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“The Refuge from the Flood”

Genesis 7:1-24
Bob DeGray
October 30, 2005

Key Sentence

You should know what to expect when God gives refuge.


I. A Place of Obedience (Genesis 7:1-5)
II. A Place of God’s Timing (Genesis 7:6-10)
III. A Place of God’s Provision (Genesis 7:11-16)
IV. A Place of Safety (Genesis 7:17-24)


        The last time we were in Moscow we spent a Sunday with Rick Thompson, our former District Superintendent, who was there for an extended stay. His wife Jan told a story about a young lady who had also been Moscow for an extended missions trip, and who, when she returned home, was asked to pray in Russian - but she hadn’t really learned much Russian. Now one of the constants of life in Moscow is the Metro, the subway, which links the city, so you can go underground almost anyplace, and come up almost anyplace else in a city bigger than Houston. Everyone rides the Metro, and you quickly get familiar with the announcements that happen at every stop. So when this missionary was asked to pray, she took refuge in the only Russian she really knew: ‘Dear God. The train is leaving the station. The doors are about to close. Please stand clear of the closing doors. Amen.’ It’s not a traditional prayer, but it does feel like the words God said in Genesis 7. The flood was imminent, the ark was about to leave, and God himself was about to close the door and save his people. This morning we’re going to study that chapter. Why? Because we should know what to expect when God gives refuge.

        Before we start I want to challenge you to think of a situation in your own life, your circumstances or relationships which makes you want to run to God for refuge. I’m not saying you want to bail out of the situation, but you definitely feel inadequate to handle it yourself. It’s a storm, or a storm on the horizon and you know you can’t weather it alone. As we go along I want you to apply the truths we’re looking at from Genesis to that situation, and see how God provides refuge.

I. A Place of Obedience (Genesis 7:1-5)

        We begin by noting that the place of refuge is a place of obedience. Genesis 7:1-5 The Lord then said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. 4Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made." 5And Noah did all the Lord commanded him.

        These verses are essentially the boarding call for the ark’s voyage: “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll begin boarding flight 330 to Ararat shortly through gate 7.” Notice a few things. First, Noah was commended for his righteousness. We’ve already seen that his righteousness came by faith. Hebrews 11:7 “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” The righteousness that God commends was his own gift to Noah.

        I also want to point out that in verse 1 the NIV translation is misleading. It really could be “come” into the ark, not “go” into the ark. The difference is that God is already in the ark. God invites Noah to come into the ark so God himself can preserve him.

        In verses 2 and 3 God gives Noah more instructions about the animals: bring seven of the clean animals, and only two of the unclean. This is the first time in Scripture the concept of clean and unclean animals are seen. Later God would reveal that the clean animals were the only ones which could be eaten by the Jews, or used for sacrifice. We have no real insight into what Noah knew, but he knew enough to distinguish the two - or maybe the clean animals just showed up in sevens.

        Let’s pause for a moment and explore an obvious question: would there be room on the ark for all these animals. I read an article online by a man named Arnold C. Mendez, who approached this question just the way I would. First he asks “How many and what type of animals would the ark have to carry? Many scoffers suggest that Noah would need to gather millions of animals, since there are millions of species. But without buying into evolution or to long periods of time since the flood, we can recognize that not every present day animal had to be on the ark. For example, the canine family includes about 14 genera of dog-like animals. These include the coyote, dog, wolf, jackal, etc. Scientists are pretty convinced that all of these are related by simple processes of natural and intentional breeding. So the ark did not have to contain the hundreds of species and breeds of canines - there may have been just one or two pairs of dog ancestors. And the same thing is true of many other kinds of animals and birds, especially Darwin’s famous finches.

