January 22, 2017

“God remembered Noah, and every living thing … and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided … then the ark rested … on the mountains of Ararat” (Gen. 8:1-4). Noah and his party were about to embark on an exciting new experience of discovery. But they were aware that all they had was directly attributable to the gracious intervention of God. This was underlined by God’s remembering of them. They were not likely to forget, either, that they had escaped the judgment of God only because the judgment had been meted out in such a way that they had not been destroyed by it. They had gone through the same things that their contemporaries had experienced except that they had been sheltered under the ark of God’s providing, and it was at His command that “the waters subsided. The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained” (vv. 1-2).

These benefits accrued to Noah through faith and obedience which he had exercised over many years and which he continued to exercise as the ark grounded and the waters receded. He seemed to have been in no great hurry to open the window and look out at the new environment in which he and his family had arrived. Patiently he continued his life of faith and his careful attention to all that God had instructed him to do. It was thus that he entered the new creation. Nothing has changed for those who, today, experience a similar but far greater salvation. Paul describes the person who is in Christ as: “a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Peter makes even more explicit use of Noah’s story to make a similar point in 1 Peter 3:20-22. In the same way that Noah sheltered in the ark so we shelter from the wrath of God in Christ and find ourselves raised into newness of life in Him in much the same way that Noah and his family found themselves in the new world.


Noah could have settled down in the ark and rejoiced in the fact that he had survived the wrath of God. But the ark might have been getting a little musty by this time with all those animals around the place! So he decided to start enjoying his new situation rather than rejoicing in his past experience. There is a lesson here for many of God’s people!

He shows us “the excitement of exploration.” Utilizing the resources he had available, in this case a raven and a dove, Noah started his scientific exploration of the new creation. Modern man has a tendency to think that he is smart and all his forebears were just chugging along waiting for modern man to appear on the scene and get everything together. But Noah certainly knew what he was doing. It would be a long time before Pavlov would experiment with his dogs and Skinner with his pigeons, but Noah knew how to use animals to discover his world. It would be many centuries before modern man would articulate the “scientific method,” but Noah showed that he understood how to make a hypothesis, how to experiment, and how to come to a conclusion. There was no way that he was going to trust himself to the new post-flood environment without the kind of evidence that would assure him it was time to move. This in no way reflected on his faith any more than being a man of faith suggests that rational inquiry is out of order.

Noah dispatched the raven “which kept going to and fro until the waters had dried up from the earth” (Gen. 8:7). With all the death around, the raven found plenty to occupy itself so “He also sent out from himself a dove … but the dove found no resting place … and she returned … So he put out his hand and took her, and drew her into the ark to himself” (vv. 8-9). He now knew that a raven could survive outside the ark and a dove could not so he drew his conclusions from that data. After a week he dispatched the dove again and this time she returned bearing the well-known olive branch. Now “Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth” (v. 11). After another week the dove flew another mission from which she did not return and Noah had all the information he needed so he “removed the covering of the ark” (v. 13). Noah, the man of faith and obedience, was also a man of resourcefulness and intelligence which he channeled into a thorough exploration of all that God had for him.

The excitement Noah experienced was tempered with “the discipline of delay.” While scholars do not agree on the exact duration of the flood it is reasonable to assume that from the time Noah and family boarded the ark to the moment of disembarkation, approximately one year had elapsed. On the one hand this may seem a short time for all the water to drain away (if the flood was universal and covered Mt. Everest the drain off rate would be in excess of well over 100 feet per day!), but for Noah sitting in the ark wondering what was going on outside it must have seemed an interminable amount of time. Yet he showed great patience as he methodically went about his work trusting the God who had given him every reason to trust Him. Being over six hundred years old has definite advantages when it comes to patience, but in our shorter life span we need to learn it more expeditiously. In an age and culture which has produced instant replays, instant potatoes, instant coffee, same-day cleaning, and digital photography it is not surprising that we have learned to pray, “Lord, give me patience and give it to me now!” But in the economy of God, which has an eternal dimension, things don’t always move as fast as we would like and we have to remind ourselves that delay has its own discipline, and discipline produces its own character. That which is gained easily is often lightly prized, that which arrives suddenly more often than not departs in similar fashion.

It is significant that Noah’s first action on dry land was an act of worship. He enjoyed “the sweetness of sacrifice.” “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma” (vv. 20-21). Noah’s resources for himself and his family were definitely limited, and the task of repopulating the earth was immense; so it would have been easy for him to rationalize that a sacrifice at this time might not be wise. Apparently he did not arrive at this conclusion. There has always been a segment of society which regards sacrifice as waste and can always find better uses for resources than to spend them in acts of generous praise and thanksgiving. But those who never learn the joys of giving become shriveled in their hearts even as they become bloated in their assets. The anthropomorphism of the Lord smelling an aroma should be seen as a delightful expression of divine satisfaction and approval—something that more than compensates for any criticism that the worshiper may be subjected to by those who are more materialistic in their views. Paul uses a similar expression to describe the Lord Jesus’ self-sacrifice on our behalf (Eph. 5:2).

God’s response to Noah’s worship was to say in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. / ‘While the earth remains, / Seedtime and harvest, / Cold and heat, / Winter and summer, / And day and night / Shall not cease'” (vv. 21-22). As a result of these stirring and welcome words Noah was introduced to a new sense of security. “The certainty of commitment” became a factor in his new life. While he had shown a remarkable commitment to the purposes of God he was being reminded of a far greater commitment—that which God exhibits to His own purposes and plans. Noah found himself caught up in these plans and as a result knew that he was safe in the sovereign immutable purpose of the Eternal One. It is worth noting that God’s commitment was not based on man’s worthiness. God’s statement was made at the same time that His awareness and disapproval of man’s unrelenting evil was reiterated.

Noah’s experience beautifully illustrates that of the believer who “in Christ … is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). This believer, like Noah, is invited to step out and explore the newness of life which is his “in Christ,” rejoicing in God’s grace, reveling in the bounty which is his in the new environment, resting in the assurance of God’s benevolence on his behalf, and reflecting his gratitude in sacrificial service. In this way the new creation is enjoyed and explored to the full.



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