14/7/02 10.30 am : Gen.6:5-7:24

PRAY

I remember being in St. Saviour's School and some of the staff were talking of what it was like to teach in the past. They said that in days gone by that work was done on a slate, and that once the slate had been cleaned then the work was gone. Hence the expression wipe the slate clean, and starting with a clean slate.

I got the impression that they thought that it would be a good idea to do that with some of the work that was done !

In today's Bible account we have God wiping the slate clean, and making a new start. This reminds us that God is affected by our wrongdoing and will deal with according to His justice. It also remind us that God is a merciful God who wants to bring us back to Himself, and His ways.

We will look at three aspects of God : His justice; His mercy; and His power.

The Justice of God

We live in a world of injustice. A few years ago a judge freed a man who was alleged to have stalked someone. The man kicked this woman's front door down, came to her workplace and made a scene, and threatened her with a knife. The judge said that he could not see that the man posed a danger to the woman.

What is our reaction to this case ? Perhaps indignation that the man should escape and be free to continue stalking. Perhaps disappointment and bewilderment that anyone could act in such a way.

God is grieved, disappointed, every time each person does something that is selfish. Something that puts themselves before God, and before other people. This is what the Bible calls sin or evil.

In the time of Noah God was pained by the evil of the people he had created. So he decided to wipe mankind and animals from the earth. What was created as good, Genesis Chapter 1, had become evil. Read 6:5-7.

We may think that mankind has changed, improved, yet when we read this account of humankind thousands of years ago we have to admit that we have not changed. We still live in a world that is selfish, evil, has rejected God's ways.

God is just, and cannot tolerate sin or evil. When we fail to love God with our whole being, when we fail to love our neighbour as ourselves we deserve God's justice. Which is to be excluded from His presence. Our sins separate us from God.

But someone has taken the punishment that we deserve for our sins. Been separated from God the Father as he the one who was sinless, became sin for you and me. So we could be set free.

In 1971 Theo Albrecht, a wealthy German merchant, was kidnapped and released upon payment of $2.1 million, one of the largest ransoms ever paid. You may think that 1.4 million is a lot of money to set someone free. But God thinks that you and I are worth so much that He gave his only son over to death on the cross. Not just physical death, although that was one of the most tortuous that man has devised, but also spiritual death. Separation from God. So Jesus cried "My God, my God why have you forsaken me".

God has punished Jesus for everything that we have ever done wrong. He will, one day judge everyone who has ever lived. Those who have given Jesus control of their life will be judged as righteous, perfect in God's sight because of Jesus death for them. They will be admitted into God's presence. Those who have chosen to go through life going their own way, ignoring Jesus' offer will stand on their own before God. They will be found lacking, and will spend eternity without God.

But, as I mentioned earlier God is a God of compassion and mercy. Our next point.

The Mercy of God

God had compassion on Noah. Although Noah was not perfect he tried to follow God's ways. When God told Noah what he was going to do and Noah obeyed. Verse 18 of Chapter 6 refers to God giving a covenant to Noah. An agreement prompted by God's own mercy that would save Noah, and his family.

But Noah had to respond. By building the ark. Imagine the comments from his evil neighbours as they saw Noah collecting the wood and raw materials. Assembling the enormous box like boat. "Nice weather again today Noah". "Saw a cloud yesterday Noah, thought the rain would come before you finished your boat". Perhaps they even tried to frustrate Noah's building of the ark. Stealing materials, vandalising it.

Whatever happened we know that Noah's trust in God would have been visible o everyone, and it would not have been easy.

We have a God who is a God of justice, but also of compassion and mercy. As the one who has created us and who sustains us he wants the best for us, like a loving parent wants the best for a child. He saved Noah from the punishment of the flood because Noah put God first. He has sent Jesus to receive the punishment we deserve so we can respond to his love. So we can know that our sins have been forgiven. So we can have a right relationship with God, unaffected by sin. With our slate wiped clean. So we are free to put God first in our lives.

Like Noah we are called to be different. Not that God wants us to start building big boats in our gardens ! But God wants us to show in our lives that we are living for Him. This will be difficult at times. We will have to do things that we don't really want to do. That other people don't really want us to do. But if God calls us to do it we are to obey. Not to earn God's love. But in gratitude for it.

The Power of God.

Iranian residents, still terrified from Saturday' massive earthquake, were jolted again early Tuesday morning, 25 Jun 2002. Just days after being devastated by a killer earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, northwestern Iran was shaken again - this time with a magnitude of 4.0.

The quake struck shortly after midnight Tuesday, hitting parts of Qazvin Province - the same area that was hit Saturday morning. That tremor killed more than 200 people, levelled thousands of houses and buildings and left tens of thousands of people homeless. Many residents, terrified by Saturday's earthquake, had been sleeping outside, fearing their homes would collapse.

Iran is one of the world's most quake-prone regions. Since 1990, more than 41,000 people have been killed in three major earthquakes there.

BEIJING (Reuters) 26th June 2002 - Heavy flooding in China has killed at least 543 people this month and the toll is likely to jump when the summer flood season peaks in July and August, the China Daily reported on Wednesday.

Nearly 300 people were missing in just three of the hardest hit regions. The number nationwide was unknown.

Accounts varied as to how many people were affected by floods that threaten to rival the deluges of 1998, which killed more than 4,000 people. Torrential rains have hammered several of China's 19 provinces and regions, swamping some five million hectares of farmland and affecting 70 million people. Material damage from the deluges had been estimated at 20 billion yuan ( 1.6 billion).

In most countries of southern Africa there is an extremely tight food supply situation due to a sharp decline in the 2001 maize production, the main staple in the sub-region. Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland,and Zimbabwe have all been affected by drought.

It was not like that at the beginning of creation, mankind's sin has opened the gate for disruption and chaos. Despite natural disasters the created order is still under God's control. That is how Jesus stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee. That is how God sent a storm when Jonah was trying to escape, and stopped it when Jonah decided that he had to leave. That is how God sent the flood. It wasn't a short flood. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights (7 :12), and the waters flooded the earth for 150 days or about 5 months ( 7:24 ).

God has the power to judge the world, to destroy it, and re-create it. Next week we will look at the Promise of God.

The God who had mercy on Noah as an act of undeserved favour has not changed. He looks at our corrupt and evil generation, our own individual sin and offers us mercy when we deserve judgement. Those who "walk with God" (6:9) today have accepted this grace. Our faith is not in a wooden boat, but one who died on a wooden cross. This story has echoes of the greatest of all salvation acts, the death, resurrection, and return of Jesus. We can rejoice in this. We can be set free to live a life in obedience to God. We've sung "Teach me Thy way, O Lord" to show our desire to do this. We can show our gratitude for our deliverance by telling others. Which is why we will sing the next song "Tell out my soul", after we have prayed.

PRAY