Genesis 8

Opening discussion:

Every day is a gift from God. Discuss.

Context

Chapter 7 ends with an eerie and foreboding feeling. Everything on the face of the earth is destroyed. Everything that has breath! Only a boat remains containing Noah and his family. Chapter 7 Verse 23 takes us from an aerial view of the world in disaster and zooms all the way into the ark that is floating on water for 150 days. We are with Noah. Waiting in the dark.

Observation

Structure

8:1-5 – God remembered Noah

8:6-14 – Noah checks the weather

8:15-22 – A new start

8:1-5 – God remembered Noah

“But God remembered…” Could God have forgotten? This is not a celebration on what God is capable of doing but a moment of thankfulness that God is committed. He made a covenant with Noah in 6:18 – a promise. With the backdrop of world annihilation, God remembered Noah – this ‘little’ man in this ‘little’ boat, bobbing up and down with nowhere to go but wait – God remembered him. While we can take comfort in this, we first thank God that he keeps his covenant with Noah and then work out what covenant can we bank on God remembering that helps us. We can sit defenselessly in the bed that we have made but can thank God that he remembers his covenant made to the world that all who put their trust in Him through Christ will be saved.

“…Noah and all the wild animals and…” Here (Verse 1) and in Verse 17 and 19, we are reminded that the covenant with Noah included all those who God had ordained to be on the ark. Chapter 7 included the repetition of all the animals. We see that God doesn’t simply remember something, but he remembers everything. This plan for salvation was fully thought through and God will see it happen.

“…and he sent a wind…” We remember that the weather didn’t just get better, but God sent a wind. It is perfectly helpful to balance the laws of nature with the command of God. He made everything. Jesus calmed a storm. In late January 2020, when the rains came down and receded the Summer bushfires, it was not visible as a miracle – something that sits opposed to predictable science – and yet we can give thanks and praise to God for his mercy. God enacted the flood and God caused it to cease. The process of withdrawing the waters included a wind which was sent. “…the floodgates of the heavens had been closed…” Same deal. A perfectly natural thing to happen and yet it is God who is to be thanked.

“…on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.” The text is so specific about the timeline and the general geography of the earth that we must see this as historic. Cultures across our globe have legendary flood stories which we may or may not trace back to this one, but the bible contains a story with dates preserved in it. This is not just myths and legends but a passed down account of how long this happened. You can almost imagine the wall inside the ark where Noah scratched a tally of the days. But, the geography is vague enough that we don’t know which mountain it landed on. Again, would it not have been that Noah would pull that thing apart and reused what he could rather than leave it for history? The fact that this happened is preserved, but the geography is lost – and thank God for that or else we’d have a shrine built on it.

8:1-5 gives us God’s perspective of the event described by the narrator. God remembered and God brought the ark to rest back on the ground. Next, we watch what Noah does.

8:6-14 – Noah checks the weather

“After forty days Noah…” We were told it had rained for forty days and nights (7:12). Now that the rain stopped and the tops of mountains became visible, Noah waited 40 days before doing some biological experiments.

“…after forty days Noah opened a window…” lol

“…he made in the ark and sent out a raven…” These verses focus on what Noah plans to do. The ark zoo was all God’s plan and the boat and its contents are all at the mercy of God and yet, Noah works within his boundaries to investigate. I think we see the trust and faith of Noah overlaid with the thoughtfulness and proactive freedom to think and plan. We are not told to simply believe God or have faith but to walk by faith. We see that Noah observes what he needs to, and gets the answer he wants, but still waits for God to tell him it’s time.

“He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark.” Isn’t that a beautiful image of Noah’s tenderness. A man who built a huge vessel and bore the challenges that were upon him, also receives a dove and brings it back into shelter. Given this amount of detail compared to the vast absence of detail in all that Noah did, I take it that we have a little glimpse at the tenderness of this man – perhaps even to reflect on the tenderness of God?

“By the twenty-seventh day….the earth was completely dry.” After these human experiments, Noah could attest that the earth was dry and ready to be reused. But he didn’t leave the ark until God had said. We see the narrator’s perspective of the flood as the hand of God (to open and close the waters) and the perspective of Noah is that he is being saved by God and not himself. It is one thing to observe the signs, and another to wait on the Lord.

8:15-22 – A new start

“Then God said to Noah…” The two main characters will now meet. God initiates the next move.

“Bring out every kind…” The same long explanation of all the different types of creatures is repeated like we saw in Chapters 6 and 7 because this is all part of the same plan. The whole creation is on view but all who were promised to be saved were saved.

“…be fruitful and increase in number on it.” We get the same plan as the beginning of creation – to multiply.

“So Noah came out, together with…” The repetition is there to take us all the way to the full end of salvation. Not a single part of God’s promise is forgotten or a failure. God is a promise keeper.

“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord…” God doesn’t get a statue. The ark is not praised. The Lord who speaks and wills and promises and does – he is worshipped. Rather than hoard his goods, Noah sacrifices the very things that were planned for sacrifice. Prior to the flood, Noah was known as a man of righteousness – he lived a life trusting God. Post the flood, the first thing he is recorded to do is offer a sacrifice of dedication to the LORD in response to salvation. 

“The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma…” God has no nose, of course. Exodus 29:18, 25; Leviticus 1:9, 13 and more use the same language. The act of worship is a demonstration of our dedication to God and the bible uses this language of sweet smell to directly link the act with the response from God. The bible warrants sacrifice. 

“Never again will I curse the ground…” The ground was cursed in Gen 3:17. This promise does not seem to undo this original curse but is a promise linked to what follows in Verse 21.

“…even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” God knows that a flood is not going to change the human heart. What we need, is not an external washing or genocide but for our hearts to be washed. It’s not a water ritual that will change us, but the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. Please note that children don’t need to be taught to be evil. 

“As long as the earth endures…day and night will never cease.” The seasons of the earth will keep their rhythm like the beating heart of every human – until one day it will stop. Floods and fires and viruses will come and go but this world remains in God’s hands until it is time for the world to pass away. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the word of the Lord stands forever. The predictability of the weather is only so by the grace of God.

Meaning

Our days are in God’s hands. We may observe the world and make rational decisions about each and every day, but the ultimate end is in his power and not ours. Noah observed the world around him and bowed down and worshipped. Every day is a gift from God. And salvation belongs to our God.

Application

Application A: The place of weather forecasts. Noah was quite clever in sending a raven out who is a robust bird before sending out the gentler creature of the dove. His approach was wise. But all of our sciences are both clever and short-sighted. That is, we can forecast the weather and we can do many great wonders within our means through science, research and development – but we cannot stop death, we cannot tell a storm to stop and we cannot save ourselves. Noah used his head but also waited on the LORD. We can learn from Noah to be both practical and walk by faith.

Application B: God remembers. It is not a miracle for God to remember but it is for us. We will quickly forget the love and mercy of God. Especially when we begin to presume on his mercies. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23.

Application C: Noah was saved by a narrow path. Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it. The narrow gate is Jesus. All who fail to go through him and him alone, will not be saved but destroyed.