Do you remember the last time you were stuck at home during a bad thunderstorm? Bad thunderstorms usually involve a power outage, where you can’t watch TV and you need a flashlight to read a book or play card games… but do you remember what you did while waiting out the storm?
I vaguely remember when I was a little kid in the Philippines and we would get these bad thunderstorms or typhoons (which were quite common in the Philippines), and I remember being the kid who would cry my eyes out every time the thunder hit (even as an adult I still sometimes get butterflies)…
So during those thunderstorms, what I usually did was stay away from the window (and I know some of you weirdos in here would actually go to the window and watch the thunderstorm as if it were a movie, like my wife Emily loves to do—opposites attract I guess)…
But usually, we never know how long these storms will last—sometimes minutes, hours, or maybe even a day…now think about a rainstorm lasting for 150 days, and imagine what it would’ve been like for Noah as he waited it out—not knowing when the rainstorm would end, with no SaskPower employee to call and ask when the storm would roughly end…
As many of you know, we looked at Genesis 7 last week and this is the picture that the chapter ended with—Noah and his family with the animals were inside the ark, saved from the waters that prevailed on the earth for 150 days (about 5 months). And in chapter 8, we will see what God is doing outside the ark and what Noah was doing inside the ark.
Today, we’re mainly going to see three ways that God acts in this chapter. God remembers Noah, God reverses the flood, and God renews his creation. Let’s begin with God’s first action, and our first major point—God remembers Noah.
God Remembers Noah
“But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark” (8:1a).
At this point, it might be tempting to ask the question: if God remembers, then does God forget? Well, we affirm that God knows all things since He “declares the end from the beginning and from ancient things not yet done” (Isaiah 46:10)—therefore, God remembering Noah must signify something more significant than a mere human understanding of remembrance.
Think about what has just happened: the waters prevailed on the earth (7:18-20) and all flesh died—everything in whose nostrils was the breath of life died (7:21-24). But God remembered Noah.
In chapter 6, we see the same pattern before the flood: “So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord” (6:7-8).
A couple of verses later, God says to Noah: “For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you” (Genesis 6:17-19).
When God remembered Noah and all those that were with him in the ark (8:1), God was keeping his covenant with Noah in that he shall come into the ark with his family and the animals to be kept alive (6:18-20).
It might also be tempting to see Noah as the main character here at this point, but wouldn’t you agree that the main character in display here is actually—God’s character? As God was acting on His just and righteous wrath due to man’s sin, He now acts on his grace and mercy despite man’s sin.
God remembering Noah, his first action, was Him keeping his covenant with Noah—which leads to his second action, our next major point: God Reverses the Flood.
God Reverses The Flood
“And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided” (8:1b).
1) The Waters Subside (8:1b-5)
The first observation we can make in this section is that the waters subside, and there’s a couple of details we need to notice here. First, notice the first three words—and God made.
This language, as you might already be thinking about, echoes Genesis 1 and the creation account. Right away, we’re already seeing hints of the flood’s reversal—which only gets clearer.
Second, the word “wind” here in the original language is the same word as “Spirit,” which we hear back in Genesis 1:2: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” As we talked about last week, the end of chapter 7 shows us that the earth is once again a formless and void ball of water—a mass of chaos which the Spirit of God was hovering over. And in 8:1, we are told the same thing: God made a wind blow over the earth (Spirit hovering over), and the ball of chaotic waters subsided.
Third, the waters subsided because God made a wind blow over the earth—as opposed to the sun, or a sun-god, drying out the waters (as some pagan myths back then have tried to explain the flood’s subsidence—
). Rather, God is the one who acts, as we saw earlier when He remembered Noah. In response, we see that God made a wind blow over the earth and the waters subsided—flood reversed.
We see more hints of the flood reversed when we compare and contrast chapters 7 and 8.
In 7:11-12, it says that “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.” In contrast, 8:2 says that “the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained.” In 7:17, “the flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.” In contrast, 8:3 says that “and the waters receded form the earth continually.”
Look at the language of how the waters prevailed: “The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep…And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days” (7:18-20, 24).
In contrast, chapter 8 says that “at the end of 150 days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month [150 days, about 5 months from the time frame in 7:11, which confirms that this is a literal, historical account], the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen” (8:3b-5). This is all evidence of God reversing the flood!
Now, let’s zoom in on some of the words that the author of Genesis intentionally uses to describe the process of reversing the flood: “The waters receded form the earth continually” (8:3). “And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month” [roughly 3 months after the ark rested on Ararat] (6:5). The act of God in reversing the flood and subsiding the waters was a slow and gradual process, which we will notice in our second observation as Noah actively waits.
2) Noah Actively Waits (8:6-14)
Up to this point, we’ve been shown what God is doing and what has been happening outside the ark—now, the author brings us inside the ark and zooms in on Noah and the animals. Forty days after the tops of the mountains were seen (8:5), Noah opens the window of the ark and sent out a raven that never returned (8:6-7), unlike the dove who returned twice before not returning at all (8:8-12). The best explanation for this is that ravens can eat dead animals as well as fly higher, longer, and stronger than gentle, low-flying doves (8:9), so ravens can brave the storms much easier than doves.1From Genesis: A Commentary by Bruce Waltke.
