The Three Fatal Attractions
How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?
While watching the movie “Tora! Tora! Tora!” I remember the shocking events that led up to the destruction of the United States battle fleet at Pearl Harbor. On that fateful day of December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked. We now know that the sudden attack was invited by failure on the part of the U.S. military personnel to always remain vigilant. The result was the destruction of their fleet—the cause was tragic neglect. When comfort and ease and pleasure are put ahead of duty and conviction, progress is always set back. What makes Christians shrug our shoulders when we ought to be flexing our muscles? What makes us apathetic in a day when there are loads to lift, a world to be won, and captives to be set free? Why are so many bored when the times demand action?
In the time of Noah, the prevailing attitude of the people was just as tragic. It is frightening to see how quickly all of humanity failed to remember God: The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually (Gen 6:5). Adam and Eve had yielded to an external temptation, but now humankind had yielded to temptation that was rooted within their heart. Evil had grown rampant, a force that threatened to destroy everything good that God had made. And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart (Gen 6:6).
Was God sorry for creating humankind? Did He admit to a costly mistake He had committed? No, God does not change His mind: Moreover the Glory of Israel will not recant or change his mind; for he is not a mortal, that he should change his mind (1 Sam 15:29; see also Num 23:19). Instead this was God’s way of expressing a deep sorrow for what His people have done to themselves—the same feeling a parent may have over a rebellious child. God was sorry that the people freely chose sin and death instead of a relationship with Him. The sin of the people broke God’s heart. Today, our sins break God’s heart as it did in the days of Noah.
After examining the written account of Adam’s line in the fifth chapter of Genesis, you start to capture a pattern: Adam lived...and then he died; Seth lived...and then he died; Enosh lived...and then he died; Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared all lived...and then they died. And finally Enoch walked with God. By this account you start to realize that God’s people do not and should not just merely live and die but rather walk with God in a living relationship!
In the midst of all the chaotic behavior, only one man and his family still worshipped God. That man was Noah. He followed in the footsteps of his great-grandfather Enoch. Noah walked with God (Gen 6:9). Noah found favor in God’s sight: Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation (Gen 6:9). Although Noah lived among a rebellious people, he tried to do what pleased God by living his life according to God’s way. Like Noah, we live in a world filled with wickedness. Is our life an influence upon others or are we being influenced? In his lifetime, Noah was a living example of a godly man. Meanwhile, as the crime rate in the world was rising rapidly, God’s patience was slowly diminishing. “God’s response to the severe situation was a 120-year-long last chance, during which He had Noah build a graphic illustration of the message of life. Nothing like a huge boat, built on dry land, to make a point!”[i]
For Noah, a life of faithfulness meant obedience to a long-term commitment in the service of God: Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him (Gen 6:22; see Gen 7:5,16). God gave clear instructions to Noah concerning his salvation. God is very particular. With a blueprint in his hands, Noah folded his sleeves and got right to work on God’s project—an ark the length of one and a half football fields and as high as a four-story building. The ark Noah was building was a message of warning about the coming disaster, but the people apparently didn’t give it much thought. They did not expect it to happen. The serpent’s subtle undermining of the Creator’s word prevailed among them: Did God say... (Gen 3:1).
People Look To Their Human Means
Ezekiel, like Noah, was a man who chose to obey God. He was a priest who served as God’s prophet in Babylon for 22 years, telling everyone about God’s judgment and salvation, and calling them to repentance and obedience. Just like Noah, he too lived what he preached: “(1) Lying on his side for 390 days during which he could only eat one 8-ounce meal a day cooked over manure; (2) shaving his head and beard; and (3) showing no sorrow when his wife died.”[ii] Ezekiel did everything that God commanded—he obeyed and faithfully proclaimed God’s word.
False Response of the Hearers. God gave Ezekiel advanced warning that his was not an easy job. Nobody would listen to his message: “They come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear your words, but they do not obey them. For flattery is on their lips, but their heart is set on their gain. To them you are like a singer of love songs, one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; they will hear what you say, but they will not do it” (Ezek 33:31). In spite of his overnight popularity, the praise was still empty. After all is said and done, Ezekiel would find his people unwilling to change their ways with a “hard forehead and a stubborn heart” (Ezek 3:7).
False Appearance of the Religion. God condemned the religious leaders for worshipping idols in their hearts. On the outside, they appeared to worship God. Their temple visits and offered sacrifices were regular, but they were not sincere. How easy for us to criticize the Israelites for their idol worship when they clearly needed God. But we also have idols in our hearts when we put anything above God, whether it’s security, acceptance, money or sensual pleasure. When we give anything first place over God, we are guilty of idolatry. True allegiance comes from the heart as the LORD once said to Samuel considering His choice of a king for Israel: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).
False Insurance of the Nation. The nation of Judah, though eager to seek the messages of false prophets, considered the presence of a few righteous men in the nation as an insurance policy against disaster: “even if Noah, Daniel and Job—these three, were in it [a sinful land], they would save only their own lives by their righteousness...though these three men were in it, as I live, says the LORD God, they would save neither sons nor daughters, but they alone would be saved” (Ezek 14:14,18). Having godly people around us doesn’t save a sinful land, much less our souls. We must remind ourselves that the godliness of our pastors, bible teachers or Christian leaders will not safeguard us from the penalty of our individual sins. Each person is held responsible for his or her relationship with God. This begs the question, “How are you living in light of God’s truth?”
