20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.22 As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”—Genesis 8:20-22 | NRSV
Noah and his family can exhale. Finally, their nightmare has ended. No longer batted about by the wind and waves, they are ecstatic and appreciative God has brought them through the flood, one in which they could’ve lost their lives. However, they are alive because God chose to save them. Noah and his family are not lucky to be alive. They are blessed by God to get the chance to get life right. God has selected them, inexplicably yet undeniably, to play a key role in the second act of creation. In short, God sweeps the earth clean and starts life over with them.
At the same time, Noah and the balance of his family are acutely aware they have been given a unique opportunity. Like God, they also will start life over. However, the question yet to be answered is: Will they repeat the mistakes of the past generation (See Genesis 3-5) and seek to live life in defiance and ingratitude? Or, will they opt to live in submission and service to God’s purpose for keeping them on the planet? God does not have to wait for Noah to give his answer with his words; instead, Noah shows God with his actions which way he intends to live. After he kisses the ground for being back on land (It’s in the Trufant Translation!) and releases back into creation the animals, great and small, the first thing he and his family does is worship.
Verse 20 says, “Noah built an altar to the Lord.” It’s so important to Noah to acknowledge and appreciate God that he creates a place of worship where previously there had been none. Equally important, it’s worth noting that Noah takes the time to sacrifice to the Lord one of every creature that crawls and everyone that soars in the air. This gesture is meant to show that all life belongs to the Lord, even his and his family’s.
Verse 22 records God’s response to Noah marking the significance of his relationship with God through worship. The text gives us special access to the inner workings of the head and heart of God, who is pleased with and impressed by Noah’s expression of gratitude for the Lord bringing his family and him through the long, violent storm. Because of Noah’s gesture of appreciation and affection, God makes an enduring promise to be merciful despite humanity’s tendency to disrupt God’s vision and defy God’s values. In short, whatever steps God will take in the future to straighten out creation, it will not involve corrective destruction, but instead costly redemption.
- Think about a time God brought you (and yours) through a rough season. Did you trust God during the season and thank God after the season was over?
- What would it take to upgrade your practice and experience of worship?
- How will you use your time, talent, and treasure to show God how grateful you are for your daily experiences of God’s grace, mercy, and guidance?
- Where and when have you set aside time and a place for worship? If you have done so, why? If not, why not?
- Who taught you to trust and thank God? For doing so, have you thanked them, as well as God? At least, take a moment now to thank God for their investment in your spiritual growth.