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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:You can always trust God to remember and keep his promises
Text:Genesis 8:1-19 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness
 
Preached:2023
Added:2023-07-10
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 123

Psalm 130 (after the Law of God)

Hymn 41

Psalm 91:1,2,5

Psalm 133

Scripture reading: Mark 4:35-41

Text: Genesis 8:1-19

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

I’m sure we’ve all seen those children’s story Bibles that tell the story of Noah and the Flood.  In some of those story Bibles, you’ll see a sort of cartoon of Noah with the animals on the ark.  Noah has a big smile on his face, and so do the animals.  Everyone looks quite happy to be on the ark.  It looks like a party boat.  But that picture isn’t the way it really was.

Noah and his family were together with all those animals on the ark for months.  The ark didn’t have a sundeck where Noah could smile and pose for cartoon portraits with the animals.  They were all cooped up inside.  While there were some windows, it would have been poorly lit.  After a while, animals doing what animals do, it would start to smell.  Today’s large cruise ships have stabilizers that reduce rolling motion so people don’t get seasick as quickly.  Noah’s ark didn’t have stabilizers.  They would have been rolling with the waves – it could get quite uncomfortable.  While it was still better than the alternative, the ark wouldn’t have been a pleasant place after a few months. 

So after a few months, you can imagine Noah wondering how much longer he and his family would have to endure this.  Where was God?  Noah hadn’t heard from him in months.  God had made promises to Noah, but was he now forgetting those promises?  Had God forgotten about Noah onboard the ark? 

A Christian can have similar questions.  Sometimes it can feel like God has disappeared.  It can feel like we’ve been forgotten by God.  Psalm 42 captures that experience.  In Psalm 42:9, the psalmist says, “I say to God, my rock:  ‘Why have you forgotten me?’”  Or listen to David in Psalm 13:1, “How long, O LORD?  Will you forget me forever?”  Or think of those disciples in the boat out in the storm in Mark 4.  Is their Lord sleeping and ignoring their plight?  Can you relate?  There are times when we can be tempted to think that God forgets us – that he forgets his promises and stated purposes for us.  Our passage from Genesis 8 this morning addresses that temptation by showing us how You can always trust God to remember and keep his promises.  That’s the theme for the sermon, and we’ll consider God’s:

  1. Grace
  2. Power
  3. Calling

Look with me at verse 1 of chapter 8.  It starts off by telling us that God remembered Noah and everyone and everything else on the ark.  That word “remembered” is important here. 

Let me first tell you what it doesn’t mean.  The Bible frequently speaks about God remembering.  However, we shouldn’t get the idea in our heads that it’s like us when we forget something and then suddenly remember.  You forgot where you put your keys and then in the morning you suddenly remember.  God doesn’t forget like we do.  We’re weak creatures and so things can slip our minds, but that doesn’t happen with God.  When God remembers, it’s not because he has memory issues like we do. 

So what does it mean?  When God remembers, it means that he is about to act in a way that shows himself faithful to what he’s promised.  The word ‘remember’ in the Bible is often associated with the covenant of grace.  The covenant of grace is God’s special relationship with his people.  In that relationship, he has made promises for our well-being and salvation.  When God remembers, he is about to act for those promises. 

So here in Genesis 8, when God remembers Noah and all those on the ark, it means he’s about to act in accordance with his covenant promise.  In Genesis 6, God promised that Noah and his family would be saved, together with a variety of animals.  Now here in Genesis 8, God is about to act.  He is about to act in his grace for his people.  God is going to do something so that Noah and his family can get out of the ark and get on with life in a new world.  God isn’t about to let Noah and his family die cooped up in the ark. 

In Luke 1, Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and praised God.  Zechariah worshipped because God had “raised up a horn of salvation.”  The Messiah, the Christ was coming.  God did this, said Zechariah, “to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant.”  God was about to act in his grace and faithfulness.  And he did – after God’s people waited for thousands of years, finally Jesus appeared.  In that, God showed his grace – giving his people the opposite of what they deserve, giving us eternal life when we deserve its opposite.

God remembered Noah, he remembered his covenant in times past.  He hasn’t changed.  Loved ones, in his grace, God will continue to remember us.  In other words, you can trust him to keep his covenant promises to you.  You can trust God to act on those promises.  What are some of those promises?  If you’re a Christian, God promises to be your Father and he promises that you are his beloved daughter or son.  He promises not to cast you out.  You have a secure place in his family.  If you’re a Christian, God promises to work together all things for good.  He promises you justification – his declaration that you’re righteous in his eyes because of Christ.  God promises everyone who believes in Jesus that this verdict is final.  It cannot be appealed or overturned.  If you’re in Christ by faith, God promises to be at work in your life to change you.  He promises that the Holy Spirit will work in your heart so there is real progress in holiness over time.  If you’re a Christian, God promises he will bring you to the heavenly shore at the end.  He will never leave you or forsake you.  He will be your God. 

