This message was ignited by an article in the “Institution of Creation Research” magazine “Acts and Facts.” It was written by Brian Thomas, who has a PhD in paleobiochemistry from the University of Liverpool. That article was entitled “Was the Global Flood Too Extreme?” The title of my message is “The God of Wrath and Glory.”
David’s 145 Psalm slaps the face of many critics of our God and our faith. Have you ever had someone try to turn away your Christian witness by pontificating – “The God of the Old Testament was a mean and crazy old ‘blankity blank.’ I could never worship a God like the God of Israel.” He might say he hates all the Old Testament accounts of the destruction of cities and entire nations. Some try to add that Jesus contracted the God of the Jews, with His love and cheek turning. He might say that he has no interest in what the Bible has to say, because of what he THINKS it says.
But I want you to notice the way in which David, here, praises His Israelite God. “I will extol thee, MY GOD, O KING; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.” David acknowledges Jehovah to be king – the one with all authority – sovereign. “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is UNSEARCHABLE.” God’s greatness and power are not only practical but beyond man’s ability to understand. Many of the reasons for what God does are inscrutable. And no Bible-rejecting intellectual is going to understand why God does what He does. “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy MIGHTY acts.” The mighty acts of creation; of the world-wide flood; the drying of the Red Sea and the Jordan River. There are thousands of divine mighty acts which deserve our constant rehearsal. “I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy WONDROUS works.” Thy awesome works. “And men shall speak of the might of thy TERRIBLE acts: and I will declare thy greatness.” Some terrible acts are terrifying – things like plagues in Egypt, the flood and the fall of Jericho. And yet at the same time, those same people “shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great GOODNESS, and shall sing of thy RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Not only has God been good in blessing after blessing – rain on our crops and quail in the wilderness. But there is even goodness in those terrible things – if we have eyes to see. “The LORD is GRACIOUS, and full of COMPASSION; slow to anger, and of GREAT MERCY. The LORD is GOOD TO ALL: and his TENDER MERCIES are over ALL HIS WORKS.”
“ALL thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee.” For the person whose heart is pointed toward heaven and toward the Lord, the terrible and mighty works of God elicit praise. “They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power. To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.” “The LORD is righteous in ALL his ways, and holy in ALL his works.” Do you mean that when God poured out His wrath on Gomorrah, that was good and righteous? That is precisely what David means – that is what the Holy Spirit is saying. And “the LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them. The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but ALL the wicked will he destroy. My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.”
There are two kinds of people in this world – those who fear God to the point of worship and love. And those who are terrified that God can inflict terrible judgments upon them, and they hate Him for it.
In that article to which I referred, the author cited some common criticism. “If God is really good, then why would He drown all those humans (in the flood)?” That author could have gone much farther, pointing to scripture after similar scripture. For example there is Numbers 31:7 – Israel “warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses, and they slew ALL the males.” The slaughter was even more complete in I Samuel 15 – “Samuel also said unto Saul, the Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, ever Israel; now therefore harken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy ALL that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling…” In Deuteronomy 7 as Israel was nearing the land which God had given them, Moses commanded – “When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whether thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee…. And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and UTTERLY destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them.” Israel was commanded by God to execute all the people of Jericho – and they obeyed – Joshua 6. They did the same to the people of Ai, Makkedah, Hazor and the Canaanites of the hill country.
Perhaps shedding a little light on those things, it needs to be remembered, Israel was also commanded to execute their own people if they chose to rebel against the will of the righteous God. Idolaters, both inside and outside of Israel, were to be put to death. “He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed” – Ex. 22:20. Deuteronomy 20 condemns to death any who practice or encourage “abominable behavior.” The Bible condemns incest, bestiality, and homosexuality – even harlotry. Israel was ordered to execute witches and those who practiced the occult. If a man or a single family worshiped the Philistine idol Dagon, he, or they, were to be executed. But what if a whole nation worshiped Dagon, or Baal, or Ashtoreth, or Molech? Was the law to be revoked in that case – the case of multiple or universal guilt? When sin becomes acceptable to an entire society – as many of its forms have become in America… Does God rescind His laws and no longer apply His judgment? Think again, America.
So what about the Genesis flood?
“If God is really good, then why would he drown all those humans?” The author of that ICR article began his answer with a good practical point. He basically said, most who say God is unjust probably have no interest in the truth – or your answer. Those with bad attitudes don’t listen well, and you shouldn’t waste your time trying to defend our good God to people whose hearts are already closed. But how can we be sure of that other person’s attitude?