However, the main point of this section is that Noah was actively waiting “to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground” (8:8) by sending the birds out.
When the dove returned with an olive leaf, he knew that “the waters had subsided from the earth (8:11). Then he removed the covering of the ark (possibly the same window from 8:6) and saw that the ground was dry (8:13).
The next sensible thing to do for Noah was to open the door and step out with his own two feet with everyone else and get on with their lives—but what did he do instead? He kept waiting. Verse 14 tells us that Noah waited almost another two months from the time he looked out the window in verse 13! And then what?
“Then God” (8:15). God steps into the scene, not Noah stepping out of the ark. God was present the whole time as we’ve seen, since God remembered Noah and and started orchestrating this slow and gradual process of reversing the flood—but now God literally takes center stage. Why is this important? This tells us that Noah wasn’t just waiting for dry ground—he was waiting for God!
Isn’t this an encouragement for us today? When we look ahead and see that life is good, we usually just step out with our own two feet and forget to recognize that God goes before us and that we need to wait on Him and seek His will to direct our lives: “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:14-15).
Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, our Hope and strong Deliverer. Let’s learn from Noah, who patiently yet actively waited for God to deliver him even though he could’ve acted on his own.
After God reversed the flood and the earth was dried up, we see God’s third action (and our third major point)—God renews His creation.
God Renews His Creation
1) God Speaks (8:15-17)
Specifically, the first observation we can make is that God speaks. The last time God spoke was when he commanded Noah to enter the ark with his family and the animals (7:1), which would’ve been roughly one year apart (8:14). After a year of not hearing from God, Noah actively and patiently waited and finally gets word from God:
“Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons' wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth’” (8:15-17).
I hope you’re already making the connections with Genesis 1 here, especially God’s command for Noah to bring out the animals "that they may swarm…be fruitful and multiply on the earth” (8:17). Listen to God’s original command for animals that “swarmed" the seas and skies in Genesis 1:
“So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth’” (Genesis 1:21-22).
Later on, God will tell Noah and his sons to do the same thing (9:7), as God did with Adam after telling the animals (1:28). But for now, God speaks to Noah—which directs Noah’s next steps, our second observation.
2) Noah’s Next Steps (8:18-20)
First, Noah literally steps out of the ark in obedience to God’s command, and only at God’s command: “So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him. Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark” (8:18-19).
Second, Noah builds an altar to offer a burnt offering to the Lord: “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (8:20). Here, we see the importance of God’s command in chapter 7 for Noah to take with him “seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate” (7:2). Sin would not be fully dealt with after the flood, so clean animals will need to be offered as sacrifices and burnt offerings as a temporary way to deal with, or make atonement for, sin.
Leviticus 1 has a lot to say about this (we’ll hopefully get to that book in maybe 5-10 years, who knows—I hope it’s closer to 5 years): “He shall offer a male without blemish… he shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him…And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord” (Leviticus 1:3-4, 9).
And this is exactly what we see Noah do in Genesis 8:20. He takes some of every clean animal and bird and offer them as burnt offerings on the altar—to make atonement for him (temporarily, that is). And what do we see happen next in verse 21? The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma:
And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “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.
3) God’s Promise to Preserve (8:21-22)
The third observation we can make here is God’s Promise to Preserve. The Lord’s response here shows that He has accepted Noah’s sacrifice—because while Noah was a “righteous man, blameless in his generation” (Genesis 6:9), he was still born with a sinful nature who needed atonement for sin due to the curse of sin and death from Genesis 3.
However, it’s important to note that the curse from Genesis 3:17 is not the curse being taken away when the Lord says, “I will never again curse the ground because of man.” Here are a couple of reasons why: 1) in the original language, the phrase “curse the ground” in Genesis 8:21 is different from “cursed is the ground” in Genesis 3:17, and 2) the curse from Genesis 3 is still clearly in place because in chapter 9, Noah still has to work to eat (9:3-4) and he eventually returns to dust (9:28).
Rather, “curse the ground” here in 8:21 can be read as “destroy all flesh.” Here’s a couple of hints as to why that is—when God says in 8:21 that “I will never again curse the ground because of man…neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.” What has God done and promises to never do again? Let’s look back to chapter 6:
“And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth…For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die” (6:13, 17).
So, God promises that He will never again curse the ground [destroy all flesh/flood the earth] as He has done. But why? Sinful man deserved this judgment, and God wasn’t over-exaggerating when He flooded the earth—as we were reminded a couple of weeks ago. If God needed to justly deal with sin as He did, why does God make this promise to preserve the earth from destruction?
For the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth (here’s a foundational passage for the reason behind our kids and youth ministries—they are cute and fun little sinners)! David affirms this reality in Psalm 51:5: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Even Noah, a righteous and blameless man in his generation, had to make an atoning sacrifice for his sin because he was born a sinner.
This reality brings us back to chapter 6 before the flood, when “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5). Then, God flooded the earth because of the wickedness of man and their evil hearts—but the flood did not, and could not, deal with the wickedness of man and their evil hearts.
