Cycle 2: Noah and His Sons (Genesis 6 to 11)

So, in the beginning God made a deal with Adam. He told him to have kids, to cultivate fruits and grains in order to rule over and feed the animals, and to expand the garden of Eden. If Adam did these things faithfully, in the end the garden would fill the whole earth and earth would be an eternal global paradise, where all Adam’s children would live in peace with one another, with the animals, and with God. And all Adam has to do is not eat one particular fruit.

But Adam screwed up the deal. God said, “Don’t eat that fruit,” the serpent said, “do eat that fruit,” and Adam obeyed the serpent. So Adam chose slavery to an animal over obedience to his Father.

But God did not let that stand. He told the serpent, “No, no, no, no! You do not get to rule unopposed. You were the cleverest of all the animals; but because you used your cleverness to try to take power from mankind, from now on you will be the lowest of animals. You will resist mankind, and mankind will resist you. And one day, Eve will have a son who will crush your head once and for all, even as you strike his heel.”

In other words, Adam still has to do the job he was created for: he is still called to rule over the animals — but from now on he will not be living in cooperation with nature, he will have to fight to dominate it. He is still called to have lots of kids with his wife — but from now on having kids will be painful and difficult, and he will not be living in cooperation with his wife, he will have to fight to dominate her. He is still called to cultivate fruits and grains, and tame the earth — but from now on growing food will be painful and difficult; he will have to fight to dominate the earth…and in the end the earth is always going to dominate him.

The only spark of hope he has is God’s promise that one day one of Eve’s sons will set everything back the way it was supposed to be.

Unfortunately, Eve’s sons are a train-wreck. The line descending from the older brother Cain rejects God’s promise and becomes more and more violent over the generations. The line descending from the younger brother Seth accepts God’s promise and they live longer, happier, healthier lives. But eventually they, too, begin to compromise. The sons of Seth marry the daughters of Cain, and create a race of super-healthy tyrants who now have the physical power to dominate the earth and destroy it.

And they will if God does not destroy mankind first. But if God destroys mankind, he will be breaking his promise that one day a man, one of Eve’s sons, will save the earth.

That was the cliffhanger we ended on last week. Fortunately, the story-cycle of Adam and his children is just the first of six cycles. So reading Adam’s story is sort of like watching Avengers: Infinity War; we’re supposed to walk away from it going, “Okaaaay…so how are they going to fix this?” Because we’re all pretty sure they’re going to, right?

The bible is like that. Adam’s story sets us up to want more. Today, we’re going to look at the story of Noah and his children, and we’re going to see that it is actually the same story as Adam’s — except that, with Noah, we get to see what would have happened if Adam had not screwed up.

But — fair warning, here — Noah’s story will also finish with a cliffhanger. There will an after-credit scene that is supposed to leave us all going, “Oooooo, I can’t wait for the next one!”

The next one will be the story of Abraham and his children, then Moses, then David. And we are going to see this continued repeating story-cycle, each one more developed than the last, each one revealing a little more about what is coming next, and they are all building up to The Big One: Cycle Number Six. Infinity War. Where most of the main characters die. And the world is left to wonder if there really will be a resurrection at the beginning of Cycle Seven.

As I mentioned last week, the point of this series is to give you the Key to understanding the Old Testament: the Covenant key. The key helps us see that the bible is not just a collection of random stories. It is one big story, told in six covenant cycles.

And if we were going to give a name to the first five cycles, which is the Old Testament, we could call it this: The Search for Eve’s Son. Because that is the point of the Old Testament. With each of the five cycles we are given hope that the Messiah, Eve’s Son, the Serpent-Crusher, has finally arrived. Each time — spoiler alert! — we are disappointed. But each time we learn a little more about what the actual Messiah will be like.

That is why the Old Testament is so important. Without those first five cycles, we would not be able to recognize the sixth cycle, and the true Messiah. And that is my ultimate hope for us, here, with this series: that by coming to understand the Old Testament we will actually know and love Jesus more deeply.

So, here we go. Cycle Number Two: Noah and His Children.

The end of Adam’s story left us with a cliffhanger: mankind has become so powerful and so corrupt that earth itself is in danger of destruction. In order to save what remains, God has decided to destroy mankind. Everyone is messed up, right down to the smallest child —

Except for one man: Noah.

