First Things First – How the World Came to Be
15. But God Remembered Noah: Hope for Those Who Feel Forgotten
Genesis 8: 1
It’s hard to imagine any “action” greater than a worldwide flood. These details are placed in the Bible for a reason. The Lord wants us to know what happened and how it happened, step by step. Here’s a brief summary of those details:
· Noah entered the ark when he was 600 years 2 months and 10 days old · 7 days later the rain began to fall · The rain fell for 40 days and 40 nights · The floodwaters spread across the entire earth, covering the mountains to a depth of 7m · All living creatures on dry land were wiped out · The flood covered the earth for 150 days. · As the floodwaters receded, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat, evidently the region of far eastern Turkey, near the border with Russia · 74 days later the tops of the mountains became visible · 40 days later Noah sent out a raven · Noah then sent out a dove on 3 occasions - The 3rd time it did not return · 2 weeks later he saw dry land · Noah stayed in the ark another 57 days until the Lord told him to leave · Noah was 601 years 2 months and 27 days old when he left the ark.
Noah spent 1 year and 17 days in the ark. That’s a long time in a cramped space with lots of animals. This was no luxury cruise. The ark was not equipped with a swimming pool. There were no movies, no entertainers and no fancy buffets. There was nothing to do but stay in the boat while it floated on the surface of the ocean.
The Bible does not tell us anything about Noah’s personal emotions during this time. We know that he was a man of faith who took God at his Word. But he was human, too. It could not have been easy to be shut up inside the ark with his family and all those animals. Did he wonder if God had forgotten him?
He had done what God had said. Now he is in a giant boat bobbing up and down with the waves. One day fades into another. He cannot see the sun because of the cloud cover. There is no course to follow, just drifting on the surface of the endless ocean.
Gone and Forgotten
Have you ever felt abandoned by God? Wondered if God has forgotten you? Felt as if your prayers were bouncing off the ceiling? Genesis 8: 1 is for you. “God remembered Noah.” Those 3 words tell us a great deal about the Lord. One of the greatest human fears is to be forgotten. We fear death because it means that ultimately we will be buried in a grave, the world will go on without us and we will eventually be forgotten.
When God “remembered” Noah, it doesn’t mean that God had forgotten him. It simply means that in the midst of the great flood, God stayed true to his promises. He promised to deliver Noah and his family and all those animals, and during the flood, with all its death and destruction, the Lord looked down on the earth and remembered to have mercy on 8 people floating in a big barge with all those animals.
Perhaps Noah felt forgotten by God. If so, he is in good company because the greatest saints of the ages have felt the same way. Psalm 42: 9, 10 “I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’ My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” In the Lord Jesus we have the supreme example of the righteous man feeling abandoned. In his darkest moments on the cross, he cried out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”
Our text contains an important message of hope. In the midst of judgment, God always remembers mercy. He remembers those who suffer and he keeps his eyes on them. Though they suffer long and often feel forgotten, the Almighty will not abandon them. As God remembered Noah, even so he will remember you and me. There is nothing that can separate us from the God who loves us.
1. How God Remembered Noah
A. He sent a wind 8: 1
This speaks to God’s authority over the forces of nature. He commanded the wind and the wind blew. He said to the waters, “Settle down,” and they settled down. At his command the water level began to decrease around the globe. Every drop of water, every gust of wind, and every tiny snowflake comes from the hands of God. Even hurricanes and tornadoes serve his purposes. The storms that batter the earth are fully under his divine control. Just as God has the key to open, he also has the key to shut. He turned off the tap, the heavens dried up and the water began to evaporate from the surface of the earth.
We should learn from this that when affliction has done its appointed work, it will be removed from us. Whether it be sickness or bad circumstances or opposition or even truly bad weather, when God’s purposes have been served, the hard times will go away.
It is significant that the flood did not disappear in a day. The waters rose slowly and fell slowly. Even so, God usually works deliverance for us gradually, little by little, day by day, step by step. We don’t get into trouble overnight and we don’t get out of trouble overnight either.
B. God gave him a sign 8: 6 - 12
Noah was looking for signs that the flood was coming to an end. Noah was ready to get out of that ark. So he sent out a raven. Ravens feast on rotting flesh - it found plenty to eat on the surface of the ocean. It flew back and forth but did not return to the ark. The first time Noah sent out a dove, it came back because the water wasn’t low enough. The second time the dove returned with an olive leaf, indicating that plants were beginning to grow. The third time he sent out a dove, it didn’t come back at all. Noah knew then that the end of the flood must be very near.
But why did he send the birds in the first place? The answer is simple and perhaps easy to overlook. God had told him when the flood would start but not when it would end. I think we can all relate to Noah’s situation. We can endure almost anything if only we know when it will end. That applies to sickness, personal pain, broken relationships, trouble at work, financial stress or even watching our loved ones suffer. Whatever it is, we can take it if we know that 2 weeks from next Tuesday, our troubles will come to an end. Often, it is the not knowing that wears us down. We watch and wait and wonder and pray as the uncertainty gnaws away on the inside. Our chief question is always: “When will this end?” The answer is always: “In God’s time, not one day sooner, not one day later.” God can make the dry ground appear anytime he chooses. We may feel forgotten and abandoned in the flood, but the dry land will appear in due time.
