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Sermon preached on Genesis 8 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 05/14/2023 in Petaluma, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
We ended last week with Noah and his family saved from the Flood’s destruction that had destroyed all humans and all the land and air creatures. Only Noah and his family and the animals on the Ark survived. Yet, we finished with them still on the Ark floating on the waters, with the waters still covering all the face of the earth. They were already saved but not yet saved. The old world had been destroyed, but there was not yet a new world for them to come into. So then, today, we’ll first observe the receding waters that result in a new creation. Second, we’ll consider the patience that they had to have during this time. Third, we will see Noah build and altar and worship when they finally disembark the Ark.
Let’s begin then with observing the receding waters and the resulting new creation. I mentioned previously that the Flood narratives describes the whole Flood ordeal as a sort of de-creation and then re-creation. Last week we studied the de-creation with the waters rising and rising until they finally prevailed, covered, the whole earth. Now we turn to see the account of re-creation as the waters begin to reside. So then, picking up in verse 1, we see the re-creation theme begin with the picture of a world covered in water, and God then causing a wind to blow over the face of the waters. You may recall that in Hebrew, the word for Spirit and wind are the same. So here, you have a wind blowing over an earth covered with water, which makes us think back to Genesis 1:2 where after the initial formation of the world there was the Spirit hovering over a watery, formless, earth. So already, Genesis 8, has set us up properly to think in re-creation imagery. Indeed, like we saw last week that the Flood was described as a de-creative event that reversed the days of creation from Genesis 1, so too we see the reverse happening here.
So then, we come to verse 2 and see that it says that the fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were closed. Remember, last week we saw that the waters that flooded the earth came from two places, from both rain, and from the ground. Verse 2 says that those sources stopped. It stopped raining. The springs of gushing water from the ground ceased. In other words, this reprises day 2 of the Genesis 1 creation week. That is when God separated the waters from the waters, so that there was a distinction between the water up in the clouds of the sky and the waters that were on the earth. The separations of those two waters had in a sense been obscured in the Flood. But now those two sets of waters are being restrained again. Day 2 the creation week has been revisited.
Then you come to verses 4 and 5 here and see the repeated description of the waters abating and abating. You almost get the imagery of a bathtub with the stopper pulled and the water is slowly draining out. So, the result is that eventually dry land begins to reappear. It causes the Ark to rest – the word for Noah – the Ark “noahs” on one of the mountain peaks of Ararat. The tops of the mountains are beginning to be seen. In other words, this reprises day 3 of the Genesis 1 creation week. Similarly, we read in verse 11 about the olive leaf being returned in the doves’ mouth which reminds us as well of day 3 of creation when God made vegetation. So then, dry land and vegetation begin to reappear.
Then think of these birds that Noah is sending out to test the conditions. Prior to this, all the birds had been blotted out from the face of the earth. Now, Noah begins to send birds into the air again. In other words, this reprises day 5 of the original creation week. That is when God had made the birds of the air. The bulk of the birds will yet be released from the Ark, but for now, already there began to be birds in the air again.
Then you have in verses 16-19 the Ark empties and in addition to the birds we just mentioned, you have all the land animals and humans spill out onto the dry land. In other words, day 6 of creation is being reprised. Verse 19 summarizes this nicely saying, “Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.”
So then, God re-created the world and re-filled the earth, after he had blotted everything out of it and had destroyed it by water. After the judgment of the Flood, that destroyed the sinners and the old world, Noah and his family disembark onto a new world, a new creation. I’ve said the Flood teaches us a lot of eschatology by showing us types of the things to come at the end. We see here today’s idea of a new creation for God’s people. The new creation for Noah and family is a type of the final new creation that God’s people will enjoy at the end this age. After Jesus returns, there will be a final day of judgment, a judgment by fire, followed by God’s saved elect being ushered into a new glorious creation that we will enjoy for eternity.