Now, this doesn’t mean that God was unaware and failed in his experiment with sin. Eventually, we see that God has a plan to defeat sin once and for all and fully renew His creation—but not yet. Listen to these words in 8:22—while the earth remains. This indicates a day when the earth will pass away, but not yet:
“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (8:22). Not only does God promise to preserve the earth from destruction, but God also promises to preserve the earth for habitation—until the end of history.
This language should once again remind us of the creation account in Genesis 1—and here in Genesis 8, we see God preserving creation for mankind to continue to work the ground (be it painfully), in order to eat and live on the earth.
In all of this, we see that God renews His creation—from preserving Noah and those who were with him in the ark, as well as promising to continue preserving Noah and the rest of creation despite the evil hearts of mankind from their youth.
This is where Genesis 8 ends. But the question remains: what is God’s plan in dealing with man’s sinful hearts that the flood didn’t and couldn’t accomplish? We saw in Noah’s sacrifice that God had a temporary plan to deal with man’s sin, but what’s the plan to deal with sin once and for all?
Jesus, The Lamb of God
When God spoke this promise to himself, there wasn’t just a temporary plan in place to deal with sin—the full plan was already in place since God spoke the promise to deliver mankind (Genesis 3:15)! In fact, the word of promise was in place since the beginning, before the foundation of the world: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-2, 14).
This happened at the right time in history: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Galatians 4:4-5).
God’s Son was born of woman, yet conceived by the Holy Spirit, so that He would be fully man and fully God. Finally, a man steps foot into this earth whose intentions of the heart were not evil from his youth—truly righteous and truly blameless unlike Noah, who had to make an atoning sacrifice for his sin.
Instead, Jesus fulfilled the law’s demands and God’s demands by living a perfect and sinless life (the very thing that Adam or Noah or the rest of mankind couldn’t do) in order to be offered up as the clean animal on the altar—the spotless sacrificial lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world by drowning in God’s flood of judgment on the cross at Calvary—in our place.
As Hebrews 9 says, “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). This is why we celebrate Christmas, because the Son of God humbled himself by coming to earth as a baby boy to pay for the sins of mankind!
Church, one application we can make here is this: As we eat and drink and enjoy the festivities this Christmas season, let’s not waste another opportunity to boldly share the good tidings of Christmas to those who are unaware, like the people in Noah’s day were.
Whether that’s unbelieving family members/relatives at your Christmas gatherings, your unbelieving co-workers at your work Christmas parties, or even your neighbours who might not have family members to celebrate with this year.
Tell them about the ark—that is, Jesus Christ, who offers safety and deliverance from God’s judgment—even just by showing them how you celebrate Christmas. Invite them to our Christmas Eve service on Saturday, or maybe invite them for a meal this week when you’re not busy with family gatherings (Jesus didn’t just come for a family of 8 anymore like Noah in the ark—he came for all kinds of people, so we should be open to celebrating Christmas with people outside our physical families as well if we can).
But it doesn’t end there. We celebrate the first coming of Christ because we know that He will come again a second time for those who are waiting for Him: “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28). So what does it look like for us to celebrate Christmas? As Noah actively waited in the ark for God to deliver them, I suggest that we actively wait like Noah for God to judge the world and make all things new:
Actively Wait Like Noah
“The heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God [creation], and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished [the Flood]. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:5-7).
Peter explains that the heavens and the earth is being kept for a fiery judgment in contrast to the historical accounts of the creation and the flood, which were all by means of water. So what does he tell the believers?
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise (that is, of his coming [3:4]), as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (3:9-10).
The Lord’s promise is not just to preserve the earth anymore, but to bring about the new heavens and new earth. God is not keeping the world for a judgment of flood that destroys and eradicates, but for a judgment of fire that dissolves and exposes the works done on it—with the goal of renewing creation. And the only reason that the day of the Lord hasn’t come yet is because of His patience, in order that more people would repent of their sins.
So while the earth remains (as Genesis 8:22 says), let’s share the good tidings of Christmas to those who remain on the earth, as Noah showed his faith in God as he built the ark. While the earth remains, let’s thank God that He is preserving the earth and providing our needs until that day when He comes to judge with fire.
In keeping with 2 Peter 3, while the earth remains/since this earth will be dissolved, “what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming day of God…waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (3:11-13).
Do you realize the gravity of Peter’s words here? We hasten the return of Jesus as we say no to sin today (Titus 2:12). God has fixed a time when Jesus will come back to judge the world, but in His patience He chose to make us partners in His mission to save others and bring them into the ark—that is Jesus Christ—as we wait and hasten that day through our godly lifestyles.
While the earth remains, let’s be like Noah and actively wait for the day when God comes to fully renew His creation and make all things new in Christ—by living holy lives and being diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish as living sacrifices (2 Peter 3:14).
Everyday, we are one day closer to that day—morning by morning new mercies we see. While the earth remains, summer, winter, springtime and harvest will not cease. Why? Because all I have needed thy hand hath provided (as we will sing shortly). So let’s pray for God to give us strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto us.