In the course of life, God often delays his mercies in order that we should properly thank him when they finally appear. We pray, “Lord, help us,” and the next day we pray again, “Lord, have mercy,” and the next day we cry out, “Lord, hear our prayers.” Sometimes we are compelled to pray the same prayer for many days, weeks, months or years. All of this is for our ultimate benefit. His answers are delayed in order that his sovereignty might be established (He’s God and we’re not), and that our hearts might be humbled and to ensure that when the answer finally comes, he alone gets the glory.
In our haste (or frustration or desperation) we may try to leave the ark too soon. We may try to unhinge the door or climb out through the window or even knock a hole in the side of the ark. But when we do, we slip and slide through the mud and end up in the water. It is better to wait for God’s answers to appear, and to trust that our Heavenly Father will give us what we need when we need it.
Just as God gave Noah a sign, he still gives signs and tokens of his grace today. Often it is a Scripture or a song repeated at just the right moment. Or a phone call or a letter that came when we felt like giving up. God does not always spare us the pain of life, but he gives us signs to remind us that even in our sadness and even in our despair, we are never alone, never forgotten.
C. God spoke to him again 8: 15 - 17
As far as we know, this is the first time God had spoken to Noah since he told him to enter the ark. The year in between had been a time of silence from heaven. What a long year it must have been. As Noah watched and waited, he went about his duties, wondering when the Lord would speak to him again. Who could blame him if he felt forgotten? The same thing can happen to any of us. You may come to a time in your life when you feel forgotten and alone. You may think that the heavens have become as brass and that your prayers are bouncing back at you. You may lack the conscious sense of God’s presence so that you feel abandoned and left to face life on your own.
What do you do then? You must do what Noah did. Stay faithful to what you know to be true. Obey the Lord and follow the light that you were given in the past. Day after day, Noah had to get up and take care of his responsibilities on the ark. It did not matter if he “felt” like it or not. God had given him a job to do and it must be done. His feelings did not matter. He knew that God had led him this far, and he believed that God had his best interests at heart. While he waited for the Lord to speak again, he did the only thing he could do. He remained faithful. There is no reason to stay in bed and mope. Get up and do what must be done. Just as God spoke to Noah again, so he will speak to you in due time.
2. How Noah Remembered God
Genesis 8 is primarily about God remembering Noah, it also contains wonderful truth about how Noah remembered God. 2 specific ways in which Noah remembered the Lord -
A. He left the Ark 8: 18, 19
I do not think we appreciate how much courage it took for Noah to leave the ark. As I have already pointed out, the ark had been crowded, cramped, and no doubt somewhat smelly. But it has been home, and it was safe. Now they were leaving the known for the unknown. The world they had known was gone forever. Nothing looked the same. Everything was new.
It might have been easier to stay in the ark, uncomfortable though it was. It took great courage to step out of the ark into a brand-new world. It meant leaving behind safety and security. It meant trusting God for a totally unknown future.
Sometimes—often!—God calls us to do things that are hard and may even seem impossible. We are called to leave the known for the unknown, and we have to leave the ark that has taken us this far and step out on our own. It’s scary and unnerving and harrowing because once we leave the familiar confines, we can never go back there again. To leave the ark meant embarking on a new life with new dangers and new opportunities. That takes courage and resolve and a decision not to look back or to second-guess yourself. Sometimes we pray for a change in our circumstances, but when the moment comes, we are so overwhelmed with fear that we are paralyzed and unable to move.
By faith Noah built the ark; by faith Noah entered the Ark; by faith Noah left the ark. Which was harder? To enter the ark or to leave it? Both can be very difficult. Some of us are stuck because we know it’s time to move forward but we are afraid to take the first step. God bless Noah who knew when to get on the big boat and he also knew when to get off!
B. He built an Altar 8: 20
The sequence is very important. God tells Noah to leave the ark and the first thing he does after stepping on dry ground is to build an altar to the Lord. His first act was to publicly thank God for his deliverance. The offering represented his complete surrender and total dedication to the Lord. After the flood Noah could see that God was not only a God of wrath, but also a God of mercy.
Noah recognized that he owed everything to the Lord. His offering is a way of saying, “By rights I should have perished in that flood but God in his mercy delivered me.”
What a challenge this is for all of us to “remember God” in all that we do. In your youth … Remember God! In your marriage … Remember God! In your singleness … Remember God! In your victories and in your defeats … Remember God! In your joys and in your sorrows … Remember God! In your sickness and in your health … Remember God! In your old age … Remember God! In your dying moments … Remember God!
Don’t forget your God! Remember who you are and whose you are. Remember where you came from! Remember the Lord who is with you. Remember the Lord who saved you. Remember the Lord who forgave you. Remember the Lord who loves you. Remember the Lord who is with you even now.
Now is the time to remember God. Let this be your motto: I will remember the Lord. Take time to give thanks. Build an altar where you will meet the Lord. Take time to pray. Speak up for Jesus. Bless the name of the Lord—and do it publicly. Remember the God who remembers you. He will be your joy and comfort in this life and in the life to come. Amen.