Imagine waking up one morning and finding that the world as you had known it had been destroyed:

No other people around but your family;

no wild animals or livestock or birds except those that were with you;

no geographic home to return to.

Imagine that everything that you had ever known had been wiped out by a flood of epic proportions. This, of course, was the situation that Noah faced. For this righteous man—righteous because he had believed God—had demonstrated his belief by doing his Maker’s bidding when told to build an ark;[1] and he then again did his Maker’s bidding when, having completed building the ark, he brought on board his entire family along with all the animals that came to him[2] and “[t]hen the LORD shut him in.”[3] Next, after waiting seven days upon that ark, “the floodwaters came on the earth.”[4] For forty days and forty nights, the rains fell[5] until, as we saw last week, “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. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.”[6]

As our passage for this morning opens, these are the events that have transpired as we’re then told in verse 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.” For forty days and forty nights there had been no sun; for forty days and forty nights there had been nothing but rain. And now, at long last, the waters from below and the waters from above had ceased. For God had not forgotten Noah and the others whom he had delivered from evil. No, God remembered Noah. As one commentator notes, “When the Bible says that God ‘remembers’ someone or his covenant with someone, it indicates that he is about to take action for that person’s welfare.”[7] Or, as another notes, “To ‘remember’ in the Bible is often not merely to recall people to mind but to express concern for them, to act with loving care for them.”[8] Thus did God remember Noah. Thus did God demonstrate that he was concerned for Noah and acted with loving care on his behalf and on behalf of all who were with him.

Now the word translated as wind[9] in verse 1 may also be translated as “spirit.” It’s the same word used in the opening chapter of Genesis when it states “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”[10] Whether by way of the wind he controlled or by his Spirit, God, in acting upon Noah’s behalf, had caused the waters to recede. Finally. After hearing the rains hit against the ark for forty days and nights, now there was no more rain but only a great wind that caused those powerful and unrelenting waters to cease and recede. As stated in verse 2, “Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.” And all of this happened because God remembered Noah. All because God was concerned for Noah.

Having delivered Noah from the wicked women and men who had ceased to turn to God and consequently had become so corrupt and violent that God sent a flood to wipe such evil from the face of the good earth he had made, God now continued to lovingly act on Noah’s behalf. For again, he sent a wind over the earth so that the waters receded (verse 1);[11] he closed the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens so that the rains stopped falling (verse 2). Therefore, as we read beginning in verse 3, “3 The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, 4 and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.” As the waters had initially “flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days,”[12] now that the rains had stopped the waters steadily receded for a hundred and fifty days so that “the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.” Now we don’t know where on Ararat the ark landed for many mountains comprise it and the ark has never been found. Yet once landed, as stated in verse 5, “5 The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.” In other words, it would take three more months of the water receding—from the seventh month stated in verse 4 to the tenth month stated in verse 5—before “the mountains became visible.”

And after forty days, as stated starting in verse 6, Noah used some of the birds he had brought with him to try and figure out if the earth below the vast mountains was yet dry. He “opened a window he had made in the ark” and first sent out a raven[13] and then a dove.[14] Finding no place to perch, the dove returned so that Noah brought it back inside in the ark.[15] Seven days later he sent it out again. This time the dove returned with “a freshly plucked olive leaf.” And since olive trees don’t grow at high elevations, “Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.”[16] This account is, of course, the origin of both the dove and the olive branch being symbols of peace to this day. And the next time Noah sent out the dove seven days later, “it did not return to him.”[17] As we read in verses 13–14, “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.” Then and only then did “Noah…[remove] 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.”

Now in the previous chapter in Genesis 7:11 we were told that the flood began, “[i]n the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month.”[18] This means that Noah had been in the ark for over a year. And it is at this point that God again spoke to Noah. As recorded in verses 16–17, he said to him, “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 on it.” As God had previously ordered Noah to enter the ark,[19] now he ordered him to get out of it. And if as we noted previously,[20] the flood is analogous to Christian baptism which expresses our new life in Christ after dying to our former sinful selves , then we can similarly see this command from God as the means he used to provide Noah new life on earth following the cleansing waters of the flood. Now if in hearing these verses you’re experiencing a sense of déjà vu, it’s because having done away with his once-good creation that had turned away from him and thereby become evil, God now began to reinstitute the creation mandate. As the opening chapter of Genesis states that God initially created every living creature according to its kind,[21] so now God told Noah to bring out every kind of living creature that was with him; and as God originally had the animals be fruitful and increase,[22]  so now he had Noah bring the animals out of the ark that they might “multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it” for the earth would once again have to be populated with God’s creation.

