How do you know when a person is out of his mind? Well, what if a man behaves like nobody else behaves? What if he says he hears things nobody else hears? What if he fears what nobody else fears? What if he devotes all his energy to a cause nobody else believes in? Would you say he’s crazy? Probably so. At the very least, you’d think he’s weird, wouldn’t you?
Suppose this oddball goes to work on a strange project. He claims that the world is about to be wiped out and that he’s building the only place where anyone will be able to survive when the disaster comes. How does he know all this? He says he heard a voice telling him so. There’s no sign at all of the disaster he expects, but he keeps working on his project year after year, simply because of that voice he heard. Would you take him seriously? Wouldn’t you instead laugh at him, or, at best, feel sorry for him? The man would have to be crazy!
But what if the “crazy” man is an old fellow named Noah? What if the project he’s working on is an enormous ark? What if the disaster he’s worried about is a worldwide flood? What if the voice that told him to build the ark was the voice of God? What if the reason his behavior is so different from others is that the whole world has gone crazy with evil and that he, unlike so many, has a relationship with God?
Noah’s neighbors didn’t take him seriously. When the ark was built, the only people who boarded it were Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their son’s wives—eight people in all. Nobody else wanted to be aboard that ark. There was no water anywhere nearby. There was no weather pattern that indicated that a flood was about to cover the earth. So people ignored Noah and thought he was a religious fanatic or an outright lunatic.
When Evil Seems Normal
Noah was not really crazy, but he must have seemed crazy to the people around him. When the whole world is wicked, goodness looks odd. When almost everybody ignores God, then someone who pays attention to God’s Word seems crazy. Noah lived in a world where insanely sinful behavior had become so common that it seemed normal. From the time of Adam to the time of Noah, the size of earth’s population shot upward, but the moral character of the people plummeted downward. In Genesis 6 the Bible says,
When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown (6:1-4).
Here was a spiritual disaster so serious that God decided to take drastic measures. But what exactly happened? What does the Bible mean by “the sons of God” marrying “the daughters of men? There are two different ways to understand this.
One view is that fallen angels married humans and had children with them. Elsewhere in the Old Testament, the phrase “sons of God” clearly refers to angels (Job 1:6; 15:8; 38:7). For this reason, many ancient Jewish and Christian teachers took “the sons of God” in Genesis to be fallen angels. These demons took physical form, mated with human women, and did some genetic engineering to produce the Nephilim, sometimes translated as “giants.” They became known as heroes for their fierce courage and superhuman exploits. In this view, the mating of humans with supernatural beings produced giant bodies, giant minds, giant actions, giant fame, and gigantic wickedness. If demons found a way to mingle with humans, they were carrying rebellion against God to new extremes, and God made up his mind to stop it.
A different view is that “the sons of God” were men from the godly line of Seth, and “the daughters of men” were women from the wicked line of Cain. Genesis 4 describes Cain and his evil offspring, and Genesis 5 describes the godly line from Adam through Seth to Noah, so Genesis 6 may be saying that these two separate lines began to intermingle. God does not permit people from godly families to marry outside the family of faith, but these sons of godly families chose to do so anyway. They saw some good-looking women from ungodly families and decided that a woman’s looks and a man’s desires matter more than God. The children of such marriages were heroic, even gigantic in some ways, and they became famous, but morally they were monsters. When the only line of people faithful to God intermarried with the wicked and became like them, God began a countdown to destruction.
Which view is correct? Is Genesis describing the mingling of demons and humans, or the intermarriage of a once-godly line with the ungodly? There might not be all that much difference between the two views. If demons did intermarry with human women, perhaps they did it not directly but by using sinful men and controlling them. Here’s a question to think about: If you come from a family that honors Jesus, is marrying an unbeliever all that much different from marrying a demon? The Bible says to Christians, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:18). “How can goodness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever… Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord… And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NLT). The sons and daughters of God have no business partnering with the devil.
Jesus says that the world before his Second Coming will be like the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37). Are we living in such a time? Today many people get tangled up in voodoo, vampires, psychics, sorcery, occult rituals, channeling supernatural spirits, or even direct Satan worship. Others might shun such dark rituals but see nothing wrong with a person from a Christian family marrying someone who is far from Christ. All of this has become so common that if you oppose such things, people will say you’re strange, backward, and bigoted.
No doubt that’s what people said about Noah. In a time when demons dominated more and more people, when even people with godly roots fell in love with wickedness, Noah didn’t fit. But sometimes it’s better not to fit.
It may feel more comfortable to fit in with everybody else. But what if everybody else is on the wrong track? What if everybody else is doomed? Genesis 6 says,
The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”
When the Bible describes God’s pain and rage at human wickedness, it uses the language of human emotion. But no words can fully express how God’s heart reacts to evil. God does not wink at human evil or say, “That’s okay. I don’t mind.” No, when God sees sin, he thunders, “That’s not what I created people for. If that’s what they’re going to be like, I’m going to wipe them out.” God didn’t just “hate the sin but love the sinner.” He decided to wash the earth clean of those disgusting sinners and of all the creatures under their rule.
Now, if that’s how God deals with people outside his grace, do you really want to fit in with them? Wouldn’t you rather be a misfit? Noah was a marvelous misfit. After Genesis gives a grim description of human sin and God’s wrath against it, the tone abruptly changes with two words: But Noah. Genesis says,
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
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 (6:8-10).
What a contrast between Noah’s family and the rest of the world! But Noah! The world was under God’s wrath, but Noah was under God’s grace. The world was rotten, but Noah was righteous. The world was wicked, but Noah was blameless. The world was godless, but Noah walked with God. The sons of other once-godly families married and mingled with the ungodly, but Noah, his sons and their wives remained faithful to the Lord.
