sermon: Leadership and the Covenants (Part Eleven)
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 09-Jul-16; Sermon #1331; 76 minutes
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating that godly leadership is lacking in Israelitish countries, maintains that grace is the single most important gift God gives us, and without this gift we would still be a part of this world—a world which has become equally as sinful as the times of Noah, when every thought of man was evil. From the time of the creation to the Flood was 1650 years, roughly about the same timespan as from the fall of the Roman Empire (classically taken to be 476 AD) until today. In both epochs, the population of mankind exploded, making it possible to develop the God-given resources placed at its disposal. God gave human beings long lives and brilliant minds to take advantage of the earth's resources. When we consider that in the last 150 years, mankind has advanced from travel on horsebacks to rocket ships, we can only speculate as to how advanced the world's technology was at the time of the Flood. God, who is not coldly mechanical in what He does, moved with calculated mercy, executing the destruction mankind brought on itself, snuffing out the reprobate minds before they self-destructed, rendering later rehabilitation impossible. As creatures with carnal minds, we realize, along with the apostle Paul, that we are in a continual life-and-death battle with sin. The only way out of this predicament is to keep God in our hearts rather than carnality. The previous course correction for sin involved water; the future course correction will involve fire. We are again in the societal context in which seemingly every thought of mankind is evil, driven by carnality and raw lust. As God sanctified our father Noah, saving him from the flood waters, we must trust God to sanctify us, protecting us from the holocaust of fire which will burn this earth to a cinder, in preparation for a new earth and heavens. As father Noah, sometimes identified as the Roman god Jan
With this sermon I am going to get back on track regarding the covenants and their connection to the very sorely lacking godly leadership within the Israelitish nations throughout their history. God makes it very clear that the leadership in the Israelitish countries, in relation to God, was not good at all.
I made a diversion, and my diversion took three sermons away from that particular series, but actually they belonged within that series, so even though they were a diversion they were very helpful to my purpose here.
Knowing the details of each of the main subjects in each sermon really is of great importance to our growth, because they add depth to our understanding, in turn giving ourselves to participation in our relationship with God. This is because it puts within us a better grasp of the “whys” of many things in our relationship with God. I do not regret at all going into a great deal of detail regarding that judgment that was made by God following Adam and Eve’s sin, which appears in Genesis 3:15.
That judgment—when you consider how long ago God made that judgment, and Him being one with His creation and His watching what is going on—is to this day subtly impacting on the church actively to this very day, because God lives forever and governs. We need to know this and we need to appreciate it.
In those three sermons, the expounding on grace was much needed, because everything—and I mean everything—in God’s plan of salvation hinges on God’s loving and merciful generosity. Grace must be understandably appreciated in order to help establish and strengthen humility in us. It says in Isaiah 66, those who are humble and tremble at His Word before Him get His attention. That might be the one characteristic that He loves above all others to see within His children.
Of the subjects that I went into, the one on grace is by far the most important of those three subjects. The third one was in regard to our sanctification, without it we would still be part of this world, with little or no true knowledge, without faith in God, a God-given faith, without God’s Holy Spirit, without forgiveness, guidance, and without hope that is contained within the gospel.
We are going to begin this sermon in II Corinthians 9.
II Corinthians 9:10-15 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness [the seed that is thrown into our relationships with each other], while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God [When we do the right thing in relation with each other, God responds with blessings. You throw a seed in the ground, it is God, the laws that He made, the rains that He brings, that brings fruit from what we sow in the ground.], while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you [fruit of doing good], who long for you because of exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
There is no doubt that a number of the Corinthians had their problems getting along with each other in the congregation. This is what I Corinthians is all about, the problems between the brethren within the congregation, it carries over into II Corinthians after Paul wrote a response in between the first letter and the second letter. On the other hand, they had proved themselves to be generously faithful in other areas of their relationships.
In this chapter Paul is appealing to them to not let him down, because he had boasted a fair liberality to the members of the Macedonia congregation, he said to them that Corinth was going to give quite an offering to this. He was not after money but he was after contributions, as we will see here in just a little bit. So Paul is appealing to them to not let him down because he boasted of their liberality to the members of the Macedonian congregations.
The paragraph does not directly address any covenant that God made in the Scriptures. By the time that Paul reaches the end of that appeal that he is making, the mutual benefits to all of those participating in the cooperative effort to help rescue the Jerusalem brethren from their hardship, Jerusalem was going through a drought and it had reached the stage where people in the church had nothing to eat. This is why Paul was making the appeal. It was not that money would not do any good, but what he wanted was fruit.
