Sunday Gathering – Genesis – The Character of God – Jonathan Dunning
Jonathan continues our new series on Genesis. This week he is speaking on Genesis 6:1-22. His topic is "The Character of God"
The sermon delivered by Jonathan Dunning on February 11th, 2024, focused on Genesis chapter 6, exploring the character of God in the context of human sin and judgment. The sermon is divided into two parts: God's diagnosis of man's condition and God's solution through salvation. Dunning examines the passage, discussing the interpretation of the sons of God, the wickedness of man, and the impending judgment of the flood. He delves into the supernatural elements mentioned in the passage, including the Nephilim and the book of Enoch. Dunning emphasizes God's omniscience, grief over human sin, righteous judgment, and ultimate grace in providing salvation through Noah. The sermon concludes with a reflection on the covenant God establishes with Noah, offering hope and assurance of salvation for believers through Jesus Christ.
Bible Passages Used:
- Genesis 6:1-22
- Genesis 3-11 (Background)
- 1 Peter 3:19-20
- 2 Peter 2:4-6
- Jude 1:6-7
- Ephesians 5:11
- Psalm (Not specified)
- Hebrews 11:7
it for for it. Bless this man we pray in Jesus name. Amen. Over to you.
Now having just finished the speaking course where I was talking to people about a good
start, a good middle and a good end, this could be very confusing. So you know it's
a class of classically.do as I do, just do as I say please. This isn't an easy chapter
as we're going through Genesis as you will find out if you've looked at it. It's a passage
that's the first eight verses that I have never heard anyone preach on before and I've
never preached on it before and as we read it you'll understand why. I don't know how
many people have actually heard sermons on this. Greg said he had but I'm not quite
sure if there's anyone else. But here we go. I think there's things we can learn from
here. It's quite a sobering chapter. This is not going to be a happy, clappy chapter.
This is going to make us think about the condition of the human heart, us as human
beings, about the nature of God and his character and how he deals with that. And actually he
has things to say to our society today. I'm going to split this chapter, chapter six
into two parts. The first part really is God's diagnosis of man's condition if you like,
which basically is that we terminally ill at that point. And the second part versus
nine to twenty two is going to be God's solution and no as salvation. But let's read the first
eight verses of chapter six of Genesis. When man began to multiply on the face of the
land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man
were attractive and they took them as wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, my spirit
shall not abide in man forever, but he's flesh. His days shall be 120 years. The Nephilim were
on the earth in those days and also afterward when the sons of God came into the daughters
of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men
of renown. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every
intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted
that he'd made man on the earth and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, I will blot
out man whom I've created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things
and birds of the heavens from sorry that I've made them. But Noah found favor in the
eyes of the Lord. Just a bit of background, Genesis chapter 3 to 11 from the moment Adam
and Eve are disobedient through to the Tower of Babel is really a series of incidents showing
the consequences of man choosing to go his own way. There were some high points like
we heard last week about Enoch who walked with God and was taken out of this world.
But essentially it's about man going from paradise, this place where he's with God,
where he's walking with God, where he has relationship with God to kind of pandemonium
like anarchy. Just everything is just getting bleaker and darker and worse and you can't
imagine how bad things got. Evil had gathered pace and suddenly we come in chapter 6 to
these verses where we read of the sons of God looking down and seeing these daughters of men
and saying we really would like to have sex with them and basically we're going to take
them as our wives. That's the word that's used. It's an interesting thought that anyway but we're
not going to get into what that means. Now there are two possible theories to these verses.
There is the reasonable rational view that many theologians have had which is basically
a view that cuts out if you like the supernatural and we in the west are very good at actually
downplaying the supernatural. And the argument is this that actually when Manfell, one of Adam
and Eve's sons Seth, was a righteous line of humanity. It was faithful to God still that walked
with God but Cain who of course murdered Abel, his brother, was actually a bad side of humanity
and the daughters of men were Cain's descendants and the sons of God were Seth's descendants
and of course throughout the Bible you get this view of intermarriage, God being really angry
about intermarriage between his chosen people and foreigners and really this was just another
incident where God is displeased because humanity has decided to do something outside of that
kind of relationship, a faithfulness that God had chosen for them. There are real problems with
this though. I mean I think it's just a classic human answer to a very difficult passage of scripture.