He said, one way is to ask questions which test their sincerity. For example, if they express a problem with the way God handled a wicked person or situation, ask them for the chapter and verse. Have him read it to you; have him examine the context. Maybe the answer is obvious. Often this is all it takes. A real scoffer will usually just walk away, cursing at you as they go. If that happens, your reaction and your kindness will speak more to him than the Bible. But what if someone actually takes you up on your offer to discuss what the Word says? That rare person may actually want an answer to why God did – or does – what He does. That rare person may, by the grace of God, be vulnerable to the truth. While we are on the subject of the Genesis flood, let me point out a common escape among weak-minded and weak-faithed professing “Christians.” Some try to avoid the sceptic’s question by saying that the flood wasn’t universal – wasn’t world-wide. They say that it was a local flood, confined to the region where Noah lived – the Mesopotamian valley. They say that there isn’t enough water in the universe to cover the Rockies at 14,000 feet – let alone the Himalayan mountains at nearly 30,000 feet. So, they demand, the flood didn’t really kill EVERYONE; just the people who lived around Noah.
That is a clear contradiction of the Bible – as well physically impossible. Genesis 7:18-23 – “And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.”
Besides scriptures like this, there are other facts which undo the arguments for a limited, local flood. For example, there is the fact that water always levels itself if there isn’t something to prevent it. It is not possible for a flood covering the mountains of the Middle East for even a week without it also inundating India and South Africa – the whole world. And the Bible says that the water of this flood prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days. Hydrologically, it would have been impossible to confine this flood to a few hundred square miles. And who is to say the Himalayas or the Rockies existed at the time? Even evolutionists declare that these are young mountains in comparison to many other ranges. What if the highest mountains were only 5,000 feet at the beginning of the flood?
And to quote John Whitcomb in a book I recently re-read, If the Genesis flood was only local, then “the rainbow covenant has failed, for there have been hundreds of devastating local floods since then.” And… “there would have been no need for an Ark at all if the flood was local in extent! The whole procedure of constructing such a vessel, involving over 100 years of planning and toiling, simply to escape a local flood can hardly be described as anything but utterly foolish and unnecessary!” If the flood was local, why didn’t God simply tell Noah to move his family to a spot which He knew wouldn’t be covered with water when the flood came.
There is no escaping the fact that God personally and directly destroyed many millions of people with a world-wide flood. Every man, woman, teenager and toddler died under hundreds of feet of water, except for Noah and his family who floated above that water in a barge designed by the wisdom and grace of God. But how can we explain the goodness and righteousness of God in the light of such an act? Is it foolish for the Christian simply to quote David, “The LORD is righteous in ALL HIS WAYS, and holy in ALL HIS WORKS”? Or Moses, who said, Jehovah – “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” – Deuteronomy 32:4. Even if we cannot explain or justify what God has done, or what He is going to do in the upcoming Tribulation, the true Christian can by faith claim verses like these. I know it will mean nothing to the unbeliever, but these things mean much to us. And yet, is there nothing we can offer to the sincere but untaught unbeliever?
Is there no explanation for God’s acts of wide-spread judgment?
Actually there are some very good explanations, whether or not I have the ability to explain them very well. Take for example God’s command to Israel about the Canaanites, who, as squatters and interlopers, were living on the land which God had given to Abraham. First, the Canaanites did NOT have to die, if they chose to leave. But if they were determined to fight against Israel and the will of God, they were giving up their lives and the lives of their families.
Numbers 33:50-56 – “The LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan; Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto YOU, as I thought to do unto THEM.“
Why would God do to Israel what He intended against the Canaanites? It wasn’t the Canaanite’s language as crude and vulgar which so offended God. It wasn’t the color of their skin or way they parted their hair. It is explained in the text – “Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their (idolatrous) high places.” If allowed to remain, it was certain that the Canaanites would corrupt the faith of the people of Israel. And if Israel turned to idolatry through intercourse with their Canaanite neighbors, as they eventually did, God’s wrath would be turned toward them. The Lord’s wrath was against the SINS of the Canaanites, not against the Canaanites per se. And if Israel practiced the sins of the Canaanites, they too would feel the wrath of God. If the dog has rabies, he must be destroyed whether or not he has yet bitten anyone.
