When forgiveness flows like a flood – Dispatch 5th/8/2019

by Grant Marshall

How can we reconcile the idea that the Biblical flood of such magnitude can in any sense be synonymous with the forgiveness of God? Let us read:

Genesis 7 Amplified Bible (AMP)

The Flood

7 Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you with all your household, for you [alone] I have seen as righteous (doing what is right) before Me in this generation. 2 Of every clean animal you shall take with you seven pair, the male and his female, and of animals that are not clean, two each the male and his female; 3 also of the birds of the air, seven pair, the male and the female, to keep the offspring alive on the surface of the earth. 4 For in seven days I am going to cause it to rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and I will destroy (blot out, wipe away) every living thing that I have made from the surface of the earth.” 5 So Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.

6 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood (deluge) of water came on the earth [covering all of the land]. 7 Then Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him entered the ark to escape the flood waters. 8 Of clean animals and animals that are not clean and birds and fowls and everything that crawls on the ground, 9 they came [motivated by God] into the ark with Noah two by two, the male and the female, just as God had commanded Noah. 10 And after the seven days [God released the rain and] the floodwaters came on the earth. 11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month, on that same day all the fountains of the great deep [subterranean waters] burst open, and the windows and floodgates of the heavens were opened. 12 It rained on the earth for forty days and forty nights.

13 On the very same day Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark……

In context, we read in chapter six that God had witnessed the increase of violence and corruption upon the earth and decided that He was going to destroy it.

John 3:19 Amplified Bible (AMP)

19 This is the judgment [that is, the cause for indictment, the test by which people are judged, the basis for the sentence]: the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.

Why was Noah considered righteous? He was a direct descendant of Adam, the great-grandson of Enoch – who walked with God.

21 When Enoch was sixty-five years old, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked [in habitual fellowship] with God three hundred years after the birth of Methuselah and had other sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 And [in reverent fear and obedience] Enoch walked with God; and he was not [found among men], because God took him [away to be home with Him].

Enoch had a son and named him Methuselah. His name means ‘ When he Is dead it shall be sent – man of a javelin.’

The noun מת (mat) is a word for a man of combat or one that exerts death.

The verb שלח (shalah) means to send; to send as in a message or send out like arrows. It also can be used to describe the sending out of a shoot or plant.

The prophecy of the destruction of the earth was written in the name of Methuselah. In a sense, the prophecy was revealed at the time of the birth of Methuselah and held for the duration of his life. The flood came as Methuselah died.

Noah would have understood this prophecy but had to wait until the day was revealed to him. His instruction to prepare for the flood came in time for him to do all that God commanded. Methuselah lived for 969 years. If the prophecy had been revealed at the time of his birth, then we see that God withheld judgement for almost a thousand years.

Our understanding through the narrative gives us a sense that the event was suddenly thrust upon Noah and that he had little time to prepare. This is clearly not the case. God gave warning, so God gave time to prepare. We do not know for sure how long exactly the arc took to build. The text tells us that Noah had his sons after the age of 500 and entered the ark aged 600. Some scholars believe that it was therefore anytime between 100-120 years. It should also be clear that the ark would not have been finished on the day the flood came.  

The ark was to be a community, well stocked with food and livestock – enough to see them through the deluge and for some time after.

I have now given some background into an important understanding of the flood narrative, but what is the Lord teaching us through it and is it relevant for us today?

On July 28th last, the Lord spoke to me. He asked me to ask you; ‘What would you do if you knew a flood of such proportion was about to come?’ On August 3rd He spoke to me again about the condition of a heart of forgiveness, an important attitude of character for one who is to enter an ark community.

This is an important message so let us begin with the first question:

‘What would you do if were told that a great flood was coming?’

Would you pray and seek the Lord for what to do next – obey His instruction and do whatever is needed to prepare to save you and your loved ones, or would you, like so many, believe it was just words and that it has all been said before and nothing has yet happened? Would your action be dismissive or an attentive one?

As human society has moved over millennia we see a pattern emerge from a moving nomadic culture to one of settlements. The idea of hunting for our daily bread changed to one of growing it on our doorstep. However, trends, or the need to settle, where nature gives in abundance, can have a big price to pay when she turns around and destroys all that you have invested in. Our quest for the perfect spot can sometimes have its consequences. For eons, human beings have settled near rivers and seas, mountains and volcanoes. But when the rivers flood, the seas unleash their tsunamis, land slides from the mountain and hill tops, and the volcanoes spew out molten liquid and poisonous gas, our way of life can change in a heartbeat. People today still live in the flood plains and in areas where the monsoons bring disaster year upon year. But why do we still insist on living in such volatile areas of the planet? I believe that the reason we still do, is that we are not prepared to make as drastic a change as our nomadic ancestors had to do season to season.