The first problem perhaps is this has happened forever where there has been this kind of intermarriage
and God hasn't chosen to destroy the world on the basis of that ever before. God wasn't so
horrified with what had happened that basically he now was going to say that's enough. Time
gentlemen please I'm going to wipe the slate clean. Secondly the offspring seem to be quite
strange people they're almost like super humans it's like a Marvel comic you know we talk about
these mighty men of renown they're almost like beyond humans almost you know having having kind
of powers that would be on humanity you know these these mighty men of renown are they called here
and some of them were giants. Now there seems to be this these giants called the Nephilim before
as well as after. Please don't ask me where they came from. I think it's another sort of this
kind of disfiguration of creation this kind of this kind of things going wrong in the world.
But undoubtedly this was not the progeny or the offspring of a normal human relationship.
So who are the sons of God? Well the sons of God is a phrase that's used in the Old Testament
a lot for angelic beings. And this is why we have a problem with it.
But it was certainly the understanding of the early Christian church in their teachings of Jewish
scholars where there was a widespread belief in this supernatural world of demonic as well as
you know the supernatural as good that this was indeed the union of angelic beings who
had disobeyed God who had rebelled against God and humanity. And that does explain some of the horror
and the appalling sense of what God felt about this. There's a book in the apocrypha I'll come to
what that means in a minute called Enoch the book of Enoch. Now you might think well what are we
doing talking about a book that's not in the Bible. Well this actually book is quoted and
referenced several times in the New Testament including by Jesus himself on one occasion.
So people took it very seriously and in Enoch chapter 6 there's almost a commentary on these
verses in Genesis 6. The apocrypha is a group of sacred writings that didn't make the final cut
into the Bible but they were very highly honored and respected and you can still read them today.
You can get hold of the book of Enoch if you want to and this is what the book of Enoch says
about what was happening at this point. This is Enoch chapter 6 if you want to look it up afterwards.
When the children of men had multiplied they were born to them beautiful daughters and the angels
the children of heaven saw them and lustied after them and each chose one for himself and began to
defile themselves with them and they taught them charms and enchantments and the cutting of roots
and made them acquainted with plants. If that doesn't sound like witchcraft
and they became pregnant and they bought great giants and Enoch 6 goes on to say
and there was much godlessness and they committed fornication and they were led astray and became
corrupt in their ways. Now I'm not saying that is the word of god but that was the understanding
that New Testament writers put to this because if you read 1 Peter 3 verses 19 to 20 and 2 Peter
2 verses 4 to 6 you see these ideas from that that chapter Enoch picked up and there is a clear
link between angelic disobedience and the resulting flood. They link the two, 1 Peter and 2 Peter.
In Jude another one of the books in the New Testament verses 6 and 7 Jude says these words
I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority but left their proper
dwelling and like Sodom and Gomorrah they likewise that is the angels obviously indulged in sexual
immorality and pursued a natural desire. The Greek for a natural desire there is different flesh,
different flesh. Now this is quite horrifying stuff isn't it? It's not the usual thing you get
on a Sunday morning and it poses an awful lot of questions to us doesn't it? About the gender
of angels, about hand angels and humanity actually produce sort of children and there are some
really serious things and you know for anyone who's ever had to deal with the issues of witchcraft
you know that sexual immorality and witchcraft are kind of quite linked in so many ways.
Let's be honest I'm not going there this morning
but I would like to say this because it's quite interesting if we think about mythology,
myths and legends around the world and this is prehistory.
Mids and legends are full of stories of gods coming to earth and having sex with human beings
and they're offspring being these super powered sort of people who did these great deeds.