So then, as we’ve recently read in 2 Peter 3, the Flood helps us to understand a little bit better of the relationship of our current earth with what God will bring in the end when he ushers in the new creation. You see, at points in Scripture you see language that God will in the end destroy this world by fire and that he will then make a new heavens and a new earth. We might mistakenly think that this is describing the complete obliteration from existence of this current earth with it being replaced with something completely new and different. But that same sort of language is used, for example, in 2 Peter 3 to describe what happened at Flood of Noah’s day. 2 Peter 3 speaks of the pre-Flood world as the world that once was, and how that world perished by water. 2 Peter 3 speaks in contrast to our world today as a different world than what existed back then before the Flood. But of course, as we study here in Genesis we see how that happened. It wasn’t that the old world was obliterated and replaced with a completely new one. No, the old world was radically transformed through climactic waters into something so new and so different that it could be described as a different world. There is a sort of redemption and renovation of the old into something new. And that is how Romans 8 speaks of our future too. At the end, our current world will be even more radically transformed through the climactic fire of God’s judgment that it will be so changed that it can be truly described as a new creation. By analogy, our own resurrection bodies will also have some connection with our old original bodies yet still a radically new creation and transformation from the old.
Let us turn now to our second point to step back and consider the patience that Noah and his family had to have during this time. As I began, I pointed out that there was quite a gap between the Flood’s destruction and then their eventual disembarking the Ark onto the safety of dry land. The whole ordeal from start to finish was about a year’s time in the Ark. Last chapter we saw the rain fell for 40 days, and then prevailed, covering the whole earth, until the 150th day. That is when God declared everything destroyed and dead. But they weren’t even quite at the halfway mark yet in terms of their time on the Ark. That means it was still much longer while they were in the Ark floating on the water and waiting to exit the Ark.
And look how Noah eventually filled his time. He sends these birds out to test the waters, so to speak. Realize what that is. That is prudence. Apparently, up there in the Ark, he’s not really able to tell very well the conditions of the land. So, he tries to determine if it is safe to go back out on the land. He is staying productive during his time of patient waiting with these birds. But it is here that we can notice something interesting. We see that even after the dove proves to Noah that the waters had subsided, he still didn’t get of the Ark for a couple more months. He waited until God spoke to him and told him to get off the Ark. But what that helps us to recognize is that there is no record here of God saying anything to Noah the entire time he is on the Ark. Before the Flood, we see God talking to Noah. God then tells Noah when to board the Ark. And now here in verse 15, God again speaks to Noah to tell him to get off the Ark. But in between, while they are on the Ark for that year, there is radio silence from God, at least as recorded. I could imagine the uncertainty of that season. I could imagine how that would test Noah’s faith. Yet, we see him acting in prudence with the birds even while he waited on God for the completion of his salvation.
What lesson can we draw from all the patience and waiting that Noah had to do on that Ark? What lesson we can learn from the fact that Noah is saved from the Flood but such a long time happens before that salvation is complete and they can exit the Ark? Well, Moses seemed to subtly draw a truth out of this when he recorded in Exodus 14 about the Red Sea crossing. Israel had been saved from Egyptian slavery. They had left Egypt, but there were many miles to cross before they could get from Egypt to their home in the Promised Land. And as they approached the Red Sea, the Egyptians started to chase after them to capture them and take them back. But God sent a wind to make the sea into dry land. The language there is the same kind of language we see here with the wind and the drying out of the Flood waters to bring back the dry land. What’s the point? Noah had been saved but not yet fully saved, and that would be something the later Israelites could relate to at the time of the Exodus, when Moses was compiling Genesis. During Moses’ day, Israel would be saved from Egypt but it would still be a long time before they finally got to enter into and take possession of the Promised Land. The Red Sea crossing actually was still just the beginning of a 40 some year period of waiting before they could come into their new creation of sorts. Israel would be already saved and not yet saved, already saved from Egypt but not yet saved into their final resting place.
Sound familiar? This is our story today as Christians. We have already been saved from the condemnation of death due to our sin. We’ve already been delivered from this old world of wickedness. We’ve already been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. We’ve already been saved from that old man of death. But our salvation is not yet fully complete. We’ve not yet been brought into that new creation where we will enjoy everlasting life in our glorified bodies and in a world no longer under God’s curse. Until then we have to be patient. Until then we have to live in faith. Until then is a time of testing and tribulation. But in hope, we wait for God to finish our salvation when Christ returns and brings us into the new creation. And we know our hope will not be in vain, even as it wasn’t in vain for Noah.
That leads us to our third point for today to consider Noah building an altar after finally exiting the Ark. This is in verses 20-22. I would note that these verses are a hinge. They serve as the final section on the Flood narrative, and simultaneously serve as the first section of the post-Flood narrative which we’ll study more next week about the Noahic covenant and more. So then, as Noah and family exit the Ark, they respond in worship by building this altar. It serves as the complement to the start of the Flood narrative which began with Noah building an Ark. Now the narrative ends with Noah building an altar.
