Revive Our Hearts Radio

God's Patience

Leslie Basham: What kind of God would cover the earth with a flood? The same God who is ready to forgive sinners. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: No one had to perish in the flood. Not one person had to perish. Every person who died had been given ample, gracious opportunity to repent.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, August 6, 2015.

Nancy is giving us a fresh look at a familiar Bible story this week. She's continuing in the series "Noah and the Flood: The Gospel in the Old Testament."

Nancy: One hundred years ago Messina was a prosperous, gorgeous coastal city on the Italian island of Sicily, just off the toe of the boot there. This city of Messina had a population of about 150,000, but it had become a wicked and irreligious city. On Christmas day of 1908, a local newspaper in Messina published a blasphemous parody against God. In that article they dared God to make Himself known by sending an earthquake.

Exactly three days later, December the 28th, 1908, at 5:30 in the morning, a huge earthquake and a massive tidal wave came and utterly destroyed Messina and dozens of nearby towns. I’ve read some different estimates as to the number of deaths that resulted—somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 it appears. It’s considered the deadliest earthquake in European history.

As you read about a story like that where men just defy God and say, “Show us that You’re God. Prove it by an earthquake.” Three days later the earthquake comes and destroys the city. You ask, “Was this an act of God that was directly in response to the challenge that was issued in that newspaper?”

Well, I want to be quick to say that you and I cannot fathom the heart and the thoughts and the ways of God. But we do know that there is a God, and we know that He is a holy God. And we know that all sin—that’s all sin—must and will be judged.

The problem is generally the judgment doesn’t come quite as quickly and quite as clearly as it did in the town of Messina. It doesn’t usually come right on the heels of man’s sin. If it did, who of us would be alive to tell it? Because it doesn’t usually happen right away, we get lulled into thinking that we’re getting away with our sin or that it’s not such a big deal. But as we look into God’s Word, we see that that is not the case.

God is in the process of addressing the sinfulness of man on our planet, and we see how this worked out in Genesis chapter 6 verse 3. “Then the Lord said . . .” This is in the context of several verses before and after describing the utter perversion and wickedness of the era in which Noah lived. “Then the Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.’” Now in that verse we see a couple of important things about God.

First is the incredible long-suffering and patience of God. God says, “My spirit shall not strive with man forever.” But by implication He’s saying, “I will strive with him for a while longer. I will strive with him, in this case, for a matter of years. I will not wipe out the human race immediately, though I would be just in doing so.”

What did God do? He created a reprieve of 120 years. Now in God’s economy that’s not so long, but in our economy God gave another few generations to give men time to repent, as we will see.

First Peter 3, verse 20 tells us that God’s patience waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared. How long was that? One hundred twenty years God waited while His justice was crying out to be avenged. God is a long-suffering God. He’s a patient God. Aren’t you glad? Aren’t you glad? God often delays judgment to give men time to repent.

Matthew Henry says it in a beautiful way in his commentary on the book of Genesis.

Justice said, Cut them down; but mercy interceded, Lord, let them alone this year also; and so far mercy prevailed, that a reprieve was obtained for six-score years. . . . Note, the time of God’s patience and forbearance towards provoking sinners is sometimes long, but always limited: reprieves are not pardons; though God bear a great while, he will not bear always.1

And that’s the other point I see in this verse. Yes, God is a long-suffering, patient God; but here’s the other point: There is an end to the long-suffering and patience of God. God said, “His days shall be 120 years.” There’s an end.

So for 120 years while Noah built the ark, we know from 2 Peter 2:5 that he also preached. He proclaimed the gospel. He proclaimed that there is a way of escape. He proclaimed, I believe, the sinfulness of man and the coming judgment of God and the chance to repent and believe God and be spared. There was an opportunity for the people to repent. One hundred twenty years, and then judgment fell.

You see, all through the Scripture you realize that there comes a point when the cup of iniquity is full and the people are ripe for judgment. You read about this a lot in the book of Revelation, where we read about the final judgments of God on the world, trying to get men to repent. God’s initial judgments are remedial; they’re trying to get people to repent. But they’re paving the way for the final, ultimate, cataclysmic judgment of God, at which point there will be no more opportunity for repentance.

So in Revelation 14:10 there is this verse about those who worship the beast and receive his mark. It says, “They will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” Judgment is coming. The cup of iniquity, the cup of God’s wrath will be filled, and judgment will come.

So we read in verse 7,

So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them. . . .” And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (vv. 7, 11).

This is a word of warning for those of us who live in a world that is hurling away from God, that is rebellious against God, that is waxing more and more sinful. We need to realize as we read this story of Noah, this is not just a cute children’s story. This is a tale of wrath and judgment.

