The last time we studied most of chapter 6 and all of chapter 7 where Moses narrates the story of the flood. And we looked at a number of different themes. First of all, we thought about what it said about the corruption of the world. Back in verse 11 of chapter 6, we read that the earth was corrupt or ruined in God’s sight and full of violence. And the earth had become corrupt or ruined because all the people on the earth had corrupted or ruined their ways. Because of our sin, the world which God had made and which once was very good had now been ruined. It had been spoiled.
And then we thought about the purpose of the flood. And in verse 13 of chapter 16, God revealed to Noah that he was doing to put an end to all people because the earth was filled with violence because of them. In other words, because the people had ruined the earth, God was going to ruin them by sending the flood to destroy them.
We also thought about the extent of the flood. While some commentators suggest the flood was localised, or restricted to one particular area of the world, Moses seems to be telling us that in fact it was a worldwide flood. So, we looked at verse 23 of chapter 7 where it tells us that every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out. The flood covered the whole world and destroyed all life apart from the people and animals in the ark.
And so, we also thought about salvation and how God saved Noah and his family. God commanded Noah to build the ark. He told him how to build it. He hold him to bring along food for all the animals on the ark. He even told them when to enter the ark and he shut the door after them. And so, when the water begin to rise, and everything else died, Noah and his family were safe inside. God took the initiative to save Noah and all Noah had to do was to believe what God said and to do whatever he was asked to do. In the same way, God has planned and prepared our salvation. He’s the one who sent his Son into the world to be our Great Redeemer and to deliver us from our sin and misery. He’s the one who has done all things necessary for us. He’s the one who took the initiative because he did not want any of his people to perish.
Well, we also looked at verse 18 of chapter 6 and at the covenant God made with Noah by which God promised to save Noah and his family. God was committing himself to save them from the flood. And because God had committed himself to saving Noah, Noah could rely on God to do all that he has promised. And we can also rely on God and count on him to do all that he has promised us, because by his covenant of grace he has bound himself over to saving us from the coming judgment; and even though our sins rise higher and higher, nevertheless we can count no him to keep his promise and to forgive us for all that we have done wrong.
So, those are some of the things we thought about the last time. Today we’re going to spend our time thinking about chapters 8 and 9 which we read earlier.
Now, I don’t normally give my sermons titles. Some ministers do, but I don’t. However, if I were going to give this sermon a title, I guess I’d call it:
The God who remembers and preserves.
Just look at verse 1 of chapter 8 and you’ll see what I mean. In that verse, Moses tells us that God remembered Noah.
Now, in the previous chapters, we read how the springs of the great deep burst forth and the floodgates of the heavens were opened and the rain fell on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights so that, in due course, everything was covered and everything died. Everything died, apart from Noah and those with him in the ark. And chapter 7 ended by telling us that the waters flooded the earth for 150 days. So, the last we read of Noah, he and his family and all the animals were left in the ark, which was floating on the waters, which covered the earth for 150 days.
Well, I wonder — during those 150 days — did Noah ever wonder to himself whether or not the flood would ever go down? Did he ever wonder whether the waters would recede? Did he wonder if he’d ever walk on dry land again or were they destined to remain on the ark for ever? As the days and weeks and months went by, did they ever wonder whether God had forgotten them? Had he forgotten that they were still alive? Had he forgotten that they were still on the ark? Did he remember them?
And in verse 1 of chapter 8 we get the answer:
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark.
God hadn’t forgotten them. He remembered them. And because he remembered them, he finally sent a wind over the earth so that the waters began to recede.
And look at verse 2 where we’re told that the springs of the deep were closed and the floodgates of the heavens were closed. In other words, the great tidal waves and all the rain which had caused the flood to rise stopped. And the waters began to recede steadily, we’re told in verse 3. Slowly, but surely, the water went down.
And eventually, the water had gone down so much that the ark ran aground on the mountains of Ararat. The Bible commentators tell us that the mountains of Ararat are in the north east of modern day Turkey. And the water continued to go down until it was possible to see the tops of other mountains all around.