        So how many animals would have to be carried? Scholars “have different estimates . . . Morris and Whitcomb in The Genesis Flood, estimate that approximately 35,000 animals were placed on board the ark. Others have said 2000, or 16000. Mendez, however, uses 40,000 to be conservative and to allow for those that have become extinct or have not been properly cataloged. He says “Most animals are not very large. The average is between the size of a rabbit and a sheep. One railroad stock car can carry about 240 sheep. This means that all 40,000 animals could fit in 167 railroad cars. The ark’s total capacity equaled 569 stock cars. Thus the 40,000 animals would require less than 30% of the space. This would leave the other 70% of the ark's space for food, supplies, and Noah's family” Mendez concludes “It is obvious that when all the facts of the Genesis account are examined that there is no reason to doubt the ark could easily have carried its intended cargo.” I agree.

        So with these final instructions God starts a seven day countdown to the flood. The seven days allowed Noah to get the animals aboard, and may have been a last opportunity to warn the ungodly world. Both 1st and 2nd Peter tell us that Noah warned that generation; 2nd Peter calls him a preacher of righteousness. Noah’s message was surely a call to repent, believe and be rescued. The tragedy is that none did.

        But Noah did. Verse 5 tells us that Noah did all that the Lord commanded him. This obedience is one of the keys to God’s refuge. Think of this logically: where would Noah have been if when God had said ‘build a boat’ he had said ‘no, I’m not going to build a boat’; or God said ‘get in the boat’, ‘no, I’m not going to get in the boat’. He would have been swimming. God’s commands lead to refuge - if we don’t obey, we’re not there. The Scriptures often display this logic, but they don’t specifically tie obedience and refuge together. What they do connect is obedience and blessing. God says to Abraham “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” All through Deuteronomy God lists the blessings of obedience. “All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God.” Psalm 119 makes it very clear “Blessed are those whose lives have integrity, who walk in the law of the LORD. Blessed are those who obey His decrees, and search for Him with all their hearts.” Blessing is one of the great outcomes of obedience, and refuge is one of God’s great blessings.

        You remember the situation you thought of earlier, the one that makes you desire refuge? Think about your own behavior in that situation. Is there a clear path of obedience for you? ‘Whatever else, I need to continue to love this person; whatever comes, I need to continue to persevere in this resolve; whatever happens, I need to avoid this temptation; this sin.’ The place of refuge is down that path of obedience.

II. A Place of God’s Timing (Genesis 7:6-10)

        The place of refuge is also the place of God’s timing. Genesis 7:6-10, Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. 7And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, 9male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. 10And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.

        One of the notable things about chapter 7 is how it repeats three times the description of the people and animals who went into the Ark. Moses surely does this to show how God’s promises are being perfectly fulfilled. In fact, one such fulfillment is right here: verse 9 shows the animals coming to the ark: Noah doesn’t have to get them. God had promised this nearly a hundred years before. Genesis 6:20 “Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.” They did.
        Notice too how God’s timing is deliberate: he is going to bring this flood at a set time. The year would be the sixth hundredth year of Noah’s life, some 1650 years after the fall of man. But the timing is much more accurate than that: God had said ‘seven more days’ and at the end of those seven days, the waters came. And it was on that very day that Noah and his family went into the refuge of the Ark. Nathan Hughes’ mom, Jaye, was known to have said ‘God is never too late; unfortunately he is also never too early.’ He brings us the provision we need at the time we need it.

        This is easy to show from Scripture. During the power encounter with Egypt, Moses writes “The Lord set a time and said, "Tomorrow the Lord will do this in the land." 6And the next day the Lord did it.” David says in Psalm 31: “21Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. . . you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.” Of Jesus, Paul says “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law.” This is God’s habit: to send refuge, provision, escape, when the time has fully come - and only God knows when that time is. Israel waited two thousand years for Jesus. We’ve waited two thousand years for his return. And Peter teaches us that “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10But the day of the Lord will come.” He will provide a way of escape.

        So God’s refuge is entered by obedience, as Noah entered the Ark. God’s refuge is made available in his time, as Noah found that seventh day. How are you doing in waiting for God’s timing? His refuge won’t come too early, before you’ve learned all you need to learn or done all that you need to do; but it won’t come too late - God will not leave or forsake you, Isaiah teaches that “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31but those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” The Psalmist says “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” God’s refuge is given at just the right time.