People Look To Their Worldly Ways
Jesus spoke at length regarding the end times. As in the messages of the Old Testament prophets, He telescoped near future and far future events. Jesus talked about the end times and final judgment to show His followers the urgency of proclaiming the good news of salvation to everyone.
Be Constant. The Second Coming of Christ will be swift and sudden: “For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Mt 24:37-39). Jesus’ purpose in telling about His return is not to stir up calculations and predictions about the date, but to warn us to be prepared. “Jesus gives direct clues to events that will precede His Second Coming. But notably, almost half the chapter consists of warnings that no one can predict the precise time of His coming.”[iii] It is better that we don’t know the exact day or the hour of Christ’s return. If we had this knowledge, we might be tempted to be lazy or maybe forget our work for Christ, or worse yet, continue to keep sinning up to the last minute only to turn to God right at the end. Instead, we “must be ready” and found faithfully waiting while doing God’s work (Mt 24:44).
Be Vigilant. Jesus tells us to remain vigilant while the world will be at ease—throwing banquets and parties and weddings—just as it was during Noah’s time. As the world selfishly celebrates doing what is right in its own eyes, the people of God ought to selflessly demonstrate what Jesus did in His Father’s sight—feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, help the stranger, clothe the naked and visit the sick. We are to faithfully use our time, talents, and treasures in order to accomplish the task in serving God in whatever we do. The worker who has no heart for the work of the kingdom will be punished. God rewards the faithful. Those who bear no fruit for God’s kingdom cannot expect to be treated in the same manner as the faithful worker.
Be Obedient. This life of obedience to God and diligence in His work is what sets us apart from the world. Noah experienced what it meant to be different from his neighbor. His obedient life made him stick out like a sore thumb within the community. God commanded Noah to build a huge boat in the middle of dry land to hold an entire zoo. Though God’s command may have seemed foolish to the majority, Noah obeyed: By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith” (Heb 11:7). By one man’s obedience to God, the world’s disobedience stood out and was openly sentenced to destruction! Today, a Christian’s goodness is a rebuke to the world’s wickedness. “Christ’s righteousness is so revolutionary and so contradictory to man’s manner of living that it invokes the enmity of the world.”[iv] How well do your actions separate you from impostors and unbelievers?
People Look To Their Creator's Love
Some people would have us believe that because God is so loving, He will save all humanity. But we are foolish if we think He will cancel the date of final judgment. God condemned the teachers who held as well as propagated this falsehood and their destruction is on the way: “For God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment; and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly; and if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly…” (2 Pet 2:4-6).
The Judge of Sin. These examples of judgment upon the three fallen realms—the rebel angels, the ancient world and the sinful cities—should clearly warn us that God judges sin and that unrepentant sinners cannot escape. Paul, in the book of Romans, warns us: “Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet you do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom 2:3-5). How easy it is to misinterpret God’s patience for approval of the wrong way we are living. Self-examination is difficult but as Christians we must constantly ask God to expose our sins so we can turn from them. In 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 the Apostle Paul challenged the church in Corinth, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test!”
The Message of Christ. Another warning is given in the book of Hebrews 2:3 concerning the message of Christ: “How can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” The act of listening is hard work. Jesus said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” (Mk 4:9) Listening to his words involves our minds, bodies and senses. Listening to Christ means not merely hearing, but also responding in obedience. For when we apply our ears to gain an understanding, this act will cause us to turn from our wicked ways and be forgiven. John Bunyan once said, “At the day of Doom men shall be judged according to their fruits. It will not be said then, ‘Did you believe?’ but, ‘Were you doers or talkers only?’”[v] We must persevere in our obedience to Christ by being “doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves” (Jas 1:22).
The Fate of Earth. The fate of the earth is sealed. The time of global destruction was a common theme in the early church letters. As God had promised Noah: “I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gen 9:11). During the time of Noah, the earth was judged by water; at Christ’s Second Coming, it will be judged by fire: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed” (2 Pet 3:10). God’s Word is true today as it was then. He blotted out all life on earth just as He said He would and warns us that He will do it again just as in the days of Noah (Mt 24:37). Noah, through his faith and obedience to God’s Word, was saved by the ark. The ark is a perfect type of Christ as the refuge of His people in the time of judgment. Jesus is our ark of safety! Embrace his blood-stained wooden cross by faith that you may float to safety.
The Provision of God. The Lord’s gracious invitation, “Go into the ark” (Gen 7:1), embraces His basic message as He beckons humankind time and again throughout the Scriptures. “And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come!’” (Rev 22:17). This divine call is God’s loving address to men and women: RSVP. It urges men and women to avail of God’s perfect provision specifically made for his or her own personal preservation. No one could then, or today, escape God’s judgment by his or her own effort. This is an open invitation extended to us all in an approaching time of overwhelming judgment and doom. Remember that it is God Himself who closed the door to the ark in His time and no one could enter anymore when “the Lord shut him [Noah] in” (Gen 7:16).
[i] Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. and Youth for Christ/USA, Life Application Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1988), 19.
[ii] Ibid, 1127.
[iii] World Home Bible League, The Family Devotional Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987), 847.
[iv] Billy Graham, The Secret Of Happiness (Waco, TX: Word Incorporated, 1985), 177.
[v] George Sweeting, ed., Great Quotes And Illustrations (Waco, TX: Word Book Publishers, Inc., 1985), 156.
© 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.
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