************ Sermon on Genesis 8:1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 31, 2011
A couple of years ago I came out of my office after the Christmas Day service. Some poor lady was standing in the middle of the empty parking lot. Looking confused. In their rush to get home and open presents her family had forgotten her. So there she was, left at church, with no ride, no cell phone, no one missing her. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been forgotten or abandoned? Remember how upset this made you?
Thankfully, God never forgets or abandons His children. However, you probably have felt forgotten by God at times. You pray and pray, but God doesn't answer. You read the Bible, but God keeps quiet. You attend church, but you get nothing out of it. You try to walk with God, but you don't feel His presence. Problem after problem shows up in your life and God doesn't seem to care. It seems as if God has forgotten you.
Do you think Noah felt this way? Do you think Noah felt like God had forgotten him? God told Noah He was going to send a flood (Gen 6:17). God told Noah to build an ark (Gen 6:14). So Noah built and Noah waited – for fifty or seventy or maybe even ninety years. Noah preached all this time (2 Pet 2:5) – and, as far as we can tell, his only converts were his own family. Did Noah ever think to himself: "When is the flood coming? When will my neighbors see I am preaching the truth? Has God forgotten me?"
Then God spoke again. Noah was told to come into the ark because of the coming flood. When the flood did come, this was not some gentle Spring shower. We are told that the springs of the great deep "burst forth" and the "floodgates" of the heavens were opened (Gen 7:11-12). No, the flood was not some gentle rain. Instead, think storm. Think thunder and lightning. Think hurricane. Think massive walls of water rushing down the hills and high-places. Think flash-flood. Think large, dangerous whirlpools. Think waves and wind. Think the ark being violently rocked back and forth. Everyone and everything on the ark must have feared for their lives. As this went on for forty days and forty nights, do you think Noah wondered, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
Finally the flood stopped. Everything on the earth was covered by water and every living thing on the face of the earth perished (Gen 7:20-21). At this point, Noah must have expected God to speak to him again. Yet, day followed day and month followed month with no communication from God. Six months passed. A year passed. Still no sound from God. Do you think Noah wondered about God's silence? "Has God forgotten me? How much longer will we be on the ark?"
Maybe you need assurance that God hasn't forgotten you. That's the point of Genesis 8. Listen to verse 1:
(Gen 8:1) But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.Not just Noah, but the animals too. We can certainly draw comfort from this. If His eye is on the sparrow, then His eye is certainly on you as well because you are worth more than many sparrows (cf Lk 12:6-7).
I God, in Faithfulness, Remembered Noah
A "God remembered Noah and all the wild animals ..." (Gen 8:1). This does not mean that God had forgotten Noah and all the animals. This does not imply that God got so busy with other things that Noah was out of sight and out of mind. This does not mean that God suddenly slapped His forehead and said, "Oh yeah, Noah! I forgot all about him on the ark!"
When the word "remember" is used in the Bible in connection with God, it usually implies God's merciful and saving action, that God is keeping His promises. So, when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, He "remembered Abraham" and brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the two cities (Gen 19:29). When Rachel cried and prayed for children, "God remembered Rachel" and opened her womb (Gen 30:22). When the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt, they groaned and cried out for help; God heard their groaning and He "remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob" (Ex 2:24; cf 6:5). When Hannah was unable to get pregnant she also cried and prayed for children and "the LORD remembered her" (1 Sam 1:19). When Mary became pregnant with Jesus through the operation of the Spirit, she sang a song to the Lord; she rejoiced that God has been "mindful [not the same as "remember" but very close] of the humble state of his servant" (Lk 1:48); and, she praised God for "remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever" (Lk 1:54-55). The penitent thief on the cross said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Lk 23:42). In every case, it is the same thing: when God remembers – usually in response to a prayer for help – God takes action on His promises.
So in Genesis 8, God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark. "Remember" points to God's faithfulness. From Noah's point-of-view, it may seem that God has forgotten. Perhaps God has been silent for a long, long time. But God will act in His time. He remembers. He doesn't forget. He is faithful. He is faithful to His promises. He is faithful to His people. He is faithful to the works of His hands.
B "God remembered Noah ..." (Gen 8:1). So what happens? What does God do? God "sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded" (Gen 8:1).
