The Ark Floated on the Face of the Waters

Sermon preached on Genesis 7 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 05/07/2023 in Petaluma, CA

Sermon Manuscript

Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.

Today we continue working through the Flood section here in Genesis. As a reminder, this section spans Genesis 6:9 through chapter 8 and demonstrates a beautiful literary framework. It has a chiastic structure that mirrors the rising, prevailing, and then subsiding of the Flood waters. This structure simultaneously paints the imagery of de-creation and re-creation. This Flood ordeal serves as a type or picture of the end in that we see the judgment of the wicked, the salvation of God’s elect, and the ushering in a of a new creation. Today, as we focus on chapter 7, we’ll especially think about the idea of the judgment of the wicked. That is because chapter 7 is the part of this chiastic narrative that is picturing the waters rising and prevailing over the earth, resulting in the death of all the humans along with the land animals and birds. In other words, chapter 7 is the part of this structure that describes de-creation through this water ordeal. God essentially de-created the world he had made in the judgment of the Flood.

Our outline for today will be to study first the rising of the Flood waters, then the prevailing of the Flood waters, and finally the hope that is yet here in the midst of such a judgment. Beginning then with the rising of the Flood waters, let me point out the structure here in the Flood narrative. Genesis 6 started with a prologue followed by section about creating the ark. But Genesis 7 deals with them entering the Ark and then the Flood waters rising. Chapter 8, which we’ll look at next week, we’ll see the waters after the Flood subsiding and then them exiting the Ark onto dry land and then worshipping God. In the center of the chiasm is the prevailing of the waters at the end of chapter 7.

So then, look at how the rising of the Flood waters are pictured here in Genesis 7. You might have noticed as we read along, that there was a lot of repetition. You might have thought, why does he keep repeating himself? I’ll point out a few of these repetitions. For example, there is repeated language about them entering into the ark, in verses 1, 6, and 13. There is repeated language of the rain following for forty days in verses 4, 12, and 17. There is repeated language about the animals that are saved on the ark in verses 2, 8, and 14. Why all this repeated language? Well, it is not mere repetition. Rather, there is a development and expansion of the things that are said here. Like how after repeating multiple times that they entered the Ark, it’s not until near the end that it mentions in verse 16 that God himself shuts the door of the Ark to shut them inside. And so, scholars have understood this repetition to be a literary feature. That on this side of the chiasm where the waters are coming, and rising, and rising, the repetition seems to itself be a device to paint the steady increase of the Flood waters. “Go on the Ark; they are on the Ark; they are on the Ark and God shuts them in. The waters are about to fall; the waters are falling; the waters are falling and rising. Bring the animals; the animals are here; the animals are here safe in the Ark.” Something along those lines. Hopefully you get the picture, because it is a wonderful stylistic feature here.

Let’s step back then and notice the source of these Flood waters. While rain coming from the heavens is especially emphasized, verse 11 gives us the most detail. There we learn that in addition to rain, water also bursts forth out of the earth itself. So, you have this picture of waters above the earth and waters from beneath the earth unleashing a deluge of water that flows to cover the earth.