Now not for the first time, we’re left wanting more details about what took place for presumably Noah and his family—not to mention the animals—had to climb down the mountains of Ararat in order to fulfill this reinstitution of the creation mandate. So we’re left wondering what that might have looked like and what it would have entailed. But Scripture only provides us with the information we need to know. Therefore what we’re told instead is that when God told Noah to come out of the ark, he again obeyed God. As stated in verses 18–19, “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 land—came out of the ark, one kind after another.”

But this time Noah didn’t simply obey God. He also went on to offer a sacrifice to him. As stated in verse 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.” These burn offerings are part of the reason that God originally had Noah bring extra animals, that is, beyond a pair, onto the ark. This offering was an expression not only of Noah’s gratitude but also of his seeing a need for atonement. It was both an expression of thanksgiving and a needed reparation for humanity’s sin since the flood was unable to change fallen human nature. As stated in the following verse, “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” This is almost the same language that had been used of those living in Noah’s day prior to the flood when “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”[23] The point here is that though Noah was a righteous man and though he was being used by God to maintain the good line of Adam and Seth through whom Messiah, the Christ, the anointed One would one day arrive, Noah—despite being righteous due to his believing and obeying God—was also sinful. Therefore he, too, along with his family needed to atone, to make amends, for their sins.

This is why we’ll continue to see that throughout the Old Testament animal sacrifice was the way in which God dealt with human sin. So, for example, the LORD later gave instruction to Moses as recorded in the book of Leviticus, “If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you.”[24] As was the case with Abel and Cain, we see in these verses the importance of bringing an appropriate sacrifice to God—in this case, “a male without defect.” Recall that whereas Abel brought the best sacrifice to offer to God, Cain did not. Yet if, as the voice ensemble sang this morning, our God and Redeemer is our “greatest treasure” and the “wellspring of [our] soul,”[25] then we should bring our greatest treasure to our great LORD. To do otherwise would be like telling a friend we had bought them a gift—say a pair of shoes. Yet how would that friend feel if, upon opening that gift, they found that the pair of shoes we had given them was old—and smelly—and dirty—and scuffed—and the shoelaces were broken or missing? That smelly pair of shoes was the offering Cain made to God and this is why it wasn’t accepted by him. Yet Abel had given his LORD—his greatest treasure, the wellspring of his soul—the best sacrifice he could find. And it is for that reason that his sacrifice was accepted.

Therefore we see here that as Abel had done before him and as Moses had done after him, Noah, too, brought his best sacrifice to God. And notice God’s response to the sacrifice offered by his righteous servant. As stated beginning with verse 21, “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human 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.’” Again, all along God knew that doing away with a humanity that had become evil, corrupt, and violent wouldn’t solve the problem of human sin, of hearts that want nothing to do with their Maker; of image-bearers who deny their image and end up becoming more like vicious animals rather than becoming more like their holy, kind, and merciful Creator as he intended. All along God knew that even after the flood, “every inclination of the human heart [would be] evil from childhood.” Yet we see that the LORD took pleasure in Noah’s sacrifice and subsequently promised he would never again destroy all of its living creatures as he had done by way of the flood.

I want to take a moment to focus upon this phrase used in verse 21, a “pleasing aroma,” which is often used in Scripture to communicate God’s pleasure over a sacrifice offered to him. Though this is the first time this phrase is used it’s certainly not the last. It, or a variant of it, can be found almost forty times in the Old Testament[26] and once in the New in the passage that was read for us earlier from 2 Corinthians 2.[27] For a sacrifice to be a “pleasing aroma” to God is a strong indication that God takes pleasure in the sacrifices his people make on his behalf. God takes pleasure in our sacrificing ourselves to him—in our sacrificing ourselves and our energy as we offer him our prayers, our time, our material goods. God takes pleasure in our offering him our worship, in what we do here as a family every Sunday morning as we gather together as his children and are reminded of his goodness and kindness and offer him our thanks and praise in return. And God not only takes pleasure in our worship and prayer and living with and for him, but he is also responsive to us whenever we turn to him. As we see in the case of Noah, because of the Lord’s pleasure, he promised as stated in verse 21, never again to “curse the ground because of humans”—again, even though “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” And God further promised that he would “never again… destroy all living creatures” as he had done with the flood. And, again, to underscore this promise he stated, as recorded in verse 22, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” In other words, God promised that the earth would continue until his plans for it are complete.