The northern plains Indians of America would hunt and move each season for the buffalo, watching and waiting till their enormous herds would invade the plains below. When they had hunted enough, they would move on to where their needs could be found. Their movements, like most nomadic tribes, were cyclical. The difference between nomadic people and settlers was very significant. The former lived in synchronicity with nature, sharing everything for the good of the community and the latter lived in prescribed rules governed by ownership.

Social anthropologists tell us that community living brought its own dangers. For example, sudden floods and other natural disasters would wipe out whole communities whilst nomadic people were free to packup and move on at any sign of danger.

As Believers, we have been given a sign that helps us to understand the conditions of community, the way God designed it. He placed the pattern of that design among a nomadic people group called Israel. Though a flood will not destroy the earth again, floods will still happen. Earthquakes will still crack the land beneath our homes and tsunamis, avalanches and mudslides will happen naturally and in unprecedented power and frequency.

Have you answered the question yet?

Until we meet our final resting place we will never be a settled people. We will always be in exile. Our exile means that we are not in the Garden from where we once dwelt with our maker. God, however, has made a way by which we can emulate a life that resembles the closest we can be to that Edenic state. His command to come out of the world and be separate is a clue to achieving such a state, and yet we choose not to make the necessary changes for us to live it. We have surrounded ourselves in this modern crazy mixed-up world with shackles that become ever more twisted with each move and decision we make. God is calling us to return to a simpler way of life and cast off the chains of religion that bind us to thousands of denominations and doctrines. But we still don’t make the move. Why? Because we are doubtful that things will change, fearful in case we lose everything, doubtful in our own beliefs, fearful for our safety. We doubt that we hear from God and we fear that we will make the wrong decisions.

It was doubt that cast us out of the garden of Eden and it is doubt that will keep us out. Our fear of God is a natural one because it is built into our DNA how God has acted in the past concerning the human race. Wisdom teaches us to fear God and to trust in Him. Doubt was the original sin of man that dismissed these two important relational conditions that once existed between the creator and the created.

In order to survive what is to come, we must listen to what God is saying and obey it. Whether we understand God’s words or not is irrelevant. Knowing the voice of God and obeying it are the key factors.

On the 28th of July the flood gates opened up in my house. At 11pm, I was just going upstairs to bed when the joint on my bathroom water pipe broke. Water came pouring down through the ceiling into the kitchen below. I went upstairs to check the pipe and could not stem the flow. My stop valve is in a very awkward place and is tight to turn. My plumber even had difficulty turning it off completely, when we had our bathroom fitted. I could not get to the pipes because they had been fitted behind units. At the same time I was trying to think what to do. As I struggled to lift the washing machine out of its slot, my wife wrapped towel after towel around the joint until I could turn the stuck stop valve. I turned it until it could not go any further. Still the water gushed out. With one deep breath I gripped it with all my might. Finally, the water pressure turned off. However, a trickle of water remained throughout the night, its steady stream pouring into bowls now strategically placed in the kitchen sink. I managed to undo the back of the bathroom unit, tightened the joint and lifted up the flooring. We cleaned and soaked up the water in our flooded kitchen. I sent a text to my plumber who graciously came around in the morning to check and put a brand new joint on the pipe. What a great guy he is. Can you imagine what would have happened if we had gone to sleep and the leak had occurred during the night? We thank the Lord for that mercy. About a month previously, I had woken up one morning to the wallpaper around my front door hanging off. What had been happening was that the flashing on the canopy over my front door had broken its seal and water had steadily been working its way inside the wall. Both of these events were unseen. Time had weakened the joint around the tap and the seal around my door. You see, joints and seals are all part of a relationship too. With neglect, their integrity is weakened; with care and maintenance they remain strong. Following these two flood events in my own home, we have witnessed two big national floods because of the intense rainfall over the last few days. In the beautiful Wensleydale area of Leyburn, about an hours drive from me and in another area not too far, we have had incredibly destructive floods and now Toddbrook Reservoir dam in Derbyshire, damaged by heavy rain, threatens to break open. Are these signs that God is showing us? Have we prepared or have these events snuck upon us like a thief in the night?

I have been reminded of the parable of the virgins. We must be acutely aware that we must never stop watching and always be prepared if and when anything happens. We don’t want to be like the five virgins who did not prepare and arrived back to find that the Lord had taken their wise and watchful counterparts leaving them behind.

So how does forgiveness see us through the deluge?

The forgiving heart and the area of preparedness are both conditions that bring blessing upon the community. Unforgiveness in any area concerning relationships will affect the stability of mind and spirit. Unforgiveness highlights the need to change a person’s capacity to love. The sacrifice of Christ upon the tree was God’s act of forgiveness toward us. Despite our attitude of neglect, disrespect, and mistrust toward Him, God chose to forgive. We had turned our love away from Him toward another. God chose to restore and not destroy. Forgiveness is part of a relational agreement between people. With God, it is between Him and His bride. But His bride had become adulterous.

These passages in Matthew and Mark give us the legal reason for divorce.

