And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. (Genesis 6:6)
In the flood, grace and punishment are two sides of the same coin. For example, God’s rainbow promise never again to flood the world followed the global flood. Some picture the flood as a vindictive action but fail to see the mercy that God showed humanity. God promised a Savior to Adam and Eve, but man’s continued wickedness had earned God’s grief with the exception of Noah and his family. If evil overcame this last family, who would be left to bear the Messiah?
With grief in his heart, God proposed to destroy the earth with a flood to save one family and the hope of the Savior to come. Grace would take the form of punishment so that God might save his people.
It is God who ends the reign of tyrants . . . (and) defend(s) the widow and the orphan upon the earth as well.
In a world where humanity often calls evil good, God still has to be the defender of his people. It is God who ends the reign of tyrants. It is God who must defend the widow and the orphan upon the earth as well (Deuteronomy 10:17–18). God has promised to preserve his people.
The church is not immune to evil’s influence. It continually struggles with the desire to give in to the darkness and fend off infiltrators and compromise from worldly sources. Abortion and unbiblical sexual behavior are tolerated or done in secret. Living together is accepted and practiced by many. In grace, the Lord stands up to evil inside and outside the church so that faith survives among his people. He defends the righteous by opposing the wicked. We may see it as punishment, but it is also grace. God lovingly chastens his own as well, to refine and sanctify us:
But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:32)
And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, “They are my people”; and they will say, “The LORD is my God.” (Zechariah 13:9)
It is a comfort to us that we have a defender like the Lord, to protect us from evil, without and within. I picture Noah living in a world so ungodly that Lamech boasts about killing another man (Genesis 4:23–24). How would Noah and his family have been able to stand up to such evil alone? How would we stand up to sin without the grace of God?
Romans 1 describes the spread of wickedness in our world. It is a comfort that we can lift our voices in prayer and expect that the Lord will ultimately preserve his people. While we may suffer hardship and death in this fallen world and be grieved by the evil around us, we can trust in the God of grace and justice.
For the LORD loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. (Psalm 37:28)