Genesis 8:15-22 “God Remembers and Noah Worships”
Redeemer Church Sunday School
Genesis 8:15-22 “God Remembers and Noah Worships”
Read Genesis 8:1-22
Introduction: (Briefly explain your recent illness and absences then move to the text.) Some of what we will be going over we have covered in the past, but we will be using a finer comb to pick up some of the jewels we missed last time. Some parts may be just a little bit repetitive, but we have had a few weeks off so that is fine. I want us to look at some of the literary structure of this passage so we can see the bigger picture Moses is drawing with his account of the Flood and how it points us back to creation and forward to some of the events in Israel’s future. And I want us to make some applications from what we see in this passage. The highlights that we will see in this text include God’s remembering Noah, Noah’s obedience and worship.
I. God Remembered Noah 8:1-12
8:1 is surely one of the great verses in the Bible, “But God remembered Noah”. Now the first thing we need to understand is that this does not mean God was busy and Noah and the Ark and all his family and the animals were temporarily out of God’s mind while he was busy elsewhere. God always has everything, past, present and future, eternally before him with all his concentration. So this is not the case like when you have put something on the back burner of the stove and briefly forgot about it, then remembered it and ran into the kitchen to save dinner. No! For God to remember Noah, or Israel, or you, means that he is keeping his word. It is a very positive action this verse is talking about.
This verse is the turning point in the whole flood story as divine judgment had done its act of destruction or de-creating. Now the positive side of re-creating begins. The impersonal floodwaters had brought the chaos of the deep back from Gen. 1:2 but now God remembers Noah and the process of recreation will begin.
God “remembered” Noah like he remembered Abraham in 19:29 and brought Lot out of Sodom safely. Or in 30:22 God remembered Rachel and opened her womb. Exodus 2:24 “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” Ex. 6:5 “I have remembered my covenant.” When God “remembers” something it is God taking action based upon a past promise, a covenant. It seems to always involve saving somebody. In Luke 23:42 the thief on the cross next to Jesus rebuked his partner in crime for scoffing at Jesus and said to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Folks, our prayer, our only hope for salvation, is in the Lord “remembering” us in the same way he remembered Noah, Abraham, Rachel, Israel and Moses, and the thief on the cross. When God remembers, he saves! Trust in the Lord who does not forget his own and who covenants to “remember their sins no more” in Jeremiah 31.34 and Heb. 8.12.
Notice also that God remembers “all the livestock that were with him in the Ark”. The same God whose eye is on the sparrow watches over you.
“And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.” The word for wind is ruah from 1:2 translated there as Spirit who was brooding, or hovering, like a dove, over the face of the waters. So in Moses’ choice of words in this part of the story he hearkens back deliberately to where he began, thus showing us the idea of a re-creation. But this use of wind also points forward doesn’t it? In Ex.10 it is how God chased away the plague of locusts, and in Ex. 14-15 it is how he separated the waters of the Red Sea to allow Israel to be saved from the Egyptian Army and Pharaoh. And when Israel was hungry in the wilderness, in Num.11:31, he used a wind to provide the quail. Then in Acts 2:2 there is “a mighty rushing wind…And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” When the Spirit of God blows through, salvation is usually the result. Yet today we have preachers on TV mocking God by blowing into microphones so that their millions of TV viewers can receive some dubious blessing and the crowds in the stadium or mega churches all fall down in an emotional frenzy. I am not sure if God is honored by any of that or not, but I do know that God’s wind, his Spirit was there at creation, there with Moses in the Ark, and with Israel. And I would join with the old hymn in singing,
Holy Spirit, breathe on me, Until my heart is clean;
Let sunshine fill its inmost part, without a cloud between.
Holy Spirit, breathe on me, My stubborn will subdue
Teach me in words of living flame What Christ would have me do
Holy Spirit, breathe on me, Fill me with power divine;
Kindle a flame of love and zeal Within this heart of mine.
Holy Spirit, breathe on me, Till I am all thine own,
Until my will is lost in Thine, To live for Thee alone.
In vss.6-12 is the wonderful story of Moses sending out the raven and the dove to check on the ground conditions. This is another part of the story that is very similar to the Babylonian account of the flood as recorded in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Classics, translated by Andrew George, Penguin Books: London, 1999 (pp.92-94). The raven is an unclean bird, not suitable for food or sacrifice and is therefore perhaps expendable on this mission. The raven is a bigger, stronger bird that can live on the carrion it finds floating in the waters. It does not return to Noah with any sign of hope and perhaps its role was symbolic of the impurities of the past world being removed from the Ark.
