Noah and the Flood: The Gospel in the Old TestamentMen of Renown
Leslie Basham: Terrorists, crooked executives, dictators. Sometimes it seems like the world is overwhelmed by evil men.
Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: It’s easy to feel helpless, to feel overcome. But we need to remember that these are just men. They have no power against God.
Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, June 24. Nancy’s continuing to explore the gospel in the Old Testament in the series, Noah and the Flood.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’ve been talking about the era in which Noah lived, the era in which God sent the flood to judge the world. As I said earlier in this series, if you just listen to these first several days and don’t hang in for the rest of the series, you’re going to leave depressed because we’re focusing a lot on the depravity of man, the extreme wickedness of the earth in those days.
It is depressing, but I think it is important that we dig in and understand how sinful man can be. Because if we don’t understand the utter sinfulness of man, then when God sends His judgments on the earth, we will think God is unfair. We’ll question God, we’ll challenge God.
But if you see how sinful man is, then you don’t challenge God, you realize that God’s judgments are true and righteous. Also, if you’ve never seen how sinful man can be, you will not really appreciate and be able to thoroughly enjoy the salvation that God has provided to us through Jesus Christ.
So as we jumped into Genesis chapter 6, the first paragraph in the last session, we saw that there was this wide-spread, increasing wickedness on the earth in those days. The descendants of Cain, the son of Adam, and his descendants became exceedingly godless and pagan.
In Genesis chapter 6:4 it talks about a powerful race of giants that came into the world in those days and became a dominant force in the land. They’re called in some of your translations the Nephilim. Verse 4: “The Nephilim,” or the giants, depending on your translation, “were on the earth in those days. . . . These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.”
Now the Hebrew word Nephilim means “fallen ones” or “causing to fall.” It has to do with falling. Some of your translations will say “violent.” It’s a word that suggests violence. These were giants, and we’re told two things about them. They were mighty, and they were men of renown.
Mighty, these were powerful men. They were fierce warriors. You see some of these toys that kids play with today and these mighty men who do all kinds of conquering things on the earth. These were real mighty men. Supermen, if you will. They were strong. They overpowered other people, and they were men of renown. They were famous. They were heroes. These are men, as you put this whole passage together, you get the impression they were arrogant. They were anti-God.
They made a name for themselves through acts of violence and lawlessness and corruption. They were probably rulers. If you’re strong and mighty, powerful, you can do all these things, you get to the top of the heap pretty quickly, and they may have been controlled even by demons, depending on how you interpret the passage we looked at last time about the "sons of god" and "the daughters of man."
Now as we look around our world today, we see that there are some people who are giants. Not physical giants, but giants in terms of their personality and their influence. They’re rulers on the earth, so to speak. They are not necessarily literal rulers, but they’re men who exert huge power and influence in our world.
Now some of these modern-day Nephilim, giants, are the obvious ones. Cruel dictators and despots who dispose of millions of human beings as though they had no value—your Adolph Hitlers, Saddam Husseins, your Idi Amins—just wicked men who destroy other human beings.
But then as I began to meditate on this passage, I realized there are other Nephilim in our culture who are mighty men, men of renown, who aren’t so obviously corrupt. They’re embraced by our culture. They’re popular. You think of many of the icons of our pop culture.
I think of Bill Maher, the stand up comedian who calls religion a neurological disorder. He says that, “Prayer is a silly Santa Claus notion. Pray to Santa and he’ll give you what you want. It’s so silly; it’s so childish. It’s the idiots today who take the Bible literally.” He said, “In the past ten years we’ve doubled the amount of people who say they don’t have a religion. I find that incredibly encouraging.” He’s a man who makes his living with profane, crass, anti-God humor.
I think of Bill Gates, not quite so open in his opposition to Christianity, but in a Time magazine interview he was asked about religion and God’s existence. He said, “I don’t have any evidence of that. Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on Sunday morning.” A self-made man who doesn’t need God, or doesn’t realize that he does.
Then we have modern-day Nephilim, these giants, these hugely influential, anti-God people on the religious scene. I think of Gene Robinson who’s the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. He said, “It’s the tradition of some other denominations, but it’s never been the Anglican tradition to take Scripture literally,” when asked about the biblical view of homosexuality.