III. A Place of God’s Provision (Genesis 7:11-16)

        Third, God’s refuge is a place where he personally provides. Verses 11 to 16 11In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month--on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. 12And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. 13On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. 14They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. 15Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. 16The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord shut him in.

        Notice again that the time is clear: 600th year of Noah’s life, 17th day, 2nd month. Those last two notations in Hebrew could identify a calendar date, but we have no way of knowing or reconstructing the calendar in use at that time. In fact the various dates in this text seem to be keyed to Noah’s life; that’s how we’re going to take them when we do the calendar work in chapters 8 and 9. The point is that as soon as everyone and everything gets aboard the ark, the flood comes. We’ll tackle the nature of that flood in a moment. For right now I just want you to see the one little phrase indicating God’s provision. Verse 16: ‘then the Lord shut him in.’

        Who shut the door? Not Noah! God. Whether we see the ark as a metaphor for salvation in Christ - we are safe in Christ because of the work God does - or as a metaphor for our refuge in the circumstances in life, it is comforting to know that God is at work. It is God who has provided the way of escape and it is God who makes the refuge secure. And remember, according to verse 1, he’s shutting the door from the inside. The place of refuge is always the place of God’s presence. Psalm 46: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” That Psalm was not written by Noah, but it could have been. God’s refuge is a place of God’s provision. I think of Elijah running from Jezebel: he was discouraged and depressed. And what did God give him? Rest and food. Provision.

        God’s refuge is a place of provision. As you think of your own situation, I hope you’ll recognize that in turning to God your needs will be met. In fact there is no other place your needs can be met. We talked last time about the fact that Jesus is God’s provision for rescue from sin. All have sinned - rebelled against God and disobeyed his commands by failing to love him and failing to love others. And the natural consequence is punishment; death. The wages of sin is death. But Jesus is God’s provision. Peter teaches that he himself bore our sins in his body on the cross. Spiritually Jesus is the ark, the refuge in which God places us to protect us from the storm of judgment. Romans 8:1 teaches that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No condemnation. Forgiveness, eternal life, adoption into God’s family, the Holy Spirit - all are provided for us in Jesus.

        And because of this provision, you can be confident that in the circumstance you’ve been thinking of this morning. God has a plan to provide for you in that too. Paul writes, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32. God does provide - not always in the ways we expect, but always in the ways that are for our good and for his glory. Maybe his provision is someone to talk to, or someone to pray for you, or strength to resist temptation, or a way to flee from it, or a special word from His word, or a good night’s sleep, or a pain free day, or a stunning sunrise, or a note of encouragement, or a helping hand, or a small victory, or a small raise. Something that reminds you you’re safe in his refuge. He does provide.

IV. A Place of Safety (Genesis 7:17-24)

        Let’s go ahead and read the last section before we talk about the nature of the flood. The place of refuge is a place of safety for God’s people. Genesis 7:17-24 For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. 18The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet.

        21Every living thing that moved on the earth perished--birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. 24The waters flooded the earth for 150 days.

        What do we know about this catastrophic flood? First, the Scripture makes it clear it was a worldwide flood, not just local. The phrases we’ve been looking at in this chapter, ‘all the earth’, ‘all living things’ indicate the global nature of the flood. The Answers in Genesis web site summarizes the arguments against a local flood: If the Flood was local, why did Noah have to build an Ark? He could have walked to the other side of the mountains and missed it; if the Flood was local, why did God send the animals to the Ark? There would have been other animals to reproduce that kind if these particular ones had died; If the Flood was local, how could the waters rise 20 feet above the mountains? Water seeks its own level. It couldn’t cover significant mountains while leaving the rest of the world untouched; if the Flood was local, people who didn’t happen to live in the vicinity would have escaped God’s judgment on sin. If so, what did Christ mean when He likened the coming judgment of all men to the judgment of ‘all’ men in the days of Noah? A partial judgment in Noah’s day means a partial judgment to come; finally, if the Flood was local, God would have repeatedly broken His promise never to send such a flood again.”

