Matthew

There are many fine commentaries on every book of the NT. So if you don’t have enough, it’s only your own fault! :-)

First-rate: Barclay, Bruner, Davies/Allison, Garland, Hagner, Keener, Wilkins

Second-rate: Albright/Mann, Blomberg, Boice, France, Gundry, Hare, Luz, Morris, Nolland, Plummer, Ryle, ACCS

Third-rate: Allen, Argyle, Dickson, Morgan, Tasker

Forthcoming: Three major commentaries are coming out in the near future: France (NICNT), Turner (BECNT), and Kingsbury (ECC). However, the last one may not ever be published, since the Eerdmans Critical Commentary has more or less fizzled out.

Conservative: Barclay, Garland, Keener, Wilkins, Blomberg, Boice, France, Moris, Nolland, Ryle, Dickson, Morgan, Tasker

Moderate: Bruner, Davies/Allison, Hagner, Albright/Mann, Gundry, Hare, Plummer, Argyle

Liberal: Luz (very liberal indeed!), Allen

Of the forthcoming volumes, France and Turner will both be conservative: Kingsbury will be moderate to liberal.

Cosmic Storm Rising

Genesis 7:1-24
In the Peanuts cartoon, it is raining cats and dogs outside. Lucy says to Linus, “I wonder if it will flood the whole world.” Linus quotes Genesis 9:11 “Never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” Lucy says, “You’ve taken a great load off my mind.” Linus says, “Sound theology has a way of doing that.” Maybe we have loads on our minds, loads of sin and guilt, loads of worry and stress. What we need to know is sound theology, what the Bible teaches. The point of our passage this morning is that God has already judged us, and found us to be not guilty, if we are in Jesus Christ, and participate in His righteousness.

It was spring. The rainy season was drawing near, and the fool Noah was finished with his boat, nicknamed by the people around him, “Noah’s folly.” Noah was predicting rain in the forecast. Big deal. It was the rainy season coming up. How could he say that anything out of the ordinary was going to happen? But then the fool actually gets into this boat, and somehow the door shuts all by itself. And then I felt the first drop of rain on my forehead. A chilly feeling crept down my spine as I realized that the old fool had predicted rain correctly. But surely, there wasn’t going to be much rain. It would clear up in a day or two. That would give me enough time to go around to my friends and have a nice big rain party to celebrate the rain that Baal had given us. We would party away with drink and women and celebrate! But then the rain didn’t let up. In fact, it was raining so hard that visibility was about two feet. This flood was beginning to get serious. My mind went back to what the fool Noah had said. Hadn’t he said something about repenting, for the kingdom of heaven was near? What does repent mean?

These would be the famous last words of one of Noah’s contemporaries, had they survived the Flood. The citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah would have said very similar things, only it was fire and brimstone in that case. Only one person with his children survives that judgment just as it is here in Genesis. John the Baptist said similar things. And now the whole Bible says the same thing to us in this age. Jesus says in Matthew 24, “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” So Peter also says in his second epistle, “Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that they heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” We are now in the last days. The judgment is not sleeping. God is not slow as some count slowness. God is being patient, in order that the full number of the elect will come into the fold, and also that God is allowing unbelievers a chance to repent from their wickedness. But God’s mercy has limits. God will not allow wickedness to triumph forever. God’s patience has run out in Noah’s time. It is time for the world to face judgment. Now the waters will cleanse the earth of wickedness, just as they will symbolically cleanse Noah and his family of unrighteousness.

The Lord says that He has seen that Noah is righteous. This does not mean that Noah is going to be saved because of his own righteousness. Remember 6:8: Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. That is, God gave grace to Noah before God found him righteous. The word “righteous” here has a judicial connotation. That is, the word is equivalent to “not guilty.” God is not praising Noah here, but rather His own grace.

Notice here that there is a lot of repetition in what God says to Noah. In the previous chapter God had given Noah most of the instructions that He gave him in this chapter. However, in this chapter, God elaborates on the instructions. There is a further point to be made about this repetition. God is calming Noah’s fears. It is quite probable that Noah would be wondering whether or not God was still with him. God calms his fears, telling Noah that He still intended to bring on the Flood, and that he still intended to save Noah. Troubled hearts are fond of repetition. Repetition is found in epic poetry all throughout the world. So let us not be offended at the repetition.