CBS’s Ed Bradley did an interview with Gene Robinson on 60 Minutes, and in that interview Robinson indicated that he sees no contradiction between being a bishop and being a practicing homosexual in a committed relationship.
Here you have a blatantly open, frontal attack on the ways of God right in the religious leadership of one of our mainline denominations.
I’ve been reading and singing in my quiet time recently through a Psalter. Do you know what a Psalter is? It’s the Psalms set to music. As I’ve been studying this whole era of Noah, I’ve been amazed at how many of these psalms describe what it was like in Noah’s day, the fallen condition of men, these Nephilim, these powerful spiritual adversaries of God.
These are psalms set to verse and one of them, Psalm 13 reads this way:
Help, Lord, because the godly have quite vanished,
And faithful folk we can no longer see. . . .
For here the wicked strut about quite freely,
And praise is giv’n to all that is impure (vv. 1–2, 7–8, Sing Psalms).
Doesn’t that describe what we’re reading about in Noah’s day? Doesn’t it describe our day?
Matthew Henry who was an old-time commentator said,
Things are bad when bad men are not only honored not withstanding their wickedness, but honored for their wickedness, and the vilest men are exalted. Wickedness is great when great men are wicked.1
What would Matthew Henry think if he were alive today, hearing and reading some of the things that are in our culture?
When we read about 21st century Nephilim, we see these strong, powerful, influential, anti-God people and forces. It’s easy to feel helpless, to feel overcome, overpowered. That’s what the Nephilim did in Noah’s day. They were overwhelmingly powerful, they were giants, and you look up at these giants and you say, “They’re huge! What can we do against these kinds of people, such great evil?”
Those people in the Old Testament, in Noah’s day, seemed incredibly powerful, and from a human vantage point, they were. “Mighty men of old, men of renown.” But we need to remember that these Nephilim, whether they lived in Noah’s day or they live in our day, are just men. They have no power against God.
So whether you’re living with a modern-day Nephilim, or surrounded by them in our culture . . . I think of a woman who told me recently about her ex-husband who just went berserk and began to terrorize her and the family and the community and ended up in prison—a modern-day Nephilim. She said, “We were terrorized.” You may be living in a situation like that.
It may look in the short run like the giants are winning, but God is going to have the final word. He is writing the final chapter, and by God’s grace, you will survive, and you will see God’s triumph over all the giants of wickedness in our day.
I’m not trying to depress you by pointing us to how wicked things can be and how depraved cultures have been, and how depraved our culture is today, but I think it’s important that we get a glimpse of how the sinfulness of man can bring such corruption on the earth.
I’ve been looking recently at headlines and articles, stories, news events, and seeing this widespread corruption and violence that are in our world today. Let me read to you some of the pieces I’ve seen recently—headlines or tops of articles.
In the San Francisco Bay area "the DA’s office filed charges Wednesday against a Richmond man accused of stabbing to death his 18-month-old adopted son."
The day after Thanksgiving, Worcester, Massachussetts, the news read, “A man was charged with stabbing two relatives after they allegedly criticized his table manners during Thanksgiving dinner.”
The Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence estimates that "one girl out of three and one boy out of seven are sexually abused by age eighteen, and that in half the cases their abusers are family members."
Then these statistics, “A murder is reported to the police every 21 minutes, a robbery every 48 seconds, an aggravated assault every 28 seconds. It’s estimated that every five minutes a female is a victim of rape or attempted rape."
The American Psychiatric Association says that "by age 18, a U.S. youth will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence."
Teen pregnancy has increased 621% since 1940.
At least 30 million women have been sold into prostitution worldwide in the past twenty years. There are 800,000 child prostitutes in Thailand, 400,000 in India, 250,000 in Brazil, somewhere between 90,000 and 300,000 in the United States—child prostitutes.
Porn revenue in the United States is larger than all combined revenues of professional football, baseball, and basketball franchises. Child pornography generates $3 billion annually.
One in every three children conceived in the U. S. is aborted. Over 33 million abortions have been performed in the past twenty years alone.