In verses 14 and 15 of II Corinthians 9, Paul focuses on God’s grace as being the instigator of the attitudes and actions of both the givers and the receivers by means of what he terms, this indescribable gift. It is right here, the term indescribable gift, that opinions arise among researchers as to what Paul specifically meant by indescribable gift.
Here is my thought, my opinion. God did not want to name what it is so He stopped inspiring Paul short of describing it, in order to allow us to think it through and personally come to a conclusion. What is God’s indescribable gift? The overwhelming choice, in my researches, are down to two. The more specific answer comes down to choosing between these two. The most specific is, Jesus Christ is the gift, the broader conclusion is grace is the gift.
Grace is the single most important gift that God gives us, in terms of our salvation. We shall see as we go along, it is no little thing, it is the whole schmear. In importance to us is what Paul shows here, understanding God’s gifts adds much to our appreciation of the relationship with God that we have mercifully been given.
I am talking here about an understanding appreciation; it will be motivation toward giving praise and thanksgiving to God. That is what Paul is talking about here, about what the giving does to a person’s relationship to God. By this understanding, I mean giving a heartfelt knowledgeable and true thanksgiving to God that reaches beyond a mere surface of our relationship with Him, this can only come about when we understand how important grace is.
God is creator, everything that He has made is for you, including the earth so that you and I could live, and eventually live in the same way He does, with the same kind of outlook. Everything stems from what the Creator gives us. All you men, you create things in your backyard, farm, or whatever it is. That created thing that you make can only do with what you gift it with. If you do not create it to do something, it cannot do it because it is not built to be able to do it. Unless God puts the ability in the tree it will never produce an apple.
We are His offspring. We can do nothing unless He gives us the gift that enables us to do it, and He will not hold back anything that we need to be in His Kingdom. Do we appreciate that? Do we understand it? Does our thinking go beyond oneself enough to realize that before Him we are absolutely nothing—zilch, zero—unless He gives us the ability to do what He wants us to do, and He will. He never holds back the giving of gifts that will enable us to glorify Him. That is the very thing He wants us to do. What did Jesus say? “Without Me you can do nothing.” Why? He is our Creator, that is why. We owe Him everything for what He has created us to do.
In this sermon I am going to repeat some of what I gave before I went on that three-sermon diversion. We will begin in Genesis 6, because that is where I left off, In Genesis 6, it is describing God’s motivations for bringing on the Flood. Now the tenor of the times we are living through right now is clearly paralleling the quality of life during that period of time just before the Flood. I do not think that we have reached the pinnacle of sinfulness that they reached at that time, but we are well on our way.
This sermon will begin researching into the Noahic covenant by first noticing the profound difference between the way things were when God created the earth and mankind, when compared to when God was making serious preparations for the Flood. I want us to grasp first the circumstances with which this Noahic covenant was being made, what preceded it.
|I think we all know that God does not judge impatiently, or carelessly, He is merciful in His judgment, and gracious in His actions, and they are always motivated at their base by love. Even taking those factors into consideration, what God did by using an overwhelming flood of water to wipe out the entire human population of the earth in a matter of a few days, is sobering, to say the least. I think that understanding the little we know about God, He had very good cause to do what He did.
Genesis 6:3-8 And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
The motivation for God making the Noahic covenant cannot be appreciated unless we are prepared by grasping, to some limited extent, two significant changes that took place in life in the period after Genesis 3 ends. We know that period of time, from the end of Genesis 3 to the time here of Genesis 6, was in round figures 1,650 years. That was a long time.
It is about the same number of years from the end of the Roman Empire to where you are living and sitting right today. Look how much history has taken place in mankind since the time of the end of the Roman Empire, in sixteen hundred years. In the last five hundred years the population of the earth has exploded, so that now there are around seven billion people running around all over the place, thinking they are unique. They are incidentally, every one of them is different from you, everyone of them has their own history, and God is aware of all of them. I am giving you these things to help you think through what we are talking about here, the huge numbers that are available.
We know that period lasted 1,650 years. In Genesis 1-3, God is graciously giving mankind useful and wonderful gifts that we might enjoy living and be productive for the ends of what He created us for. God created us to work—creators work. God is a creator and He is making children in His own image. We are going to be working for all eternity in the way that God works, which is a wonderful way to work. As a human being it tires us out, sometimes we are not productive, but God created us to work.