In verse 2, we notice that seven pairs (not seven total, as the NIV has it) of clean animals are to be gotten into the ark. This does not contradict the command in 6:19-20. 6:19-20 refers to the fact that at least on pair of each kind of animal was to be saved. Now here in verse 2, God specifies further about the clean animals. Have you ever wondered why it is that the distinction between clean and unclean animals finds its way into the book of Genesis, when the sacrificial system wasn’t in place until Leviticus? The reason is that sacrifice was in existence before the Mosaic law. The story of Cain and Abel proves that, where Abel offers from the fat of his flock. The number is seven pairs, because there would need to be sacrifices after the Flood, which is exactly what Noah does do after the Flood. God knows what value the clean animals had for Noah. So a perfect number of them needs to survive. This distinction between clean and unclean also points to the difference between those outside the ark, and those inside the ark. The fact that God includes unclean animals at all points eventually to Acts 10, where God tells Peter to eat of the unclean animals that are descending on a sheet. By this vision Peter understood God to be saying that salvation was now to be brought to the Gentiles. But they all have to be brought into the one ark. Last week we saw that the ark points to Jesus Christ. There is only place where we can have salvation now, and that is in the ark of Jesus Christ. If we are found in Him at the final judgment, then we will avoid perishing in the fire of judgment that will envelop the world just like the Flood destroyed the world.
Verse 4 shows us that now was the time for Noah to get everything into the ark. These seven days were the final countdown. It says that the Lord would bring rain. This word for rain indicates a very destructive kind of rain, not a gentle rain. From this we learn that God has the power to send either life or death. He can rain down life, as in the case of the manna in the wilderness, or He can rain down death and destruction, as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. Noah then had a choice. Noah was faithful and did everything as the Lord had commanded him.

In verse 6, we see that the Flood came upon the earth. This raises a familiar question, “What was the extent of the Flood? Was is universal or local?” The answer must be that the Flood was universal, that it flooded the entire earth. There are many reasons for thinking this. The main reasons are found in the text itself. Repeatedly, the text says that the mountains under the whole heaven were covered, and to a depth of 15 cubits. Secondly, we see that all life on earth died, except for what was in the ark. Only the fish could have survived, for obvious reasons.

In verse 11, we see special indications that the Flood was universal. The fountains of the deep, and the sluice-gates of heaven were opened. You might remember that God separated the waters under the firmament from the waters over the firmament. The text in chapter one describes what looks like a solid dome, with waters above and waters below. Here, God has removed that separation, and therefore, all the waters of chaos come rushing back in to cover over the earth. So some extent, the question about the extent of the Flood is not big enough, even if we say the flood was universal. The fact is that creation itself was being reversed in the Flood. God had made a bubble in between the waters, and now He was collapsing that bubble. It is not just a universal flood: it is cosmic. The whole universe is collapsing in on itself.

Who was saved from that flood? Only those who were in the ark of the covenant. It says in verse 16 that God shut the door. God did what Noah could not for himself. God sealed Noah into the covenantal ark. The word “sealed” points to a reality later in history, that of baptism, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit. Just as God sealed Noah into the ark, so also the Holy Spirit seals us into Jesus Christ when we become united to Jesus Christ by faith.

What do we see next? We see water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink. Why does the Flood rise so high? Because man’s sin was so great. Notice though, that the more the water rises, the higher Noah’s ark rises. The more the floodwaters surround us and buffet us, the higher our ark rises, the more holy we become, and the closer to God we become.

Do we wait to see if the judgment will come? That is like the person whose reaction to Noah I tried to imagine in the first part of the sermon. It is not wise to delay. There is nothing more certain than death, and nothing more uncertain than life. How do you know if you will even be alive tomorrow? It is the utmost arrogance to make an assumption that you can come into union with Christ tomorrow. That is like the person saying, in Noah’s day, “I can cling to the ark on the outside. I am not willing to give up my lusts and my sins just yet. I want to have a relationship with God, just not yet.” Such were probably some of those who were in Noah’s day. Do not delay. Instead, take your lust, whatever it is, your very own lust, which you love, your Isaac, and put in on the altar, and stab it until there is no more life in it. Repent, and turn to Jesus Christ, and do it now.

Supposing we are saved, do we as Christians know that we are sealed? That it is God who has sealed us, just as He sealed Noah into the ark? Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, “In Him (Jesus) you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” The word for “guarantee” is the word for “down payment.” It refers to the first part of the inheritance that has now passed on to us. We have the first part of our inheritance, the promised Holy Spirit. There is more to come. We need to live in that knowledge. It means that we need to walk according to the Spirit. We need to bear the fruit of the Spirit. We need to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We need to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. That is, we need to put to death the sinful nature that is inside us, knowing that that sinful nature has already received its death blow. Christ gave our sinful nature its death blow. That is our hope. In Christ’s death and resurrection, death itself was conquered, and therefore sin. Christ’s reward for His obedience was the Holy Spirit, which is now promised to the church. That means that we have the Holy Spirit inside us. It means that new creation has come inside us, as it happens to the world after the Flood. No longer are we subject to the old creation inside us, which is about to perish. Rather, we belong to the new creation, the new resurrection order of creation, instituted by Jesus Christ at His resurrection. That is who we now are. So God invites us to remain in Jesus Christ, and trust in His saving power to work in us all manner of good works. As Isaiah 26:20-21 says, “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place, to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, an the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover it slain.” God here invites us to do exactly what Noah did, exactly what the people of Israel did during the time when the avenging angel passed over their houses in Egypt to destroy all the firstborn of Egypt. Go inside and close your doors. When you do, God will open the door to a whole new world after judgment day where we can work as Noah and his sons worked. Only it will be better for us. We will work in a new world where there will be no more pain and sadness, death or toil. Work without toil. Think of it! Come to the ark.