The dove, on the other hand, is a clean animal fit for eating and sacrifice. Moses releases the dove 7 days later but she returned empty. In another mission 7 days later the dove returned with an olive branch. So here we have a symbol of the Holy Spirit in the dove (it was a dove in Mark 1:10 that descended upon Christ symbolizing his filling with the Holy Spirit) and a symbol for Israel in the olive branch. Both symbols are representing peace, the peace that can only come from God, the peace that passes understanding that descends upon a person who has been saved by God’s grace, preserved from the judgment that is deserved.
II. Noah’s Obedience and Worship 8:13-20
Noah has been described as being righteous, blameless and walking with God. When God told him to build this big Ark, he obeyed. Noah entered the Ark when God told him to and Noah obeyed during the long months of being cooped up. Sometimes obedience requires instant compliance in a crisis, and sometimes it is a long, boring, difficult obedience over many months. Guys, when you are called to the ministry, and you are in seminary studying away, it is easy to get so absorbed in your studies, in whatever ministries the Lord allows you while you are in school, and in your dreams and fantasies of future ministries, that you might tend to possibly ignore the long, slow obedience needed in the job you have that funds your education. Or, like me, when professional ministry comes to an end sooner than you wanted, and you work a job 40-60 hours a week that does not match any of your dreams that you have while in seminary, you are still called to obey by working as unto the Lord. Noah shoveled a lot of animal dung while on board the Ark. It was a long, difficult obedience.
Now after the dove brought back the olive leaf and then departed again never to return as she was building her nest, it would have been easy for Noah to have said to his family, “Let’s open this door and get out of this Ark!” But Noah waited until v.15-16 Then God said to Noah, Go out from the Ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you…” Just as Noah obeyed going into the Ark, and obeyed while on the Ark, so he waited for the Lord’s command to depart the Ark. How many times do we get ahead of the Lord and assume it is time to leave a place of ministry, even if it is a ministry to a bunch of old goats, hippos and camels? Many ministers hop from one church to the other, climbing the Baptist corporate ladder, striving to get to that next larger church, always one or two steps ahead of the Lord’s will. Others get in a comfortable position and lose their edge and miss the call to Go out from their comfortable Ark. Finding and following the Lord’s will can be very difficult at times, and obeying even more so. But Noah waited patiently until the Lord clearly told him to go out. “So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him.”
Here we see Noah as a second Adam, emerging from the Ark with all of God’s creatures surrounding him. Apparently the animals descended from the Ark in as orderly a manner, and miraculous, as they had entered, filing out family by family. Picture all the brightly colored birds flying low overhead as the lions, tigers, bears, bison, elephants and kudu came bounding out of the ark two by two to go forth and repopulate the earth.
8:20 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. Noah had all kinds of tasks he had to do very soon. Mrs. Noah may have been requesting a new home, or perhaps just a major clean up of the Ark would do. Noah had to plant grain and vegetables, fruit trees and grapes. But first and foremost in his thoughts and on his heart, was worship. And so, he constructs an altar first. Then he gathers up some of all the clean animals and sacrifices them on this altar as whole burnt offerings. For Noah, worship came first.
Burnt offerings were where you cut the animal’s throat and drained out the blood and placed the whole animal on the fire, not reserving any portion for yourself. This is the first mention in Scripture of an altar and of a whole burnt offering. This sacrifice served three functions in Noah’s situation. 1) It can be considered as a thanksgiving offering for the LORD had kept his Word and preserved Noah and his family through the flood. 2) Typically a whole burnt offering also was a dedicatory offering, consecrating yourself to the LORD, giving all of yourself to God. 3) This kind of sacrifice was also propitiatory, meant to appease the righteous wrath of a holy God. But whose sins was this sacrifice meant to atone for? Noah has already been declared righteous and blameless by God. It seems like most of the commentators think that this was sacrifice on behalf of the whole world. God had judged the world, and now Noah is making a sacrifice on behalf of the world. This obviously points forward to the role of the priest in later Israel who offer sacrifices on behalf of the whole nation. It also points us toward Christ who would die as a sacrifice for the whole world.
Why was Noah’s first response worship? First of all, man was created to worship God. We are created in His image and he set us about doing his will. We are existing at God’s mercy and owe Him everything. God does not owe us anything, we owe Him our all.
The whole burnt offering expresses this relationship. The entire offering is consumed by the fire after the throat is cut and the blood poured out. The offering represents the worshipper offering himself wholly to the Lord. It is used as a sin offering, the sacrifice dying in the place of the worshipper. It expresses the heartfelt, humble worship of the worshipper.
God alone is worthy of worship and to ignore worship out of apathy or busyness is to actually worship a false god. This is the fundamental fact of the universe, God deserves worship and man alone is created to voluntarily offer worship to God. This is so fundamental that you can answer the question “What is man?” by saying that man is a being who worships God his Creator.
