Genesis 8 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, 4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.
6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7 and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9 But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11 And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12 Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore. 13 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh- birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth- that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.
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. 21 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. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
Good morning, Grace. This morning’s sermon has four parts. All of them are important because all flow directly from this passage, but it is in the first and last that we find the heart of the text and sermon. The first part, and the peak of the Flood story, is that God remembered Noah. This is a remarkable expression that has a particular meaning in the OT and one that finds fullness in Jesus. The last part, and the main application for us, is Noah’s response to all that God had done. Perhaps unexpectedly, Noah’s first act on dry land was whole-hearted, sacrificial worship.
The deep cry of my heart all week has been for God to use this sermon to help us live increasingly in the knowledge and conviction that God always remembers us. And with all of that, let’s pray and ask God to help us remember that He remembers us in Christ and then to help us turn that back to God in worshipful obedience.
GOD REMEMBERED NOAH (1A)
Our text for today has three main scenes, all under the banner of God remembering Noah. Together, those things (three scenes and one banner), make up the four parts of this sermon. We’ll get to the scenes in a few minutes, but first let’s consider the banner and climax of this whole story. It is found at the beginning of 8:1.
1 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark.
This might not seem very significant or climactic at first. Once we realize how this phrase is used in the OT, however, it takes on entirely new meaning. Without exception, the phrase, “God remembered” is used in the OT as an expression of God moving toward His people in a time of difficulty to bless them. For instance…
We see this in Genesis 19 where Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was about to be destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah but God rescued Lot when He “remembered” Abraham and His promise to bless him (Genesis 19:29).
We see this in Genesis 30 as God “remembered” Rachel and opened her womb when she cried out to God because her sister mocked her barrenness (Genesis 30:22-23).
We see this in Exodus 2 when the Israelites pleaded with God to rescue them from their Egyptian enslavement and God again “remembered” his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 2:22-23).
And we see another example of this in Jeremiah 31 where God “remembered” the nation of Israel in her exile and promised to have mercy on her and turn her mourning into joy by restoring her (Jeremiah 31:20).
Again, in every OT example the phrase “God remembered” indicates God stretching out His loving arms to rescue and bless His struggling people. It is such a powerful and wonderful saying. Grace, if ever you are in need of help, these are the greatest words you could possibly hear. We must learn this, Grace. We must learn to long to hear these words more than anything else. For when God utters them, whatever follows will be greater than anything else we might ask for. God remembering us is infinitely greater than any vaccine or treatment in our sickness, employment opportunity in our poverty, relationship initiation or restoration in our loneliness, or provision in our hunger. God remembering us means that He has determined to provide for us whatever we most need.
“God remembered Noah.” That is the banner over the rest of this passage, the rest of the Flood story, the rest of Noah’s life, and, in Jesus, over every one of God’s people continually. Grace, hear this: we don’t need to wait for God to speak those words to us; He already has! God always remembers us in Jesus as Jesus continually “reminds” the Father of us; that we are in Him and that we are in need of mercy and grace. What Noah knew individually and in part, we know corporately and fully in Jesus. That is the power of the cross and the fullness of the promise of Romans 8:28. What an awesome reality.
LIFE ON THE ARK (1-14)
Under that banner, as I mentioned earlier, there are three scenes in this passage: 1) Life on the ark (1-14), 2) God’s charge to Noah to go out from the ark (15-19), and 3) New life on dry land (20-22). With that, let’s consider the first scene: life on the ark.
God promised to bring devastating judgment through a flood, He commanded Noah to build a giant boat in order to escape it—he, his immediate family, and a pair of every kind of animal, Noah obeyed and built the ark, the people and animals were loaded, the judgment came, and then—as we just saw and in a great high point—God remembered Noah. Everything had been building and building to this point. And now, in descending and mirrored fashion (remember the shape of the Flood story; like an upside down “V”), everything begins to resolve.
1 … And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, 4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.
You might remember the three key components of God’s Creation work: illuminating, forming, and filling. God did these things in order to make the world inhabitable by mankind. In unmistakably parallel language the Flood was a reversal of two of these creative works—forming and filling. Through the Flood God caused creation to revert back to its original state of disorder and emptiness. In His judgment He returned the earth to barren chaos. All of that happened in chapter 7. Again, the very beginning of chapter 8 marks the climax and turning point. Throughout the rest of chapter 8, then, we find a reversal of God’s reversal. That is, if chapter 7 is an undoing of God’s creative work, chapter 8 is a redoing. If chapter 7 describes an un-creation, chapter 8 describes a re-creation.
