Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 9:20-23

20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:

21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.

Each of us have our personal low point, our “naked shame” that reveals us at our absolute worst. As with Moses, it is often our family who get to see us at those low points. Sometimes they get to see the best of us, but they also get to see the worst. Here we read that Noah was drunk and passed out, certainly not the most honorable of situations to be found in, and the different reactions of his three sons is very telling.

Shem and Japheth keep themselves turned away from their father’s shame and cover him. They are clearly retaining a reverence and respect for the man, even at his low point. And by that I don’t mean to suggest that we should just sweep the failings of our family members under the rug, but if confrontation and boundaries are needed, we can still establish those from a place of love and respect.

Ham, on the other hand, has no excuse for his behavior. Glorying in another’s shame and ridiculing them is never acceptable. By trying to expose his father’s wrong, Ham was also revealing his own.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 9:11-13, 15-16

11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 

12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:

13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

We may forget the promises that we make to God, but He does not forget the promises that He has made to us. We may change our ways and become unfaithful, but He does not change and He does not stop being faithful.

How many times do we see a rainbow on the horizon and think nothing of it? Meanwhile, to God it is a solemn reminder of the pledge that He has made to us. How many times is God showing up to save and protect us, and we do not even see it?

Just recently I moved next to a lake, and it is a regular occurrence to see a rainbow bridging across it. I hope that the next time I do so I will feel more moved than usual. Hopefully I will be able to go and meet God at the altar where He is waiting.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 9:1-4, 6

1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth

2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.

3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

Today’s verses continue the theme of a new beginning for humanity. God is renewing the exact same commandments that He gave in the Garden of Eden, such as for mankind to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,” and to have dominion over the animal kingdom.

The instructions are not completely the same, though, there are are a couple of differences. Now God mentions that the meat of animals is given as a food item, while in the Garden of Eden He had only mentioned fruits and herbs. There is also a new forbidden food item for humanity. Not the fruit of the tree of the knowledge anymore, but blood. And speaking of blood, mankind is expressly forbidden from murder, and a punishment is assigned if that commandment is broken.

It stands out to me how the story of Noah presents a shift in the relationship between God and man. All of the previous instructions between God and man took place in a simpler, idealized setting: the Garden of Eden, and as such the rules were much simpler. Adam and Eve were still innocent then, and therefore only needed very basic instruction. With Noah God is restoring His prior covenants, but several details have been added due to the more complicated nature of fallen man. In fact, I would say that God’s relationship with Noah is something of a middle ground between the simplicity of Adam and Eve and the even greater complexity of Moses and the Israelites.

Indeed we will see that the relationship between God and man becomes more and more complicated throughout the Old Testament, until the arrival of a Savior who is able to answer most of that complexity through his atoning sacrifice. Then things are able to be made far more simple again.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 8:20-22

20 And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

I mentioned yesterday how Noah represented a new beginning for mankind, and this notion is further echoed in today’s verses. And here we see that God is establishing a new covenant with mankind. The natural order of the world, its cycles and seasons, its days and nights, all these things will continue, and there will not be any more mass extinction.

And He promises this even knowing that man will go astray again. He calls out how “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth,” but that doesn’t change His promise. Jesus would accurately observe “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). From this point on it is official and covenanted: God knows that is committed to seeing this human experiment all the way through. No matter how many rebellions we make He will continue to work with us.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 8:13-18

13 And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry.

14 And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried.

15 And God spake unto Noah, saying,

16 Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee.

17 Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.

18 And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him:

We often speak of Adam and Eve as the beginning of our race, and of the Garden of Eden as being humanity’s original home. And all this is true, but we also have another origin point in Noah disembarking after the flood. In fact God even repeats His original commandment for the animal life to be fruitful and multiply to fill the earth.

The slate had been washed clean, it was a new world. And into upon this virgin soil Noah and his family and the animals must have seemed like aliens from another world. An old and dead world.