He is a descendant of Seth, Adam’s younger son, the one who tried to remain faithful to God’s promise. Now, all these generations later, Seth’s descendants have also forgotten God’s promise. They’ve all decided, “Screw this ‘trusting in God’s promise’ thing! We are going to go out there and seize power for ourselves!” They are doing exactly what the serpent did in the beginning; and so we can see that they are truly slaves to the serpent’s mentality.

All except this one man. Here it is, starting in Genesis 6:9: Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. He, alone, of all Seth’s descendants, remembers God’s promise that he will send a saviour for the earth.

And because Noah is righteous, we are left wondering, “Could this guy be the Messiah? Could this guy be the promised Son of Eve, who will restore the earth?”

Well, it sure looks like it! God comes and makes a deal with Noah in verse 13. He says, “Look, in order to save the earth I have to destroy mankind, and everything they’ve touched and corrupted. So I’m sending a flood to wipe everything clean. But,” — verse 18 — “I will make a covenant with you: if you build a large boat, and get on board with your family and all these different kinds of animals, then I will save you from my judgement.”

Now this is the first time the word “covenant” is used in the bible. And…what does this word mean? Well, so far it seems to mean “promise”. To be clear, it does mean more than that — but we don’t know that yet. We are learning as we go. By the end of Noah’s story we will know a little more, and we will continue to deepen our understanding of “covenant” with each story-cycle. But for now, as far as we can tell, the word “covenant” means “promise”, or “deal”. God is making a deal with Noah: “If you are obedient, and build me a safe space, I will keep you safe.”

And this is where we realize, “Hey! That’s the same deal God made with Adam!” If Adam built a garden, God would keep him safe. If Noah builds a boat, God will keep him safe. Pretty cool, right? And so this is where we also realize God was making a covenant with Adam, even though he didn’t use the word “covenant”.

We’ve already learned something.

Moving on: Noah is obedient. Verse 22: Noah did everything just as God commanded him. He builds the boat. Family, animals on board. Flood, judgement, destruction — but they pass safely through it all and come to rest on a mountain while the floodwaters recede.

So Noah’s story is a covenant story just like Adam’s. But it’s different also. Adam did not keep his part of the deal. Noah did. So this time we get to see what happens when God’s chosen hero does the right thing.

So in Chapter 8, Noah leaves the boat and enters a new world. The earth is basically re-set back to the time of Adam: it is a wilderness waiting to be tamed. Is Noah the guy? Is he the Messiah who will finally crush the serpent and claim the earth for God?

Well, in Chapter 8, verse 20, we are told: then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.

That is a good sign. The serpent’s slaves don’t make sacrifices. They make investments, but they never just give stuff away; they keep every resource they can, so they can use them to get ahead in life. Noah has just sacrificed some of his precious resources to God, as a way of saying, “I trust your promise to provide for me.” So this sacrifice is an act of faith for Noah, a good sign that he really is the Messiah.

And God gets it (verse 21): The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. [22] As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

So what just happened here? Noah makes a sacrifice — and then God responds by making a covenant.

But this covenant is not what God promised at first! God had said, “If you build a boat, I will save you from the flood.” Noah kept his half of the deal, so God kept his half of the deal. But now, when Noah makes this sacrifice — giving back to God some of the animals God gave him to rule — well, now God goes above and beyond! He promised to save Noah and his children from judgement in the floodwaters. He did that! But now, because of Noah’s sacrifice, God promises to save Noah and his children from judgement in floodwaters…forever!

See, God’s first covenant with Noah was conditional: “If you do this, I will save you.” But this covenant is unconditional. There is no “if” in this covenant. And it is amazing! Look again at verse 21: “even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood, I will never again destroy the earth with a flood.” God does not say, “If you continue to be good forever, I will save you from judgement forever.” No! God actually says, “You are bad all the time! But I promise to save you from judgement forever!

That is crazy! Isn’t it? God is saying that Noah and his children are still corrupt. Noah might be righteous for now, but it’s not going to last! — and yet, God is still promising to save Noah and all his children from judgement forever.

And, again, we have to pay attention here: what inspired God to be so amazingly generous?

