"From the Fall to the Flood"
The Time of Conscience
I. From the Fall to the Flood
1. Adam and Eve outside the Garden
In their new state of consciousness of good and evil, Adam and Eve began their life outside the Garden of Eden. Existence was quite different from before. Previously, in the peace of the Garden, the first man and woman had been charged with dressing and keeping a true paradise. Now Adam was hewing out a living by the sweat of his brow, battling unendingly against weeds and briars. Eve discovered the truth of God’s Word. He had said, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16). The first child that Eve brought into the world was a son named Cain. She said, “I have gotten a man from the LORD ” (Genesis 4:1). Then Eve gave birth to another son, Abel.
2. The Difference between Two Brothers
As often happens with brothers in the same family, these two were quite different. Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. According to Genesis 4:3–7, there were also spiritual differences between these two men.
3. Worship Taught
Adam and Eve had obviously taught their sons about God’s existence and about the need to worship Him and to offer sacrifices to Him. As time passed by, Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. Abel also brought an offering of the firstborn of his flock.
4. Sacrifice Accepted and Rejected
The Lord accepted Abel’s offering but not that of Cain. This disturbed Cain, and he became angry. The Lord said to him, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” In His mercy and willingness to forgive Cain’s error, the Lord appealed to him.
He told Cain that his offering could be accepted as well as that of Abel if he, too, would do the right thing. The only thing that would prevent Cain from doing right would be sin. Once a man was asked in a kind way, “What is your trouble?” He answered right away, “No trouble, sir, but myself.” The deepest and most dangerous troubles do not come from without but from within. The enemy had entered through a gate that had been opened from within. Cain’s problem was not Abel but himself.
5. Blood Sacrifice, a Requirement
What was wrong with Cain’s offering? One difference is that while Abel had brought a blood sacrifice, Cain had brought an offering of fruit of the ground. From the very first, God’s plan called for a blood sacrifice. In the Garden of Eden, God had slain animals in order to provide skins to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve. (See Genesis 3:21.) In other words, for sins to be covered, blood had to be shed. Jesus Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). The reason God chose a blood sacrifice is that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Without the shedding of blood, sins cannot be remitted (Hebrews 9:22). Adam must have related this knowledge to his sons, or Abel would not have known what to bring. We do know that Cain brought an improper sacrifice. Early in Scripture we see that sincerity alone does not put a person in right standing with God. The one thing God will honor is obedient faith. It is not enough to do what we think is right or the best we know how. We must do what God commands. Abel obeyed God out of faith. Hebrews 11:4 says, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.”
6. The Punishment of Disobedience
Sadly, Cain did not accept God’s offer to try again but instead murdered his brother, Abel. The Lord, who sees and knows all things, asked, “Where is Abel thy brother?” Cain lied, “I know not; am I my brother’s keeper?” Then God pronounced the penalty for Cain’s sin: “What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; when thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.” Cain replied, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me” (Genesis 4:13–14). The Lord answered, “Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold” (Genesis 4:15). Then the Lord set a mark on Cain to prevent anyone who found him from killing him. As a result of his sins of murder and refusal to obey God, Cain left the Lord’s presence and went to live in the lonely land of Nod on the east of Eden.
7. Men Who Walked with God
Adam and Eve had more children, but it was not until she gave birth to a son whom they named Seth that Eve said, “For God . . . hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew” (Genesis 4:25). It was in the days of Seth, who was evidently a godly man with a desire to serve God as Abel had, that people began to call upon the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26).
One of the most interesting men who lived in the time period covered in the Book of Genesis was Enoch. He loved God and was obedient to Him. The Bible says, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). Hebrews 11:5 offers further information on this unusual event: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Early in the dawn of history, there were people who pleased God by their obedience to Him and their faith in Him. Everyone did not share that faith and obedience, however.
In the days of Enoch’s great-grandson, Noah, God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. They were so wicked and lawless that God was grieved for making them. He said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them” (Genesis 6:7). There was one man, however, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord: Noah. While others thought continually about evil things and practiced all kinds of wickedness, Noah believed in God and obeyed Him. Hebrews-11:7 puts it this way: “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” What did Abel, Seth, Enoch, and Noah have in common? Obedient faith. They believed God and obeyed Him. From the beginning, faith has been God’s requirement. As Hebrews 11:6 points out, “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
"The Righteous Family Preserved"
II. The Righteous Family Preserved
1. Faith and Obedience Required
While God made a way of escape for Noah, He required obedient faith on Noah’s part. God gave Noah specific instructions on how the ark was to be built. God decided the type of wood (gopher), the size (three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high), and the number of doors (one) and floors (three). The Lord even told Noah how many animals to take into the ark. He was to take the clean beasts by sevens and the unclean by twos. (See Genesis 7:2.)