God gave mankind long lives and brilliant minds to take advantage of the earth’s resources. We have no quick figures to show what the population was before the flood. It could have been very great. So could the material resources combined with the brilliant minds and the long lives. I am looking forward to witnessing what they built in that sixteen hundred and fifty years. Did they have rockets going to the moon? I do not know. They had the minds to be able to do it, the only restraint would be what God put on them because He did not want them to do that kind of thing yet.
Look how much has been developed in the last two hundred and forty years since the United States became a nation. Two hundred years ago the transportation was jackasses and donkeys, now we are sending out rocket ships to Mars. You get the picture. What could those wonderful bodies and minds produce in that amount of time?
Genesis 1:31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
This makes the seventh time that God said that He looked at what He had made and it was good. We will compare that to what He is seeing there in Genesis 6 in sixteen hundred and fifty years. Now He is virtually ready to destroy every good gift that He had given to mankind’s careless and frequently savage disrespect. In Genesis 6:3, the disrespect is emphasized by the word, strive.
Genesis 6:3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh.
The Hebrew uses a difficult word in terms of catching its meaning, because it literately translates into English as abide, or remain. There is nothing technically wrong with those translations, but they really do not catch the emotion of the context that we are dealing with here. To me the context seems to have the sense of meaning as the word strive, put up with, or endure. God’s mind is made up with what He is going to do, but He does give mankind a breather for one hundred and twenty years during that time Noah is going to build the ark.
His distress is not with any sense of failure on His part, but rather the distress of having to witness the fears and the pains the humans were going through. That is not what He created them for. He did not feel defeated, but He is looking at what caused Him to be moved in this sobering way. All of this is given in order for us to have some understanding regarding His character as an aspect of His judgment. God is putting this down here so that we will understand that God is not coldly mechanical in what He does. He cares about what He is doing, He cares how it will affect people, and what is the result to their hearts and minds.
Perhaps the most awesome thought in this whole mess is what it did to God. After making man upright, and no doubt He was filled with hopeful anticipation, He now describes what He sees using terms such as wickedness and violence, He further describes His feelings by the terms such as grieved and sorrow of heart. God is not only the epitome of merciful love, but He is also the epitome of grief, as well.
The grief did not arise in Him from the sense of failure on His part. The rest of the Bible makes very clear that it never even suggests failure on His part, rather it shows that He determinedly moved on to complete His purpose. His was a depth of sorrow in having to share some of the fear and pain that mankind had brought on itself by making, not merely bad, but absolutely stupid, terrible, destructive conditions. Thus the narrative shows that He was moving to correct what mankind was doing to itself and to put a stop to it.
Now understanding the Flood has to be seen through the heart of God. To Him it was a correction of a terrible self-imposed situation, which in the long run He wants the correction to be a benefit to mankind.
Genesis 6:5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
That is not an exaggeration. God does not exaggerate—every intent of the thoughts of the heart were only evil continually. Humans were hurting other humans and it seems as though the people were expressing their pleasure by oppressing other humans, and that is why there was so much violence. Do you understand what I am staying? They were getting a kick out of murder, rape, thievery. Every mean-spirited thing they could think of was giving them pleasure. Do you want to live in a world like that? It is coming.
We are being warned by Jesus in Matthew 24, it is coming. I warn you, this election that is coming up in the United States is really critical. We have already received the warning from Britain, they overturned things in Europe by that vote to get out of the European Union. Now we fellow Israelites of the British, what are we going to do? They have thrown their country into turmoil because they are so disgusted with what is going on, with what their leaders are allowing to go on, and seemingly not protecting the country. We are moving in the same direction. Is it bad enough for God to do something and step in? And maybe really create turmoil by having an election that maybe we did not expect. We are living in tremendous times.
One of the things this verse is reminding us of is that sin is an internal matter. God is always talking about the heart, it is an internal matter. Sin is witnessed on the outside but it begins within. This is where sin must be stopped if it is ever to be eliminated. This was not just a few people in this condition, it was the entire population of the world, except for Noah and his family. I think they were included because they were following the leadership of a righteous man. You can be very sure that God had to protect them that whole one hundred and twenty years to keep them from being murdered. That ought to be encouraging to somebody who is a Christian, to know that God will protect His people regardless of what the conditions are. Nobody can take our life unless God permits it.