It's often said of myths and legends there's a grain of truth in them. The King Arthur legend for
instance, and that's the round table and all that. There's a thought that Arthur would have been a
famous chieftain of the Britons many many years ago but nobody's ever made that connection.
So the truth was somewhere out there and perhaps even in history some of this stuff that you read
may have had you know its roots in what was happening on the earth before the flood.
The flood itself is another story. It's interesting to know and I've not read all of them
in the myths and legends of China, South America. I believe North American Indigenous peoples too
as well as the Middle East there are lots and lots of stories of a universal flood.
And again they're linked back into this story of prehistory that we're going to read and believe
happens. So it's interesting you know that as humanity spread across the world again
that some of these stories might have been passed down who knows. I'll leave that with you that's
not necessarily truth it's just a thought for the day. What is true today as we think about it is
that people are still fascinated with the supernatural. Just have to look at some of the
programs on the TV, some of the films. It's something that people find interesting and attractive
but I want to say this to you having dealt with this kind of stuff for years and on this estate
having to deal with some very serious stuff over the years and calling myself at times the ghost
buster you know because that was language they understood. There are serious warnings in scripture
to have nothing to do with the occult, to have nothing to do with this, to keep away it's real,
it's dangerous and it's damaging. But I want to declare today that the power of
Jesus is far more greater than anything that this that happens here. Time and time and those of us
who say let's do a bit of petty costumes. Say amen. Yeah God doesn't want us. He wants us to
walk with him. He doesn't want us to sleep with the enemy. Ephesians 5 verse 11 says have nothing
to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness and if you have been messing around with this stuff
can I just say what Jesus said to a lot of people when they came to him stop it. Stop it.
What I would suggest is part of the horror that you see in God in Genesis chapter 6 is that these
boundaries have been really broken down in such a way that this has become you know it's beyond
just what would normally happen in terms of sin. So what do we discover about God's character
in these verses? First chapter 6 verse 5 we read that God sees everything and he doesn't turn a
blind eye. He's not just seeing what's happening out there but we read that he even sees inside
the hearts and minds of the people. So what God saw in Genesis 1 was good and very good and what
he's seeing now appoles him and horrifies him. I wonder what God sees in our world today.
He knows our thoughts the Psalmist says. He knows everything about us. We can't hide from him
even if we make our bed in the depths David said I can't get away from you God. I cannot run from
God. None of us in here can run from God. He sees and he knows what he saw was a complete
and utter mess and this contrast between the beauty of man that he he created
who has now been disfigured by sin and changed into other sort of it's a look different and
the difference, as I say a people that have gone from walking with God to walking away from
God and sleeping with the enemy. Verse 5 says that God saw great wickedness in times of how
man was acting and in verse 11 and 12 which we've not come up today he talked about a world that
was filled with corruption and violence. When something's filled there's no room for anything
else. There was no room for God and sin has spread like a pandemic. It was everywhere and no one
seemed to be immune and in verse 5 you read these three words. Every only continually man was fixated
on this corruption. It was everywhere and it was continually the Hebrew means every day.
Every intention, every thought, every heart's desire was only and continually evil. Wow this is
how far man had sunk when we get to Genesis chapter 6. What in three little four little chapters?
I mean there are hundreds of years but it's just a scary thought isn't it really?
Man was rotten inside and out into the core. No fear of God, no respect for God, no interesting
God. God sees and saw everything and he sees and sees everything he does too. Secondly God feels
pain. Have you ever thought about that? There's real heartache and pain and sorrow. We read that
God was grieved to his heart. That's a deep heartache. That's a terrible sorrow.
Have you ever, well I presume we all have to some degree felt rejection in relationships,
loss of friendships of family of individuals of loved ones, love that's walked away from us,
people that have hurt us who we trusted and the pain we feel in that rejection.
Is nothing like what God feels. He is grieved to his heart by disobedience.
God hurts. I could hurt God.