You should know that in the Hebrew the word for "wind" is also the word for "Spirit." Think about this. In the beginning, the earth was covered with water and the Spirit was there "hovering over the waters" (Gen 1:2). Now, after the flood we see the Spirit again – and, again, it is hovering over the waters. It is the Spirit Who makes the waters recede even as He made the waters recede in the beginning.
"God remembered Noah ..." What does God do? When it comes right down to it, God saved believing Noah and his family. Every living thing that moved on the earth perished in the flood. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark (cf Gen 7:21-23).
As I said the last couple of weeks, the ark was not a luxury cruise liner. It was crowded, dark, smelly, and noisy. Noah and his family did not sit down to a five-star meal at the captain's table every night; instead, every night it was the same old thing: dried-out fruit, nuts, and vegetables. Yet, those on board the ark were safe.
God may have been silent as the ark bobbed on the water. God may have been silent as the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. God may have been silent during the long days of waiting for the flood-waters to recede. God may have been silent when first a raven and then, three times, a dove were sent out from the ark in search of dry ground. God may have been silent but Noah and his family knew two things for sure: it was God's electing grace that put them into the ark and it was God's electing grace that kept them safe in the ark. In the same way, even if God seems silent or absent for a moment, we can be sure we are safe in Christ.
All too often I come across people who don't "feel" saved, Who feel that God is absent from them. Well, let me ask, is it our feelings that save us or is it the cross of Christ? Was Noah saved because he felt close to God or was Noah saved by God's grace? You know the answer: it is not our feelings that save us. We are saved only by God's electing grace. We are saved because of God's faithfulness to His promises.
When it seems that God has forgotten you, think about your salvation in Christ. That's all the proof you need that God remembers you.
"God remembered Noah ..." (Gen 8:1). Notice what our text does NOT say. Our text does not say God remembered Noah's righteousness (cf Gen 6:9; 7:1). Our text does not say God remembered Noah's obedience (cf Gen 6:22; 7:5). For if that was the case, then salvation is not by grace but by works. "God remembered Noah ..." Out of grace. Because everything else has failed. Because nothing else will do. And, God remembers us out of grace!
C "God remembered Noah ..." (Gen 8:1). Notice what this means for Noah's future as we hear God's promise as recorded at the end of Genesis 8:
(Gen 8:21) "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done."God promises to never again destroy all life on the earth.
"Never again will I curse the ground because of man ..." (Gen 8:21). Notice, God can and God should curse the ground because nothing has changed! The flood has come and gone but as far as man's heart is concerned, nothing has changed. Man's heart after the flood is exactly the same as it was before the flood. Man's heart remains fallen. Man's heart remains depraved. From childhood on man is a sinner deserving only judgment. "Every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood" (Gen 8:21). Every inclination: not a few inclinations, not some, not many, not most, but EVERY. In other words, total depravity. "From childhood" – that is, man is conceived and born in sin. In other words, man is born with original sin.
Do you hear what God is saying about man? Man is helpless. Man is hopeless. Man is not able to change himself. Man is not able to save himself. Man desperately needs the grace of God. So grace is what God gives to an undeserving mankind. Grace is what God gives to a mankind that deserves only judgment.
"Never again will I curse the ground because of man ..." (Gen 8:21). How relieved do you think this must have made Noah? After all, he has just lived through God's judgment upon a wicked earth. So, knowing he was a sinner, wouldn't Noah feel a bit apprehensive, wondering when God will strike again, wondering when God will wipe out the earth again?
I want you to notice that God's promise is unconditional. It doesn't depend on Noah's obedience. It doesn't depend on Noah's righteousness. It doesn't depend on Noah's sacrifice. God promises to spare the ground in spite of man's sin. God promises to not send another flood even though man's heart remains unchanged.
God remembers. God is faithful. So, deliverance from God's judgment depends on God's faithfulness. Deliverance from God's judgment does NOT depend on my faithfulness. Rather, it is all of grace – God's marvelous, beautiful, sovereign, electing, amazing grace.
D "God remembered Noah ..." (Gen 8:1). Notice what this means for Noah's present:
(Gen 8:22) "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."God promises that the cycle of the seasons will continue "as long as the earth endures." We know that someday the day of the Lord will come. At that time, "the earth and everything in it will be laid bare" (2 Pet 3:10). Then the very elements will disintegrate and all the effects of the curse will be removed before the elements are brought together again (cf Rev 21:1-5; 22:3; Rom 8:21). Until that day, however, the cycle of the seasons will continue.