Getting back to the question about all those millions of people who died in the Genesis flood. Ask your friend how he knows that the punishment of the flood was more than their crimes deserved. Does he have some special insight into the hearts of those people during the century in which the ark was being built – and before that? The Bible-believer actually does have some insight into their hearts, but the Bible-rejecter doesn’t. Genesis 6:5 says, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually “ There is a natural tendency to lessen the strength of those words, but we have no right to do that. What does it say? “EVERY imagination of the thoughts of (man’s) heart was only evil CONTINUALLY.” “Only evil continually” – absolute wickedness constantly.
I know we live in a society bent on eliminating the death penalty. But go back a hundred years, or two hundred years. What crimes were considered to be worthy of death? Murder, kidnapping? How about stealing horses? Picture the worst crimes and immoral deeds, whether or not they are considered capital. These were apparently even more common before the flood than they are today.
What would have happened had God allowed that evil to persist? Would those who say that God should not have flooded the world want all the jails and penitentiaries to be emptied so that those people might be free to kill their neighbors and move in next door? What is the likelihood that if those people in Noah’s day had not been executed, they might have whipped-out humanity? The Lord gave the pre-flood people plenty of opportunity to repent, but they had no interest in that. They loved their sin, their violence, their blood-letting. Perhaps God’s love for today’s skeptical critic of judgment ordained the judgment of the Genesis flood so that he could be alive today to hear the gospel.
Consider another example.
Not only are there examples of universal and national judgment which was supposed to result in complete destruction, but there the Old Testament are examples of single individuals whose deaths seem extreme. How about the children of Achan, the thief of Jericho? Consider Genesis 22:1-2 – “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” I can assure you that there was no sin in Isaac which was greater than any other child his age. He was born a sinner like all the other descendants of Adam, but there was nothing pronounced and really obnoxious in him. Yet God told his father to take him out and to kill him.
Can you worship a God who would do such a thing? Doesn’t this put Jehovah into the same camp as Chemosh and Molech who were worshiped when parents dropped their babies into the fire or onto the red-hot arms of their idols? Actually, there is no similarity between the Lord and those idols at all.
First, it needs to be understood that Isaac, like every other sinner deserved to die and eventually did. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned, and, “the wages of sin is death” – Romans 5 and 6. But secondly, when God saw the faith of Abraham, He rescinded His order and provided a substitute for Isaac. The whole account is a wonderful picture of God – His holiness, His sovereignty and His grace.
But actually it opens the door to a greater lesson about the Lord. The God of the Old Testament, “Jehovah” by name, stopped the execution of Abraham’s son and provided a substitute. And yet we see that same God in the New Testament pronouncing a death sentence upon His own Son, and that execution was not rescinded. And for what reason? It was necessary for the infinitely holy Son of God to die before the Lord could graciously save any human sinners.
Over and over again throughout the Old Testament, God demonstrated His wrath against sin. Yes, every last person died in the days of Noah. But I ask again, why? Because “GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually “ Sin always results in death – the death of Noah, the death of Isaac, the death of everyone. And what is the solution to that problem of sin and death? It was the sacrificial death of God’s only Son. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Was a world-wide judgment too extreme? Was the order to sacrifice Isaac a case of divine wickedness? Only to those who don’t want to acknowledge the just penalty for their own sins – their mortality.
The total destruction of humanity in the Genesis flood provides us with an essential lesson. Essential to the salvation of our souls. God will not overlook or put up with our sin – our sin will eventually bring down God’s wrath upon us. But there is an ark of salvation, created according to the divine eternal plan.
When that skeptical critic of God’s judgment comes to you pointing at the drowning of millions. Remind him that God grace can be as clearly seen there as His wrath. Just as God’s grace drew Noah and his family to safety, the Lord may be drawing that skeptic to salvation. And for that matter, the Lord may be wooing YOU to Himself as well.
There was a certain Canaanite living in the condemned city of Jericho. You might say she was tripley condemned – a Jerichoan Canaanite who had also been a whore. When Rahab, the Harlot, repented before the God of Israel; When by faith she threw herself before the feet of Jehovah; When she committed soul and herself to God, The Lord provided a way for her to be spared – saved from the judgment which was coming.
Like her, I love and worship the God of the Old Testament who has provided salvation through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I have put my faith in Jesus Christ to save me from the wrath which my sins deserve.
What about you?