Wow. Hey. That's a very human picture of God you might say but let's put it the right way around.
We read in Genesis 1 of course verse 26 that God made man in our image in God's image
and perhaps some of that is actually part of God's nature in us to feel lost, to feel pain,
to feel those kind of things that he feels. God is hurting. God is sorry. God has regrets.
The third point about God's character is God judges. Now God can judge because he's righteous
and because he sees everything and knows everything including the thoughts and desires of our human
heart, he has all the evidence in front of him. He knows the truth. He's not waiting for somebody
to put the hand on the Bible and say, you know, I promise I'm going to tell the truth the whole
truth and nothing but the truth and then doesn't. He knows. So he is the righteous judge who can judge
unlike us who gets so judgmental and we don't have all the facts. We don't know everything about
everything. We don't know what's going on in people's lives. We make judgment on a very superficial
level and God says don't do that. Says don't judge people like that but God because he's righteous
and because he's holy can judge. He has the right to be the judge. He's the sovereign
God who can and does judge and there is a point where he has said this is a cutoff point. A time
when I will blow the whistle on this game and say it's finished, game over. We need to start again.
He says in verse three, my spirit will not always strive or contend or abide depends what version
you've got with man forever. There's going to be judgment. Now it's not something we talk about
as a church a lot but actually it is part of our belief, a fundamental part of our belief as
Christians that one day God is going to judge us. Cheer up. He's going to judge the world.
And I think that that's something that we need to consider. Where do we stand with God?
Where are we in our relationship with God? So God starts to put a judgment on man. Firstly,
he says I'm going to put a time limit on mankind of 120 years. Now we've heard about how long people
lived last week when in Genesis chapter 5. There are two ways of looking at these and they both
could be right. One is that the time limit is the 120 years to the flood because in one Peter
3 verse 20 Peter speaks of God's great patience or long suffering in waiting for Noah to build
this ark before judgment would come. It's not that God makes a knee-jet reaction to our sins.
It's not like us when we lose our rag and we say right that's it. I'm going to sort this out.
God is much more restrained than humanity is. That's part of his kindness and his nature.
But essentially that 120 years could be that but it could also be a time limit on man's life.
Could be both. Despite everything we have to accept as human beings that it is God's right
to judge the earth. It used to be quite popular though not very particularly helpful all the time
for people to be marching could have been down the moor with signs that said flee the judgment
to come. And even Christians at times we got a bit too curling about it you know thinking that's
a bit embarrassing. But there's a truth in it. There's a truth in it really that we have to accept.
There's a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.
The creed that was read out in many Anglican churches well in every Anglican church says he
will come again to judge both the living and the dead. Judgment when God judges is final.
There's no appeal call. But having said that judgment isn't the final word because
this first passage ends with hope in the midst of all this hopelessness this mess that humanity's
got itself into. You have these brilliant verse in verse 8 says something about God's character
the God who sees the God who feels the God who judges is also the God of grace.
Thank God for grace. You know we sit here today because of God's grace and mercy towards us
because of what Jesus did on the cross we do not fear judgments praise you Jesus.
Noah we read in verse 8 found favor of grace in the eyes of God.
God saw something in Noah and that's just a wonderful thought isn't it?
So we now come on to part two and I'm not reading out all the verses from verse 9 to verse 22 we've
seen how bad things got. God hasn't changed his mind about judgments but he is providing also
salvation for Noah and his family. Verse 9 of Genesis chapter 6 says these words
Noah was a righteous man blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God that phrase again that we
had that Rick was talking to us about last week and we read at the end of the chapter
that Noah did all that God commanded him. Noah may have been the last man standing
and it's pretty clear that God's grace came first in this. God saw Noah and Noah found
favoring God's eyes but Noah himself was an outstanding man he stood out. He was an example
to us of a life well lived an example if you like of what God was expecting and hoping for
and longing for in humanity the kind of human being that God wants to have a relationship with
we read that he was righteous blameless in his generation and that he walked with God.