Why did Noah worship God? He had just been delivered from a devastating flood of judgment that had destroyed the world. Through it all God had preserved Noah and Noah has a huge debt of gratitude; he can never repay the debt, but he can offer thanks to God. God is never materially improved by our worship, but He rejoices in the praises of his people. Noah’s worship expresses his thanksgiving and love to God for God has safely carried him through the valley of the shadow of death.
How could someone worship in the face of all that devastation someone may ask. Like Job said, 1:20-21 “At this Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised.”
The God-Worshipper, the Christian, the born-again believer, knows that this life is not all there is. We do not have to live and prosper here, there is eternity yet to come and it is better by far to be prepared for eternity while being impoverished in this life. Yes the devastation was great, yes Noah had some fears, yes he faced a long road of toil, but he knew that eternity waited and worship prepares him for that eternity.
Is worship our first priority? I know many people who make it to worship if they can, if they are not too busy, if life is going well. But if company is coming, well… there are meals to fix, house to clean, laundry to do. For many the workplace calls on Sunday. I worked a Sunday shift myself for several years, but I made it to worship on Sunday night. When I was a rover I worked 12 hours Saturday night and then went in to teach SS. Many people treat worship as extra, they get to it if they can. NO! Worship is who we are as the people of God! I knew guys in the army who claimed Christ but considered worship to be boring, a mere duty that had to be performed.
In the Song of Solomon worship is compared to making love with your mate, not a boring, dull duty. If that offends you check out the Song of Solomon, if it still offends you … grow up! Worship is an intimate time of loving God, praising the beauty of his character and attributes, communing with God, knowing God and being known by Him.
Many people make the mistake of putting service as the first priority. While it is true that service is an act of worship, all of life can be a worship service, should be, a dedicated time of regular worship is the first priority of the Christian. The 3 priorities of the church are Worship, Discipleship, Evangelism in that order. If we get out of sequence then it would be like Noah planting seed or building a house before he worshipped.
Worship is inconvenient to many people and many people are finding various ways of shortening worship, worship lite is in. Worship is contentious and divisive in many ways because so many people have their preferences and expectations. Sometimes worship gets to be too habitual and we ritualize it and perform it by rote, other times we get too innovative and we seek entertainment. Worship is a dangerous business; we need to approach it with fear yet also with joy, with awe and with gratefulness. Worship should be both an adventure and a familiar comfort.
Are we growing in worship? How can we grow? Certainly learning new songs, new music, new prayers can assist us in growing. Studying and preaching from the whole word of God aids our worship. Studying worship, reading up on worship can help as well.
Finally, in vs. 21 we see that 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 strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Here is where we see that Noah’s sacrifice was propitiatory, for God’s wrath has been propitiated by the sweet aroma of Noah’s sacrifices. This begins the Lord’s covenant with Noah and we don’t have time today to get into that, we shall deal with that next week. But for now I want you to see that Noah is a type of Christ in this scene and God is promising, making a covenant with the earth, to never again judge with a flood.
We see here yet another strong statement about the sinful nature of man don’t we? From our youth, even from birth, our hearts are evil. We are all natural born sinners, deserving the holy wrath of God. But there is One who died in our place, whose death atoned for our sins, propitiating the holy and righteous wrath of God the Father. That One is Jesus.
Our society, even the good, conservative right wing members of our society, view man as being basically good. Yes, we are all made in the image of God, but the image is shattered, broken by sin, and our desires are for sin from birth on. This entire story of the flood is true, it is historical and it points us to our need for the Saviour.
In verse 22 we see a passage that speaks to the constancy, the steadfastness, the faithfulness of our God. In fact, one of our favorite hymns has a verse taken from this verse. Can you name that tune?
#54 in the Baptist Hymnal, 1991 ed. Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no
Shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, thy compassions,
They fail not; As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.
REFRAIN: Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed, Thy
Hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and
Stars in their courses above Join with all nature in
Manifold witness To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear
Presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright
Hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Words: Thomas Chisolm 1866-1960; Music: William M. Runyan, 1870-1957
Have you been born again? Are you sure that if you died today, you would be brought into the arms of Jesus, safe from the fires of hell? Is your first priority worshiping the Lord?
Are there any questions about the lesson this morning?
Genesis: Beginning & Blessing, R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word series by Crossway: Wheaton, Ill. 2004 (pp.141-148).
Genesis: A Devotional Commentary, Donald Grey Barnhouse, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 1970 (pp.58-65).
Word Biblical Commentary vol.1 Genesis 1-15, Gordon J. Wenham, Word Books: Waco, TX. 1987 (pp.183-208).
The New American Commentary vol.1a Genesis 1-11:26, Kenneth A. Mathews, Broadman&Holman Publishers: Nashville, TN 1996 (pp.382-412).