Genesis 8:13-20 (NIV) 13 By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. 14 By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry. 15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you–the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground–so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.” 18 So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19 All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds–everything that moves on the earth–came out of the ark, one kind after another. 20 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.
On verse 20: Notice that Noah’s first major action after coming out of the ark with his family unscathed was to build an altar to the Lord and sacrifice burnt offerings on it. What can we learn from this? When God preserves you and protects you from a terrible ordeal, when He provides greatly for you, the thing to do – the first thing – is to give God a sacrifice of worship and praise. Realize that whatever you give God is little compared to what God has given to you.
Genesis 8:21-22 (NIV) 21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. 22 “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
On verses 21-22: Why would God promise never again to curse the ground because of man and never again to destroy all living creatures this way? Did God regret bringing the flood and its destruction? No. I believe something else is happening here: God is responding to Noah’s sacrifice. Notice that God’s promise is prompted by the pleasing aroma of Noah’s sacrifice (v21). As the new Adam in a post-Flood world, and as a priest representing mankind before God, Noah offers to God a sacrifice that touches God’s heart. Despite God observing that as for man, “every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood” (v21), God decides to relent from ever bringing such destruction again as a response to Noah’s sacrifice. You could make the case that Noah’s sacrifice and God’s response to it restored order back into the world, even the seasons (v22).
Thus I believe these verses are showing us not God’s fickleness or His regret, but the power and the importance of giving a sacrifice to God. Here we learn that despite God’s great wrath toward people’s sinfulness, God is willing to curtail His wrath in response to a sincere and pleasing sacrifice.
Noah’s sacrifice here in Genesis 8 is pointing us forward to the day when an even greater sacrifice would be made. Noah’s sacrifice is pointing to when Jesus Christ would give to God the most perfect sacrifice, becoming “the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Whereas Noah’s sacrifice prompted God to promise never again to bring a flood to destroy life on earth as He did in Genesis 6-7, Jesus’ sacrifice is even greater: it deflected God’s wrath against our sins for eternity.
Heavenly Father, thank You for teaching me today about the power of a sacrifice, how Your great wrath against sin can be appeased when a person pleasing to You offers a sacrifice. Jesus, thank You for the precious sacrifice You made so that God’s wrath would turn away from us and we could be forgiven. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!