Wrath and Justice, Mercy and Grace

By Katie Kafka

The story of the flood is commonly understood to be a picture of God’s divine wrath and justice. In this moment in time, He demonstrated displeasure and power in way that brought fair retribution over the chaos and destruction of sin. The flood showed us that God does what He says He will do. When He says,

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 . . .

Genesis 6:7

we know that God will do what He says He will do. We know the God of Creation has every power and authority to de-create that which He created in Genesis 1.

Our scripture passage and study this week brought us a glimpse of the post-flood Earth. Imagine Noah. Having spent over a year enclosed in a boat, he is tasked with the care of his family and all the other creatures on the ark during this time. He is unsure of how long God will have him there doing all that is required of him in this moment. At last, the ground is dry. He and his family emerge from the darkness of the ark into daylight to a new creation, a new opportunity, where some things are different and yet some are the same.

Yes, the story of the flood is a picture of God’s wrath and justice, but how might we see the flood narrative also as a picture of God’s mercy and grace? These images of God’s character emerge from the rubble and wreckage of the post-flood world.

  • We see God, in His mercy, spare Noah and his family. Noah’s faithfulness and obedience allowed him to journey through the flood making it to the other side. With his relationship to God intact, Noah’s first steps off the ark led him to a place of worship where he acknowledged his need for a Merciful God.

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

Genesis 8:20
  • We see God, in His grace, establish a covenant with Noah. God’s promises and blessings abound to Noah and his family in exchange for nothing in return. A true gift of grace has been passed on to generation after generation.

“And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

Genesis 8:21-22

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Genesis 9:12-17
  • We see God, in His grace, reinstate the good and perfect purpose of man.

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth… And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”

Genesis 9:1, 7
  • We see two sons show mercy to their father choosing to act out of compassion and decency rather than slander. Perhaps Noah’s fall toward sin was a sober reminder to Shem and Japheth that we may be faithful, but our sinful nature always travels with us. Obedience is a long-term commitment to God. It’s a journey filled with imperfect people, prone to sin and yet drawn toward repentance to the praise and glory of God. Seeing someone in this light, even when it is your father, gives you the opportunity to mirror the image of God’s mercy for the sake of relationship with another.

Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

Genesis 9:23

The story of Noah’s life demonstrates great faithfulness and also failures. Can you relate to this narrative? I know I can. Countless times throughout the Bible, and in current day, we see God showing his grace and mercy toward people in order to save them. Although He realizes that their hearts are evil, God continues to try and reach them. When we sin or fall away from God, we surely deserve to be destroyed by His divine wrath and justice. Praise God that mercy and grace reach through these moments like the outstretch of a rainbow to those whose hope and faith is in God.

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