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Genesis 6:5-22: Noah Builds the Ark
Bible Essentials: Set 3, Lesson 5
Characteristics of God - God Displays Wrath for Sin
About a year ago, I wrote a 3-part series on God’s characteristic of wrath for sin. Over the next 3 weeks, we will be studying Noah. In this story, God’s wrath for sin is on full display as he wipes out all of creation, save a few. As we go into these lessons, I would encourage you to revisit (or read for the first time, if you weren’t subscribed a year ago) the idea of God’s wrath for sin. You can find the first part here, which then links to the other parts.
Bible Essentials: Genesis 6:5-22: Noah Builds the Ark
Individuals: Take time to think back about your past week. Where have you seen God work in your life or answer prayer? Write down any prayer requests you have.
Group: Open the study by sharing life updates, reviewing highs and lows of your past week, or sharing prayer requests and praises.
Icebreaker: Looking back in your life, what was the best plan you ever had? Maybe you planned a once-in-a-lifetime trip, or planned to build and decorate a house, or planned to get married and have kids. How did that plan work out for you?
All: Begin the study with a word of prayer, asking God to open your heart for today’s study. You can also pray for any prayer requests now, or save that for the end.
Read today’s passage: Genesis 6:5-22.
5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
9 This is the account of Noah and his family.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. 16 Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”
22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
What is the context for this passage?
In Genesis 4, we read about the first murder, but we ended with the hope that people began to call on the name of the Lord. Then we have a genealogy in Genesis 5. Other than Enoch, who it says walked faithfully with God, we don’t get any other idea of the spiritual state of humans in that chapter. Then we get to Genesis 6, and all of a sudden, people are so evil that God regrets creating them and decides to wipe them off the face of the earth. Genesis 6:5 says:
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.
That doesn’t paint a very good picture of humans. In such a seemingly short time, humans have gone from following God to having only evil thoughts all the time. Yet, in spite of the wickedness of humans, there is a bright spot: Noah. We’ll look at the story of Noah over the next three lessons.
Read the passage again.
Explore a different version if you have one available. If you are online, here is Genesis 6 in NIV through Bible Gateway. You can change the version by using the dropdown menu at the top right of the page.
Try to summarize the passage in your own words.
Answer these three questions about the passage:
1. What does the passage say about God?
God sees what goes on down on earth. God is omniscient, and from his throne up in heaven, he can look down and see what happens on earth. He saw the wickedness of humans, and he saw the corruption and violence. He also saw that one man was faithful: Noah.
God can see into our hearts. God doesn’t only see the outward actions of people. He sees into our minds and hearts. This passage tells us that God knew that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (vs. 5). If you think you can hide your evil thoughts from God, you might want to think again.
God regretted that he made humans when he saw their wickedness. When God created everything in Genesis 1, he said that it was good—even humans. But after the first sin in Genesis 3, things have gone downhill fast. They were so bad, in fact, that God regretted even making humans in the first place. His heart was deeply troubled when he saw their thoughts and actions. This was not what he intended!
God requires judgment for sins. When God sees sin, he can’t just let it go. Because of his holiness, he cannot tolerate sin, and he requires judgment and punishment for sin. When he saw the evil hearts of humans at this time in history, he decided that immediate and dramatic judgment was necessary.
God chooses to save those who follow him. In spite of all the evil in the world, God didn’t lump everyone in together and wipe out humankind altogether. He noticed and saved those who had decided to follow him.
God calls people blameless if they walk faithfully with him. How did God decide who to save? God saved those who walked faithfully with him. The people he chose to save had a close relationship with God and did not pursue the evil that everyone else did. Because Noah chose to follow God instead of his evil heart, God called him blameless.
God shared his plan with Noah. When God had decided on his plan to wipe all life off the face of the earth, he made an exception for Noah and his family because Noah walked faithfully with him. In order to save Noah, God shared his plan with Noah so that Noah could escape the judgment to come.
