6. Noah’s Deliverance: God Keeps His Word (Genesis 8:1-9:28)Related Media
When the floods came, Noah and his family probably felt relief and safety. One wonders how they felt as time passed by. While there is no explicit verse that tells us exactly the total length of the time that they were all in the ark, you can put together all the details in two different ways:
1) Using the number of days: 150 (Gen. 8:3) +74 (8:5) +40 (8:6) +7 (8:10) +7 (8:12) +28 (8:13) +56 (8:14) = 362 days
2) Using the dates of Noah’s life: from 17th day of 2nd month of Noah’s 600th year to 27th day of 2nd month of Noah’s 601st year = 370 days. It seems to me that this second calculation is probably the accurate one as there is one period of time (8:13) when the number of days is not mentioned and you have to calculate it from Noah’s age anyway.
So, from the time they entered the ark until the time they came out was just over one year. I wonder how they coped during that time. How did they wash themselves and prepare food? How did they tend to all those animals? As I write this in March 2020, we are confined to our homes in Canada as the public health officials struggle to bring the international corona virus crisis under control. Already, after only a couple of weeks, many people are beginning to get cabin fever. What must it have felt like for Noah and his family to have been confined to the ark for over a year? And particularly, what must it have felt like during the extended period of time after the rain stopped? Would they ever be free to disembark and walk outside again? That year inside the ark must have seemed like forever.
During that time, every air breathing creature outside the ark died. Those who may have tried to escape to the tops of the mountains died. Everyone who refused to heed Noah’s warning and to accept God’s offer of safe refuge in the ark died. By the time Noah stepped out of the ark, the world was devoid of humans and animals, and it had been excised of everything that God hated, like “the wickedness of man” (6:5) and “violence and corruption” (6:12-13).
The subject of the passage we are studying in this sermon is: God’s faithfulness in keeping his word. The overall lesson in the passage is that God will preserve his redeemed people from final judgement. Notice, firstly, that…
1. Redeemed People Wait Patiently For God’s Deliverance (8:1-14)
Dealing with such an extended period of confinement in the ark must have required enormous patience – patience with inter-personal relationships in the family, patience with physical confinement, patience with the animals etc. Had God forgotten them? No! “God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark” (8:1a). That God “remembered” Noah does not infer that God had previously “forgotten” him. Rather it is an expression indicating that after their confinement comes liberty; that after the judgement comes deliverance; that God’s ways with and through Noah are about to resume. Now his wrath was exhausted and “God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided” (8:1b-3).
On the 17th day of the 7th month in Noah’s 600th year, the ark must have jerked with quite a bump as it “came to rest on the mountains of Ararat” (8:4-5). But Noah still waited another 40 days before he opened the window to find out how things were going on earth. Then he let out a raven and a dove to see if conditions were suitable for them all to disembark from the ark. Though the earth was still wet, the raven was able to keep flying until it was dry (8:7). But the dove “found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth” (8:9).
When I was a teenager I used to have a large walk-in aviary, which was divided down the middle so that my brother could keep his tumbler pigeons on one side and I could keep my mourning doves on the other. It’s interesting that doves feed on the ground. In our back yard today, most birds feed on our birdfeeder, but the doves always feed on the ground. Perhaps that was why the dove returned to Noah in the ark while there was still water on the ground.
Seven days later, Noah let the dove out again and it brought back an olive leaf (8:10-11). Then, after a further seven days Noah let it out again and “she did not return to him anymore” (8:12). That must have been a thrilling day for Noah and his family. At last they could enjoy freedom, fresh air, fresh food, and peace and quiet. Can you imagine what it must have been like with elephants trumpeting and baboons screaming all that time (or, perhaps in the providence of God they didn’t)?
And so, on the 1st day of the 1st month in Noah’s 601st year (New Year’s Day!), Noah removed the covering of the ark (I guess the ark was the first convertible!).
Amongst many other things, the record of the flood and the period of time that Noah and his family spent in the ark should teach us that redeemed people wait patiently for God’s deliverance. Notice the second lesson, that…
2. Redeemed People Worship Gratefully for God’s Deliverance (8:15-9:17)
Noah waited another 56 days until the 27th day of the 2nd month of his 601st year, until the earth was finally dry. When they entered the ark, God shut them in (7:16). When they exited the ark, God let them out. “Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out from the ark…’” (8:15-19). There is nothing to indicate that Noah ever got frustrated, claustrophobic, or antsy during the entire time of his incarceration in the ark. He was with God inside the ark and he was with God outside the ark.