"Seedtime and harvest ... will never cease" (Gen 8:22). What we see here is another instance of what is called God's "common grace." God's common grace is made up of those benefits and blessings given to all mankind, whether or not they have faith. These blessings include not just the promise of seedtime and harvest but also such things as being made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), sunshine and rain (Mt 5:45), life (Acts 17:28), governing authorities to restrain evil (Rom 13:1-7), and the call of the Gospel to repent and believe (Mt 28:18-20).
II Noah Remembered God
A "God remembered Noah ..." (Gen 8:1). But, it also becomes clear that Noah remembered God.
So, what does Noah do after a year in a crowded, dark, smelly, noisy ark? I am sure he, and his family, had a bad case of cabin fever. Do you remember the movie "Water World"? The premise is that the polar ice caps have melted and the earth is covered with water and man lives and dies on ships and boats and rafts and empty oil tankers. The star of the show is given a map to the one place that is still above water. The movie depicts his search, his desperate search, for dry land.
Does Noah become desperate after a year on the ark? Scripture presents a Noah who patiently and obediently waits upon the Lord to give the word. So, we see Noah sending out a raven. But ravens are flesh eaters. It flew back and forth, landing on and feeding from floating carcasses, but it never returned to the ark. At least Noah knew that some things were still normal. Next Noah released the dove. Doves want a clean, dry place to land. Not finding such a place, the dove returned. Noah waited seven days and tried again. This time the dove returned with an olive leaf. Noah waited another seven days, sent out the dove for a third time, and this time it did not return. Still Noah waited. Finally, after 370+ days on the ark, God spoke again and told Noah to come out of the ark. Only then did Noah leave the ark.
God had shut Noah in – remember (Gen 7:16)?! So only God can bring Noah out. Noah kept waiting on God even when God appeared to be silent. Noah kept waiting on God even when every inclination was to get off the ark as soon as possible.
Like young children, we want everything instantly. We want prayers answered like NOW. We want questions answered NOW. We want our problems solved NOW. But sometimes God makes us wait because that is how God shapes us and prepares us for eternity.
Noah waited on God. And so should we. Obedience during those times God doesn't seem to respond is one of the indicators that shows the direction of our heart. If God has allowed difficulty and hardship into your life, be like Noah and wait upon Him patiently and obediently.
B But there is more. Once Noah got off the ark, he made an altar and sacrificed burnt offerings upon it. Wouldn't you think that Noah had a thousand other things to do? He had to build a home. He had to look after the cattle. He had to free the wild animals. He had to move necessary possessions off the ark. He had to start a garden. He had to clean the ark. He had to build some kind of protection from the wild animals who were now enemies instead of friends (cf Gen 9:2). And yet, Noah took the time to remember the Lord by building an altar and offering sacrifices.
What did Noah offer? Some of all the clean animals that were on the ark with him. At the very least, this meant one-seventh of all the clean animals on the ark. At the very most, this meant all the clean animals except for one pair of each species. Whatever Noah offered, it was a mighty, big offering. It involved lots of blood, lots of fire, lots of smoke, lots of burning flesh. Noah offered to God a large part of what he needed to stay alive in the new world.
And, we are told, the Lord smelled the sacrifice and it was a "pleasing aroma" (Gen 8:21). Does this sound at all familiar? It should. Because that is what Paul says about the sacrifice of Christ. Listen to what Paul writes to the church at Ephesus:
(Eph 5:2) ... Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.Do you hear the similarity? Christ is a pleasing aroma, a fragrant offering, to God.
The underlying message is that the only way for sinful Noah to approach God is through the shedding of blood. Not because God is a blood-thirsty tyrant. Not because God loves the smell of a T-bone steak. But because atonement must be made for sin. The only atoning sacrifice acceptable to God is the sacrifice of His one and only Son. Noah's sacrifice finds fulfilment in Christ and Noah's sacrifice points forward to Christ.
Like Noah, our only path to God is through the pleasing aroma of Christ's sacrifice.
At times all of God's people have felt abandoned by God. There was a time when the children of Israel felt that way. Do you remember what Isaiah wrote?
(Is 49:14-15) But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." (15) [God's response:] "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!"God doesn't forget. God remembers. God remembers His children. God remembers His children by saving them in Christ.
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