We realize that great sin requires great judgment. That’s why I spent all those days talking about the depravity, the sinfulness of man, so that we’ll see that God is justified. It’s as if He would be wrong if He didn’t send judgment.

We read this in the New Testament, in Romans 1 verse 18: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” Some people don’t like to read the Old Testament because they think that’s where all the judgment is, that’s where all the wrath of God is. But you get to the New Testament and God is merciful and gracious and long-suffering.

Let me tell you, the God of the Old Testament has not changed. The only thing that separates the Old Testament from the New Testament is the cross of Jesus Christ that makes provision for us to be rescued from the wrath of God.

Colossians 3 tells us the same thing. It lists sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, idolatry. And then it says, “On account of these things the wrath of God is coming [upon the sons of disobedience]” (vv. 5–6). That is part of the message that we must believe and proclaim in this world.

Now, that’s not a popular message. It’s not a message that many of our seeker-driven churches are eager to proclaim. But you can’t help people with the gospel until they know that they’re sinners under God’s wrath and God’s judgment. God is determined to exercise judgment to clean up the earth, in keeping with His holy character.

The good news is that when you read about the judgment of God in the Scripture, it’s always paired with the concept of salvation. Judgment and salvation go together. What are you going to be saved from? The judgment of God. And what does the judgment of God do? It promotes the possibility and the promise of salvation.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been describing the mercy of God as seen in the days leading up to the great flood. She’ll be right back with the second half of today’s program.

It’s part of a series called "Noah and the Flood: The Gospel in the Old Testament." The series has been rich with meaning, helping listeners recognize the seriousness of sin. It leads us to appreciate God’s mercy, and it encourages us to cling to the provision for salvation He’s made for us.

You can get a copy of this teaching for yourself by ordering the CD.  Just ask for the series, "Noah and the Flood" when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now, let’s get back to the teaching. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: One of the huge issues that many unbelievers have with the Word of God and the ways of God is when they read, particularly in the Old Testament, about the wrath and the judgment of God. They read a passage like the one we’re studying in this series about Noah and the flood in Genesis chapters 6–9, and they say, “What kind of God would wipe out every living creature on the earth, save a few, in a flood? I don’t want that kind of God.” It’s the mindset of the unbelieving, unregenerate person.

But I want us to see as we continue in this study, what kind of God is that? It’s a God who is merciful. Not just a God of judgment and wrath, but a God who is merciful. How do we see that in the story of Noah? We see a God who was slow to send the deserved judgment. He delayed His judgment. He pled with human creatures.

He sent a preacher, Noah, who was called in the New Testament a preacher, or a herald, of righteousness. He sent a proclaimer to speak the truth to them, to warn them of the coming judgment. God gave these people, these sinful people on the earth in that day, one opportunity after another to repent of their sins and turn to Him in faith.

One of those first warnings came from Noah’s great-grandfather. You know who that was? His name was Enoch. Now you won’t find a lot about Enoch, but you do find some beautiful things about him. He’s the one who didn’t die. He was translated to heaven. He walked with God, a very unusual man. But in the New Testament you read that God revealed to Enoch that judgment was coming, and Enoch prophesied and sent a warning to the people.

Go to the little book in the New Testament, the book of Jude, and look in verses 14 and 15. It says that “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way.’” That was Enoch’s message.

And then there was Methuselah, who was Noah’s grandfather. What is Methuselah famous for? His old age—he lived to the age of 969. As far as we know, based on what’s recorded in Scripture, he lived longer than any other man ever lived on the earth. His name, Methuselah, means, according to some scholars, “When he is dead, it shall be sent.”

Nine hundred sixty-nine years, and what happened the year that Methuselah died? The flood came. Methuselah died just before the flood. So for 969 years there was this old man in his later years, and people were saying, “How much longer can he live? And when he dies, what is going to be sent? His father said judgment is coming.”

You see, there were warnings that God had given to people. God had made known His ways and sent people whose lives were a warning. And then once God told Noah that God was going to send judgment, God waited another 120 years, the last 120 years of Methuselah’s life, before He executed the judgment. It was a reprieve, a temporary stay. Why?

The Scripture tells us why in 1 Peter chapter 3. It says, “God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built” (v. 20). 2 Peter chapter 3, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise . . . but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (v. 9). That’s God’s heart. He’s a merciful God, a God who sent warning after warning to say, “You don’t have to perish. You can be spared.”