Brothers and sisters, continue to trust God to remember, to act upon all these promises.  When we do trust him, his promises become a source of joy and peace in our hearts.  They help us to get through the hard times and when times are good, they lead us to thankfulness too.  So remember:  God is gracious to remember.

We see how God acts to keep his promises to Noah already in verse 1.  It says, “And God made a wind blow over the earth…”  Now when we read this we shouldn’t think that in other situations, the wind is outside of God’s control.  Psalm 107 says that God raises the stormy winds.  Every puff of wind is in God’s hand, weak or strong.  And in this case, he specifically ordained a strong, drying wind to begin blowing over the face of the earth.  God has power over the winds and here he uses that power in order to keep his covenant promises. 

So the wind commanded by God blew and the waters slowly began disappearing.  Where did all the water go?  Some of it evaporated back into the atmosphere, some of it went back into the water table underground, some of it went into the lakes and oceans, and perhaps some of it was frozen in the polar regions and high mountains.  All of that water went exactly where God wanted it to go, to its proper places. 

Verse 4 tells us that because of God’s power in reversing the Flood, the ark came to rest “on the mountains of Ararat.”  Now we don’t know exactly where that was.  There is a Mount Ararat in Turkey, but it wasn’t necessarily that mountain – it could have been another of the mountains nearby.  We just don’t know for sure precisely where the ark ended up.  Here I want to warn you about claims that people have found the ark.  Over the years there have been many such claims.  If you do some research, you’ll find that none of them are legitimate.  It’s like the claim that archaeologists have discovered Pharaoh’s chariots in the Red Sea.  It’s total nonsense.  Be skeptical about such claims.  Think about it.  With the ark, it was made out of wood and wood decays.  Also, the mountains of Ararat are all volcanic and there have been many eruptions since the time of Noah.  Lava flows don’t preserve arks.  Not only that, but you can be sure that Noah and his family would have repurposed the wood of the ark, especially in the early days after the flood.  So, no, there’s no proof at all that the ark is still in existence on a mountain somewhere.  Our faith doesn’t depend on finding it.                   

Nevertheless, at a certain point in history, it was there on top of some mountain as the flood was abating.  One day the tops of the mountains could be seen.  Forty days later, Noah opened the window and let a raven loose.  Why a raven?  It’s a good choice because ravens are scavengers – they’d be the first sort of animals to find food.  After some time, the raven didn’t come back.  

The next bird to be sent out was a dove.  Why a dove?  A dove is a more delicate bird.  They eat seeds, grains, flowers, as well as insects, worms, and snails.  The first time around the dove came straight back.  The earth was still too wet, too covered with water.  But God’s dry warm wind kept blowing and seven days later, Noah tried again with the dove.  This time she came back with a fresh olive leaf – that showed how new life was springing up on the earth.  God’s power was at work.  The Holy Spirit was powerfully bringing life to the earth.  Finally, seven days later, the dove was sent out again and this time she didn’t come back. 

Then Noah knew that God was bringing his time on the ark to an end.  With his power, God was going to remember and keep his promises.  So on New Year’s Day in his 601st year, Noah dismantled the roof of the ark.  And as he looked out all around him, he could see dry ground.  And by the next month on the 27th day, he could see that it was all over.  The flood waters were all gone.  God’s power had rolled back the waters of judgment and Noah and his family were going to live in this new world. 

Loved ones, God made the earth at the beginning by his power.  Genesis 1 tells us that by his power he separated the waters from the dry land.  In Genesis 8, he did it again.  Later, we’ll hear God promise that he would never again send flood waters upon the earth.  But the New Testament tells us that there will be another judgment by his power.  That same time of judgment promises to be the day of our joy in God’s power.  1 Corinthians 6:14 tells us that God will raise us from the dead by his power.  Just as Noah was graciously given a new life on a new earth by God’s power, so we too will be raised to a new life on a new earth by God’s power.  As you look to what happened with Noah, you can see how God has the power to do it.  As you look to what happened with Christ, you can know with even greater certainty that God has the power to do it.  Romans 8:11 promises us, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”  Trust God to remember and keep that promise.

In verses 15 to 17, we hear God speaking to Noah.  He tells him the time has come to disembark.  Noah is to get out of the ark along with all his passengers, human and animal.  They’re all to get out and then God gives them another command once they do get out:  “…be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 

That’s not the first time we’ve heard that command in Scripture.  The first time is in Genesis 1 in the story of creation.  In Genesis 1:22 God told the animals to be fruitful and multiply, and then in Genesis 1:28, God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply.  And now here in Genesis 8 as we have a sort of new creation, the same command is issued. 

