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Please turn your attention to our first lesson for today, especially verses 11-14. Like Noah, we too need to prepare an ark to save our families.
One of the major themes of Advent is “Prepare!” The lights, the advertising, the music, almost everything happening around us reminds us that we are preparing for Christmas. Advent helps us remember that true preparation for Christmas involves remembering that Christmas is to be a celebration of the birth of our Savior. But, our Scripture readings for today remind us that there is something else for which we always need to be prepared, not just for a day or for a season of the year, but every day. We need to be prepared for the last day, the day on which Jesus will come a second time, not as a little baby to save the world, but as a glorious King to judge the world. Our first reading today is about Noah and the flood because Jesus says in our Gospel lesson that we can learn something about preparing for his second coming from what happened in the days of Noah.
Moses tells us by inspiration of the Holy Spirit that in the days of Noah, in the sight of God the earth was morally corrupt, and the earth was filled with violence. That phrase, “in the sight of God,” is interesting. It makes me think that most people probably thought that things were fine. In fact, they might have thought that things were morally better than in the past. They might have thought that they had reached an age of enlightenment where they had been able to throw off the old morality of their forefathers and were able to accept things like homosexuality, or to reject the idea of marriage. This moral corruption showed itself in the fact that the earth was filled with violence. And, as was the case later, with Sodom and Gomorrah, God made it clear that he was not forming his opinion of what was happening on earth based on secondhand reports. God looked at the earth and saw that it was corrupt, for all flesh was corrupt in all their ways on the earth.
As we look around the world today, we have to wonder if God’s assessment of our day is the same as it was in the days of Noah. Even to us who can’t view things with the perfect vision of God, the earth seems morally corrupt. Many in our day think that they have reached an age of enlightenment when almost everything that used to be considered immoral is now considered acceptable, and even celebrated. And those like us who still hold to Biblical morality are said to be holding society back. But, what society calls enlightened morality has led to the destruction of the family which has led to a more violent world. Consider all the violence in places where there is a very low percentage of intact families, where many children have no idea who their father is. Consider the rise of hateful language, human trafficking, not to mention mass shootings.
As God looks at the earth today, he certainly sees that it is again morally corrupt and filled with violence. Although it may not be as bad as it was in the days of Noah, since there are more than eight believers left, it certainly grieves the Lord and moves him to say my spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal. In fact, Jesus lets us know that the Father has set a day when he will bring another judgment on the earth. It will not be a worldwide flood as is was in the days of Noah, it will be destruction by fire. As it was in the days of Noah, people will be going about their business, mostly ignorant that such judgment would come, because they have chosen to be ignorant of the Scriptures and to ignore those who are preachers of righteousness as Noah was.
By God’s grace, we are not ignorant. As he did with Noah, God has revealed his plan to us. We know the end of the world is coming. We know the signs that have been given to us by Jesus and the Apostles. We know that it is nearer now than when we first believed. So, what do we do?
God told Noah to prepare an ark, to build a large floating box. But that won’t do us any good against the consuming fire of the last day. How do we prepare an ark for ourselves and our families?
First of all, we are told that Noah was a righteous man, a man of integrity. God could see into his heart as he can see into ours. He saw Noah’s faith and knew that he would do what he asked him to do even if it was counter-cultural, even when it would seem to most to be foolish.
We need men who are like Noah; men who are righteous through faith in Jesus as their savior; men who have integrity. We need them, or whoever is the head of a family, to be people of integrity, people who will set a good example for their children and others because they are motivated by God’s love for them in Jesus, to do what God says is moral and right even when it is counter-cultural, even when it seems to most to be foolish. For example, they don’t entrust the religious instruction of their children only to others. Although they may make use of what a church has to offer, they practice their faith at home every day, leading prayers with their family, having devotions together, talking about what God says in Scripture as a part of their everyday conversations, making sure they are leading their children to Christ, not leaving them on their own to decide for themselves later. As God says in earlier in Genesis 6, every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart is only evil all the time. So, a child left on their own to decide for themselves if they will be a Christian or not can only decide one thing – Not to be a Christian. And don’t forget that Peter connects baptism to the flood and says that, just as Noah and his family were saved in the ark, so baptism now saves you also.
We need parents who not only bring their children to be baptized, and who then teach God’s word to their children, but who also practice what they teach. Parents who strive with God’s help to do what Paul advises. Let us put away the deeds of darkness and put on the weapons of light. Let us walk decently as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual sin and wild living, not in strife and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and do not give any thought to satisfying the desires of your sinful flesh. Christian schools and Sunday schools can be a great blessing, but they will be generally ineffective if what children are taught from Scripture in programs is not reinforced by word and deed at home.
As you see the signs that Jesus and the Apostles gave that mark the second coming of Jesus being fulfilled; as you see The Day approaching; prepare an ark! Don’t go out and build a big wooden boat in your back yard, that won’t work on the day when Jesus returns and everything will be destroyed by fire. Prepare an ark by making sure you have a home where Jesus is Lord. Do everything you can to make sure everyone you love knows that they are sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God, but who have also been justified by faith that Jesus lived and died to pay for their sins and rose again. Do everything you can to make your home an ark that is insulated from the moral corruption and violence of the world around you. That means not only making clear by teaching what God considers to be moral and immoral, but practicing it. It means not just restricting access to certain games, TV shows, music and movies, but taking the time to explain why, and whenever possible to show in the Bible where God says that these things should not be a part of our lives.
I can’t imagine that doing what God asked was easy for Noah. Just the physical labor of making the ark must have been exhausting. I imagine that there were times that his sons questioned his mental stability. Certainly he received a lot of funny looks and probably outright mockery from all who passed by. But the Bible says Noah did everything that God commanded him, just as he had been told. He did it all by faith, not by sight, for no one had ever seen the need for such an ark in the history of the earth.
Like Noah, making our homes an ark isn’t going to be easy. It’s hard work to fight against our sinful nature and make time for prayer and Scripture reading. It’s not easy to fight against the sinful nature of our children who don’t always want to listen. It’s not popular to ban objectionable games, or music, or TV, or movies from our homes. Doing so will get lots of complaining from family members, not to mention strange looks and even mockery from friends and neighbors. But consider what’s at stake. The last day is coming. The earth and everything in it will be consumed by fire, and only those who are righteous through faith in Jesus will be saved.
Imagine what would have happened if Noah would have given in to pressure from his family or his neighbors and not built the ark, or if he would have permitted shoddy work, or rotten boards to be used. Prepare an ark for your family. Strive to do everything that God has commanded no matter how foolish or unpopular it seems. Make sure that everyone in your house knows that Jesus is their ark. It is only through faith in him that anyone can be saved.