Noah’s sacrifice.

So, we’ve just learned something more about the word “covenant”. Some covenants are conditional: “If this, then that.” But the best covenants are unconditional — and they come as the result of a sacrifice performed by a Messiah.

At least: that’s our theory. We will see if the next few story-cycles confirm our theory.

So: Noah makes a sacrifice.

God responds by making an unconditional covenant: an eternal promise of salvation from judgement. And just so we don’t miss the point, God repeats the covenant a second time in Genesis 9, verse 8: Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: [9] “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you [10] and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. [11] I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And then God says this very interesting thing about a “sign of the covenant”: he says that from now on the rainbow in the clouds will be an eternal sign to him, a reminder to him, of what he has promised not to do.

So, because of Noah’s obedience, all of Noah’s children, and all of the animals, are blessed with an eternal unconditional covenant, along with a sign to serve as a reminder.

And we are still wondering: is Noah the guy? Is he the Son of Eve, destined to crush the serpent and tame the earth? Is he like a second Adam, the Adam who will actually do what the first Adam failed to do?

Well, it looks more and more like Noah is the second Adam. Look at Chapter 9, verse 1: then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.”

Huh! That is exactly the same command God gave Adam.

Then, verse 3: “Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. [4] But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.”

Huh!! Two times: huh! Because, remember, with Adam, God said: “Eat all these things, but don’t eat this one thing.” Now, God tells Noah: “Eat all these things, but don’t eat this one thing.” So that is the same kind of command God gave Adam — only the details are different.

Why? Because the earth still needs to be tamed. God’s plan has not changed. And the original tools he gave Adam for the job have not changed: Noah needs to have lots of kids, and he is going to need lots of food.

It is the same program. But it is different also. This is 2.0. Version 1.0 got a virus in the source code. The virus can’t be easily removed without destroying the whole program. So 2.0 has been released with a workaround. God gave Adam plants so he could feed himself and the animals. But now — because of the virus — mankind is at war with the animal kingdom. So God has given Noah an additional tool: now he can eat animals also. This will help Noah and his children control the animal population. It is not optimum, but…it is the best that can be done until the earth is brought into a proper equilibrium.

However, God does not want Noah to forget that he is just a manager. He is called to rule the animals, and even eat them now; but he rules the animals for God. God actually owns the animals. So even though Noah is now allowed to kill animals for food, he must remember that the animal’s life-force came from God and goes back to God.

And ancient scientists understood that the life-force is contained in the blood. So God tells Noah he can eat the meat — but he cannot eat the life-force, the blood. That is God’s.

See, God knows that Noah and his children have the same lust for power that their ancestors did. God knows that they will be tempted to kill more and more animals, and drink their life-force in an attempt to make themselves more spiritually powerful. Adam ate the forbidden fruit because he wanted to be more powerful, more like God. Noah and his children will be tempted to drink animals’ life-force because they will want to be more powerful, more like God!

So God says, “Don’t do that!” just like he did with Adam!

Which means that Noah must be the Messiah, the second Adam, the Son of Eve, destined to create a paradise on earth!

So sorry. Thank you for playing Spot the Messiah. We hope you will try again later.

Noah does not drink blood.

He does, however, drink wine. A lot of wine. Black-out drunk levels of wine. He passes out naked in his tent. So Noah is definitely not righteous enough to be the Messiah we are looking for.

And this is where his three sons enter the story. The youngest son, a guy named Ham, sees his dad in that condition, and he thinks to himself, “Hah! What a loser!” And he tells his brothers about it. But the oldest son Seth gets the middle brother Japheth and they cover their dad up with a blanket. Then, when Noah wakes up — with a very bad hangover — he curses Ham. He tells him, “You and your children are destined to be dominated by your brother Seth and his children.”

Weird story. Random story!

Why is this in the bible?

Because the story-cycle is repeating itself.

Remember, in the first cycle, a serpent tried to rule over a man. So God declared a war between serpent-kind and mankind.

Here, in the second cycle, a son tries to rule over his father. So God has just declared a war between that son and the rest of the family.

In the first cycle, after the story of Adam himself, we saw how Cain rejected his father’s God and fell under a curse, while Seth remained faithful and received God’s blessing.