2. What does the passage say about people?
People’s hearts are evil all the time. Once the first sin entered the world, all people were born with a sin nature. Our first inclination is to choose the thing that is self-serving rather than God-serving. That doesn’t change if we refuse to walk faithfully with God.
A few people choose to walk faithfully with God. Although the majority of people choose to be faithful to themselves rather than to God, a few people choose to walk faithfully with God. In spite of God’s sovereignty, he gave people the ability to choose to follow or not. Which choice will you make?
When people follow God, obedience is required. Noah followed God, and God gave him a hard task—a task that probably seemed unreasonable or unnecessary at the time. Noah likely had no concept of what a flood was or the totality of the destruction that was about to come. But he trusted God, and he obeyed when God gave him the task of building the ark.
3. What does the passage say about God’s plan?
God’s plan was to wipe out evil. When God could no longer tolerate the vastness of the sin on the earth and in people’s minds and hearts, he decided to destroy everything that was alive. His mechanism of destruction would be a flood.
God’s plan was to give Noah instructions to save him and his family. In order to save Noah and his family from the flood, God gave Noah specific instructions on how to survive. God gave Noah plans for a boat. Not just a small boat for him and his family, but a gigantic boat large enough to hold animals and food supplies for the duration of the flood. God had everything planned out, and he gave those instructions to the one person he could trust to follow through—Noah.
God’s plan was to establish a covenant with Noah. God didn’t just give Noah instructions and walk away. He established a covenant with Noah. A covenant is an agreement between two people, and when God makes a covenant, we can be sure that he will keep his promise. In this covenant, God promised Noah that he would keep Noah and his family, along with the animals on the ark, alive through the flood.
How does the passage fit into the overarching story of the Bible?
Sometimes it’s easier to understand a passage if you have a little outside knowledge from other passages in the Bible. This section will help provide that outside perspective.
This passage tells us a few things about God. First, he doesn’t tolerate sin. When he saw that humans were only evil all the time, he had to put a stop to it. The entire Bible is filled with this idea. God requires punishment for sins, and throughout the Bible, he uses different mechanisms of punishment. Here, he wipes out everyone except Noah and his family and some animals. Throughout the timespan of the Israelites, God required regular sacrifice for sins. But then in the New Testament, God completes his plan to take care of the penalty for sin once and for all: Jesus.
Next, we learn that God doesn’t make decisions lightly. Before he decided to wipe everyone off the face of the earth, he came up with a plan. He found one man and his family to save, and he gave Noah exactly the instructions he needed to survive the destruction God was about to bring. This was God’s short-term plan to deal with sin, but God has a long-term plan too. His long-term plan was to send Jesus to die for our sins, and eventually, God will conquer all sin and death in the end days as we see in the book of Revelation.
Finally, we learn that God is faithful to keep his promises. God didn’t just say he would save Noah. He established a covenant with Noah that he would save them. And when God establishes a covenant, he keeps it, no matter what. This idea of a covenant is seen throughout the Bible as well, first with Noah, and again with Abraham and the Israelites. Then in the New Testament, we get a new covenant after Jesus’s death and resurrection. This covenant is a binding promise that God will remain faithful to his people and will save them from eternal destruction.
Individual: Answer the following questions thoughtfully for yourself.
Group: Pose these questions for discussion.
All: If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts to these questions. Feel free to use the comment section to start a discussion about this passage.
What else strikes you about this passage?
How does the passage affect how you view God? How you view yourself?
How does this passage affect how you will live your life?
For additional study related to this topic, read Hebrews 11:1-7.
For Bible Essential studies, you can use my thoughts as your devotional, or you can download and use the journaling sheet to work through the passage on your own. If desired, you can then compare your thoughts to mine. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically. Journal sheets are available for individual or group use.
If you plan to lead a group study, a PowerPoint presentation is also available.
You can access these resources by clicking here: Genesis 6 Resources
Or you can download the journal sheets here*:
*Substack doesn’t support PowerPoint file downloads yet, so if you want to access the PowerPoint file for group study, you will need to download it from the resource page linked above.