Monday, February 4, 2013
In Search Of Truth, Genesis 8:18-22
We skip ahead this week to the events just after the flood. The waters have receded and Noah, his family, and the creatures with him in the ark, all make their way onto land again.
Then Noah does something that is a little unusual and almost without precident in the Bible up to this point. He builds an altar and takes some of every "clean" animal and burns them on the altar as a gift offered to Yahweh.
Earlier we saw Abel and Cain do something like this, and concluded that at the very least it was an act demonstrating faith in God's ability to provide for their needs. (At least in the case of Abel.) It's very possible this symbolic act that communicated trust to God was passed down by tradition, and that is why Noah does something similar here. In one way, Noah's offering even more clearly communicates his trust that God is loving and will restore what he had destroyed, since Noah is sacrificing some of the few remaining samples of bird and animal species in existence!
Not only that, but Noah specifically sacrificed "clean" animals and birds. Apparently Noah had some understanding of which animals were considered clean and unclean, either told to him by God at some point, or passed down to him by others. It seems clear that the clean/unclean distinction had nothing to do with diet, as it did later for the Jews. It's not until after Noah offers his sacrifice that God tells him that all animals may now supplement the human diet. And the fact that God includes ALL animals in the potential diet a few verses later also indicates something other than a dietary distinction intended here.
Which animals were clean and unclean at this point we can't know with 100% certainty. But there is something very significant we can still observe based on what we do know. God is worth sacrificing to. He's worth giving the very best to. In fact nothing less than the best we have to offer should be our aim to give to him.
God is also worth entrusting our very best to. Even when our resources seem scarce and we're just trying to survive, Yahweh is still worth trusting and still worth the best we have to give.
And God responds to our trust in him. Trust is his "love language", in a sense. Metaphorically, God was pleased by the smell of Noah's sacrifice, because he knew what the sacrifice meant, and the trust it took for Noah to give it.
God promises at this point never to curse the ground again because of man, or strike down all living creatures in the way he had done with the flood. He promises that the seasons will continue their pattern until the end of the earth.
This last part of the promise is an interesting point of reflection for fans of dystopian sci-fi. As likely as it may seem, given humanity's unceasing evil and growing nuclear power, the earth will never be cast into a nuclear winter that eliminates the normal cycle of seasons.
Of more real encouragement, though, is the recognition with this promise that God has not given up on humanity, and will continue to make their survival possible. Despite all the ways in which we collectively rebel against his plan, God's amazing vision for humanity has not and will not ever be abandoned.