God spoke and Noah worshipped. Once outside the ark, “Noah built an altar to the Lord and he took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar”(8:20). There is no indication that God commanded Noah to build the altar or what sacrifices he should offer on it. This was Noah’s spontaneous response of worship to God as an expression of who God is and the gratefulness of Noah’s heart for his deliverance. This is an indication of Noah’s spirituality, his walk with God. He didn’t say: “Phew! Glad that’s over. Now let’s get on with our lives.” Rather, he worshipped the Lord by offering clean animals and birds, which were symbolic of a holy offering, of pure worship. Undoubtedly that’s why God had told Noah to take seven of each clean animal in order to have enough to offer them up before the Lord. Noah evidently knew this and responded willingly.
Humanly speaking, this was risky and wasteful. After all, Noah could have argued that he needed every animal he could get to replenish the earth and to provide food. But this was a godly, holy act. What was due to God takes precedence over practical or logical matters. Noah’s offering was a sacrifice of a sweet aroma to God. This is how Noah offered it and this is how God received it: “The Lord smelled a soothing aroma” (8:21). Noah’s sacrifice was “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2); “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God (Phil. 4:18).
So, first, redeemed people wait patiently for God’s deliverance. Second, redeemed people worship gratefully for God’s deliverance. Third…
3. Redeemed People Welcome a New Beginning from God’s Deliverance (8:21- 9:29)
“And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man’” (8:21a). God’s response to Noah’s sacrifice was to establish the Noahic covenant to never again judge the earth with a flood or interrupt the natural daily and seasonal cycles of life on earth with a flood, despite the fact that man’s sinful nature had not changed for “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (8:21b-22). Note that God made this covenant initially “in his heart” (8:21a) and did not disclose it to Noah and his sons until 9:8-17.
Following this great deliverance, God renewed his plan for the procreation of a new humanity. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (9:1). Noah is now viewed as a second Adam, the new head of a new race, to whom God repeats and reaffirms his original instruction to Adam (1:28) for the proliferation of mankind.
Then, God establishes a new relationship between humanity and the animal kingdom: “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish in the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything” (9:2). The pre-flood relationship between humans and animals was that humans ruled and subdued the earth (1:28) in order for them to peacefully co-exist in a pre-fall, perfect environment. But after the flood, conditions on earth have evidently changed substantially, presumably because of the violence and corruption that precipitated the flood. Not only had humans rebelled against divine rule, but, it seems, animals had rebelled against human rule. Now every moving creature would live in “fear and dread” of humans because man’s authority over them was elevated in order to deal effectively with the post-flood conditions, including the wild animals. God once more affirms human rule over animals, but it would no longer be a relationship of peaceful co-existence. Now, humans would exercise the authority of life and death over the wild animals.
Moreover, a new diet is permitted (9:3-4). The death of animals at human hands seems to coincide with the addition of meat to the human diet. Perhaps this is an indication of man’s absolute control. Also, no longer is there a distinction between clean and unclean animals, or between animals and vegetation. “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything”(9:3).
In the pre-flood world, humans and animals, it seems, were both vegetarian. This would make sense for a peaceful co-existence. But after the flood, humans were given freedom to eat meat. This is an entirely new relationship and a new diet. Why was this permitted at this time and not before? I’m not sure, but it’s interesting that one of the marks of end times apostasy is the command to abstain from meats (1 Tim. 4:1-3).
Further, a new law is imposed (9:5-7). No longer will man be permitted to live without restraint of law or accountability. A murderer shall be put to death (9:6). This still governs the state’s right to do so (e.g. Rom. 13:3-4), such is the sanctity of human life in God’s eyes. And yet murders of thousands of preborn babies occur every day with the state’s approval and now medically assisted murder of dying people is legal! How have the mighty fallen! (2 Sam. 1:25, 27).
The new covenant (the Noahic covenant) that God made within himself in 8:21-22 is now disclosed and confirmed to Noah and his sons (9:8-17). This covenant is valid for Noah, his descendants, and all living creatures that came out of the ark (9:9-10). The scope of the new covenant is that God would never again destroy all flesh by a flood judgement (9:11). As a concrete seal and constant reminder of his new covenant, God establishes a new sign – the sign of the rainbow (9:12-17). Remarkably, it is spoken of as a reminder to God of his promise: “‘15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ 17God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth’” (9:15-17).
