of Noah was poured out on Jesus in place of his people. And like Noah in the ark, we can only find refuge from God’s holy wrath if we are in Christ. Jesus is the true and better ark that preserves the saints through the floodwaters of God’s judgment.
So the call of the gospel this morning is the same as it was in the days of Noah. The flood is coming. Every one of us is going to die and if you face God alone without Jesus, you’re going to go to hell. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Don’t reject the good news like the men and women in Noah’s day. Repent of your sin and trust Christ. God has preserved this story so that you could see that Jesus is the true and better ark that will keep you safe from the judgment that you justly deserve. He is the only way to the new creation. There’s a reason that the NT so often refers to salvation as being “in Christ.” Like Noah in the ark, the only salvation from the just wrath of God against your sin, is in Christ.
The ark also reminds us that this isn’t merely a spiritual reality. This is a physical reality. When Noah walked out of the ark, it wasn’t to a spiritual “heaven,” but it was to a type of new creation. Jesus doesn’t preserve us through the flood of God’s judgment simply to bring our souls to heaven. Jesus is bringing a new creation. Noah’s postdiluvian creation was a type, a picture that points us forward to THE new creation. Jesus is coming again to raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new. If you’re in Christ, you will live with him forever in the new world. Noah was a 2nd Adam in a new world; Jesus is the last Adam who will bring a new heavens and a new earth.
As you consider the new calendar year, as you long for new, hear the gospel this morning, everyone who is in Christ is a new creation, and they will inherit the new creation. Forget the new years resolution, resolve to love and follow Jesus. Be found in Christ this morning!
For those of us who will never forget that flooding in 2014, it’s a reminder to us that we’re sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God. It’s a call to repent of our sin and trust Christ. It’s a picture of what Jesus endured for us on the cross. And it’s a reminder that after the flood comes the rainbow.
The rainbow, like the Eucharist is a sign to help us remember. Every week at the Lord’s Table, Jesus calls us to remember. We remember the new covenant. And when you see the rainbow, you remember the Noaic covenant. Judgment is deserved, but Jesus gave his body and blood and took our judgment on himself. Because that’s true, there’s a new creation coming. And just like Jesus promised to take communion again with us in the new world, I can’t help but think that even though there will be no sun, that in the new creation there will still be the rainbow.