Righteousness is Preserved

13 May

DeliveredYou can check out the podcast for this message here.

Last week we saw three examples of judgment for ungodliness. God judged angels for jumping across the boundaries He established, we saw the wicked people of earth destroyed by a flood, and we saw Sodom and Gomorrah reduced to ashes. These serve as reminders to us that judgment is coming. Where there is judgment, there is also hope. Not everyone was destroyed in the examples we looked at. This morning, we’re going to evaluate the people that God preserved in these examples and the reasons why He did so.

I hope you’ll grab your Bible and take a look at 2 Pet. 2:5-9.

Let’s look at Peter’s first example of preservation. Peter refers to the ancient world that was not spared and mentions Noah. Maybe everyone here has heard of Noah and the ark. In the G rated version, we know Noah built the ark as God told him to do. God told him a flood was coming, but that He would save Noah’s family and the animals. When we went back to Genesis, we found out that God’s judgment didn’t spare the ancient world because of their wickedness and their evil thoughts. The flood didn’t change people’s hearts or their sinful nature; it executed judgment for the total depravity of each person. Gen. 6:8 gives us the contrast with the world’s wickedness and says, “But Noah found favor in God’s eyes.” Why? Gen. 6:9 goes on to say that, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.” I want to make sure we understand why this happened. Noah’s character did not secure favor with God. God saw the people of the world. At the same time, God saw Noah. Remember God’s love is unconditional – it’s not based on what we do or don’t do. Noah’s character indicates his relationship with God. The relationship came first, then the character. His relationship enabled him to walk with God. When all other humanity was destroyed because of their wickedness, God took care of the godly. Even in the midst of universal judgment, God delivered His children. Ez. 14:14 says, “Even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,” declares the Lord God.” This doesn’t mean they saved themselves, it indicates that everyone is responsible for the choice to follow God. Noah followed God and became righteous. The emphasis is on God’s working in His people.

When we look back to Peter, he mentions Noah was, “A preacher of righteousness.” Genesis doesn’t mention this. That’s why we study the whole Bible. Because Noah was righteous and a preacher of righteousness, it’s reasonable to conclude that Noah warned the people of coming judgment.  Take a look at Matt. 24:36-39. The point is the wicked people of the world understood – they  knew that what Noah said was true when they saw judgment unfolding before them. But we’re told to walk by faith not by sight. (2 Cor. 5:7) While there is judgment for the wicked, there is preservation for the righteous. Noah didn’t preserve himself; God provided a preservation plan; a safety plan; a life boat. Peter is developing the idea that ungodly people will be judged and refuting the false teachers that are leading people astray by their false doctrine. Not only was Noah delivered, so was his family – everyone else in the world was ungodly. When you do the math, 8 people were saved from dying in the flood. We don’t know how many people perished in the flood, but for certain, the ungodly greatly outnumbered the godly. What’s the point? Being on God’s side always represents the majority.

The duality of this verse is really interesting. God did not spare the ancient world. God preserved Noah. God destroyed many people, but saved a few. Noah was preserved as a preacher of righteousness, but the world of the ungodly was destroyed. Judgment is coming for the ungodly, but there is hope in Jesus Christ.

In Peter’s second example of preservation, he looks to Sodom and Gomorrah. These cities were reduced to ashes because of the ungodliness of the people living there. Genesis 18-19 gives us the back story. This is a tragic story of wickedness and ungodliness to the core. Gen. 13:13 tells us that the, “Men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.” If you go back to Genesis, you’ll see Abraham bargaining with the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of the righteous. First for 50 righteous men, then 45, 40, 30, 20, and finally 10. Remember that Abraham was Lot’s uncle. Gen. 19:3-8 is long, but it’s worth quoting here: “Yet he urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.” Wow.

It’s easy to sit here and criticize Lot and he is not blameless. We wonder why Lot would live in a place that was so wicked. Yet Peter refers to Lot as righteous. Lot was the only one that offered his assistance to the angels. He pleaded with the men of the town not to act wickedly. He offered up his daughters instead of the angels. We look at this and wonder what in the world was he thinking. Culturally, people of the time would have applauded Lot’s courage for standing against the entire town even if his proposed solution was bad. There was an expectation of protection for guests and let’s be honest, few, if any of us, have ever been confronted with such an attack.

Even in all this, God rescued Lot. First from the town’s people in Gen. 19:10-11. Then from the finality of the destruction. Lot’s family included his wife, two daughters and their husbands. God provided a path of deliverance for them, but in the end, Lot’s sons-in-law didn’t heed the warning and Lot’s wife looks back longingly at the city she loved leaving just Lot and his two daughters. Remember Abraham praying the city would be spared for the sake of 10 righteous? There weren’t 10 righteous there. Look at how Lot lived according to 2 Pet. 2:8. Lot was tormented by what he lived with each day. Tormented means severe physical and mental suffering. It wasn’t easy living in that place. He was all alone, no one to share his troubles with, no one to strengthen him or encourage him. No one person, but God was there. He is the redeemer, He is the deliverer.

Peter concludes that God did not spare the angels, or the ancient world, or Sodom and Gomorrah, but He did deliver Noah and Lot. What’s the hope? Verse 9 says, “Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from the temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.” If God did all those things, then for sure the Lord knows how to take care of people that are truly His. He will provide the avenue of safety for the righteous and judgment for the unrighteous.

In Peter’s three examples of judgment, notice that none of them occurred immediately. Nothing happens in our lives that does not pass through God’s hands. Even among the challenges, none of us has lived in the total wickedness that Noah and Lot lived in. There is always someone we can draw wisdom from, encouragement from, and love from. We are not called to walk through the challenges of life alone. Even if all others forsake us, God never will.

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