The beauty of the rainbow’s colors speak of the beauty of God’s creation. The arc in the sky speaks of God’s protection of his creation. Ironic, isn’t it, that the homosexual community has taken the rainbow as their symbol? I wonder why? Is it to mock God?
I am sure you will notice in these new initiatives the grace of God that is displayed for the benefit of his redeemed people after the flood. God makes every provision for his people and his creatures for them to live in a new world with new conditions. This was a new beginning.
I wonder if the judgement of the flood and the life of God’s redeemed people after the flood is a preview of the final judgement of God on this world (Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 17:31; Rev. 20:11-15) and what will follow, when God will say, “Behold I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5)? Maybe not explicitly, but it certainly gives us a glimpse of that final scene – judgement for some; deliverance for others.
The focus now shifts from Noah to his three sons (9:18) and all future generations and descendants. After God’s judgement, Noah emerges as the new head of the human race along with his three sons - “from these the people the whole earth was dispersed (populated)” (9:19).
This new head of the new human race begins a new occupation. “Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent” (9:20-21). Now Noah continues Adam’s post-fall legacy, working the cursed ground by the sweat of his brow. But Noah adds a new venture. He is the first person to plant a vineyard and begin to produce wine. Unfortunately, wine, which was intended to cause joy of heart (Ps. 104:15), when abused, can lead to drunkenness and nakedness. It certainly did so in Noah’s case.
Drunkenness leads to all sorts of lewd, vulgar, and immoral behavior. Drunkenness is often associated with sexual impropriety as with David and Uriah (2 Sam. 11:9-13) and Lot’s daughters (Gen. 19:30-38). David made Uriah drunk in order to induce Uriah to abandon his righteous convictions and to sleep with his wife, Bathsheba, in order to cover up David’s adultery with her (2 Sam. 11:9-13). But his plan didn’t work. Lot’s daughters made their father drunk in order to commit incest with him during his drunken oblivion and thus “preserve offspring” (Gen. 19:32, 34) by their father. “Thus, both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father” (Gen. 19:36).
Sad, isn’t it, that after all these years of faithfulness and obedience to God, Noah came to this at the end of his life. No details are given as to why he planted a vineyard and then got drunk. But what we learn here is (1) that godly people can make bad choices which can lead to embarrassing ends – in this case, drunkenness and nakedness; and (2) that old age and experience don’t protect you from the utter wickedness of the human heart.
Let this be a warning to you. “Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink—you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness!” (Hab. 2:15). Beware of the dangers of serving and imbibing alcohol. It is a highly addictive, mind-altering drug. The mind-altering effects of alcohol can cause you to speak and act in completely out-of-character ways. When you come under the influence of alcohol you can so easily and quickly come under its control. The Addiction Center calls alcohol the deadliest drug (https://www.addictioncenter.com/community/why-alcohol-is-the-deadliest-drug/). According to the American Addiction Centers, alcohol is the third most addictive drug after cocaine and heroin (https://americanaddictioncenters.org/adult-addiction-treatment-programs/most-addictive).
Scripture is replete with warnings about the dangers of alcohol (e.g. Prov. 20:1; 23:31-32; 23:29-30; 31:4; Isa. 5:11; 24:9; 28:7; Mic. 2:11; Lev. 10:9; Num. 5:2-3; Jdgs. 13:7; Deut. 29:6). I believe, especially in our day when alcohol content is artificially intensified in its inebriating effects through industrial production, that total abstinence is the wisest and best course for all believers. By abstaining from alcohol, you preserve yourself from the potential of dishonoring the Lord and of bringing shame to yourself and your family, as Noah did.
We don’t know what led Noah to this point but what is clear is that he ended up making a bad choice and his bad choice led to his son’s lewd behavior. One sin leads to another. Noah’s drunkenness led to nakedness which, in turn, led to Ham’s invasion of his father’s privacy, violating his dignity, and exposing his shame (9:22). This was not the case of a man catching a glimpse of a naked woman and succumbing to sexual temptation, as David did of Bathsheba. That was bad enough. But here a son purposefully viewed his naked father and then held him up to public ridicule. Rather than spare his father from further embarrassment, Ham broadcasted what he had seen to his other two brothers. Thankfully, they had higher moral sensitivity and maturity than Ham and expressed their rejection of Ham’s ridicule and their respect for their father by covering him up, even walking backwards to spare his feelings and not look at his shame (9:23).
