The God Who Loves Mercy
Topic: Genesis Passage: Genesis 8:20–9:17
The God Who Loves Mercy: After the Flood
Intro: We are returning to our series in the book of Genesis after a 3 month break, and we are picking up the story right after the great flood in chapter 8:20. As we return to this incredible book it’s important to remember that Genesis is a book about God. Genesis includes the epic tale of man’s creation, fall, and the ruin that sin introduced into the world, but it’s important that we remember that man isn’t the star of Genesis, God is. Genesis tells us a lot about God, about His eternalness and power, about His activity in man’s early history, and it tells us a lot about who God is – what He’s like.
Everybody has an idea of what God is like if they believe there is a God at all. One popular stream of thought today presents God as the nicest guy you could ever meet. They might not use that word, maybe use the word love, but nice is really what they’re describing. In their view God is unfailingly nice. Never corrects, never contradicts, never forbids anything we really, really want, never speaks a cross word. He’s like that really nice guy at your work that laughs at every joke you tell, agrees with everything you say, and does whatever anyone asks him to do. God is like that, only better because He is infinite niceness. God is so nice He makes Joel Osteen look grumpy.
Then there are others that present God as angry. Really angry. He looks down on this sinful world and He’s just sick of it. He is going to judge the world with fire and frankly, He can’t wait to clean house. At Bible school we had a preacher come in for the week who seemed to be angry and, not surprisingly presented God as angry too.
It doesn’t really matter what we imagine God to be like – it only matters what He is really like, and only the Bible gives us an accurate and authoritative picture of who God is and what He’s like, because the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself. As we come to Genesis, we come to learn what God is like. And something else we are looking for. As we join Noah and his family on Mt. Ararat in this unique moment in redemptive history, we will be able to see another hill: Mt. Calvary. We will see that this passage points us to Calvary, to the cross, to the Savior who died for us.
So let’s pray and then let’s read beginning in 8:20.
I. God is a righteous judge who hates sin but loves mercy (8:20-22)
This is a peaceful scene, but we can’t forget that this scene follows God’s devastating judgment of the earth, judgment that came in the form of a flood that killed many millions of people plus millions of animals. It was an apocalyptic judgment that destroyed every living thing except those who escaped in the ark. Think about it, God probably didn’t need to flood the entire earth for 40 days where it took over a year for the waters to recede just to kill everybody. Probably all dead in the first 48 hours. It was a symbol of God’s horrible wrath being poured out and poured out and poured out until all the sin was scoured clean from the earth. The flood gates of rain bursting in the sky and the massive shifts in the tectonic plates resulting in seismic explosions represented God’s great pouring out of His holy soul in devastating wrath.
It’s a devastating judgment, and it shatters the nice guy God image to pieces. The flood was right, but it wasn’t nice. God is a righteous judge who hates sin with a vicious hatred. But there is much more here than just God’s anger against sin. What we find shines the brightest – what the writer emphasizes – is God’s love of mercy.
Noah and his family come out of the ark and the first thing Noah does is to offer a burnt offering to the Lord. And as the Lord smells the aroma of that burnt offering, His heart is moved with compassion and He says in His heart that He will never again destroy the earth by flood. It was right to do, and mankind will deserve it again (God doesn’t decide this because mankind got better, in fact God says He won’t ever destroy the earth by flood again because the intentions of man’s heart is so evil) but God determines He will never bring the world to a watery end again. It is mercy that brings God’s heart to that resolve. God is a righteous judge who hates sin, but the final word isn’t judgment, the final word is mercy. And here is our first sighting of Calvary.
Sighting of Calvary:
There are only three times in human history when God will unreservedly pour out His terrible wrath on the earth. The first time is the flood. The last time will be the great and terrible day of the Lord at the end of history. But in between these two events is one other time when God poured out His fury over sin on earth – but that fury wasn’t aimed at the earth – it was aimed at one man: Jesus Christ. Amazingly as Jesus hung on the cross in our place the Bible says that all our sin was placed on His righteous shoulders. What God hates the most in the universe – sin – was placed on the shoulders of the One God loves the most – His Son Jesus, and God held nothing back.
Jesus became an offering to God on behalf of our sin, and the fragrance of His offering pleased God and purchased mercy for us. Hebrews 10:5 says,
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.
7Then I said, 'Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.' "… 10And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:5-10 (ESV)
God is a righteous judge who hates sin but loves mercy. If you ever doubt that, look at Calvary, where mercy triumphed over judgment.
II. God’s mercy shines brightest in a darkened world (9:8-17)
Ever notice how certain sights or sounds or smells can take you back to a different time, or make you think of a particular person, or remind you of the way you felt at a certain time in your life?
Well, there is a combination of sights and sounds that not only takes me back in time, but at the same time propels me into the future too. I know that sounds weird and metaphysically impossible, but let me explain: When I was four or five years old we were visiting a friend’s house and I was playing outside on their front lawn and it was a sunny, warm day – just a gorgeous day, and playing on the grass and a prop plane flew overhead and for some reason that combination filled my heart with a sense of excitement and adventure and optimism about what life would hold. It wasn’t something I could put in words, but this tingly feeling of hope physically went through me. And to this day when those things combine – warm, sunny day; pretty surroundings, and a prop plane, it takes me back to how I felt on that day so long ago and it fills my heart with that same excitement and optimistic hope about life and the future.
