The accounts in this passage give us a contrast between a life lived for God’s praise and one lived for the praise of others. We see Noah diligently and faithfully obeying God. In contrast we see the people of Babel pursuing the admiration of the world. God demonstrated through both narratives that He is the One we should be seeking to please. Moreover, in the Flood account, God gives us a picture of salvation. Through the ark, Noah and his family were saved from the flood that covered the entire world. Although God was judging the earth, He made a way to bring salvation. Noah was given a specific call, with a lot of uncertainty in the details, just as we have a specific calling to preach the gospel to the world, but working out the details requires a willingness to walk daily by faith in God.
This passage gives us two instances of God’s divine judgement. First, we see God flood the earth, destroying everything except for Noah, his family, and two of every kind of animal. Secondly, we see God confusing the languages at Babel, forcing the people to scatter. At the start of Genesis 6, God is heartbroken over the wickedness of the world. He determines that the wickedness is so great, something must be done. In Genesis 6:7, “So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created – and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground – for I regret that I have made them.” This is an important moment in the history of humanity, one never to be repeated. In future chapters of Genesis and throughout the Bible, we will see God’s judgement on specific cities or people, but this is the only time God destroys everything, saving only the inhabitants of the ark.
What was so bad about the people of Noah’s time? Are we not in dark days ourselves? God’s overwhelming judgement may seem arbitrary, excessive, or simply confusing. What is crucial to understand about God’s judgement is that He is a sovereign God. He created us, He determines our ultimate destiny. God was heartbroken over the state of humanity. The flood cleansed the earth, and yet God knew it would not change the sinful nature of human hearts. In Genesis 8:21, God is blessed by the burnt offering Noah had made, and He said, “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.”
The other important point to learn about God’s judgement is that with judgement, there is always mercy. Just as the judgement on Earth in Noah’s day points to a final judgement over all the earth, the ark signifies the salvation Christ gave us by his sacrifice on the cross. When we look at God’s righteous judgement and the way He has made for us to salvation, there is only one question to ask: am I in the ark? Many of the instances of God’s judgement in the Bible serve as a merciful warning to call people back to God. For the people at Babel, having their languages confused by the Almighty God was a clear warning to look to Him for security and not themselves.
Knowing that God is the ultimate judge also reminds us that we are not. Since He made a way for us to find salvation and mercy at the cross, we are in no position to judge those around us who seem beyond hope for salvation. While there is breath in their lungs, there is hope and we must diligently pray and seek opportunities to share the gospel, so that they may too escape eternal judgement.
Spend some time processing what you have learned with your Life Group/Discipler/CLASSES@FGA study group.
In the life of Noah, we see someone whose desire to please God outweighed his desire for man’s approval. This is contrasted in the story of Babel, where people built a tall tower to impress man, and sought to reach into the heavens, a rejection of God as their source of security. In both accounts, God is sovereign. His plans will always prevail. For Noah, God provided salvation, a way of escape from the dreadful flood of judgement God poured out on the world. In Babel, God mercifully confused the people’s languages, forcing them to scatter and fill the earth as He had commanded. They were not a threat to His power. The danger was in themselves: Genesis 11:6 says, The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” The people of Babel wanted to live a life independent of God. If they were united in that effort, only devastation would ensue. God’s ways are good, God’s ways are perfect. Human unity without God’s leading is a recipe for disaster. At Pentecost in Acts 2, we see how God-led unity can bring salvation to many, power to bless, and eternal transformation.
We must ask ourselves: am I pursuing the approval and praise of man? Am I rebelling against God’s plan for my life, choosing to do it my way? Or am I submitting to God’s plan and ways, even if it means I do not know all the details and I might have a lot of waiting to do? What areas of my life do I need to submit to God today?
Take time to respond to these closing questions:
End the time by praying…
Pray for God to search my heart, reveal to me any areas that are not aligned with His will for me.
Pray for a humble heart to submit and hand over control to God.
Pray that my love for God would grow and my desire for man’s approval would diminish.