Noah didn’t do all of this because he was naturally so good. Noah had a sinful nature like everyone else. The Bible says that when God looked at humanity before the flood, he saw “that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (6:5). And even after the flood, when Noah and his offspring were the only humans left, God said that of humanity that “every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood” (8:21). Noah had a fallen nature that tended toward sin. On his own Noah would have been as rotten as anyone else.
But Noah wasn’t on his own. Noah had God. The Bible says that Noah found favor, or grace, in the eyes of the Lord. It was God’s amazing grace that accepted Noah and made him different. Noah lived by faith in God’s grace. This enabled him, in spite of his sinful nature, to be right with God and righteous in his conduct. This made him “blameless,” a man who served God with integrity and dealt with his own faults honestly and promptly. Noah wasn’t perfect, but he was blameless in the sense that sin did not dominate him or keep the upper hand over him. Nobody could deny the power of holiness in him. By himself Noah was as weak and wicked as anyone, but “Noah walked with God.” Noah may have seemed crazy for being so out of step with other people, but he was in step with God, and that was all that really mattered.
That’s all that really matters for you and me as well. On our own, we’re as bad as anyone else. Even the most devoted follower of Jesus Christ has to admit, as the apostle Paul did, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Romans 7:18). Church Reformer Martin Luther said, “Without the Holy Spirit and without grace man can do nothing but sin and so goes on endlessly from sin to sin.” But, said Luther, “this knowledge of our sin is the beginning of our salvation,” in that “we completely despair of ourselves and give to God alone the glory for our righteousness” in Christ.
If you think you don’t need God and are fine the way you are, you will keep getting worse, as the people in Noah’s time did. But if you recognize your sin, give up on yourself, and seek God’s grace in Christ, you will find favor with God, as Noah did. The closer you walk with God, the more you will seem like a misfit to people who don’t know God. But that’s okay. The Bible says, “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong” (Exodus 23:2). “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly” (Psalm 1:1 NKJV).
Preparing for Judgment
Noah didn’t walk with the ungodly crowd around him. Noah walked with God. He didn’t choose his course of action by watching other people but by listening to God. Genesis says,
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… I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens. (6:11-14,17).
For the next 120 years God counted down to the day of judgment, and for those 120 years Noah and his family worked on the ark. They must have seemed ridiculous. There they were, building an enormous ship in a place that was nowhere near any lake or ocean. When Noah explained that he was preparing for worldwide disaster and said that the ark was the only way to be saved, nobody took him seriously. There was no scientific reason to expect a worldwide flood. There was no evidence that judgment was coming. Year after year went by, but nothing changed.
With each passing year of business as usual, Noah’s warnings of judgment sounded sillier. The closer his building project came to completion, the more foolish it seemed. All that expense and effort—for what? The huge ark just sat there on dry land. There was no sign of danger to support Noah’s preaching and actions. But Noah kept preaching and building anyway. Why? Because he took God at his Word. He believed God’s warning of things not yet seen. Noah didn’t fear people’s opinions; he feared God’s judgment. The Bible says, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Hebrews 11:7).
The Bible calls Noah “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). Noah was not a popular preacher. He got no positive response outside his own family. But did he change his message? No, he preached the truth decade after decade, even when nobody took his words to heart.
How many of us today are preachers of righteousness like Noah? How many fight the evil inside us and challenge the evil around us? How many warn others of God’s judgment on sin? How many know God so well and believe his Word so firmly that we keep proclaiming the same message even when people get angry at us, say we’re stupid or crazy, or ignore us completely?
Too many of us preachers and church people measure our message by the response we get. If people don’t respond the way we want, we try something else. If people don’t want to hear about sin, we talk about self-esteem instead. If people don’t want to hear about Judgment Day and hell, we make God sound like a tolerant buddy who is too nice to punish anybody. But a true preacher of righteousness speaks the Word of God to sinners, whether they like it or not. Noah’s preaching didn’t please others, but it pleased God. Noah told people what God had told him. Noah embraced and acted upon God’s message of how to be saved. When the judgment came, Noah was ready.
Noah was not the last woodworking preacher whom people thought was crazy. Jesus was a carpenter who preached the kingdom of God and called for people to repent. Jesus said that he would judge the world and that he himself was the only way to be saved. Jesus warned people to get ready. But many rejected Jesus and his message. Some religious experts said, “He is raving mad. Why listen to him?” (John 10:20). On at least one occasion, even Jesus’ own family said, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21). Jesus seemed crazier than Noah had seemed.
Maybe the gospel of Jesus as Savior and Judge sounds crazy to you. How could a poor, despised man be the Son of God? How can this person getting nailed to a cross be the only way for people to be saved? How can faith in the crucified Christ and in his blood poured out for your sins be the only way for you to survive on Judgment Day? It may sound crazy, but it is the ultimate wisdom. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God… For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Corinthians 1:18,25).
In a world gone crazy with sin, God may sound foolish, but his apparent foolishness is our only hope. Jesus died to save all who trust him, and he is coming again to judge the world. Don’t scoff at this, and don’t be intimidated by those who do scoff. Believe the gospel. Build your life on Christ. He is the only ark of safety. In the Bible the apostle Peter says,
In the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. This will be their argument: “Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created.”
They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth up from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the world with a mighty flood. And God has also commanded that the heavens and the earth will be consumed by fire on the day of judgment, when ungodly people will perish.
But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and everything in them will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything in it will be exposed to judgment.
Since everything around us is going to melt away, what godly, holy lives you should be living! You should look forward to that day and hurry it along—the day when God will set the heavens on fire and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world where everyone is right with God.
And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to live a pure and blameless life. And be at peace with God.
And remember, the Lord is waiting so that people have time to be saved. (2 Peter 3:3-15).
It may seem crazy to trust Jesus and expect his return. But God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.