2. One Plan of Escape
What if Noah, like Cain, had decided to do things his own way? What if he had used a different type of wood, or changed any other detail of God’s plan? His family would have perished in the flood along with the rest of sinful, disobedient humanity. God has never spared those who were disobedient to His Word. Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, the first human couple had to leave the beautiful Garden of Eden. Because of Cain’s sin, the Lord set a mark upon him and banished him from His presence. Because of the sinfulness of the human race, the whole world except Noah and his family were destroyed. As God said, “My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3). Noah was a preacher of righteousness (II Peter 2:5). Evidently, Noah not only prepared for his family but warned others as well of the impending judgment and their need to repent and obey God. His message went unheeded, however. God, in His longsuffering, was waiting for humankind to repent. (See I Peter 3:20.) The end result was, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Hebrews 11:7). The home is still the place to start the devotional life before God, and it is still important to preserve godly life within the family.
3. The Place of Safety
One week before the Flood, God led Noah and his family into the ark. The Lord also directed the animals in, after which He shut the door (Genesis 7:15–16). Noah was six hundred years old (Genesis 7:11). The rain began to fall, and the fountains of the deep were broken up. Steadily, the depth of the water increased for forty days. The water continued to cover the mountains for 110 more days. At the end of 150 days from the beginning of the Flood, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat. Two and a half months later, the tops of the other mountains became visible. After forty days, Noah opened the window and sent out a raven and a dove. The dove found no place to land and returned to the ark. After seven days, Noah sent the dove out again, and when it returned, the bird had an olive leaf in its mouth. Finally, after an additional seven days, Noah sent forth the dove again, and it never returned.
4. Noah Receives a Promise
After a year and seventeen days, God told Noah, together with his family and the animals, to leave the ark (Genesis 8:13–18). One of the first things that Noah did upon leaving the ark was to build an altar upon which he offered burnt offerings to the Lord. The Lord said, “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth . . . day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:21–22). This was not the end of God’s communication with Noah, however. As He had commanded the first man and woman, God told Noah and his family to multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). He said that from that time forward, animals would fear humans and be used by them for food, except for the blood (Genesis 9:2–4). God also instituted human government by providing that murderers suffer capital punishment (Genesis 9:5–6). To Noah and his sons God said, “And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there anymore be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:9–13).
III. Humankind Judged
Today, when we look into the sky and see the rainbow, we remember that it is God’s token of His covenant promise that He will never destroy the earth by water again. The earth will one day face the judgment of God in a different manner, however. It is revealed in II Peter 3:4–7, which says scoffers will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Judgment is coming upon the wicked and ungodly. And though the agent God uses will not be water, it will be just as devastating on those who have refused to obey God. Daniel Webster, when secretary of state under US President Fillmore, was dining once with twenty distinguished men at the Astor House in New York. He was unusually quiet and his thoughts seemed to be elsewhere. To draw him out someone asked him an unusual question: “Mr. Webster, will you tell me what was the most important thought that ever occupied your mind?” Webster thought for a moment and then said for all to hear, “The most important thought that ever occupied my mind was that of my individual responsibility to God.” It is said that he talked for twenty minutes upon the subject. Noah also felt the same responsibility to God.
1. The Days before the Flood
Life went on as usual. The day before the judgment looked like any other day to them. There was no advance warning on exactly when judgment would come. Noah preached and warned of impending judgment, but what was the reaction of a sinful world? The same reaction that such a message receives today: “Oh, I’ve heard about that all my life! I don’t think there ever will be a judgment day; things will always go on as they have been.” Pilgrim’s Progress, an allegory by John Bunyan, describes modern pilgrims who came to Vanity Fair, where, in contrast to Christian and his companion, they were quite popular. In the fair they could purchase almost anything for a bit of conscience. Some foolish bargains were made: a young man gave his fortune for a disease, and a pretty girl bartered a heart clear as crystal for an utterly worthless jewel. Still today Vanity Fair sees some strange bargains. The wise person obeys the Word of God and makes preparation now for the coming of the Lord!
2. They Knew Not
The parallel between the day of Noah and our generation is further marked by the extreme wickedness common to both times. Second Timothy 3:1–4 clearly describes our generation and declares these characteristics to be the signs of the last days! Just as surely as the Flood came on the unsuspecting populace in the days of Noah and destroyed all those who had not taken advantage of God’s way of escape, so is the judgment of God coming upon the generation of the last days. There will be no advance warning of the exact time of His coming. As Jesus said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:36).
3. Noah Prepared!
Noah was perhaps a strange-looking figure, laboring for many years over an unusual vessel and talking about an impending flood. No doubt he was the subject of many jokes and of much light-hearted laughter. But when the flood came, Noah, who had obeyed God, was on the inside of the ark looking out while the scoffers and unbelievers suffered the penalty of their sin. So it will be at the return of the Lord. Those who have spurned God’s claims on their life and who have rejected opportunities to serve Him will receive condemnation and sorrow and pain. Those who were willing to obey the voice of God and make preparations will be ushered into everlasting joy. As Jesus said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34–38).