This is, of course, a symbolism of baptism, of death and resurrection, of giving up the old carnal way of life and being spiritually awakened. Yes, the occupants of the ark were remnants of the prior, evil world, but they were plucked off so that they would no longer be a branch of that world, but the trunk of a new one. So, too, when we are spiritually awakened we wash away the sin, but save the best parts that were already within us, and set them upon a new foundation.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 7:10-12

10 And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

12 And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

The feats of man in subduing nature are truly impressive. We flatten hundreds of square miles for a city, pave it over, and erect towering skyscrapers. We trace the countryside with a web of highways, tunneling clean through a mountain and bridging over the sea. We send satellites into space and cables across the ocean. We genetically modify our fruit and domesticate wild animals. We produce awesome reserves of power, and we have weapons of mass destruction that could devastate all of modern civilization. And all of this can make us feel pretty sure of ourselves. It can give us the illusion that we rule this world, can make us believe that there is nothing we cannot tame.

Then, a category-5 hurricane touches land, or an earthquake weighs in at over 9.0 on the Richter scale, or the threat of a mega-colossal eruption lurks underfoot. And suddenly we realize that we might tame the periphery, but we don’t hold a candle to the true power of God. For all of our scientific and technologic advancements, we only continue to exist by His grace.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 7:2-4, 9-10

2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.

3 Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.

4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.

9 There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.

10 And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.

While reading these verses it struck me how inefficient things are for God, doing His work through mortals. We aren’t told how long it took Noah to build the ark, but given the size of the project one would imagine it was quite a while! In fact, several scholars interpret Genesis 6:3 as saying that there was 120 years between God’s warning of the flood and when He actually sent it. Now Noah wouldn’t necessarily have been building the craft for that entire period of time, but it is possible that this was decades of hard labor!

And then there is the matter of getting all of the animals safely stored in the ark in just the last week! Either Noah had been retaining them elsewhere for a long period of time, waiting for the word to usher them into the ark, or else some divine intervention was directing all the animals out of the wilds and into the vessel.

In short, it sounds like it would have been more straightforward for God to just work some miracle without any human involvement whatsoever. How about He just snap His fingers and the ark magically appears? And forget about the animals, why not just save Noah and his family alone, then He could recreate all other forms of life, just the same as He did in the Garden of Eden?

But God tends to not rely on miracles when there are children who are able to do the work for themselves. We will see this truth many times throughout the Bible. God made the world and the rules and systems that define it, and He prefers to operate within those limitations whenever possible. God will work miracles in our lives, but the vast majority of them are going to come through His people.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 6:14-16, 19, 22

14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

15 And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.

16 A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.

19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.

22 Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

God did not simply tell Noah to “build an ark.” God laid out for Noah a very specific plan for it, describing the dimensions, the placement of windows and doors, and that it should be divided into three stories. This was, therefore, a joint effort between God and Noah, and each of them was essential for its completion. God was the architect and Noah was the constructor. Without God there would have been no plan to follow and without Noah there would have been no execution of that plan.

Of course sometimes God is more explicit in His directions and sometimes He leaves the finer details up to us. But in either case, all of us were meant to work in collaboration with Him. The natural reaction to hearing a story like Noah’s is to wish that God had a plan like that for us, to be given a great calling, and to have a work to do in partnership with God, Himself.

And according to Paul (1 Corinthians 12), that is exactly what God wants for us, too! We are all meant to be a part of the plan.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 6:8-9, 17-18

8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.

18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.

There was mass evil in the world, so universal and so extreme that God was set on washing the slate clean. But in all this crowd of corruption, God did not lose sight of one who was innocent.

The story of Noah is a very encouraging example of how God is perfectly aware of the individual, and the great lengths to which He will go to save that one. As humans we often struggle to be so individually conscious. We have limits of time and space, which is why our laws are usually applied universally, targeted towards the average, but ill-fitting to all manner of individual edge cases. God, though, can raise a flood over the entire world and still hold a single boat safe in the palm of His hand.