We find out in this passage that the water fountains and windows that were opened in chapter 7 (to cause the Flood) are closed again in 8. (to stop the Flood) Likewise, the water that filled the earth in 7 dried up in 8. And all of this, once again, was according to the hand of God as He restored with His sovereign mercy what He brought about with His sovereign justice.
Eventually the waters receded enough for the ark to come to rest on the top of a newly exposed mountain (4). From there Noah and his arkmates needed to wait until more of the water dried up. In order to find out whether or not that had happened, from his ark perch on the top of Mount Ararat (which is sort of a funny picture if you think about it), Noah sent out birds to see if they would find dry ground (7, 8, 10). After a few tries over the course of a few weeks, eventually Noah discovered that the earth had in fact dried out (14).
Before moving on to the next scene, I want to make mention of something important. As the NT makes the connection between the flood waters and baptism (1 Peter 3:20-21), we cannot miss the symbolism in Noah’s sending out of dove—the very same animal that represented the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ baptism. Again, this is just another wonderful example of the fact that the bible is a single story of redemption. Though many different men wrote the words of the bible down over the course of many centuries, it is a single story. It is a single story that was/is inspired by God to tell of the saving work of God through Jesus Christ. Don’t miss this, Grace. What a story! Who is like our God?!
God remembered Noah and according to His mercy, brought Noah and those in him through the flood.
GOD’S COMMAND TO GO OUT FROM THE ARK (15-19)
That brings us to the second scene of this chapter. It’s found in vs.15-19. Knowing now that the earth was dry, what would become of Noah and his companions? What would happen next?
15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh- birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth- that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.
In short, God commanded Noah to come out of the ark. After around a year on the boat those must have been very welcomed words indeed. “Go out from the ark,” Noah. Behold, I have made all things new. I have prepared for you once again an earth that is suitable for mankind. And in that we see another aspect of God’s re-creation. That is, in this passage, in this second scene, we see that God had again ordered/formed the earth for man. All that was left, then, was to refill it. And that is exactly what God commanded Noah and his kin to do. The filling-creation language rings out for a second time, “Be fruitful and multiply on the earth” (17).
And again, Noah obeyed; he did all that the LORD commanded him. And in this short scene we also find another part of the descending, mirrored shape of the Flood story. Where God commanded Noah, his family, and all the animals to enter the ark in 7:1-9, here he commands the same band to exit the ark. Again, God’s people are meant to see and savor the wisdom and intentionality and kindness of God in this.
God remembered Noah and brought him out of the ark.
NEW LIFE ON DRY LAND (20-22)
And that brings us to the final, shortest, and most applicable scene. As the first scene ended the earth had dried but we were left wondering what would happen next. As the second scene ended God had called Noah to exit the ark and begin filling the earth but we were left wondering what Noah would do. Before we look at what Noah did, however, I invite you to first consider what you would do. What do you think would have been your first act outside of the ark?
Noah’s Response: Faithful Worship
Have you ever been on a long backpacking or camping trip? Or, maybe you’ve been on an extended mission trip to an impoverished part of the world. Or, perhaps in some other way you have experienced a longer time where getting the basics of life (like food and water) were a challenge and extras (like ice or sugar or flush toilets) were entirely gone.
If so, what was the first thing you did once you got back to “civilization”? After a mere 5 day backcountry trip on Isle Royal last summer the boys and I felt like Esau once we got back into town…we might have sold one of our limbs to eat and drink at a restaurant. I don’t know that I’ve ever tasted something as good as the pizza I ate that night (yes, as the whole pizza I ate that night).
Let me come at this from another angle for a minute. Consider the last time you witnessed real suffering and death. Consider your sadness and grief and anguish. Typically when I’ve been in that kind of situation I am filled with a sense of weightiness, soberness, and sadness. It’s hard to smile. It’s hard to summon joy. Typically, for me, this often involves getting stuck in my own head and wandering a bit aimlessly.
For Noah, both of these were combined. He had been on a boat for around a year surrounded by animals and without any of the comforts of civilization. On top of that he spent the year on the boat knowing of the utter destruction that was happening below him the entire time. For Noah it was like hiking the Appalachian Trail end to end to end while knowing that the entire rest of the world was being killed while he did it.