        But if it was world wide, where did all that water come from? Many creation scientists have proposed that a great vapor canopy of water above the earth rained down for those forty days, and something like that may in fact have contributed to the flood. But even at 48 inches of rain a day for forty days, that would only be 160 feet of flood, hardly enough to cover mountains. The greater source appears to be water stored in the ground. Verse 11 told us that when the flood came “all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.” These ‘springs of the great deep’ seem to be vast sources of water from below the pre-flood continents. Psalm 33 describes creation this way “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. 7He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.” A sovereign God stored the water away in anticipation of this day. A third potential source is water in the solar system: Doug Rask pointed out to his Sunday School class that there is a lot of ice in the solar system - frozen water. It’s recently been shown that the asteroid Ceres has a layer of water ice on it two hundred miles thick. And like Mars or the Moon, our planet shows evidence of having been bombarded from space; you just can’t see our craters because they’re covered by sediment, water, or vegetation.Thought to be the impact that wiped out the dinosaurs, the Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan peninsula was not easily detected because it’s buried under layers of sediment. But by mapping local gravity and magnetic field variations (seen in this image), scientists determined that an asteroid between 6 and 12 miles (10 and 20 kilometers) in diameter slammed into Earth 65 million years ago, causing near-global catastrophe.

         One particular impact, near what is now the Yucatan peninsula could easily have caused catastrophic weather on the far side of the world. It could also have broken up the crust and released the storehouses of the deep to flood the whole world.

        I did some calculations on the current amount of the earth’s water and found that if the world was perfectly flat the water would form a layer almost 9000 feet thick. That wouldn’t cover today’s mountains, but it could have been enough. If you conjecture that the original continents, while supported on vast columns of rock were also more or less on top of vast storehouses of water, then the flood would have released this water, lowering the continents and covering the earth. At the same time vast volcanic effects and the breaking up of the crust into tectonic plates would have begun to raise the present mountains to their great heights - Everest is 29000 feet - and lower the seas to their great depths - the Marianas trench is 35,000 feet deep.

        So it was a worldwide flood, and as verse 20 says the mountains were covered to a depth of more than 20 feet before the rains slowed at the end of forty days. Even then the levels continued to rise for another 110 days. The result, as God had promised, was that all life was wiped out. Verse 21 “Every living thing that moved on the earth perished--birds, livestock, wild animals, all creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died.” This text is very restrained in describing this disaster - just enough detail to know what happened. One commentator I read pointed out that modern writers would have added hundreds of words or pages of gut-wrenching emotional vignettes while the waters rose. That’s not the emphasis of Scripture - it’s emphasis is clearly on rescue and refuge. Verse 18: the ark floated on the surface of the water; verse 23: only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. God kept them safe.

        The place of refuge is God’s place of safety. Psalm 16:1, David says “Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.” Psalm 32:7 “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” The beauty of being a believer in Jesus is that this refuge is not a physical place like the ark, but a place you can reach any time you cry out to God. Safety isn’t a place at all, it’s the person of Jesus, the presence of God. Noah experienced this: God said ‘come in’ and he shut the door and Noah was safe in his presence.

        And this despite the raging storm. Scott Krippayne sang a song a few years ago that captured this truth. It wasn’t about the flood; it was about the storm on Galilee - but the truth is the same:

        All who sail the sea of faith find out before too long
        How quickly blue skies can grow dark and gentle winds grow strong
        Suddenly fear is like white water pounding on the soul
        Still we sail on knowing that our Lord is in control
        Sometimes He calms the storm with a whispered "Peace be still"
        He can settle any sea but it doesn't mean He will
        Sometimes He holds us close and lets the wind and waves go wild
        Sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child

        In your circumstance, in your situation you can find refuge. You find refuge from the consequences of sin through faith in Jesus and his sacrifice. You find refuge from the stresses of life in Jesus and in his Father. Jesus says "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” This refuge is almost always reached by obedience, it is given in God’s timing, it is a gift of his provision, and it is the place of safety - the only place of safety when the storm rages. Won’t you seek this refuge?