God’s heart is moved with mercy for sinful humankind, and He resolves never to destroy the world by flood again. Then He promises Noah and his family never to do that again, then He sets a sign – the rainbow – in the sky to remind God (and the world) of this covenant promise. It’s the first covenant God makes in the Bible, and it’s a covenant of mercy. Undeserved, and it’s unconditional. Doesn’t matter if people believe it or not – they will receive mercy. And consider this: you and I might see a dozen rainbows give or take over a year, but there are 45,000 severe thunderstorms going on around the earth every day. Add to that how many smaller rain showers produce rainbows and we realize God is being reminded of His mercy thousands and thousands of times each day – by His own design. It’s not that God would ever forget – it’s that God loves mercy.
And the rainbow has that same past/future effect on us as well. When we see a rainbow in the sky it reminds us of God’s promise not to destroy the earth by flood made thousands of years ago, and shines the light of hope on our future. The rainbow is formed after a storm when water is still hanging in the air and the sun shines in the darkness on the water droplets. The storm isn’t the last word: the sunlight breaking through is.
When Jesus came he said that He didn’t come to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. Came as the sunlight of heaven breaking through the darkness of this sinfilled world. So Mary the prostitute who is living in the darkness of her sin suddenly sees the light of Christ shining in the midst of her sin and she is undone with mercy. And Zacchaeus who is the slime of the city finds the light of mercy when Jesus tells him he wants to come to his house and have dinner with him. And Saul who is out to kill every Christian he can find is knocked off his horse and blinded so that when the darkness lifts he sees the mercy of God in the face of Christ.
Pastoral application: when you approach God, what do you think He is like? What do you think He feels towards you? I know that some Christians struggle with condemnation. God is never happy with you – always displeased with you. You try and try but never live up to what you think He expects. I’ll bet there are some here that look on your past sin and failures with deep regret. And when you look forward you don’t feel optimistic or hopeful. Maybe, just maybe deep in your heart, you wonder if you were to die, would you go to heaven? Maybe you fear you wouldn’t.
I have one question: are you trusting in Jesus Christ as your Savior? Are you trusting in the mercy and forgiveness purchased for you on the cross? There is no judgment left for the one trusting in Christ – only the hope of the rainbow – the hope of mercy and undeserved grace.
Our gospel isn’t a gospel of condemnation, it’s good news of mercy. Mercy isn’t good news for someone who doesn’t feel they need mercy. If someone feels they deserve to go to heaven, then the message of mercy would be an offense. Mercy is only beautiful to the one who knows they need it.
ILL: The story is told of a politician who, after receiving the proofs of a portrait, was very angry with the photographer. He stormed back to the photographer and yelled at the photographer: "This picture doesn’t do me justice!" The photographer calmly replied, "Sir, with a face like yours, you don't need justice, you need mercy!"
Is mercy beautiful to you? Do you know how much you need mercy? I’ve been a Christian now for over 34 years and I am aware of my need for mercy now far more than I was when I was a new Christian. Have I grown in my walk? Yeah, I hope so. Have I become more aware of my need for mercy? Absolutely.
Christian, does God hate sin? Absolutely. But He exhausted that anger and judgment on Christ so that for those trusting in Christ there is no wrath left. Do not walk in condemnation but the freedom of being loved and accepted – and draw near to your God and Father who loves mercy.
III. We are to fill the earth with the good news of God’s mercy in Christ (9:1-7)
God looks down on this new world and it’s like He turned back the hands of time to the initial creation. God rebooted creation. It’s not perfect like it was, but it’s a new beginning, and God gives the same creation mandate to Noah and his family that He gave to Adam and Eve right after creating them. He blessed them and told them to be fruitful and fill the earth.
After Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to His disciples and He gave them (us) a new mandate. It’s called the Great Commission.
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
The cross and the resurrection speak of a new beginning for anyone who believes. In Christ we become a new creation. As we make disciples, we are giving birth to sons and daughters into the kingdom of God. No greater joy or mission. What God’s called us to do church.
We live in a dark world where many people live without real hope. And those who do have a feeling of hope have a hope based on the sound of a prop plane overhead – based on nothing but empty optimism. Jesus came to shine the light of God’s mercy in a dark world, and He calls us to do the same.
Teach that God is a righteous judge who hates sin, but loves mercy. And all who come to Christ in faith will receive mercy.
Maybe you aren’t a Christian. Thank you for sharing your Sunday morning with us. I hope that you have realized that the Bible doesn’t paint God as a super nice guy or as a perpetually angry God. He is a righteous judge who hates sin fiercely, but He loves mercy and He loves lost sinners like me and like you – and if you will come in simple faith, He will save you. That’s His promise. And God always keeps His promises.