What it means in its broadest sense is that God wants the earth filled with life.  The earth is meant to be a home for living creatures.  It’s designed to sustain life and it has huge potential to do so. 

But there’s something more going on with this command, what we call the creation mandate.  God wants the earth filled with those who will bring glory to him.  Animals do that, but not like human beings do.  Human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation.  Only human beings are made in God’s image.  Being made in God’s image means a lot of different things, but it includes reflecting his glory and representing him on this earth.  When God says “Be fruitful and multiply,” he means, “Go fill the earth with my praise and make more of my representatives.  Extend my reign of glory over the whole earth.”  The creation mandate is actually a missionary mandate

So God sent Noah out of the ark, him and his family and told them to be fruitful and multiply.  Noah was to go out and refill the earth, but this time with people who would follow God in his ways.  God gave a calling to Noah and it was through this calling to be fruitful and multiply that he would remember and keep the promise he gave for rescue from sin.  From Noah’s line, from the line of his son Shem, from the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David, from all of them would come the Christ.  All because people had the call to be fruitful and multiply and listened to that call.

Now you might think that at this point I’m going to start talking about the importance of believers having children, and maybe even believers having lots of children.  Having children is important and children are a blessing from God.  They’re one way God works to make more of those who bear his image, who bear the image of Christ.  But there’s another way and I want to focus on that other way for a moment.

The creation mandate teaches us that God wants the earth filled with life – and not just physical life, but eternal life.  God desires that there be increasing numbers of people who know the fullness of life in Jesus Christ.  The creation mandate teaches us how God wants the earth filled with his glory and praise.  The creation mandate teaches us that God wants to see the earth filled with those who represent him and his kingship.  In other words, the creation mandate, also as given to Noah, the creation mandate is all about evangelism

Just like God sent Noah out, so also our Lord Jesus sent his church out into the world with the Great Commission in Matthew 28.  The Great Commission is to make more disciples – in other words, for the church of Christ to be fruitful and multiply.  Bear the fruit of evangelism.  Multiply the number of disciples of Jesus.  That’s what the early church did, that’s what we’re called to do today as well.            

That calling can be difficult to accept.  It can be difficult to act on.  We’re often afraid of sharing the gospel with others.  What will they think of us?  What will they say?  Will they make our life miserable because we want to follow Christ and share his good news?  Loved ones, we can easily forget that God goes with us each day.  We might be tempted to think he’s not there.  We might think he’s forgotten us, but he never does.  He’s always there with us to give us strength and wisdom as we go about whatever he’s called us to do.  You have to trust him. 

Think about those disciples in the boat with Jesus in Mark 4.  When they were called to be his disciples, he promised he would make them fishers of men.  Here in Mark 4, they’re not there yet.  But here they are in this boat they think is sinking.  And what about the Lord?  He’s asleep – he seems to have forgotten about them.  He seems to have forgotten about his promise that he would make them fishers of men.  All these future fishers of men seem to be heading for a dive with the fish in the water.  In their fear, they wake up Jesus and he rebukes the wind and the waves.  But he also rebukes his disciples for their lack of faith.  Didn’t they trust that he would remember them and keep his promises?  He who remembered Noah in the ark would surely remember his disciples in the boat.

And he’ll surely remember us too, also with regard to the gospel calling he’s given us in this world to make more disciples.  Think of how the Great Commission ends.  Jesus says, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  That’s his promise, a promise he will always remember and keep.  Whether we’re trying to share the gospel, or just going about our other daily callings, we have this promise from our Lord:  he will always be with us.  You might be tempted to think God has dropped you out of his sights, but he’ll never do that to a believer.       

Imagine the joy Noah and his family must have felt as they got out of the ark that day.  It must have been such a wonderful feeling to have their feet on dry ground again.  Then to see all the animals going out from the ark and moving out to spread over the earth – that too must have been exhilarating.  There was a new day, new life, a new world, and fresh hope.  That’s how the faithful God blessed Noah.  It’s how God promises to bless all believers.  In Christ, we have promises of a new life, a new world, and fresh hope.  Because of who God is and because of his track record in history, you can trust that not one of those promises will fall to the ground.  AMEN. 

PRAYER

O faithful God,

We do trust you to remember us and keep all your promises.  You’ve been a faithful God in the past and you never change – for this we worship you.  We love you for how you are so dependable.  We praise you for your grace and for your power.  We’re glad that you love us and you use your power for us in your love, just as you did for Noah.  Father, you’ve also given us the gospel calling to be fruitful and multiply, to make more disciples.  Please help us as a church in that calling.  With your Holy Spirit, please help all of us to care more about the lost around us.  With your providential guiding of things, please work to create more opportunities for us to speak about our hope in Christ.  We ask for more love, more boldness, and more ability to speak about the things that really matter to us.  Father God, please use in this dark world to spread the good news of what you have done for sinners in Jesus Christ.     




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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