During those 120 years, as we’ve said, Noah was preaching while he was building that ark. Second Peter chapter 2, verse 5 says, “God did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly.” No one could ever say, “God was not just. God didn’t warn us. God didn’t give us time. God didn’t give us a chance to repent.”

Even after Noah and his family went into the ark—now remember, these people for 120 years have seen this ark being built. They had to see when it was reaching near completion. The time was growing near; the judgment of God was getting closer and closer. The cup of God’s wrath was being filled to its fullest point, to overflowing.
Even after Noah and his family went into the ark, what happened? Did the rain start immediately? No. God waited one more week, seven days, before sending the rain. Seven more days for the opportunity to repent.

Ladies, it doesn’t take long to repent. But the people were careless. They were preoccupied with earthly concerns. They were blind. They were unaware. Jesus talks about this in the New Testament, in Matthew chapter 24. He says, “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (v. 37).

What was true in his day will be true in the last days as the time approaches for the Son of Man to come back to earth. “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (vv. 37––39).

Isn’t that a picture of the way people live today? They’re not giving a thought for eternity. They’re oblivious to the impending judgment, in spite of the fact that God has sent warning after warning after warning.

As we look at the warnings of God, the time God gives to sinners to repent, I want us to be reminded when we say, “What kind of God would wipe out the whole earth in a flood?”—no one had to perish in the flood. Every person who died had been given ample, gracious opportunity to repent. And every one of those people willfully rejected God’s gracious provision. And so will it be in the final judgment.

The story of the flood in the Scripture is given to us not only as a true story, but to remind us that as God judged the earth in a flood in those days, the day will come when God will send a final, ultimate, cataclysmic judgment on the world, this time not by water but by fire. You can read about that in 2 Peter chapter 3.

The fact is that the majority of sinners will always choose judgment. They choose to perish rather than to humble themselves, to repent, to believe God, to accept His grace and to surrender to Him. So God is utterly just in His judgments.

I want to read to you a passage from the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, chapter 16. It gives us an image, a picture of the final judgment of God on the earth and what it will be like.

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.” The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.

The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.

The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: “You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.” And I heard the altar respond, “Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.”

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify Him.

The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done (vv. 1–11).

Doesn’t that remind you of Egypt, when God sent those ten plagues for Pharaoh? Just one judgment after another. God was saying, “Repent, repent, repent, repent. Believe the gospel. Put the blood over the mantel. You can be saved.” “Go into the ark. You can be saved!” “Turn to Christ. Believe! Repent!” They’re preachers of righteousness; they proclaim the truth.

Some of you have been listening for perhaps years to this radio program or others like it. You’ve heard your pastor. You sit in church week after week and you hear the message. Repent. Believe the gospel. Be saved from your sin. But you refuse to repent. When the final judgment comes you can never say, “God, I didn’t know. You didn’t warn me. You didn’t give me a chance.”

No person has to perish. “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” What an incredibly merciful, long-suffering, gracious and kind God we have. And we see it even in the midst of judgment.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss showing us incredible hope from a well-known story. That message is part of a series called,"Noah and the Flood: The Gospel in the Old Testament." To listen to any of the programs you’ve missed in this series, to read the transcripts or get a CD, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, during this series, we’ve told you about an excellent follow-up resource. Just like Nancy’s teaching this week, The Jesus Storybook Bible will show you how the gospel runs through the Old Testament. Nancy Leigh DeMoss is eager to share this book with our listeners.

Nancy: Let me say that this book is obviously something that is helpful for families who are trying to have devotional times, night-time Bible readings with their little ones, with their children. But I also think it’s a great book for older children and, believe it or not, for adults as well.

In fact, a couple years ago I took a week long seminary course on the Beatitudes, and the professor actually took time out of that class to read from The Jesus Storybook Bible to that class of seminary students. He read the portion from this Storybook Bible of the Sermon on the Mount and used it to show how important it is to connect all of the stories of Scripture together. I found that we as adults in that class were mesmerized by the reading of this book.

Leslie: So if you’re a parent or someone who just loves a good story or a seminary professor, I hope you’ll get a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible. We’ll send you a copy as our way of saying “thanks” when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Ask for The Jesus Storybook Bible when you call 1–800–569–5959, or support us and get this book by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, why does God save sinners? Why not just wipe everybody out? Nancy will explore that question tomorrow.

Nancy: God's salvation is not ultimately about you, and it's ultimately not primarily for you. It's all about God. It's about God showing the richness of His grace and His salvation to the world. It's about God's redemptive, saving purposes in this world. Your salvation is so much bigger than you.

Leslie: Be prepared to appreciate the grace and glory of God, next time on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1 Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (Gen. 6:3). Peabody: Hendrickson.

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