Let me take pause and make a note about geology here. It’s at a detail like this that Christians who are also scientists have taken a lot of inspiration for their scientific studies. There is a whole field of scientists known as creation scientists, or some more specifically even Flood geologists, that have endeavored to do their science in close conjunction with their study of the Bible. Numerous theories have been advanced from such work. I would note that doing science from a Christian worldview and a presupposition of divine creation is what we should be doing. I would also note that some of the theories from such Flood geologists can be very intriguing to consider. But we should also add a great measure of humility when considering such theories if such theories have not yet been proven to be fact. Let me give you just a sampling of some of the scientific theories that have been suggested by such creation scientists. One example, some have wondered if this massive dumping of water from the heavens represented that before the Flood there were different atmospheric conditions on earth that may have contributed to longer lifespans. Another example is that some have considered if the massive amount of water coming from the earth at this time, had effects on plate tectonics and effects on the magnetic fields on the earth, both which modern science believe have changed from the past. Yet another example is that some have thought the Flood sparked an Ice Age on earth. Many, many, more ideas and theories could be mentioned. All these things are interesting to consider, and for each you would have to ask whether it is good science or not, and also to the degree that it uses the Bible if it is good exegesis or not. They can certainly encourage us to know that there are alternative theories out there that seek to harmonize science and the Bible. And it is important to realize that there isn’t actually any conflict between science and the Bible even if we haven’t yet figured out all the answers on how to reconcile them. It is also important to understand that while the Bible may says things that have scientific significance, it is not written to be a scientific textbook. The Bible is given instead to teach us about God and the true religion. While we might glean various historical and scientific details from it, its teachings are aimed at theological details.

This point is very clear when thinking about the two sources of the water in verse 11. While we might glean some interesting scientific facts from that, the point here is especially theological. It is here that we see this idea of de-creation. Remember back to Genesis 1 and the days of creation. On the second day, God separated the waters above the earth from the waters on the earth. So, what is going on here in Genesis 7 begins with a sort of undoing of the work of the second day of creation. That separation of the waters above from the waters below begins to dissolve in this Flood ordeal. The result is the rising and rising of the waters.

This brings us to our second point to consider the prevailing of the waters. In case this usage is not clear, when I say that the waters prevailed, it means that the waters completely covered the land of the earth. We see that the waters deluged the earth for 40 days and 40 nights before they finally stopped. We might note that 40 is a common number we see appearing in the Bible. Nowhere do we ever see an explicit explanation of its significance, but it does seem to often be a number used in conjunction with periods of testing, trial, or probation. As the water filled the earth, imagine the testing of faith this brought to the people on the Ark. So then, after the water stops falling, we observe that the water prevailed on the face of the earth.

This prevailing is mentioned three times, but in close proximity. Verse 18, the water prevailed. Verse 19 the water prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. Verse 20, the waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep, some 25 feet deep or so. As we come here to the culmination of the Flood’s destruction, we see more de-creation. On the third day of creation in Genesis 1, God separated the seas from the dry land on the earth. Here, the dry land vanishes, and only the sea remains. What God did on day 3 of creation is reversed.

Similarly, we see the blotting out of life in verses 21-23. Again, notice the triple repeated statements in close proximity. Verse 21, all flesh that moved on earth died. Verse 22, everything on land with the breath of life died. Verse 23, God blotted out every living thing on the land. So humans, beasts, and birds all are destroyed from the earth as the waters prevail. Again, think back to days 5 and 6 in Genesis 1, and that all is now reversed and those creatures are no more on the earth. De-creation complete.

This was the final day of judgment for that ancient world. That is how 2 Peter 3:6 describes that world. It calls it the world that then existed. Peter’s description on its own sounds pretty radical, until you notice how Genesis describes this here as a de-creation event. As we’ll get into next week, our current world is, relatively-speaking, a new creation out of the destroyed world.

And this final day of judgment for that ancient world is a type of the final day of judgment yet to come for this world. 2 Peter 3 goes on to say that our current world is being reserved for judgment by fire. 2 Peter 3:7 says this will involve not only of destruction of the current heavens and earth but also a destruction of the ungodly. So, like here with the Flood, the destruction has an effect both on the place and the people.

The application comes from this is a warning to the world today. Jesus used this for such a warning in Matthew 24:37. There, Jesus warned that his return will bring this final day of judgment, but that the time of his coming will not be known until it happens. His warning including referring back to Noah’s day how people kept going on with life, eating, drinking, and marrying, living their lives oblivious to the coming judgment until it was too late. Their hardness of heart and unbelief resulted in their complete destruction for their final day of judgment. And Jesus uses that to warn our world today not to turn a blind eye to our sin and guilt before a holy God. There is a judgment day coming, and if you are not ready for it, you will be destroyed along with this world. You will end up cast into an eternal lake of fire for an everlasting punishment. Jesus concludes that warning section by telling us to “Stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” This world will end in a final day of judgment when Christ returns. And that was foreshadowed and prefigured in advance by this Flood in Genesis 7.