Now because the flood didn’t solve the problem of human sin, the LORD from the time of Adam’s disobedience in the Garden knew that the only solution to the Fall’s effects upon humanity would be for him to send his Son. He knew from the time of Adam’s disobedience in the Garden that he would place enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman and that by way of this promised One the serpent and all evil would one day be done away with for good.[28] For God knew from the time of Adam’s disobedience in the Garden that he would send a new Adam, a last Adam,[29] his Son, to die in the place of those who turned to him in order that they might receive his forgiveness in having their sin placed upon him and subsequently having that sin replaced with the righteousness of Son.

We who are living after the time of the arrival of God’s Messiah, of Christ, are now—as stated by the apostle Paul in our New Testament passage from 2 Corinthians 2—joyful captives in a procession to the heavenly kingdom that is led by none other than Jesus Christ, our King. What is more, all who belong to Jesus are being used by him, “to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” Sound familiar? Dear sisters and brothers, because you and I belong to Jesus Christ, we are able, as those who have given our lives over to him, as his captives, to be used by him so that others might come to know him as well. As Paul goes on to state in verse 15, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” As throughout the Old Testament, sacrifices to God were a pleasing aroma that covered the smell, the stench, of human sin, so too now Jesus Christ’s sacrifice not only covers the smell, the stench, of our sin but his sacrifice has replaced that stench with the sweet and powerful presence of his Holy Spirit, the very Spirit who anointed him Messiah, through whom we, like Noah, are declared righteous in God’s eyes in and through Jesus’ obedience and death on our behalf. And now this pleasing aroma of Christ, this pleasing knowledge of Christ, is able to bring life to others. It’s able to bring life to any and all who turn to him. Yet to those who refuse Christ, as stated in verse 16, believers are “an aroma that brings death” for we are a warning of the judgment that will come upon them if they continue to turn away from the life-giving God. For to reject Christ, who is God, is to choose death for life is found only in him.[30] This is why those who have given their lives over to Jesus and are now indwelled by his Holy Spirit are said to be “an aroma that brings death.” This is why all who reject him are in danger of becoming like those who lived in Noah’s day; like those whose “every inclination of the thoughts of [their]… heart was only evil all the time.”[31] Yet our hope must ever be that others will receive the salvation our dear and precious Jesus offers them. Therefore let us, like he and as stated in verse 17, “speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God” in order that the pleasing aroma of Christ might spread far and wide and become “an aroma that brings life.”

Let us pray.

[1] Genesis 6:22: Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

[2] Genesis 7:5: And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.

[3] Genesis 7:16b.

[4] Genesis 7:10: And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.

[5] Genesis 7:12: And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

[6] Genesis 7:23.

[7] Crossway ESV Study Bible note on Genesis 8:1.

[8] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Genesis 8:1.

[9] Hebrew ruakh.

[10] Genesis 1:2.

[11] This word (Hebrew ruakh) may also be translated as “spirit” as in Genesis 1:2: Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

[12] Genesis 7:24: The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.

[13] Genesis 8:7: [Noah] sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth.

[14] Genesis 8:8: Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground.

[15] Genesis 8:9: But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark.

[16] Genesis 8:10–11: 10 He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. 11 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.

[17] Genesis 8:12: He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

[18] Genesis 7:11: In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.; Genesis 8:13–14: 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. (emphases added)

[19] Genesis 7:1: The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.”

[20] See sermon preached on February 23, 2020, Deliver Us from Evil, on Genesis 6:1–13, 17–22.

[21] See Genesis 1:21, 25: 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good…. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

[22] Genesis 1:20, 22 is repeated: 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky….”22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.”

[23] Genesis 6:5.

[24] Leviticus 1:3–4. Emphases added.

[25] From My Worth Is Not in What I Own, by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Graham Kendrick.

[26] All of the rest occur in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. E.g., Exodus 29:18: Then burn the entire ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord, a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord.; Leviticus 3:16: The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering, a pleasing aroma. All the fat is the Lord’s.; Numbers 15:14: For the generations to come, whenever a foreigner or anyone else living among you presents a food offering as an aroma pleasing to the Lord, they must do exactly as you do.

[27] Although “fragrant offering” is used in Philippians 4:18: I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.; Ephesians 5:2: and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

[28] Genesis 3:15: And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

[29] 1 Corinthians 15:45–48: 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. (Genesis 2:7 is being referenced: Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.)

[30] As Jesus taught concerning himself in John 1:14: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

[31] Genesis 6:5.