We also read in two Peter two verse five that he was a preacher of righteousness.
He wasn't just a righteous man in a society as corrupt as it was where he was spending all
his waking hours probably building a boat. He also preached righteousness. He spoke out against
the corruption and the mess of the society that he was in. We read in Hebrews 11 verse 7 this is
the chapter about heroes of faith that Noah is in there Noah was a man of faith. Can you imagine
the faith it takes to spend decades of your life? I mean we're talking about decades of your life
up to 120 years one could argue you know it's taking a long time to build a boat all the hard
labor all the actual physical cost as well as the expense of it. This is a huge undertaking
on dry land with no apparent sign of a judgment to come. I guess a lot of you may have been to
Barcelona and seen Sagrada La Familia at the Holy Family Church which is a gaudy
gaudy church which is still being built even with modern architecture and all the things that people
know over a hundred years well over a hundred years they're still building that cathedral.
How are all these people if his family were involved in it how are they going to build this massive
massive boat? We don't know that he was a carpenter we certainly don't think he was a ship builder
he wasn't a civil engineer but God gave him instructions and this man of faith lived his life
without putting in a planning application can you imagine what his neighbors thought as this
thing went and appeared in the back garden you know this is huge. He's building this huge
arc which is a bit like a big chest actually it's not your classic boat it's a massive big box
I mean I don't know how many years do you think that would take you a minute?
You did all those 500 plus years ago wouldn't you? Together to that. He had no idea whether even
the vessel that shape or size was float he had to believe God. He was a righteous man
a proclaimer of righteousness a man of faith and finally and most importantly he was obedient
he did everything that God asked him to do despite the time the cost the effort years and years of
building this without knowing what the outcome was going to be he must have been tempted to think
there's only eight of us shall we make it a bit smaller cut down on the cost at the time you know
we don't really need three we don't need three levels in all these rooms you know we just make
it a bit smaller we can squeeze it in surely but in order to escape judgment
no one had to take God's word seriously and build his life on the plan and purpose of God
so we get these specific instructions to build this arc
and then we come to the final part of God's character the God who sees everything
the God of feels pain the God who will judge and has judged the God of grace
is also the God of covenant verse 18 of chapter six
God says to Noah I will establish my covenant with you that means I will take action to make
this happen it's the first mention ever of this word covenant in the Bible what is covenant
well it's like a legal agreement between two parties you know that you sign up with a lawyer
or so listen but it's very different from that in another way I feel like I'm doing a Chris
Chris Simpson well it's one or the other no it's both really it's it's it's it's this legal
covenant but in God's understanding it's much more covenant when you see that word
is an agreement that God chooses to make with an individual or a people on his terms
there's no negotiation and it's always involved with his action to make it possible
and usually with a promise involved too
a covenant explains something of God's plan and purpose and contains God's promise
so here God promises Noah and it's a promise in the covenant that we have just celebrated today in
communion a covenant is something that God will not break he honors his word he honors his side
of this agreement he's not dodgy with this we can trust his word we have celebrated a covenant
today this is my body this is my blood this is the new cut the blood of the new covenant
a new agreement I am making between humanity and God a means of forgiveness a way of grace a way
to avoid the destruction and judgment
despite all that God has seen in us we have found favor in his sight just as Noah did
and just as God promised Noah and his family salvation and rescue from judgment so we
in Jesus Christ have that promise of salvation
so as I come to an end of chapter six
you know we are reminded to start with of the horror that humans can get up to if we left our
own devices and continue to walk away from God but it also reveals some wonderful things about
God's character the God who sees everything has heartache because of it because he loves
because he cares but he's not going to be made a fool of by humanity he will judge
but he will provide a way of escape and has done in Jesus grace and he has made a firm promise
sealed in his blood in this new covenant that we can have peace with God through our Lord Jesus
Christ so although this starts very dark let's go away with that sense of hope
of what God has done for us and will do in our lives God bless you. Amen.