God Remembered Noah

Genesis 8:1-14
Surely God must have forgotten us. Surely God, after all these years, must have said that there was no more use in remembering me, since obviously He has abandoned me. After the flood of troubles that has come my way, it is obvious that God could not have remembered me, since He did not deliver me out of them. Do we think this way? Then we need to remember what happened to Noah. God remembered Noah.

After five months of dealing with bilgewater, manure, and the fights that must have arisen between daughters-in law and mother-in-law, Noah probably wished on more than one occasion that his great Titanic boat would hit an iceberg! But our text says that God remembered Noah. Now, this does not mean that God forgot about Noah during the 150 days, and suddenly remembered him at the end. That is what we like to think, isn’t it? We think God forgets us in our troubles. Luther said, “There is nothing that the flesh, which is inherently weak, is less able to tolerate than a God who does not remember us but has forgotten us.” But God remembered Noah all during this time, not just at the end. God did not say, “Oh yes, there’s that little squirt in that boat. I gotta make sure I don’t forget about him.” Remembering always has the meaning that God is savingly remembering someone. It implies action on behalf of the person remembered. So when God remembers Noah, it means that God has been saving Noah, and will continue to save him.

The statement that God remembered Noah appears at the exact center of the Flood narrative. Before, in chapter 6-7, we see rising action in the form of the rising waters. Here at the center we see God’s saving action. Then after that, we see falling action in the form of the receding waters.

The text says that God remembered Noah. That means also that Noah is the one who counts here, not the other eight, though they are important. Noah is the representative for those on the ark. Noah is a second Adam. Because he is a second Adam, he points us to Jesus Christ, who is the real Second Adam. God brought Jesus up from the grave. That was God remembering Jesus. Noah also experiences resurrection out of the flood-waters of judgment.

So what does God do? He saves Noah. Probably Noah was beginning to run out of food, and get a little anxious, not to mention stir-crazy! So God sends His Holy Spirit to move over the waters, just as He did at creation. The word for “wind” here is the same as the word for “Spirit.” It is quite plain that Moses has the creation account in his mind as he relates what happens here. The wind-Spirit that God sends brings life to the earth. The wind begins to dry up the waters, as well as driving the waters back to their place of origin. We can see here a picture of our salvation: God sends His Holy Spirit in our lives to drive back our sin, to dry it up. We emerge from that process cleansed of sin. This happens during our entire lives. At the end, we emerge cleansed of sin, with dry new-creation land waiting for us. As Bruce McDowell writes, “Jesus has already suffered the judgment for us, so the wind of his Holy Spirit has moved in our hearts to seal us.” God did this for Israel in Exodus 14:21-22, driving back the waters of the Red Sea with a mighty wind/Holy Spirit.

You will remember that there waters above the firmament and waters below the firmament. God had made a separation between them at creation. During the Flood, He collapsed the barrier between these two waters, which crushed the little bubble in-between called earth. Now, God is re-establishing that barrier between the waters above and the waters below.

In fact, after another 150 days, the ark came to a halt in the mountain range of Ararat. The word “came to rest” is a pun. The word sounds like Noah’s name. Noah did in fact live up to his father’s expectation, though not in the way that Lamech had thought! Now, probably a mountain range is here meant, since the Hebrew says “mountains of Ararat.” Most scholars say that Ararat is in modern Turkey. This would mean that God had providentially ordered the ark to stop there because it was located at the crossroads of three continents, a perfect place for new humanity to multiply and fill the earth.

Notice here that God is all-powerful. God ordered the waters to go back to their places, and God ordered the ark to rest in Ararat. In the other ANE stories of the Flood, the gods are terrified at the force of the waters they have released, and they cower back like dogs in the face of the onslaught that they cannot control. Not so here in Genesis! God commands the waters, opening and shutting the sluice-gates of the heavens, controlling the great deeps of the earth. This is a great comfort to us. God controls all things. All trials that we undergo are in God’s hands. Those trials will never get out of hand. Out of God’s hand, that is. Even death itself is in God’s hands. God is more powerful than death, as He showed by raising Jesus from the dead. If God is more powerful than death, then He is more powerful than the Flood, and He is certainly more powerful than any trial that we undergo in this lifetime.