And then in verses 6 to 12 we read how Noah sent out these birds at various times. First the raven, and then the dove. And at first the dove couldn’t find a resting place. But seven days later, when it was sent out again, it returned with a freshly plucked olive leaf which indicated, of course, that trees were growing again. And then, a week later, he sent the dove out again. And this time it did not return because, presumably, it had found a suitable home. So, all the signs indicated that the water had gone and it was safe to disembark from the ark.
But still Noah waited for a word from the Lord. And in verse 15 we read how God finally instructed Noah to come out of the ark and to bring with him all the animals with him.
Now, do you see? God hadn’t forgotten about Noah. He remembered Noah and he remembered his commitment to save Noah. And so, he caused the waters to recede and he dried out the land. And when the time was right, he brought Noah out of the ark. The Lord remembered him.
And what was the first thing Noah did after leaving the ark? Well, look at verse 20: he built an altar to the Lord and he took some of the clean animals that he had taken into the ark — and remember he took seven pairs of clean animals — and he offered them up to God on the altar as a sacrifice. His first thought after coming out of the ark was to worship the Lord and to give thanks to him for remembering them and for remembering his promise to save them from the floods.
Well, of course, we don’t offer animal sacrifices anymore. But we’re commanded in the book of Hebrews in the New Testament to offer continually to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name. And so, week by week we gather in church to praise the Lord in our prayers and with our songs. And throughout the week with our families and by ourselves we want to worship him and give thanks to him for remembering us and for remembering his promise to forgive us for our sins and for giving us the assurance of everlasting life through faith in his Son.
Well, the God who remembers is also the God who preserves. And so we read in verse 21 that the Lord was pleased with Noah’s sacrifice and said in his heart:
Never again will I curse the ground because of man.
By these words, he promised never again to destroy all of the life on the earth by a flood as he had just done in the days of Noah. In other words, he promised to preserve life on the earth.
But look what he went on to say, because he didn’t make this promise to preserve the world because we were now better than they were before he sent the ark. It’s not that men and women and children were now cured of their sin. No, look at what the Lord said:
Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.
Do you see? Even though we’re still sinners, and even though every inclination of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil all the time — which is how he described us before the flood — nevertheless, God made a commitment that day not to destroy the world again with a flood.
And, of course, how we needed that promise from God! Otherwise the history of the world would be the story of one great flood after another. It would be Genesis chapters 6 and 7 and 8 repeated over and over and over again, one generation after another. Without this promise, God would have sent a flood on every generation to destroy all of life on the earth because every generation is the same as the one that went before it. That’s what the history of the world would have been without this promise.
And so, in order to avoid all of that destruction, God promised that he would not destroy all life again with a flood. And so,
as long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.
The Lord who remembered Noah, promises to preserve the world and to sustain our daily life on the earth.
And so, we ought to give thanks to him always for his kindness towards all of his creation, because everyday he remembers his promise to Noah and he restrains himself from destroying the world with a flood.
In verses 1 to 17 of chapter 9 God goes on to expand what he just said to Noah at the end of chapter 8. And once again God appears as the one who remembers and preserves.
First of all, in verses 1 to 11, it’s about his commitment to preserve the earth and daily life on it. And then, in verses 12 to 17, it’s about how he will remember his promise to Noah. So, let’s look at this together.
In verse 1 God blessed Noah and his sons and commanded them to be fruitful and to increase in number and fill the earth. Now, those words may seem familiar to you because we read the same thing in chapter 1 just after God created men and women. Back in verse 28 of chapter 1 we read that God blessed them and said to them:
Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth and subdue it.
And now he’s saying the same thing, or something very similar, to Noah.
Well, this has led some commentators to suggest that Moses is portraying Noah as a kind of second Adam. And they point out several similarities between Genesis 1 and what we read here about Noah. So, for instance, in chapter 1 of Genesis, a great deep covered the earth; but God then formed the dry land so Adam had a suitable place to live. And here, in chapter 9, God caused the great deep which covered the earth to recede so that Noah could once again live on the dry land.