That’s hard to believe, isn’t it? When I showed those stats and headlines to our producer, he said “What a depressing list!” And it is depressing. As you hear these kinds of headlines and stories, I think you’d agree that there are two words that characterize our world: corrupt and violent.
Those are the same two words that characterized the era in which Noah lived. What had been the exception (remember when Cain killed Abel, it was shocking) became widespread by the time we come to Noah. It became the norm—corruption and violence.
We’re in Genesis chapter 6, and let’s look beginning at verse 5:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. . . . Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh” (vv. 5, 11–13).
Some of your translations say, “I will destroy them.” “For the earth is filled with violence through them.” See all those words, “violence,” “corruption,” “corrupt,” “evil,” “wickedness.” What’s being described here is this reign of terror similar to those headlines we just heard.
Our modern-day news accounts have nothing on the era in which Noah lived. If you’ll recall, the law had not yet been given to man—God’s law, but God saw what was going on and He said, “It’s corrupt, it’s perverse,” because men have a law written in their hearts. They knew it was wrong. There was an accountability before God, even though they didn’t have the written law of God.
We certainly, having the written law of God, how much higher accountability do we have? As we look at this passage, I want us to see first the extent of man’s sinfulness in that day. The pervasiveness of sinfulness.
Look at verse 5, “The wickedness of man was great on the earth.” There was great sin, massive, widespread, deep pervasive sin. Verses 11 and 13 say that the earth was filled with violence. This is widespread oppression, widespread cruelty. What we’ve read about happening in Iraq in the past years, that was the condition of the whole earth.
People were tortured and oppressed, and cruelty coming out. Verse 12, “All flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” It’s widespread, pervasive sinfulness.
As you read this passage, it’s as if God is a prosecuting attorney. He’s establishing His case against the defendant. Let me just re-state that, if we don’t understand the sinfulness of man, if we don’t realize how sinful man is and can be, then God’s judgments will seem excessive and unjust.
This is the backdrop, and that’s why we’re spending so many days on this section. You don’t hear a lot of teaching or preaching or talk today about the sinfulness of man, and we don’t hear a lot of teaching from the Old Testament. I think it’s a loss, because the New Testament will never be precious to you if you haven’t felt the weight of the Old Testament, the weight of our guilt and our failure and our sinfulness before a holy God.
This is the backdrop that helps us understand why it was absolutely righteous of God to wipe out the entire earth in a cataclysmic flood. And why all God’s judgments are righteous.
So we see today an earth that is filled with violence on a global scale and on a small scale as well. Terrorism, war, rape, domestic violence, violent crimes, divorce, child abuse, church splits—it’s a form of violence, isn’t it?—it’s not new. The heart of man is sinful, and when man is left to his own ways, when man does not believe God and enter into God’s grace, his corruption just gets worse and worse.
What we’ve just read about in Genesis is the inevitable end result of any culture that refuses to acknowledge God. It’s the line of Cain that we’ve been talking about, self-made men going their own way, living life without God. This is what happens.
We read a similar passage in Romans chapter 1 that describes the downward spiral of a culture. Romans 1:28,
Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, [just as in the days of Noah], God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They were full of murder, envy, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They were gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil [thinking of new ways to sin] disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such thing deserve to die, they not only do them but they give approval to those who practice them (vv. 28-32).
That’s the description of Noah’s day, but it’s also the description of any culture that refuses to acknowledge God. That’s where it’s headed. It doesn’t get better, it only gets worse. Man left to himself only gets worse. And that’s what we read about in 2 Timothy 3, where Paul says,
In the last days . . . people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (vv. 1-4).
That’s what it was in Noah’s day, that’s what we see a lot of in our day and as the last days come closer to their end. We will see more and more of the same. We need to see that human corruption and violence are serious and they have serious consequences.
Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”
Proverbs 21, “The violence of the wicked will sweep them away . . .” Does that sound like the flood? “Because they refuse to do what is just” (v. 7).
So what should our response be? We’re going to talk more about that later in this series, but let me just touch on a few things: First, I believe that we need to pray for God to vindicate righteousness. That’s what the psalmist did in Psalm 7:9. He said, “O, righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure” (paraphrased).