In verse 5, we see a difficulty. It says that the tops of the mountains were visible. How could Moses say that, when the waters had already receded enough so that the ark came to rest on a mountain? The answer is fairly simple: it must be other mountains that Noah could see from his vantage point. It is quite probable that Noah could not see the mountain on which the ark was resting.

More important than this difficulty, however, is what Moses means to say by this: God is re-creating the world. Just as dry land appeared in Gen 1, so now the mountains appear. Later, we will see that vegetation appears, and then the animals appear out of the ark, and of course, mankind itself. This parallels the creation days in quite a remarkable way.

Noah’s response shows his wisdom. He does not madly rush out of the ark. He waits until God tells him to do so. And even then, it is not a mad rush out of the ark, but a steady progression, just like it was going into the ark.

First Noah sends a raven. Ravens are strong birds, with a wing-span of four feet. They could fly long distances. Furthermore, they subsisted on carrion, and there would have been quite a bit of that floating on the surface of the water. Noah knew that the raven would seek land, but that if it didn’t find it, it could still survive on the carrion. It was a very good choice for the first bird. In sending out a bird, Noah was doing what many ancient mariners did: they sent out a bird in order to determine if land was near, and if so, in what direction the land lay. Eventually, the raven found enough to support itself that it did not need to return to the ark.

Then Noah made another good choice. He chose a dove. Doves live in lower climates, and are vegetarian. Noah wanted to find out if the lower parts of the mountains had become dry yet. Once Noah was out of the ark, there would be no food unless it was already growing lower down. The dove returns at evening. That means that the dove found enough places for temporary rest, but had not found a place to build a nest, or a permanent resting place, as verse 9 says.

Notice Noah’s patience through all of this. He waits a whole seven days before sending the dove out again. The second time he sends the dove, the dove returns with a freshly plucked olive leaf in her beak. Olive trees do not live at high altitudes. So Noah knew that not only was the water much lower now, but also he knew that the trees had started their growth cycle again. That is the significance of the term “freshly-plucked.” The olive leaf was not part of the flotsam and jetsam that was around him, but was part of the new growth.

The third time, when the dove did not return, Noah knew that the conditions were right for the animals to come out of the ark. So, on New Year’s Day, the first day of Noah’s 601st year, on the anniversary of creation, Noah steps out into a new creation. But even then, Noah does not come out of the ark without God’s permission, as we sill see next week.

What we see in all this is that God is faithful to His covenant. He may destroy those who have been unfaithful to the covenant. However, He will always save a remnant, and start anew with that remnant. He did that with Israel and Egypt, with Israel itself, always trimming His people of all those who were disobedient. Finally, God judged the whole world to be disobedient, and only one man to be obedient, Jesus Christ. But now, there is a remnant in Jesus. We partake of Jesus’ righteousness by faith in Him. That is faith is accounted to us as righteousness. So we who belong to Jesus will endure through all trials and temptations to find another new creation awaiting us, just as Noah did.

Are we impatient under trials? Do we wish that Jesus would come again, make everything right, and take away every tear from our eyes? We are to wish that Jesus will come again. But in the meantime, we must be patient. James 5:7-9 says this, “Therefore, brothers, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near. Brothers, do not complain about one another, so that you will not be judged. Look, the judge stands at the door!” This is the same James who tells us to count it pure joy when we encounter trials of every kind, knowing that those trials produce patience. Interestingly, James says that if someone lacks wisdom, he should ask in faith without doubting. The one who doubts is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. Instead of being in the ark, the one who doubts is like the sea itself. Instead, we should have the patience of Noah, who waited on the Lord, knowing that the Lord would remember him. Do we bear up with patience under trials, or do we find a way to lash out with our impatience? Do we greedily work so hard to attain that perfect lifestyle that our culture, indeed, our community says we need to have, that we cannot study God’s word? Story of the man and his son and Hiroshima. Let us be patient, like Noah, for it is most like Jesus Christ.