A NEW BIGINNING
Genesis 8:1-9:29 (Key Verse: 8:1a)
“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark,”
Today’s passage is the continuation to ch. 6-7, which describes God’s fearful judgement over the corrupted world vividly. Ch. 8-9, however, shows the stark contrast to previous chapters with God’s mercy and his new beginning. In the previous chapters, God showed his sovereign judgment and righteousness, but in the present chapters God revealed his unfathomable mercy and his unchanging hope. May God help us to meet the God of Noah in this passage and to follow Noah’s footsteps together!
I. GOD REMEMBERED NOAH (8:1-22)
Look at v. 8:1. “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.” In chapters 6-7 we learned God’s righteous judgment over the world. Chapter 7:22, 23 shows how fearful judgment God performed all over the world because of their sin, saying, “Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth.” There has been no exception from God’s righteous judgement. Even the Nephilim, who were the heroes of old, men of renown giant, could not survive God’s judgment of flood, though they swam skillfully with butterfly, freestyle like Michael Phelps for a while. The mouths of all the people who mocked Noah and God’s warning for his fearful judgment, “Hmmm…Where is God’s judgement!! Enjoy your life…” were filled with waters and sunk into the death of water.
In the time of Postmodernism, people deny and mock God’s mighty presence and his sovereign judgement over the world. Even LGBT mocks God’s sign of his covenant, the rainbow in the clouds in ch. 9:13, as their symbol of peace and safety, parading in the street, “We are safe because of God’s promise of no punishment anymore.” Is it really true that there will be no judgment whatever we do? In 2Cor 5, Apostle Paul, who awaited the new body in heaven and our heavenly dwelling, clearly proclaimed that “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (5:2, 10) In 2Peter, there has been many false prophets/teachers who denied God’s judgement because of its delay. But Peter proclaims that “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” How then shall we live? “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” (3:10-12)
During God’s complete judgement, only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark (7:23b). There has been no light, no hope, and no life in the world.
But look at v. 8:1a. “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark.” In fact this short sentence is the turning point of all Noah’s story. The verb, “remember,” in Hebrew jakar, means “to recall, care for, pay attention to” In 6:13-7:4, God showed his plan of judgement over the world to Noah, saying “Go into the ark,” and then in v. 7:16 God shut the door of the ark silently from the outside. And then only in v. 8:15 God said again to Noah, “Come out of the ark.” God seemed to disappear and to be silent during this process of fearful judgment. But God remembered Noah and showed his mercy upon Noah. God did not forget his promise and Noah. Human beings forget the promise easily and sometimes don’t remember it intentionally. In Gen 40, when Joseph was in jail, he served the cupbearer of Pharaoh and asked him, “When all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness.” Did he remember Joseph? No! The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. (Gen 40:14, 23) Human beings forget the grace of God, but remember the bad memory.
But our God remembers his people and his covenant during the time of suffering. In Exo 2:23-24, when the Israelites groaned in their slavery, God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant, and rescued them from the hands of Pharaoh. Amazingly, in the NT there had happened a same/similar event/situation in Mark 4. When Jesus disciples were crossing the sea in a boat, not in an ark, a furious squall came up, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him with resentment, saying, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown? Don’t you remember us?” Jesus, waking up and calming down the wind, said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (4:35-41) Jesus, seeming to sleep silently, remembered and cared for them even under the furious squall. Isaiah 49:15 says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you.”
Among us is there anyone who is put into the pits of death and in the time of suffering in sickness? Among us is there anyone who wonders whether he is forgotten from God? Sometimes God seems to be sleeping silently and not to respond for us for a while. When troubles gather, and prayers seem unanswered, it is hard to keep faith firm. When we see the wind boisterous, and our boat is sinking, we shout with fear and despair, “Lord, do you forget us?” But God remembers us and reaches out his hands of mercy in any circumstance. Isaac Yoo did not get the job for 10 years in US, rejected from PA program, RN program, and Computer studies program etc. There has been no 2nd chance. He was a forgotten-one for 10 years. God, however, remembered him and opened the door to the best position, FDA. Let’s remember that God remembers us and provides his divine hands toward us in any circumstance!!
God sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded (8:1b). Here, the wind in Hebrew, ruach (ר֙וּחַ֙), has the same origin with the Spirit of God (ר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים ruach elohim), which was hovering over the waters in Genesis 1:2. God remembered Noah and began to make a new creation over the world. In 7:11, in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. But now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped (8:2). God with his sovereign authority opens the door of salvation and closes it. Isaiah 22:22 says, “I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Rev 3:7) While God opens his door of salvation wide, we should enter into the ark of salvation, Jesus our Savior!