Here, in the second cycle, after Noah’s story, we see how Ham has rejected his father and his father’s God. He is now under a curse. But Shem remains faithful, and he has just received a promise that his branch of the family will eventually win the war with Ham’s line.

So this episode is not random. This is the story of Cain and Abel and Seth: different characters, different details…same story.

And if we remember how Cycle One ended, we can already predict how this one will go.

Remember how, in Cycle One, Cain’s line got more and more ungodly and violent and power-hungry, while Seth’s line was blessed and blessed and blessed and…yet…still…eventually rejoined Cain’s corrupted line?

Well, guess what happens in Cycle Two?

In Genesis Chapter 10, we see that Shem — who is blessed by God — gives birth to descendants who end up living in very rich country, what is now Arabia, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria. One of Shem’s sons is named ‘Eber, and ‘Eber is going to be the father of a nation known as the ‘Ebrews — the Hebrews. The Jewish nation. 

But Ham — who is under God’s curse — gives birth to descendants who are violent and power-hungry. One of those sons is named Egypt. Another one is named Canaan. Another one is named Cush, who starts the city of Babylon.

Isn’t that interesting! I wonder if the author is giving us a hint that in the story-cycles to come the Hebrews (descended from Shem) are going to have conflict with Egypt, Canaan, and Babylon (who are all descended from Ham)?

Mmmmmm! We’ll have to see, won’t we?

But anyway, we already know how this is going to go. Ham’s line grows more and more ungodly and violent and power-hungry. Shem’s line is blessed and blessed and blessed and…yet…still…

As we turn to Genesis Chapter 11, we discover that all mankind — including the sons of Shem — is united in a project managed by the sons of Ham. They are building a city and a tower. Why are they doing this? One reason: centralized political control. Taxation. Tyranny. They want the power of God.

Sound familiar?

In Cycle One, God told Adam, “Don’t eat this fruit.” The serpent said, “Eat this fruit, and you will be like God.”

Here, in Cycle Two, God told Noah, “Expand. Fill the earth.” But the sons of Ham say, “Centralize, and we will be like God!” Just like the line of Cain, the sons of Ham have completely rejected God’s covenant promise that he will provide for them. They are saying, “No thanks, God! We are going to take care of ourselves.”

And somehow the sons of Shem have gotten sucked into it. Shem’s blessed line has joined Ham’s cursed line, just as in Cycle One when Seth’s blessed line joined with Cain’s cursed line.

In other words, as we come to the end of the Noah Cycle, we find that mankind is on the exact same path as it was at the end of the Adam Cycle. At the end of the first cycle, corrupt mankind had grown so powerful that earth was actually in danger of destruction.

Here, at the end of the second cycle, mankind is just beginning to grow in power again. But we know where they are going to end up if God does not step in and stop it.

What is God going to do? He just made an eternal covenant with Noah. He just promised to never again curse the ground or wipe out mankind — even though he knew mankind would continue to be corrupt!

How is God going to get out of this crisis, save the earth from mankind, while also saving mankind from itself?

Thus ends the Second Cycle, and sets us up for the Third.

So…what have we learned from Noah’s covenant cycle?

Well, we are learning that the basic pattern of salvation does not change.

Adam’s story showed us that because Adam sinned, we sin. We cannot save ourselves. We either reject God’s covenant like Cain did, and go from bad to worse. Or we accept God’s covenant and blessing, and…eventually…end up compromising with Cain’s line anyway.

Noah’s story confirms this pattern.

Adam’s story showed us that because God made a covenant of salvation with Adam, he also made a covenant of salvation with all mankind. God’s offer of salvation is open to every race, every culture, every religion.

Noah’s story confirms this pattern.

Adam’s story also showed us that because Adam entered into God’s covenant by faith alone, mankind also enters into God’s covenant by faith alone. God promises; we believe. And then God saves us — even if we misbehave!

Noah’s story confirms this pattern — and develops it.

And this is actually very important to notice. See, a lot of people read the story of Noah and think, “Ah ha! Noah was a righteous man, so God saved him! Therefore, if I am righteous, God will save me!”

No. No! This is why remembering the Covenant key is so important! Without the key, you are going to think, “I have to be righteous for God to save me!”