Then, back in Genesis 1, God commanded Adam to increase in number and to fill the world. And here, in chapter 9, he issued the same command to Noah.
And because Noah is presented as a kind of second Adam, it’s as if God has wiped the world clean and is starting over again with a new Adam in a newly created world. God was starting over.
And so, just as we said that God’s command to Adam to fill the earth meant that God was ordaining marriage and family life, so now he is repeating the same command to Noah, which means that marriage and family life is still part of God’s plan for humanity. Marriage is not something we invented; it was given to us by God. And family life is not a burden for us; it’s part of God’s good plan for us. And, of course, it’s one of the ways God preserves life on the earth. He preserves the human race by ensuring that men and women are fruitful and they increase in number so that, though one generation grows old and dies, it’s replaced by the next generation, and on and on and on over the years.
Well, we also need food if life is to continue. And so, in verses 2 and 3 we read that the Lord permitted Noah and his descendants to eat meat from the animals.
Now, just as his command in verse 1 about being fruitful doesn’t mean it’s wrong to remain single and childless, so his command here about eating meat doesn’t mean it’s wrong to be a vegetarian. Verses 2 and 3 are simply teaching us that the Lord was providing us with what we need so that life on the earth will continue. And not only do we need children for life to continue, but we also need food for life to continue; and God was prepared to provide it for us.
Now, the Lord imposed one restriction on what they could eat. Do you see that in verse 4? God was saying to Noah:
You may eat meat, but don’t eat meat which has its blood still in it.
Now that one restriction also reminds us of Adam in the Garden of Eden. It’s another of the similarities between Adam and Noah. In the Garden of Eden, Adam was permitted to eat the fruit from any tree in the garden with one exception: he mustn’t eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And Noah and his descendants were permitted to eat the meat from any animal, but with this one exception.
Well, one Wednesday evening we were studying Acts 15 where the leaders of the church in Jerusalem advised Gentile believers not to eat the meat of strangled animals. That is, they weren’t to eat meat with blood in it. And I spent a few minutes explaining that this restriction doesn’t apply today and that it’s safe for us to eat things like black pudding today because — do you remember? — the Lord Jesus declared all food to be clean. All the food laws which the Jews had to keep no longer apply.
But, of course, the words in verse 4 about the blood of animals leads us into the important words in verses 5 and 6 about the blood of humans. Look what it says there. First of all, in verse 5, the Lord said that for your lifeblood — that is, for the lifeblood of a human being — I will demand an accounting. In other words, if a man murders another man, or if an animal kills a man, then they must answer to God for what they have done. That’s what verse 5 is about.
And then we have verse 6. Now look at it. God said:
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed. Now what’s the Lord saying here? Well, it’s quite clear really. He’s permitting the use of capital punishment.
Now, if we were to jump over to Romans 12 and 13 we’d learn that no one is permitted to take matters into their own hands. No one is permitted to seek personal revenge. No, they must leave it to the governing authorities to punish evildoers.
But here’s the thing: Whereas many people today regard capital punishment as fundamentally wrong, the fact is that God, in the beginning, permits it. He permits it. It’s life for life, he says in verse 6.
Now, why would he permit such a thing as this? Why would he permit capital punishment? Well, what he’s teaching us here is that life is so valuable, the life of any man is so precious, that no one must think he can murder someone else and get away with it. God wants to preserve life on the earth. And he wants us to preserve life on the earth. And so be bans murder and he uses this most serious threat as a deterrent.
And look at the reason for placing this ban on murder. Verse 6 again:
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. Even though we’re sinners, even though we sin against God every day, nevertheless, we still bear the image of God. The image of God may be broken in us. It may be defaced by our sin. But nevertheless, we still bear the image of God, and therefore every human life is to be regarded as valuable.