Vv. 6-12 shows how Noah reacted in the ark. After forty days Noah opened a window and sent out a raven to check whether the water had receded from the earth. In Elijah’s time a raven fed him with a good memory faithfully, but now flied away, forgetting the grace. Noah then sent out a dove to see the condition of the land. But the dove could find nowhere to perch and returned to Noah. In v. 10, Noah waited seven more days and again sent out the dove. In this time the dove returned to him, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth (v.11). However, he waited seven more days and sent the dove out again (v.12). Noah already knew that the earth was dry, but he waited seven more days and sent the dove out again.
Sometimes I have a visit my home country Korea by flying for 14 hours by plane. In a compact space it is usually unbearable to stay for a long time. Finally landing on the land, I yelled and rush out of the airplane to feel the freedom. Actually, Noah and his family stayed in the ark for a year and 11 days. How unbearable it is for them to be locked and to stay in the ark for a year and 11 days! How much did they long for the fresh air to breathe and how much did they desire to walk on the green grass? More than that, when they knew the fact that the land had already dried up, they easily wanted to rush out of the ark immediately. But, Look! Noah waited seven more days until God said to him. In v. 15, finally God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark,” and in v. 18, “So Noah came out.”
The author of Hebrews interprets Noah’s faith as follows, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” (11:7) Noah’s faith is the faith of holy fear, observing God’s words and waiting God’s words/time. In ch. 6-7, the word of “Noah did everything just as God commanded him,” (6:22; 7:5, 9, 16) is repeated 4 times.
Mother Barry became 89 years old Jan. 29. She was used as prayer mother and bible teacher and missionary around 70 years. I saw in HQ site her key verse and her testimony. I guess she will grasp some philosophical words in Scripture as her key verse in 2019. But she chose Proverbs 3:5-6 as a new-year key verse. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” I found Noah’s faith of holy fear in her deep heart, fearing God’s words only.
This verse reminds us that there are many things in the world to trust. People, money, past success, future plans, but God’s word says ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding’. To trust him means to obey him, to submit to him. He gives the promise that he will make our paths straight. In this corrupt and crooked world, many people lose direction and follow the worldview that is the most popular at the time. We also easily lose our life direction. In America, LGBT culture grows powerful more and more. In TV and entertainment, and even in campus, this evil trend floods over people’s minds. Even Christians would be brainwashed by this evil trends, and if we deny this trend we could be judged to be old-fashioned and out of date. Drinking animal party, drugs, sex before marriage put a strong pressure upon people. But God hates this and Scripture clearly proclaims this is a sin against God. We need to have a holy fear about God’s words, not depending on the worldly trends. We live now in the postmodernism age, which is rampant on people’s minds with darkness and confusion. But only in God and in his words there is light and life forever. So I want to trust him with all of my heart and not depend on my own understanding. I remember that God’s “word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Ps 119:105). Do you have God’s words in your deep hearts to grab and to trust in any situation? God gave us the Bible to be a lamp for our feet and a light for our paths. Let’s wait God’s voice and his time and to follow God’s words!
I pray that God will help me to meditate on his word and acknowledge him in all my ways. As a biblical scholar and a bible teacher I am teaching Hermeneutics and ways of interpretation of Scripture such as so many criticisms and ancient languages of Greek and Hebrews at Seminary. I sometimes feel I am well-informed to Scripture. But Noah’s faith of holy fear teaches me that I should fear of the Lord and obey his words first. May God help me to fear the Lord and his words only.
Let’s look at vv. 10, 11 again. “He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.” The dove brought the wonderful news to Noah with a freshly plucked olive leaf. A freshly plucked olive leaf shows a new beginning of God’s mercy and a new beginning of life in the world. Proverbs 25:25 says, “As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” God showed his mercy and peace on the earth and a hope of new creation through this sign.
The flag of UN is designed with the world map surrounded by the olive leafs. Do you know what God’s words written on the wall of UN? In the wall of UN, there is also written with God’s words of new creation hope with Isaiah 2:4, “In the last days…They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” When God created the whole world, he was so happy and said, “It is very good.” The whole world is God’s treasured works and unchangeable object of love. Even when Adam committed sin against God, God kept the hope of restoration in the Garden of Eden. In the time of Noah, when the wickedness of the human race had become great on the earth, God regretted, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created,” but God began a new creation because of the faith of one man, Noah. In God, we have an unchangeable hope of a new creation.
Two years ago, Noah, second son of P. Phillip, pulled the handle of fire alarm in the church, because he saw the words there “Pull the handle.” So he pulled the handle, obeying the command like Noah. You can imagine what things happened there, ringing the noisy sounds and coming the fire-fights cars quickly. We can imagine how greatly he was disciplined from his mother, M. Sarah Brown. At this critical moment, Noah asked his mom, “Mom, is there any 2nd chance?” In God there is a 2nd chance for a new beginning!!
We love the “new” second chance. In this week Lunar New year has begun and we now have a new second beginning. We had made many decisions and resolutions (diet, bible reading, early morning prayer etc), but some of us already forgot the new-year key verses and were distracted from the right directions. Some of us committed sins or fell into a deep despair due to unexpected things. But in God we can have a hope of new beginning in any situation. In God it is not too late. God will begin the new and miraculous things among us!