Of course, for Noah to build an altar and offer these sacrifices to God is an act of worship. And think with me again of that creation week of Genesis 1. It ended after the six days of creation with a seventh day that was declared to be a holy day of rest. This altar worship as they exit the altar is a sort of reprise of that day 7 of the creation week. Here, Noah, whose name means rest, exits the Ark and comes to rest in the new creation God had just finished re-creating. And so, he immediately consecrates the world by building and Ark and worshipping God. And so just as we saw back in Genesis 1 and 2 that God rested in his finished work, and that it was like God could finally move in and enjoy his creation, so too, here, Noah, moves in and rejoices with God in his finished world that God has now completed remaking. God has redeemed the world into a new creation and Noah worships God in joy of his salvation into it. Worship and the Sabbath rest are closely related and are closely connected to God’s work of both creation and redemption.
Here we see at least part of the reason why God had Noah bring along so many clean animals. God had rightly made provisions for his own worship. God calls us to worship him, so we should not be surprised that God’s instructions to Noah included room for the Regulative Principle of Worship to still be honored, that clean animals, and not just any animals, would be offered to him in worship. This is a reminder, by the way, that Noah and his family were still sinful creatures who needed atonement for their sins too.
So then, as the offering is made, God is said to be pleased with the aroma. There’s an interesting Hebrew word usage here where the aroma might be translated as a rest-inducing aroma, in other words, a “noah” inducing aroma. While this is surely anthropomorphic, we are taught here that right worship is pleasing to God. We also learn here a little bit about the dialogical nature of worship, as we see God responding to Noah’s offering with this description of his pleasure. As an aside, I remember how Paul says in 2 Cor. 2:15 that Christians are the aroma of Christ to God. The sacrifice of Christ was pleasing to God, and if we are in Christ by faith, we have been sacrificed with Christ, a pleasing, rest-induced, aroma to God.
Returning to Noah, God then further responds to his worship with the promise of vs 21 saying, “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. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” God’s intention and meaning here will be further explained and clarified next chapter. What we’ll find next week is that God is specifically saying here that he will not curse the ground so as to bring another flood to kill off all sinful humanity like he did here, or so disrupt the ordinary natural processes of this world like he did with the Flood. What this must not mean is that God is lifting the general curse upon the world that he gave back in Genesis 3. But he is promising to generally preserve humanity and the natural order of this world, as long as this world exists.
Yet, while God’s promise in verse 21 is meant to be a positive thing, there is something also sad embedded in there. God acknowledges, in passing, the sinfulness of humanity as an ongoing reality. Indeed, the Flood did not wipe out the sinfulness of man. It may have wiped out a large amount of sinful men, but it did not wipe out the sin from the men who remained. Indeed, sin lived on after the Flood. There was yet need for a better cleansing for God’s elect.
And so stepping back, we see here with the Flood there was a sort of cleaning of the earth, and a sort of lifting of divine curse, as Noah and family head into this new creation. But there was also sin and curse that remained. This causes us to look forward to the ultimate end of this creation. That ultimate new creation that God has promised will resolve all these problems. Revelation 21 and 22 tells us that there in the new heavens and the new earth there will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more curse, and even no more sin and no more sinners. Only us redeemed of the Lord whom he has perfected into righteous people. Oh how wonderful that day will be and how amazing that new creation will be.
In conclusion, we are reminded today that we have not yet entered into that final glory. We are already saved but not yet saved. But see how our passage began. God remembered Noah. That is covenantal language. While God’s people are in that time of the already and the not yet, we might be tempted to think that God has forgotten us. Maybe you’ve felt forgotten by God at times. But he has not forgotten us nor his covenantal promises of salvation. Like how God remembered Noah, God remembers Jesus. And thus, God does remember us in Jesus. Sometimes we need to be reminded of this. God has not forgotten us. We can have faith and hope knowing that he remembers us. We can be patiently waiting because we know he remembers us. And we’ve been reminded today how wonderful the new creation will be. Let us remember that even while we go through this time of testing and trial. In the end whether it be 40 days or 40 years or more of such a time of waiting, it will seem but momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory.
Copyright © 2022 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.