The Fourth Sunday of Advent December 20, 2015
19, 65, 29, 56
So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man. And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth and multiply in it.” Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendantsafter you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
Dear fellow-redeemed by the blood of God’s own Son:
The old saying, “variety is the spice of life,” can be true, but change can also bring fear, trouble, and sorrow. Our lives have changed dramatically through the loss of loved ones through the years. Trying to keep up with the changes in our personal lives and in our church lives can leave us breathless for sure. But who in this fallen world has experienced the dramatic and catastrophic change our father Noah knew in his lifetime?
While living as a righteous man in a wicked world, God commanded Noah to build an Ark—not a boat, but a huge, floating, flat-bottomed barge in the midst of dry land! No man in history has spent so many years of his life building anything as large as the ark. Surely, Noah had suffered persecution for his faith in the promised Savior, but how this persecution must have worsened dramatically as he warned his neighbors of the judgment God would bring!
We have all witnessed the power of rising, rushing flood waters. Roads, bridges, homes, and people are swept away causing great change in the lives of millions. Yet, when Noah stepped off the Ark, the changes were the most catastrophic the world will ever see in time!
The entire surface of the earth had been changed. Mountains were now points under the seas, the land mass significantly altered as the water gushed upward with devastating force! An earth populated by, perhaps, billions of people, saw the number of its citizens reduced to 8 souls! As Noah and his family stepped off the ark, they must have stared in awe at the power of the Lord to change and destroy His own work.
Had God also changed His ways toward man because of man’s wicked heart? No. His continued goodness toward man is shown by His words of blessing and guidance spoken to Noah.
We can imagine that Noah and his family may have felt a bit lonely and anxious about the future as they stepped off the ark. Yet, the Lord offered them wonderful encouragement when He “blessed Noah and his sons and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (v. 1). In spite of their worst fears, the Lord promised them success in their lives. He promised children and everything else they would need to multiply and fill the earth again. This is exactly the same command with a promise that was given to Adam and Eve before the fall into sin (cf. Genesis 1:28)!
Now, consider the unchanging goodness of God toward mankind as it’s presented in verse 2. After the fall into sin, there was no longer peace between man and beast. How then was Noah able to gather and control all the animals on the ark for nearly one year without being destroyed? The Lord was in control. When the ark landed and the animals were free, they outnumbered man. But the lord placed the fear and the terror of man into the hearts of all animals.
Now also for the first time, man is told to eat the flesh of animals. But the Lord emphasizes the importance of the blood of the animal which “is its life” (v.4). Years later, the Lord would give His Law to Israel and command the blood sacrifice of animals. Fifteen hundred years later, He would offer the Holy Blood of His Son for the sins of the world. In these words of our text, blood was set apart for the very special sacrificial purposes which would be revealed later to mankind.
But the blood of a human being is much more important to God than the blood of beasts. Why? Because God made man in His own image (cf. v. 6). Man is God’s special creation! Therefore, God gave this commandment to Noah and to all people after him: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed” (v. 6).
Those who cry out so loudly today against capital punishment for the crime of murder have no respect for this passage of God’s Word. They do not understand that God establishes governments and laws for the protection of mankind whom He loves. God wants man to find salvation through the hearing and believing of the Good News about Jesus Christ. This is what the extent of a person’s earthly life is all about—it’s a “time of grace.”
But when someone cuts that time short by taking his neighbor’s life, he cuts short his neighbor’s time of grace. This is a great crime that is to be punished by the government. The murderer has lost all right to life by taking the life of another. He is not to be rehabilitated, but put to death. He is not to be imprisoned for many years, he is to be put to death! The result of disobeying God’s command in this matter is the increase of murder and violent crime in our day.
You see, God’s words have always been intended for the good of man and always will be. But man, being the rebel that he is, refuses to see the unchanging goodness of God’s face!
Our merciful Lord also assured Noah and his family of His unchanging face by setting a visible sign in the sky. God established a covenant with our parents after the flood. He promised that He would never again send a world-wide flood to destroy all flesh. This was a covenant freely established by God, as He says in verse 9: “As for Me,” or “I myself, do establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you.” He is emphasizing the fact that since He, not man, is making the promise, it shall be kept!
God set His rainbow in the clouds for the first time after the flood. Noah had never seen a rainbow. We are able to conclude from both biblical and scientific evidence that the world’s climate before the flood was uniform and rather tropical everywhere on the planet. Clouds and the rain system such as we have today did not exist back then. The Bible says that in the Garden of Eden and prior to the flood “a mist went up from the ground and watered the face of the earth” (Genesis 2:6).
Whenever we look upon a rainbow, we should remember that God Himself is also looking at it—at the same moment that we are! (cf. v. 16). He is remembering His everlasting promise to Noah and to all mankind. Crashing thunder and flashes of lightning may remind us of God’s anger and punishment of sin, but the beautiful colors of the rainbow show us His unchanging love for us. They show us the peace He offers all sinners. The rainbow has become a wonderful symbol of God’s unchanging grace and love and at the end of the rainbow is not a mere pot of gold, but the Lord Jesus Christ—the beginning, the middle, and the end of all the perfect gifts from Heaven!
In a very short time the Lord God Almighty changed the face of the earth dramatically by means of the world-wide flood. Yet, as we have seen, God’s face did not change toward man.
One of the most beautiful words of the New Testament Scriptures is the word, “reconcile.” It’s used in 2 Corinthians 5:19: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” In the Greek of the New Testament, the word “reconcile” (katalasso) means “to change completely.” In connection with Christ’s work God made a complete change so that He did not count our sins against us.
But this does not mean that He changed His feelings toward man from hatred to love, for God always loved man. Rather, the complete change which He brought about through Christ’s saving work had to do with the relationship between God and mankind. Man’s sins separated man from the holy God. But in Christ, God changed the situation completely—He wiped out the sins which were against us by the blood of His own Son! That which no longer exists cannot separate us from God! The relationship between the holy God and man, the sinner, has been completely changed – God and man are reconciled!
Our God continues to change things and people until the end of time. Much more remains to be shaken, much more must be turned upside down and inside out before the Lord comes again in the final judgment. How shall we endure the upheaval, the changes in our own lives and in this world which are yet to come? Only by remembering the unchanging face of God toward us as signaled to Noah after the flood!
The rainbow is our sign too! When we see a rainbow, let us not only see a bow in the cloud, but the boy in the cloud whose birthday we celebrate in a few days! For God’s promise to send a Savior remained unchanged in spite of man’s behavior. He spared Noah so that the grace he saw in the face of God might be seen by us also. Let us rejoice each day that the promise of eternal salvation in Jesus Christ and all good things in connection with Him remains unchanged because the face of our God does not change! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.