But here’s the thing. Will God lose patience with the human race again? Will he again regret making us? Will he once again send a flood to destroy all human life? Well, no. Look at verses 8 to 11 where God makes another covenant. But unlike the previous covenant — which we read about in verse 18 of chapter 6 — this covenant is made not only with Noah, but with all his descendants after him and with all the animals as well. God was making a covenant with every living creature on the earth.
And what is the covenant? What’s he promising? Look at verse 11:
Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood.
Now, there may be local floods. And there may be other local natural disasters. God was not promising that there won’t be local disasters. However:
Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.
There’s God’s commitment to us. There’s his promise. He’s the God who preserves and he has promised to preserve life on the earth for as long as the world endures. He wants us to marry and fill the earth with our offspring. He’s giving us all the food we need. Murder is banned. And he promises never again, never again, to destroy all the world with a flood.
And he made this promise so that life on the earth will continue, generation after generation. And so, the theologians call this particular covenant the Covenant of Preservation because God was promising to preserve and to uphold life on the earth.
Well, the God who preserves is also the God who remembers. And in verses 12 to 17 we read how the Lord placed a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his covenant.
And we read here that whenever a rainbow appears in the sky, the Lord will remember the everlasting covenant-promise he made not to destroy all life with a flood. He will remember his promise and he’ll remember to show mercy towards us.
And so, we can imagine the first time it rained after the flood, and Noah thinking to himself:
Oh no. Here we go again. But then, after a while, the rain eased off, and the sun came out, and a rainbow appeared. And what a re-assurance to Noah because the rainbow was the sign which speaks of God’s promise to preserve daily life on the earth.
Well, why a rainbow? Why use a rainbow as the sign of this Covenant of Preservation? Well, the Hebrew word translated by the NIV as ‘rainbow’ is the Hebrew word for a ‘bow’. And it can refer to a bow used to fire arrows. And so, some commentators think that the idea behind this sign is that God has agreed to hang up his bow and arrows and to declare peace to the human race. He’s no longer going to fight against us. He’s no longer going to destroy us the way he did in the days of Noah. He’s put away his bow and his arrows and he’ll take care of us now; and he’ll preserve life on the earth.
Well, why was the Lord so willing to hang up his bow and arrows and to declare peace to the world? Why did he promise to uphold life on the earth even though we’re still sinners and every inclination of the thoughts of all our hearts is only evil all the time? Why did he want to preserve us instead of to destroy us?
Well, it goes back to his promise in Genesis 3:15 and to his great plan for our salvation. Back in Genesis 3:15 he promised that one of Eve’s descendants would destroy the Devil and all his work. He was promising to send his Son into the world as our Great Redeemer who would deliver us from our sin and misery and give us everlasting life.
And so, in order to fulfil his promise, and in order to work out his plan for our salvation, he had to preserve life on the world so that, in due course, the Redeemer would be born and would die for us on the cross.
And he had to preserve life on the earth so that there would be a people for his Son to redeem: millions and millions and millions of people throughout the generations and around the world who would call on the name of the Lord.
And he had to preserve life on the earth to give men and women and boys and girls in every generation the time and the opportunity to repent of their sins and to believe in his promise of salvation.
And so, whenever we see a rainbow in the sky, we should remember God’s mercy to sinners, because instead of destroying us which is what we deserve, he is patient with us, and he’s giving people everywhere the time they need to repent and believe so that not only can we enjoy life in this world but we can enjoy everlasting life with God for ever and ever in the life to come.
Right now, God is restraining his anger. But the day will come, when he will restrain his anger no more. And that great and terrible Day of Judgment will come and the living and the dead will be judged and sinners will be condemned for their sins.
But all those who have turned from their sin and have believed in the Christ the Redeemer will not be condemned, but we’ll be brought into our eternal home, where we will join together with millions upon millions upon millions of believers and we will offer to God a sacrifice of praise for ever and ever because he remembered his promise to send his Son into the world to save us.