Now it is as though sin was continually in process of actually happening in each person. That is what the verbiage is saying there.
Proverbs 23:6-7 Do not eat the bread of a miser, nor desire his delicacies; for as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink! he says to you, but his heart is not with you.
Remember sin begins internally, then it is witnessed on the outside. As he thinks in his heart so is he. That is where the real person resides. Here is the way the process goes: imagination creates plans, and plans create action to bring about a desired reality, a goal, project, or an end. So what does God’s Word say on this matter regarding mankind? We have to consider this. We will look on this through the eyes of the apostle Paul.
Romans 7:14-18 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.
He is saying there were times when the carnal drive within him pulled him right into the sin, and made him hate himself. Paul was being bluntly honest about himself. We need to understand where sin comes from, and why it is going to take a miraculous intervention on God’s part and more and more of His grace for us to overcome it. We need to be close to Him!
At the time God was looking on what was going on there in Genesis 6, there was no way for God to be in their hearts at all, because the way out of the predicament the apostle Paul was describing is to make sure that God is in the heart, and not carnality.
It seems strange for me to say this, but death to the sinners in Genesis 6. was in reality the only way these people could have God give them a future. He had to put them to death in order to save them.
II Peter 3:1-2 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior . . .
I am trying to remind us of what we are living within. The days we are in happened only one time before, and that was just before the Flood. These are momentous times. We are being bombarded by examples of sin from every side! Somehow we have to keep close to God and pure so that we have the ability to fend it off whenever it comes upon us to sin.
II Peter 3:3-9 . . . knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which now are preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
The Flood was indeed a mass version of capital punishment, but at the same time it was a merciful intervention in mankind’s behalf. This is a significant series of verses considering the Flood. Why? Because we live by faith, we either believe what God says or we do not. Our faith is in what God says, and He tells us through His Son Jesus Christ, that just before Christ returns it is going to be like it was before the Flood. We are going to drift in that direction, or drive ourselves, we, meaning mankind. We are headed toward that time when every thought of the heart is evil.
What I want you to understand here about II Peter 3, even though it was written by Peter probably around AD 60, it has been written, recorded by God to make sure that it is an encouragement to us, to those of us who are living in a period of violent times similar to that time in the one hundred and twenty years before the Flood. Right now our minds, converted people, are not inclined to sin like those in Genesis 6. This is only because God, by His grace, has given us the power to resist that kind of thinking. But we are living in the midst of it and that can be very discouraging and persuasive at the same time to join with these people who are having all of this fun doing evil. Are we going to give in?
This is why Peter was given by God the ability to write this. God then saved it for those who are living in this time when we are going through virtually the same sort of circumstance they did before the Flood when Noah was living. So far God has already intervened in our lives, He has given us grace. He has given us the ability, the strength, and the power to believe Him and resist what is going on, at least the worst of it. That does not mean we never sin, because we certainly do as we saw with the apostle Paul. We have to be on guard lest we become infected by the self-centered fears, instead of keeping the teaching of the holy prophets, as he put it in our minds, therefore in our hearts.
In the previous chapter, II Peter 2, Peter clearly reminds us that God did not spare the ancient world. What He warned through Noah happened, despite the way the people were, it happened. They could not stop it, because when God speaks things happen exactly as He says. Now considering the Olivet Prophecy and the tenor of the times given to us living in this time, given in the news reports we hear virtually every day that we are living immediately before the prophecy is literally fulfilled. We are experiencing it just as God said.
Now answer this to yourself. Are not large number of people out there in the world living their lives fulfilling their lusts? They are saying by their actions that Christ’s return is not imminent, and therefore they do not care. There are an awful lot of people out there who believe some aspects of Christianity, they may have been raised in a Protestant church of evangelical nature, where they received some pretty decent information from their teachers in those churches, but what are they doing about it? They have been warned, but they go on with their lives almost as if nothing is happening.
This is what Peter is warning here—what God says happens. He warned that the Flood was coming, and sure enough it came, one hundred and twenty years later, exactly as He said. What are these people saying by their lives? There are a lot people who believe in God, they believe that Jesus Christ is their Savior, but they really are not committing themselves to God. They just keep going on with their lives, nothing really ever changes.
They are saying by the way they are living that God does not matter. They support their skepticism to themselves by reasoning, well, He has not come yet. That is not proof because Christ gave no specific date of His return, in fact Jesus too is waiting for the Father to say “Go.” He does not know either, so He has to wait, and He obediently does.