But. That. Is. Not. True.

Look at the story again. Noah and his whole family was saved. But only Noah was righteous. Only Noah believed God. Only Noah was obedient and build the boat.

So how was Noah’s family saved? They believed Noah. They were obedient to Noah and got on the boat. And so they were saved: through Noah’s righteousness. Through Noah’s faith. Through Noah’s obedience. They were saved, even though later on they were all disobedient in various ways.

People who have lost the Covenant key to the Old Testament will read Noah’s story and tell us, “Be like Noah. Be righteous.”

But the Covenant key tells us, “You cannot be like Noah. Noah was God’s specially chosen Messiah for that time. Instead: be like Noah’s family. Get on the boat, and you will be saved — even though you are not righteous!”

So Noah’s covenant cycle has deepened and developed the patterns that began with Adam’s cycle.

But it has also introduced something new: the concept of the Eternal Covenant. We did not get to see this in Adam’s cycle because Adam broke the cycle.

But Noah was faithful to the deal God made with him. So God kept his promise, and saved Noah and his family from judgement. But then when Noah finished his work with a sacrifice, God responded by making an eternal covenant with Noah and all his descendants.

So we have learned that when God’s specially chosen Messiah finishes his work with a sacrifice, God responds with an eternal covenant of salvation.

But, again, the application for us is the same. We cannot be like Noah. We are not God’s specially chosen Messiah. Therefore, our sacrifices — if we make sacrifices — cannot lead to an eternal covenant of salvation. The Messiah alone can make the sacrifice. Then God makes an eternal covenant of salvation with the Messiah and all the Messiah’s family.

So what is the major lesson of Noah’s story?

This is it: make sure that you are one of the Messiah’s family!

And how to we do that?

Well, here, too, Noah’s story gives us a clue. Noah’s story tells us how to accept God’s covenant…and how to reject it!

First: how to reject God’s covenant. Step One: try to dominate and disgrace God’s Messiah, like Ham did. Step Two — no, there is no Step Two. That’s it: if you reject God’s Messiah, you reject God’s covenant, and you fall under God’s curse.

Noah’s story tells us: “Don’t do that.”

Soooo…then, how do we accept God’s covenant? How do we make sure we are part of the Messiah’s family? We do what Shem did: we honor God’s Messiah, even when it seems as if God’s Messiah is in an extremely dishonorable condition. We don’t say, “Oh, wow, God’s Messiah looks like a real loser. I’m going to go and make sure I can take care of myself…!” Instead, we say, “Yes, God’s Messiah does look like loser right now. But God has promised that he and his children will emerge victorious from this mess. Therefore I am going to stick close to him.”

In closing — spoiler alert! — we are going to discover during the Sixth Cycle that Jesus is the final Messiah, the Son of Eve, destined to crush the serpent and bring paradise on earth.

Right now, during this age — during this sixth cycle — Jesus is most famous for dying like a loser on a Roman cross: dishonored. Shamed. Naked. And Noah’s children — that’s all mankind, by the way — have a choice. We can look at our Messiah and say, like Ham did: “What a loser. I am not going to trust that guy. I am going go out and seize what power I can. I am going to dominate this world at all costs.”

Or we can look at our Messiah and realize that through his dishonor, through his shameful sacrifice, God has made an eternal covenant of salvation with him and with all his family. And who are Jesus’ family? Everyone who hears his voice, believes his promise, and lives in faith as a member of his family, gradually giving up the lust for power and control and self-salvation.

In this age, Jesus looks like a loser and a fool. And so we look like losers and fools. That is, unfortunately, one of the side-effects of being part of Jesus’ family right now. That is why it is so important for us to remember God’s covenant, his promise that one day his Messiah, the Son of Eve, is going to rule and restore this earth, and bring every one of us there to live in peace with him for all eternity. The world will mock us. We will continue to sin. But God’s covenant promises that one day all that will be over.

And so Noah’s story tells us that God’s covenant is our only hope of salvation.

Noah told his family, “Trust me. Get on the boat, and you will be saved.”

Today, Jesus is telling us, “Trust me. Join my church, my body, my family — and you will be saved.”

It is as simple as that.

So come on already!

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