Again, if you think about it, this is truly an exceptional moment. Noah had been deprived of virtually every worldly pleasure while all of the rest of the world had been wiped out. Other than Jesus when He took on God’s wrath on the cross, no human has ever witnessed the severe justice of God like Noah did in this story.
So what would Noah do when he finally got off the boat? Would he run to the nearest DQ to get a large blizzard to break his fast or would he put on sack clothes and ashes to mourn the death around him. Well, as you know, he did neither. We find out in v.20 that the first thing Noah did was worship God.
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.
What a remarkable response. He did not rush to find some type of worldly pleasure and he didn’t wallow in sadness. As we would expect from a man with God’s favor, a truly righteous man, Noah’s first act on dry ground was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice to God in worship. God’s sacrificial rules had not been given yet, but somehow Noah knew what to do to please God. I love how one commentator put it…
“The whole burnt offering represented the worshiper’s total surrendering and dedication to the Lord…The people of God were to be a worshiping people, offering to their God the praise of their lips and the best of their possessions” (Ross, CB, 197).
For the Israelites who were first given Genesis on the edge of the Promised Land, altars and sacrifices would have been absolutely familiar as God’s prescribed response. For Noah, though, who had not yet been given God’s instructions, it was simply the natural outworking of a heart that lived in and for the pleasure of God.
Grace, notice the words of the text…”Noah took some of every clean animal…”. That’s all there were. There were only “some” of every kind of animal. Noah didn’t pout, he worshiped. Noah didn’t allow bitterness to build, he built an altar. Noah didn’t hold back his best, he set it on fire before God. And so must we. This is the very pattern of life that God has called us to. Like Noah, we are to take the grace of God—which he pours out on us continually—and turn it back to God in worship.
Would you please take a minute, then, and do three things right now? Would you pray that God would open your eyes to the countless blessings that He has given you and is giving your right now as He “remembers” you? Second, would you write down any of God’s blessings that He draws to your mind and praise God for them? And third, would you ask God for the grace to live your life primarily in light of that ever-growing list? That is, would you, as Paul charges in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ask God to help you live every minute of every day mainly in gratitude for the countless undeserved acts of God’s blessing you have received, are receiving, and are promised to receive eternally in Jesus?
God’s Response: Covenant Promises
All of that leaves us with one final question that this text answers. How would God respond to such an act? What would God do in light of Noah’s burnt offering—sacrificing many (most?) of the animals that had been on the ark to preserve the species?
21 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. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
God accepted Noah’s offering and worship. It brought God pleasure.
At the beginning of this sermon I mentioned that when you are in distress the greatest words you could ever hear are “God remembered” you. Here we find the greatest words you can hear when you come before God in worship: it is a “pleasing aroma” to God. Strive for this, Grace. Don’t allow yourself to look for or desire anything different or anything less than the pleasure of God. God’s remembrance in your pain and God’s pleasure in your worship are the highest possible blessings. Are they what you are most after? Are they your highest desire?
What’s more, in His pleasure, God made a promise (a covenant) with Himself and Noah. He promised to never again curse the ground, never again strike down every living creature in this manner, and never again interrupt the seasons like that. The text makes clear that this was not because God expected mankind to get it right this time (“for the intention of man’s heart is [still] evil from his youth”). Again, it was God’s good pleasure alone that drove him to make such a commitment. In short, God promised a certain kind of undeserved, but everlasting mercy to all mankind through Noah for God’s own glory.
God remembered Noah and accepted his worship and made an everlasting promise with him.
What a sweet passage this is. It is a passage of spring. Winter had passed and new life was about to come forth. If you are hearing this and are not a Christian, I want to end by making something clear to you. While you currently stand in the same judgment of God that the flooded world did—as does everyone apart from turning to God in Jesus—God offers you the same grace and mercy that Noah received. That is, while you are right now (whether you know it or not) stuck in the devastating effects of your sin, God offers to rescue you from them—to love you and forgive you and restore you. He will do this not because you deserve it but because He is a kind and gracious God. And as such He placed the penalty for every sin for everyone who would trust in Him on Jesus, on the cross. Therefore, whatever form your winter has taken right now, God offers you spring (new life, new growth, new hope) in Jesus if you will turn to Him in faith. May it be so. Amen.