Meanwhile in the midst of all of this mess, we live by faith, being faithful to our commitment. The world only seems stable to people out there, because we only live such a short time, I am talking about human beings. I wonder how many people born one hundred and twenty years ago are still alive. What God said one hundred and twenty years ago happened, but they only lived part of it, so as time went by they would say, “Well, He hasn’t come yet.” “There’s no rain, no water.”
That is the way the human mind reasons. It gives justifications to itself so that it feels secure in the midst of the turmoil that is all around us. Rather than do something that is right in God’s eyes, they do nothing, it just goes by. We have to be on guard against that. Do not forget that I told you, God created us to work. That work is helping to create a relationship with Him that requires our time, our energy, study, prayer, meditation, holding ourselves in check rather than allowing our human nature to just run wild, and do what comes to mind rather than doing what is right.
Since God was the one who said, “There’s going to be a big flood, it will take one hundred and twenty years,” did you ever stop to think how many times within the first few chapters of the book of Genesis that God used this thing with water. The very first verse in the entire Bible is dealing with the earth covered by water. Everything was a mess, all mixed together. So what did God do? God caused the earth to rise up out of the water, so the dry land was there. A little while later He said, ‘There is going to be a flood,” and He brought a flood. That is twice that He did it in the first eight or nine chapters in the book of Genesis. Then He brought the earth up out the waters again, then He said, “No more floods, next time I am going to burn it.” What God says happens.
Which would you rather have? A flood? Or fire? Whatever God says is what is going to happen. Next time is going to be a fire, the entire earth is going to be turned into a cinder. That is what we are facing. The challenges are in a way a great deal greater for us, you do not escape. You might think you could just paddle around it, you do not paddle around in fire. This next one is for keeps because He already promised, “I will create a new heaven and new earth.” There is hope beyond that but the fire comes before the New Heavens and New Earth, and we have to please Him in our life.
The people in the time of Noah, did the same things as is happening today, because human nature does not change. We are being urged by Peter that despite this God in His mercy is still patiently determined to carry through with His life-giving operations. The reality to us living in this seemingly hopeless times is that the Flood should extenuate to those of faith—hopefully that is us—that God is in control and by the time Christ returns the end time events we are living in will confirm it once again.
We might wonder with all this loneliness and isolation, what it was like for Noah. Noah was a converted man, he was sanctified before this all began. What was it like for him to live in the midst of all the craziness that was going on before the Flood? He did all of this all the while possessing knowledge that God was going to end what he was living through. I am doing this this way because I want you to see what happened to Noah is happening to us. He was sanctified, we are sanctified. God is watching us as we go through this. He wants to see what we are going to do in the midst of this time, whether we are going to respond the way Noah did.
I do not know what the population was when Noah was living, it was probably pretty large. It is very likely (I have seen speculations by men), that it had never rained until the time the Flood came. It says very clearly that the earth was watered by a heavy dew every morning. It is possible it never rained until the Flood came. Now, here is this crazy guy building a boat. The ideas, beliefs, that you carry around in your mind are no different than what happened with Noah. He believed God, so he built an ark, and it was not little boat. No boat was built as large until 1850. That was a pretty sizable boat that he built. No wonder it took him one hundred and twenty years.
I want to put this in here so that we carry it with us. It is highly likely that Noah is the father of everyone of us in this room. The entire race of human beings came through the Flood in Noah, his wife, his sons, and his daughters-in-law. He is our father after the Flood. In a sense he replaced Adam. If you have ever done any studying ancient mythology, Noah is generally associated with Janus, Janus had two faces, one in the back, one in the front. This symbolizes Noah because he could look back on the Flood, he could look forward to the Flood he went through it. In mythology, even the pagans can see this man was really something unusual and unique in all the history of mankind. It was because of his faith.
Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved [operated, directed his life] with godly fear [It does not mean that he was afraid. It means that he was guided by his respect for God. That is why he was able to accomplish what he did.], prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
God is aware of everything that is going on. Noah had godly fear, reverential respect. He really respected what God said, he did not play it off as if it were nothing. Since it had never rained, he could think of excuses, make justifications but apparently he did not. God gave him a job and he did it. Noah lived his life in godly fear. He was not terrified but he lived his life circumspectly, keeping himself clear of any involvement in sin.