The power of alcohol brought Noah down from the lofty heights of walking with God to the depths of a drunken stupor and nakedness, completely incapable of self-control and completely unaware of self-consciousness. What could be more embarrassing to a man whose portrait has been painted with such spirituality, such godly obedience, such patience, such faith, such grace, to be reduced to such shame and indignity and to be the subject of such ridicule by his son?
It’s sad, isn’t it, that the story of some people’s lives starts out so well but ends so badly. When Noah recovered from his drunken stupor and found out what his youngest son, Ham, had done to him (9:24), he cursed Ham’s youngest son, Canaan saying, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers’” (9:25) and blessed his other two sons, Shem and Japheth saying, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant’” (9:26-27).
Because Ham made the drunkenness and nakedness of his father public, causing Noah shame, rather than keeping it private and preserving his dignity Noah pronounces a curse on Canaan, his grandson (Ham’s son). It’s important to understand that Scripture mentions different kinds of curses. This is not a curse that we might associate with, for example, witchcraft. Rather, Noah’s curse here seems to have the character of prophetic insight into what awaits the descendants of Canaan. You see another example of this in Deut. 27:12-26, that serves as a warning of what would happen to the Israelites if they disobeyed.
Somehow Noah saw in the distance the warning signs of what Ham’s immaturity would lead to in subsequent generations – his shamelessness, lack of wisdom, immaturity, and ridicule. Here we see what can so easily happen when sin is publicized and trivialized. It becomes so commonplace that those who do such things are shameless – no conscience, no embarrassment. It becomes the subject of jokes and ridicule. Such would be the characteristics of the Canaanites in the future.
In our church, when we are faced with sin issues that need attention by the pastors and elders, we try to keep sin as private as possible. We do not shy away from exercising pastoral and, if necessary, congregational discipline. But wherever possible, we try to keep private most sins that we become aware of. Sometimes that isn’t possible because it has already become public or because the sinning brother or sister refuses to repent, even after multiple attempts to bring about repentance. But as much as possible we try to keep sin private so that it doesn’t defile or influence others, so that it facilitates restoration, and so that God is not dishonored publicly.
Ham’s character flaw would plague his descendants after him and for that they will be cursed to become “the lowest of slaves” (lit. “a slave of slaves”) to the descendants of Ham’s brothers, Shem and Japheth (9:25). This prophecy was fulfilled years later when the Shemites invaded the land of Canaan and conquered its inhabitants (1 Kgs 9:20-21), in accordance with God’s promise that the land of Canaan would be given to them.
As we consider what has happened in history, we can see how Noah’s curse of Canaan and his blessing of Shem and Japheth have come true. The descendants of Shem (from which we get our term “Semite”) are the Jewish people (cf. Gen. 10:21-31). Noah’s prayer for the Shemites is directly connected to their relationship to “the God of Shem” (9:26). Noah foresaw that they would be worshippers of Yahweh, the Elohim of Shem. We know that this came true. God chose the Jews to be his special people, through whom came the oracles of God and the Messiah.
Ham is considered to be the father of African people (cf. Gen. 10:6-20) and we all know from history the awful suffering and oppression and exploitation that African people have suffered under white people for many generations, much of that suffering being from slavery. It is important to note that Noah’s curse was on his grandson, Canaan, and Canaan’s descendants, not on his son, Ham, directly. Scripture does not explain why this is so, but it is an important point because some people claim that black skinned people are cursed to slavery. This is not so. In fact, some of Ham’s descendants were definitely not slaves (e.g. the Egyptians).
The descendants of Japheth are the Caucasians, Gentiles (cf. Gen. 10:2-5). Noah’s prayer for Japheth is that his geographical and national borders would be expanded and that the blessing on the Shemites would be his also (9:27). This too has come to pass as the Gentiles have been blessed with the enlargement of their territories and influence and have come into the spiritual blessings of the Shemites.
Thus ends the colorful and, in many ways, sad story of Noah, his life and times. He begins as the righteous “savior” of all living creatures but ends as a naked drunk, which two aspects of Noah are represented in his sons. Shem and Japheth represent and continue his righteous life, his obedience to God. Ham represents Noah’s sinfulness and shame. And from these three sons all peoples of the world have descended. Thus, we see (1) that the human heart has not changed, despite the mighty deliverance of God from the flood judgement; and (2) that the human race today still reflects the two aspects of Noah’s character (as he did the two aspects of Adam’s character) – namely, righteousness and unrighteousness.
It’s amazing, isn’t it, that nothing changes? God continues to extend his grace, despite which man continues to demonstrate the utter sinfulness of his heart.