So then, coming back to Genesis 7, think of what the result is here after all this de-creation. Notice what is left at the end when the water is prevailing over the earth. Essentially, we see that the earth had become largely again without form and void, just the deep of the waters was there. But the Ark of God hovered, floated, over the face of the waters, verse 18.

That leads us then to our final point for today. To consider the hope that is yet here in this passage for God’s people. We’ve seen today that the waters rose and rose until they covered the whole earth and killed every human and land animal and bird. But not Noah. But not Noah and his family. Noah, and his family, and pairs of all the land animals and birds were spared, saved in that Ark.

Though, I should note that we find that they are saved and spared really in next chapter. At the end of this chapter, they are seemingly safe for the moment. They have been saved from the immediate destruction of the flood. But right now, at the close of this chapter, they are there floating on some huge house of a ship. We know how the story ends, but put yourselves in their shoes. At that moment, they could only know how it would end, by faith. But they too are fallen humans, and we know how scary such a moment could be. And it’s not like it was 40 days and then they could get off the boat finally, either. As we read here, the waters prevailed for 150 days. In other words, even after the rain stopped falling and the springs from the earth stopped gushing out water, there still remained no dry land at all until day 150. Even then, as we’ll study next week, there was a considerable more time before the water drained suffciently so they could finally exit the Ark. So, when we are here at Genesis 7 with Noah and family, they are alive in the Ark, but still floating all alone on an endless ocean with no land in sight.

I thought of Louis Zamperini, the WWII hero and Olympian and Christian who survived 47 days in a life raft in the middle of the Pacific. If you read his biography, you know he was in that life boat because he survived a plane crash, but for those 47 days he didn’t know if he’d really survive, or if he was just prolonging his life until his eventual death at sea. But he did survive by God’s grace. Well, Noah and his family also did survive. But at this point in the story, at the end of Genesis 7 that salvation hadn’t yet arrived. By the end of chapter 7, Noah and family only had the hope of salvation to hold onto.

I mention this hope as an analogy for us today. I’ve been quoting 2 Peter 3 today. It reminds us how the day of the Lord will be a day of judgment for the wicked. And then it describes how we should be a people of hope until then. It says in 2 Peter 3:11, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” Peter says that we have to live in hope of the final salvation. Judgment will come, and then our salvation. Until that day, we patiently wait. And we are to wait living in holiness and godliness. But the only reason we know that we will be ultimately saved from this godless world and from the coming judgment is by faith.

That’s where I’ll pull our final application from then too. Peter goes on there to describe what that holy and godly waiting should look like. 2 Peter 3:14, “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” Remember, we saw last week that it described Noah as someone without spot or blemish. In other words, Peter effectively says that while we for the final day of judgment to come on this sinful world, let us live like Noah did in the meantime. And since Noah is a type of Christ, let us particularly live like Jesus did in the meantime. Let us in Christ look to put on Christ so that we might live like Christ and unto Christ.

2 Peter 3 ends the application by saying that while we wait for Christ’s return we realize it is a matter of patience, that more would come to salvation. Jesus hasn’t return yet, because he has people yet to save from the fiery order to come. Jesus’ won’t come back until everyone one of his elect has been saved from the final day of judgment by turning them unto himself. Jesus won’t come back to damn the reprobate of creation until he has first finished saving his elect from creation. So, it’s as Jesus said there in Matthew 24. May all of us be ready for his return. And may God use us to help others be saved as well, before it is too late. He’s waiting for now, so that more can be saved, but he will not wait forever. Let none of us wait, but hope in him today!


Copyright © 2022 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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