A movie that I watched recently really affected me because I was preparing this sermon at the same time. It helped me to understand the feelings of grief, that are mentioned in relation to God. The movie involved the helplessness of certain men in the face of a British military injustice. The movie was unusually well acted, besides that it had an outstanding script, and it was written by Herman Melville. The title was simply, “Billy Bud” and the story took place in the late 1700s. It involved a British seaman during one of Britain's wars with France. the main character in the story, Billy Bud, did not enlist as a seaman, he enlisted to work on this cargo ship that he was on. A British Man of War had the right to intercept a British ship, and evaluate all the men who were working on that ship. If they felt they needed somebody who looked like they could do a job well, they just took the person off the ship and made him a sailor.
This is how Billy Bud got on this British warship. Now he was in the military, which was disastrous for Billy. Billy was an orphan, he was impressed, forced into service on that British warship against his will. He turned out to be an unusually bright, hard working, and good natured fellow whose character and personality, for some reason, unreasonably irked an officer with a mental problem who was already on board. The officer began bullying Billy. Billy stammered; under stressful situations he could not get the words out. It seemed everyone on board knew this. Billy did not strike back at the bullying and this angered the officer ever further. Right in the ship captain’s presence Billy, out of frustration, hit the persecuting officer. The man fell over, struck his head on the floor, and died.
Billy not only struck the officer, he was now guilty of killing the officer. Thus according to British military justice, Billy was doubly guilty. He should have never struck the officer in the first place. The penalty for either of them was death.
The captain could clearly see that the striking and the death were both accidental. He personally liked Billy, in fact just before this he had raised Billy in rank. What was the captain to do? He had a difficult decision to make. He held a trial, from which he recused himself (remember I am putting God into this picture) to allow another officer to head the trial. Four officers were involved as Billy’s judges and jury. They unanimously agreed he was innocent of murder, emotionally they wanted to let him go free. However, British military law would not permit it and the four officers got into a heated argument over what to do. The four finally agreed that Billy had to be put to death, because they began to comprehend a wisdom in what seemed a needlessly harsh rule that went far beyond their immediate Billy Bud situation.
When the crew, who knew a trial was going on, became aware of the verdict, they began to riot. They knew well the conduct and the nature of both the officer and Billy. They knew that, at least on the surface, they were witnessing a grave injustice. They had to be calmed down with the threat of death for themselves.
Just before Billy was hanged right on the deck while at sea, before the crew, he said something to the captain. He looked directly into the captain’s eyes. The combination of the two, Billy himself, who was innocent, and what he said to the captain, Billy told them he understood they were only doing it because they were required to do it.
The captain, who was played by Peter Ustinov, could neither watch nor speak, because his anguished confusion was so great. He was guilty of putting to death an innocent man simply because of a no-exception military rule.
There is something buried in this Genesis account that we must understand, because Satan might put it into our minds to hold God guilty of killing innocents. The Flood has to be looked at through the heart of God in order to fully grasp it. What we are seeing in words conveys little of the emotional drama that would be present if we were literately watching it in the flesh.
We are seeing in words God’s judgment and reaction to what He was seeing, like the captain. You know what the captain did when Billy was hanged? He turned his back and walked away, he could not watch it). All these people doing these horrible things to one another, getting pleasure out of murder, rape, and so forth. What was He to do? God made His judgment in a way, like the captain had to make his. God perceived something that men do not.
Beyond the actions of the men, He saw Satan, the slave driver and powerful penetrating influence as the real author of the turmoil that was going on down on earth. He saw that Satan had a firm grip on these people’s minds and that if He did not intervene they would be unable to ever tear themselves free from him.
Added to the Satanic reality is another reality that raises seriousness yet another notch. To God, sin had become not merely murder, lying, coveting, thievery, as bad as they are by themselves. Sin’s intensity had grown into a vicious motivation burned deeply into the thoughts of their hearts and was insistently compounding evil, making it ever worse.
Genesis 6:5 every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
That statement is not an exaggeration! Thus it was that in their hearts they were on the cusp of being continuous generators of evil in the image of Satan. Here is the key question: they were becoming in the image of Satan. Has Satan ever changed? He cannot, and these people were reaching the place where if God did not intervene (remember I said, the officers began to see that there was a wisdom beyond the automatic death penalty and they began to perceive why it was there and so they felt like they had to put Billy to death.)
This is what God saw. These people were becoming in the image of Satan, Satan never changes and these people were becoming in his image and they would never change, and so their best chance was to be put them to death before that ever happened. And that is what He did. That is why the Flood came.