Matthew 5:31 “It has also been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife is to give her a certificate of divorce’; 32 but I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on grounds of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who has been divorced commits adultery.

Mrk 10:2 Pharisees came to Jesus to test Him

[intending to trick Him into saying something wrong]

, and asked Him, “Is it lawful [according to Scripture] for a man to divorce his wife and send her away?” 3 He replied to them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of hearts [your callousness and insensitivity toward your wives and the [a]provision of God] he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother [to establish a home with his wife], 8 and the two shall become one flesh; so that they are no longer two, but [are united as] one flesh. 9 Therefore, what God has united and joined together, man must not separate [by divorce].”

10 In the house the disciples began questioning Him again about this. 11 And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if a woman divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

The penalty for adultery according to the Levitical priestly law is death and the only way a woman could remarry was if her husband had died. God, the husband chose to do that act in the sacrifice of His Son and to save His beloved from the penalty of death.

This act of forgiveness reflects a love that transcends the carnal way. It is the love for a brother that embraces our commonality or common unity that comes from the blood and Spirit of Christ dwelling in us. We cannot love or forgive in this way unless we have the love of Christ surging through our lives.

The letter to the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2 gives us an important clue regarding our relationship with Christ. It tells us that Christ is aware of its works and that the Church persevered and came against false teaching from false apostles. It stood against evil and endured many things. But in all that it had done, it had forgotten its relationship with Christ, their first love. 

It is not so much that this Church was into idolatry, but that they had forgotten to nurture the love they once had for Christ. They were concentrating on what they had to do. We must never forget what had to be done upon the execution stake of Christ for reconciliation and restoration to take place. We must always keep that image in our sights. Forgiveness is an act that brings restoration. It renews relationships and friendships and makes the bond of love stronger, even though it reveals our weaknesses.

I have just revisited a message from Corrie Ten-boom. Corrie was Dutch and a Christian who was taught by her father that the Jews were God’s chosen people and that they would always be welcome in their house. Corrie’s family helped hide Jews fleeing the Nazis. They were found out and arrested. Corrie survived those terrible days in the camps of the SS run Scheveningen, Herzogenbusch and finally Ravensbruck women’s concentration camp but her sister Betsie did not.

After the war, Corrie was to come face to face with one of the guards. He spoke of how he had become a Christian and prayed that one day he would meet a survivor to ask for forgiveness. Corrie was to be that person.   She recounted that though she knew about Christ’s forgiveness and work at the cross she was unable at that moment to forgive this man. She was struck with the realisation that she had no forgiveness in her. She was reminded that when we do not forgive, the Father does not forgive us. The remembrance of the death of her sister held back her ability to forgive. Suddenly the Holy Spirit moved upon her and she was able to forgive this man who had inflicted such terrible crimes upon her and to many others.

Forgiveness of this kind comes directly from the Father’s heart. The carnal heart looks for reasons why we should not forgive and if it gives it at all it is based upon a series of conditions. It holds on to wrongs committed against and keeps account. The Father’s love does not take into account our weaknesses but loves regardless of our failings and mistakes, wanting eagerly to restore and reconcile. In Corrie’s experience, this man who was once a stranger and tormentor, became her friend and was no longer her enemy. You see, God’s love makes enemies into friends and friends into brothers. The reality is that unless we allow God’s love to flow in us like a flood we will always find ways to keep a distance from others through a set of applied conditions. We will take offence easily and will not have the love of Christ in us.

The love of Christ sees our vulnerabilities but does not reject us. We are all imperfect and have sinned greatly but we, if we stick to the course and the changes needed to run the race, will be made perfect. The love of Christ in us makes us an open door where all who are in need can pass through. The heart of each person should be like a narrow gate, formed by the hand of God; our lives a sign and message to others who hear the voice of the Shepherd and look to join the flock.

There are so many in the body today who stand at a distance from others because they have been hurt in some way. They look to these areas of their faith experience to tie themselves to the pen and struggle when the Shepherd places his hand in to attend to them.

When the flood comes, when God’s word is given, when you hear His quiet voice, know one thing, that in order to receive your salvation and the way out, you must be willing to respond and be open to His leading. What unites us all is our commonality, is our communion with the Spirit and the blood of Christ shed for our sake. If we are truly walking with Him, we will experience much tribulation and that may come in a flood of events. We will find ourselves in the valley of shadows but remember this, Noah did not enter the ark by himself. He was surrounded by family, a family chosen by God out of all the peoples to start the world anew.

God’s message to you today, is that He has given you warning and time to prepare your hearts and lives for the journey you are about to embark on. But you need to ask yourself this: How do I love myself? Is my response holding me back from loving others as God loves me? Am I loving conditionally, and how am I loving my brother? If you answer truthfully you will find your breakthrough. The dam is about to burst. You can ride the surge or succumb to it.

Friends, when we love as Christ loves, streams of living water flow. That is how the flood and forgiveness are reconciled.

Shalom.

Grant

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