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The Promise: Genesis 8.20-9.17

Have you ever needed a fresh start?  This past week we got snow and there was a temptation to build a snowman.  When there’s not a lot of snow to work with you have to work really hard to build a snowman.  When it’s not working out well we just say, “I’m going to start over.” 

Genesis eight is about a fresh start.  God gives us a fresh start too, a new opportunity.  We’re at the end of the flood and they’ve been on the ark for about a year.  It’s time to worship.  We’ve never seen anything like what they’ve just experienced.  Water covered the whole earth.  Even after all the loss they’ve experienced, they’re worshipping.  They spent 120 years getting ready for the flood and then a year on the ark.

Worship through the storm.

                    20Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose.

When they entered the ark they took two of every kind of animal but they also took seven pairs of clean animals because they could eat them.  This was their food while on the boat and after the flood.  God is setting up a way for them to worship.  There weren’t many of these animals; there was just enough.  There wasn’t a surplus.  Noah builds an altar to the Lord.  They made a true and costly sacrifice.  This was a great risk. 

How do we know they are worshipping?  It’s the first thing they do when they come off the ark.  This was planned.  They praise and worship God.  This is the first time they built an altar.  Building altars happens many other times in the Old Testament.  It’s a repeated pattern.

Think about what you’re going through.  There are two reasons this altar sacrifice is given: forgiveness and thanksgiving.  Both are present here in this verse.  These are two major components of our worship: forgiveness for what we haven’t done and what we have done, and thanks for what God has done. 

Abraham also built an altar before the Lord when he came to a new area.  In Exodus 17, Moses built an altar after a military victory.  Wherever we go, there’s a place of worship, the opportunity to worship.  There’s victories in our lives too.  In Exodus 24, Moses builds an altar after God spoke to him.  In 2 Samuel, David builds an altar when there’s a plague in the land.  God tells David to go buy a threshing floor and build an altar in the middle of disease and uncertainty.  There’s a pattern of altar building in the Old Testament.  By building an altar we remember who God is. 

Are you making space in your life for worship?  When times are good sometimes we forget to worship.  There’s many changes going on in this passage.  God’s promise is given.  God calls us to embrace the seasons of life.  They’ve experienced a major disruption.  All they knew was lost.  They’ve lived a year with only water everywhere and here’s the end of that year. 

Embrace the seasons of life.

                    22As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” 

God restores order out of chaos.  All they’ve known is destruction.  We see how God restores through the seasons of nature.  Sometimes God gives us summer with great heat.  We can go swimming and go to the beach.  There are many seasons of life as well that God gives us.  Snow was falling this past week as I was working on this message.  These are part of God’s promises to us, the regular patterns of life.  This is how the crops grow.  This is how God sustains life for us.  All they knew was destroyed.  God has given signs and promises.  Seasons come for a reason.  We need these rhythms in our lives; every day is not Christmas day.  There’s a season for Christmas.  We can get frustrated and long for those days at the beach.  We long for another season.  We are not always quick to embrace the season we’re in, but these seasons are part of God’s plan for our lives.  We can wish our lives away by longing for another season. 

God has a reason for where you are.  There are many seasons represented in our congregation.  For example, some of us are in Kindergarten.  You’ve had major changes in your lives this year!  Some of you received your driver’s licenses this past year.  You’re more independent and you have more opportunities.  It’s a great season for you.   Some of you are in a season where you’re losing some of your independence and you’re becoming more dependent on others.  Some seasons can cause us to struggle.  This doesn’t catch God by surprise.  Seasons are a part of God’s greater plan for our lives.  As long as the earth remains, the sun will arise tomorrow.  We don’t have to be alarmed by changes.  We can embrace them and trust God.

See the good in others.

                    6If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image.

Sometimes we forget about the people around us.  God calls us to see good in other people.  Noah’s family is coming off the ark.  Their zoo membership was for a year.  How’d they get there?  Why did this happen?  In Genesis six the earth was filled with violence.  People were not taking care of one another.  When we lose the value of human life we stop valuing other people’s lives.  God made human beings in His own image.  Taking a life is taking someone made in the image of God.  We don’t understand how valuable we are.  We talk about pride and conceit but most of us struggle more with not thinking enough of ourselves.  We are of infinite value.  No one can take a life without consequences.  Life is valuable.  You are valuable.  God calls us to see the value in other people.  Life is valuable from conception to the grave.  In the Ten Commandments, in Exodus 20:13, we are instructed not to kill.  Life is sacred.  Most of us aren’t plotting murder, but we all can stop seeing good in other people.   When this happens it is a warning sign that we are moving away from God.  There’s far too much tearing down of other people.  It’s not God’s design for us.  This was the foundation of the flood.  It’s easier to see the negative in other people than it is to see good sometimes.  We see bad signs and we do this without even realizing what we’re doing.  We have to guard against this.  We can ask, “God, why am I feeling and thinking this way?”  We can pray God will give us His heart so we can see people as God sees them. 

As they came off the ark there were only eight people.  There’s a propensity to revert back to the ways were before the flood even after a fresh start.  It’s a sign of God’s presence in our lives when we see good in others. 

Celebrate rainbows.

God gives a promise.  This is the most famous thing about this passage.  There was destruction all around Noah and his family.  God puts everything to rest.  God promises this kind of destruction will never happen again.  People will be ugly to one another again, but God will sustain life, even in the midst of destruction.

                    13I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.  

There’s a great metaphor here.   How long have people seen rainbows?  Since the time of Noah people have alerted one another to look at a rainbow when they’ve seen one.  We’ve learned that when light is refracted or bent and the sun shines through water, we see all these colors and it makes a beautiful rainbow.  God put this there so we can see his promise over our lives.  Rainbows come at the end of a storm.  You can even make a rainbow with a prism or even a water hose.  Think about what God is saying to Noah’s family.  God will sustain their lives.  God is with them.  You will make it through!  God will sustain you in the midst of chaos!  The next time you see a rainbow know the storm will end.  God is faithful.  God will provide.  The storm will not win.  Geneses 8-9 calls us to a place where we lay down our troubles and worship.  Whatever change in life you’re experiencing, God is with you and will take you through this.  Let’s celebrate God’s promises to us.  God’s faithfulness will never end.  

Sermon Notes are taken, transcribed and posted by Jeni Martin Johnson.


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