January 15, 2014 by Chris French
I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention or not, but we haven’t started off very strong as a species. Put in paradise the only two humans alive decide to rebel against God and are punished by being cast of the Garden. By the time there are four humans one of them will kill his own brother! Now over 1,500 years have passed everyone is thinking evil things all the time! Everyone, that is, except one righteous man and his family. God decides to erase all the things that are alive and repopulate the earth with Noah’s family and the animals He saved on the ark.
This is a favorite passage for atheists and others who want to call God’s justice and goodness into question. How could God have murdered millions, possibly billions of people? You can say that most of those people probably deserved it, they were evil, but what about the babies? I feel ill-equipped to answer that question, but I do want to offer some thoughts.
1. It’s impossible to build anything with rotten lumber. It’s also impossible to build a nation that longs for God if everything they’re doing is corrupt. The word God uses to describe the people who died in the flood is ruined or decaying. They’re rotten. He could have waited 10,000 more years and they would never have longed for Him. Their actions and the pain they inflicted on each other and on Him would only have multiplied. There needed to be a clean slate, a fresh start.
2. It’s not like He didn’t give them time to repent. Apparently there is a 120 year window in which the righteous Noah told people why he was building a massive boat and collecting animals. God doesn’t change. In Genesis 6 you find the same God with all the same characteristics that Peter spoke of as being “longsuffering, not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3.9). I bet there were times when Noah thought that God had forgotten about His promise to destroy the world during those 120 years, but He was waiting willing the wicked people to reconsider their ways and come to Him so He could save them, but they wouldn’t have any of it. Don’t think that this preaching and God’s waiting only took up the span of 120 years either! The entire world doesn’t become evil overnight. This had probably been in the works for hundreds of years. In fact, I find it interesting that the only other righteous man we read about between Adam and Noah was taken very early in his life. Could it be that everyone around him was so wicked and it caused him such pain that God took him? Putting that on my list of questions to ask God…
3. God is Sovereign. It’s tough to get this point in our society where we are taught and even trained to question our leaders, but let’s try. He has complete authority and we don’t get a say…maybe that wasn’t as hard as I thought. He doesn’t need to ask my opinion before He takes action. I would never look at something I’ve created and ask its opinion about my other creations. It’s kind of got a limited view you see. As Creator and Sustainer it would be my prerogative to tear those creations apart and build something that was more pleasing to me. I can get it with the things that I’ve made, but it’s still tough to wrap my head around the flood. I think Isaiah 55.8-9 might help us here.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
There are some things that I might not ever be able to understand and that’s okay. I wasn’t designed to think and be on His level. My job is not to understand, but to trust. I’ve got some guesses at why He decided to kill everyone during the flood and the genocide during the takeover of Canaan, but in the end I don’t have to understand. I just have to trust that what He has done and is currently doing in my life is turning me into the image of His Son (Rom. 8.29).