It’s right to pray that righteousness will prevail, and that wickedness will be judged. “Lord, bring the wickedness to an end.” What can we do, more than pray, “Lord, vindicate righteousness. Bring an end to the violence of the wicked.”
Then as we’re praying that, we need to search our own hearts. It’s so easy to point a finger to others—too easy. There’s no question about the corruption and the violence in the world, and perhaps a lot of corruption and violence around and in your world. Your boss, perhaps your mate, family members, but here’s what we’re not so quick to see: as God looks down on your heart, does He see any corruption, any violence?
Maybe not in the overt, egregious ways that make newspaper headlines.
What about your speech? Is there coarse talk, deception, rudeness, roughness with your children, cruelty in your speech, mean talk toward your mate, toward your children, behind your boss’s back? Corruption and violence—is it in your speech?
Is there any in your attitudes? You may not have ever gone out and killed a person, but have you hated somebody enough in your heart that wished they were dead? I have, and I have to say, “O, God, it’s not the world out there, only, that needs You and Your grace. It’s in my heart. I’ve murdered in my heart. My heart is corrupt and violent apart from your grace.
In your behavior, is there roughness, is there corruption?
Search your own heart, and then pray for the gift of true repentance. I love that passage in Jonah chapter 3 where the king of Ninevah, having been warned by Jonah that judgment is coming, the king makes a proclamation. He said, “Let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.”
There may be corruption and violence in your heart, on your tongue, in your hands. What do you do? Humble yourself. Call out to God in repentance. Turn from your evil ways and from the violence that is in your hands. You can’t repent for the rest of the world, but you can repent for you.
You can say, “Lord, it’s not my brother, it’s not my sister, it’s not my neighbor, it’s not all these criminals out there—sinful and wicked as they are—it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of Your mercy and Your forgiveness. Lord, have mercy on me. I turn, I humble myself. I repent of the wickedness, the corruption, the violence, of my own heart and hands.”
Leslie Basham: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss. If you have never surrendered your life to the Lord, I hope you’ll respond to today’s message. Don’t delay making things right. If you have surrendered to Him for the first time, we’d like to send you some free material that will show you how to grow in your new faith. Just call us at 1-800-569-5959.
Today’s message from Nancy is part of the series Noah and the Flood: The Gospel in the Old Testament. We’ll see a powerful reminder of Jesus as we dig into this story. You can see Jesus in many Old Testament stories. Sally Lloyd-Jones demonstrates this in her book, The Jesus Storybook Bible. The beautiful writing and vivid illustrations will bring familiar stories to life and show you how the hope of Christ threads its way through the entire Bible.
This book is perfect for parents of young children, but adults will get a lot out of it, too. It will encourage you to think differently about Bible stories. Great reading, even if you don’t have kids.
We’ll send you The Jesus Storybook Bible when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Nancy’s here to remind you that your gift means a lot.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Leslie, I was speaking at a conference on the East coast not too long ago and a woman came up to me and she said, “You saved my life.” I said, “Oh really. Tell me about it.” She told the story of how several weeks earlier she had been listening to Revive Our Hearts. She didn’t even know what radio station she had heard it on, but she had been listening to the program and as a result had given her life to Jesus Christ. She had been saved listening to Revive Our Hearts.
As I reflect back on that conversation, I think, “Oh, Lord, thank you for that station and thank you for listeners who supported this ministry financially to make it possible for us to be on the air that day, in that city, so when that woman turned on her radio she could hear a message that would bring her to faith in Jesus Christ.” It’s possible because of listeners like you. You say, “We believe in this message. We believe in this ministry, and we want to support it financially to help it stay on the air.”
Leslie Basham: To support Revive Our Hearts, call us at 1-800-569-5959. Make sure to ask for The Jesus Storybook Bible. Or you can make your contribution at ReviveOurHearts.com.
Well, we’re living in a time of incredible advances in technology, but does that really make a better world? We’ll discuss that on Monday. Please be back for 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.
1Matthew Henry (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Genesis 6:4). Peabody: Hendrickson.