Advent 1a

Preached: December 1, 2013

Watch the Water
Genesis 6:9-22

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith in Jesus is Genesis 6 & 7

This is the account of Noah.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 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. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 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. 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. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 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. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

Noah did everything just as God commanded him. (Genesis 6:9-22 NIV84)

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Grand Forks. April 1997. The residents watched as the water of the Red River rose. Forecasts predicted a 49-foot crest. That was OK. The dikes were built for that. No one alive had seen the river ever rise higher.

On April 16 the river reached 49 feet, and kept rising. April 18 the dikes began to fail. Over 50,000 people were ordered to evacuate. The river finally crested at over 54 feet, but the damage was already done.

Fargo, Moorhead, Breckenridge, Browns Valley, Montevideo, New Ulm, and many other places have watched the water rise each spring, wondering, “Will it flood?”

Noah didn't need to wonder. As he watched the water, he knew what would happen. The Lord had told him. Now as we watch the water (and we'll talk about what that means for us a little later), we imitate Noah's faith. Watch the water. Part one: Entrusting even the details to our Lord. Part two: Working faithfully in all he gives you to do.

A. Entrusting even the details to our Lord

Long before the waters rose, Noah saw the wickedness rising in the world around him, and so did the Lord. “The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5 NIV). The believers intermarried with unbelievers leaving their faith behind. Children were raised in the ways of the world. And as each generation drifted farther from the Lord, wickedness and violence increased.

But “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). Wasn't he a sinner? Of course he was. All, except Jesus, are born sinners. But Noah trusted the Lord's promise to send the offspring of the woman to crush Satan's head. He believed that his own works and efforts could not make him right before the holy God. But the Serpent-crusher would come through a woman and reconcile him to God, taking away his sin and guilt as our Substitute. He was righteous through faith in the coming Savior, covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

His faith showed in his wholehearted devotion as we walked with God, trusting the Lord to take care of even the details. Notice how the Lord gave him the exact dimension for the ark and described the building material. The Lord also took care of bringing the right pair of animals to the ark. Science, rightly used, leads us to marvel all the more at this. We know about chromosomes and genes and how they can mix and match to give various traits. God picked the male and female of each kind that had the right genes to give us the genetic diversity we see today. For example, look at all the variety of dogs in all shapes, colors, and sizes. All the genes necessary for this were in that pair the Lord brought to the ark from which all the dogs today have descended.

The Lord took care of the details. He even closed the door when all were inside. As the ark creaked in the surging waters, Noah could trust the Lord. Since the Lord had taken care of even the details, he'd take care of them. The Lord was faithful to his promise, his covenant. What a way for Noah and his family to combat any worries! They could entrust themselves to the Lord, for he takes care of even the details.

We, too, live in a sinful world. Is each generation being pulled a little farther away from the Lord as in those pre-flood days? Just as an example, go back a generation or so, and the good church members were at church with their families just about every Sunday, except for sickness — maybe not always for the right reason, but they were there. Now many more things appear to draw people away from weekly worship. And following our example, will the next generation find even more things to attract them away from the Lord? How fast is the water rising?

And in our own hearts, even the most faithful Christian struggles between devotion to the Lord and devoting ourselves to the earthly blessings he's given us. When we worry about those earthly blessings or pursue them for our happiness, that's not devotion to the Lord.

Rather dear Christian, watch the water. I don't mean the rising water of wickedness. Watch the water poured on your head in Baptism. That water shows that the Lord takes care of the details. He not only planned out the broad picture of salvation and fulfilled it by sending his Son Jesus as the Savior for the world. But he also took care of the detail of bringing you into his family, the detail of washing you clean and clothing you with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. No one is too small for God's full love, grace, and mercy.

So entrust also the details of your earthly life to his care. Watch the water of your Baptism and know that you are God's dear child through faith in Christ Jesus. Why worry about earthly blessings when your heavenly Father even knows the number of the hairs on your head? Trust him with all the details. Watch the water of your Baptism. The Lord clothed you with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Through faith in him you are righteous in God's sight, just as Noah was. He does not hold your sins against you, so entrust all the details to his divine care.

B. Working faithfully in all he gives you to do

And as you watch the water of your Baptism, work faithfully in all the Lord gives you to do. Notice the Lord did not leave Noah idle. It appears that the Lord told Noah 120 years before the flood that he would destroy the world. Noah got busy having three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. He got busy building the ark. As the time grew closer, he got busy laying up the food and supplies needed for his family and the animals. And during all this time he was busy warning people of the coming judgment, calling them to repentance, reminding them of the Lord's desire to save through the promised Savior.

And he kept working faithfully, despite the ridicule. Others no doubt challenged why he thought he was right and everyone else was wrong. But he kept listening to the Lord instead. At times his work appeared futile and useless. What good is an giant boat on dry land? Despite decades of sharing God's message, no one but his family believed. But he kept working faithfully, energized by the Lord's promise.

Watch the water of your Baptism. For through the water and word of Baptism the Lord has made his covenant with you. What energy that brings us to work faithfully in all he gives us to do! Now by work, I just don't mean your job. The work the Lord gives you and me includes what we do in the home for our family, what we do in the community as citizens, what we do in the congregation with our fellow members. Are you energized in all this by the Lord's promises? Or are you driven by a sense of duty, by the hope of success, by the desire for praise, or by the fear of guilt? Do you see the difference? Duty, success, praise, fear, or guilt drives the unbeliever to do right. But Noah was energized by the Lord's promises despite ridicule and apparent failures.

As a Christian watch the water of your Baptism and be energized by the Lord's promises. The Father's love pours over us, fills us, and overflows from us, moving us to love others even as he loved us and gave up his Son for us. The Son's righteousness gives us a good, clean conscience, so that we can boldly carry on the work the Lord gives us without nagging guilt tripping us up. The Holy Spirit's wisdom opens our hearts to understand and firmly believe so that we persist in eagerly doing good and persevere in the truth.

Work faithfully in all the Lord God gives you to do. And be ready to point to the reason for your faithfully work. It's not because we're good people or kindhearted by nature. It's because the Lord our God has been so good to us. The Father's love, the Son's righteousness, the Spirit's wisdom — all graciously poured out on you and me in the water of Baptism. Remember what the Apostle Peter wrote about the days of Noah: “In this ark a few, that is, eight persons, were saved by water. In the same way also, baptism now saves us, not by washing dirt from the body, but by guaranteeing us a good conscience before God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20, 21 GWN-NET).

The next time you hear of a flood whether in the Red River valley or anywhere else, remember that this world is truly coming to an end. But don't worry or despair. Watch the water, the water of your Baptism, remembering the promises the Lord your God made to you. Entrust the details of life to him and faithfully work in whatever he gives you to do.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313