Look at vv.18-20. When God said to Noah “Come out of the ark,” so Noah came out. “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. (20)” The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and changed the mind of cursing the ground any more. When the astronaut Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neal Armstrong touched down as a human being for the first time on it. With an overwhelming heart he said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Noah also would have many words in his minds to say. However, when Noah touched down the land, Noah built an altar of obedience and thanksgiving to the Lord first. God was deeply comforted by his sacrifice and faith. From this event we learn that one righteous man’s altar can change God’s minds from the curse to the blessings. Because of our early morning prayer’s altar, First Look Fair’s altar, and our bible studies’ altar God would smell the pleasing aroma for UM campus students and our nation. Jam 5:16b says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” May God bless each one of us to become a righteous person Noah to build an altar to the Lord!
II. GOD’S COVENANT WITH NOAH (9:1-29)
When Noah built an altar to the Lord, God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (9:1) God regenerated the first blessing which was given to Adam and renewed a new beginning of the earth. Further, God set the new order of creation, but highlighted the preciousness of human blood, because in the image of God has God made mankind. (9:2-7)
God did not just say the blessing, but establish his own covenant with Noah. Look at vv. 8-17. “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you (9)…I establish my covenant with you (11a)…This is the sign of the covenant…I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures (15)…I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant…(16b)”
From 9:8-17, God said the word of “My covenant” as many as 8 times, confirming his promises and will. “My covenant” indicates that God will establish it unilaterally and will keep this covenant by himself. The covenant normally needs both parties to be effective, but now God set the one-sided covenant, “My covenant.” Simultaneously, on the contrary this long passage reflects the facts how much God worried human beings’ unbelief and their fear to God’s judgement again. The content of God’s covenant is: “Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood.” Furthermore, God sets the rainbow in the clouds as the sign of his covenant. When they see the rainbow in the clouds, they will be comforted by God’s promise of salvation from the death.
When we see the rainbow in the sky after rain, we naturally shout “Wow!” and are comforted by God’s mercy and his love toward us. Rom 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Someone says he was double-blessed because he saw the double-rainbow in the sky. After seeing the double-rainbow, he tried to buy Power-ball lottery. The rainbow in the clouds appears suddenly and soon disappears. However, we have the everlasting rainbow signs of covenant for blessings, that is, the cross of Jesus. The cross is not just the symbol for the church, but the sign of his covenant, God’s unchanging forgiveness and his everlasting love toward us. Whenever we see the cross, we are comforted and confirmed with God’s unchangeable love and his forgiveness. Jesus’ covenant of love and forgiveness was confirmed more than 8 times through his own blood on the cross once and for all.
Noah’s story ch. 8-9 begins with “God remembered Noah,” (8:1) and ends with “I will remember my covenant.” (9:15-16) This is the way of Inclusio, confirming the definite promises and his will of observance. God does not eat his word, but remember and keep it for his name’s sake. Let us know God remembers us yesterday, today, and forever.
Bee Gee’s song titled “Don’t forget to remember me,” is appealing to remember because human beings’ tendencies to forget soon. Lovers easily forget their love and separate according to their own advantages. So there is the flower’s name of “Forget-me-not”, wanting to remember favorite memories and times.
Rom 8:26-28 says God remembers us through the prayer of Holy Spirit, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans…And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Furthermore, because of his promises and his remembrance of his covenant, God will restore all the earth into the New Heaven and New Earth (Rev 21).
Ch. 9:18-29 describes the story of three sons of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s iniquities/corruption. In vv. 20-21, Noah proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Noah, blameless among the people of his time, was overwhelmed by the power of alcohol, and lost his power of self-regulation. In any age, moral crimes were committed with a drunkenness. So Eph 5:18 recommends us, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”
I sometimes wonder why this part was inserted into here, not being omitted, and why Noah drank wine. Anyway, this disgraceful event shows that even the righteous man Noah was not perfect one. More than that, his three sons’ destiny was divided into blessing and curse according to their attitude to his father’s iniquities. The youngest son, Ham, saw his father naked and mocked his father’s weakness to his brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and then walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. (23) When awaking from his wine, he found out what Ham had done to him. He cursed Ham to become the lowest of slaves. There is the spiritual order and authority under God’s sovereignty. Furthermore, our parents and spiritual parents also are not perfect, and sometimes our parents need to be covered by his children in their weakness and faults. Therefore, we need to be careful to keep the spiritual order and to maintain a spiritual honor for the spiritual ancestors, because they are the channel of God’s blessings.
From today’s passage, we learn God remembers his people and his everlasting covenant. In the same way, God established the new covenant of Jesus through his precious blood for our sins. In God, we can find his everlasting mercy upon us and can begin a new beginning by faith in any situation. Praise God for his great mercy and his great hope to make us a new creation! May God bless us to become a righteous person, Noah, in this generation!