“But God Remembered Noah …”

Two weeks ago Geoff, our pastor, brought us a meal from Genesis 21 – the prophetic story of Abraham and Isaac.  Last week Brian built on that, referencing Ephesians 1.  This week I’ve got a bit of a smorgasbord to lay before you: first I’m going to bring you a bit of an update … then we’ll look at a wee gem in Genesis and I’ll attempt to pull out of it a few provocative points …

Update: [I remind audience of my last sermon, encouraging people, especially older people, to “finish well”.  Also recount three stories of older people finishing well – a couple from Te Whanau Putahi that I know, as well as an old Physics teacher who after retiring and contracting Alzheimer’s (according to the Waikato Times obituary) spent some of his later months and years wandering the streets of Hamilton picking up rubbish, feeling that even if he couldn’t do much else he could at least help keep the streets tidy.]

So … in case you have forgotten my challenge from last time, I want to charge you all again – young and old, men and women – to keep going.  And not just plod on, but finish strong.  Finish well!

Now, let’s turn to God’s Word.

Anyone enjoy the Old Testament?

It gets criticised sometimes.  There’s some tough stuff in there.  I mean tough – hard to understand; and tough – hard to stomach.  It’s easy to feel sour about the violence and ethnic cleansing, and the tough judgements of God that don’t sit well with our contemporary worldview.  But there are gems in there too – and some spooky, delicious moments that shine the more brightly against the harshness of the times.

And here’s one of those gems:  “But God remembered Noah …”  Gen 8:1

Here’s some real meat for your smorgasbord – put them on your plate.

It’s a beautiful clause.  Full of uplift … and rescue … and hope.  In his darkest time, God remembered Noah.

Where was Noah?  [On the ark]

What had been happening prior to this?  [Global destruction.  The awesome, awful, irresistible judgement of God.] [150 days in the dark – not just in the ark!  On an angry ocean.  No land.  Not just no land in sight.  No land!  190 days, actually.  Six months.  Knowing you and your seven family members were the only living people left on the planet.]

But God remembered Noah!

Three thoughts to get you thinking, people.

  • God’s mindfulness
  • Saved by households
  • … can’t think of a simple word or phrase to capture this last point, so …

Let’s start with the last point, or we’ll lose it!

It’s this: God seems to delight in starting with something small and mean and meagre, and turning it into something magnificent – or significant – or into something that brings him glory.

  • He used just seven people (and two of every kind of animal) to re-populate the earth. Just as he’d done once before, with just two people.  Risky!

But there are actually heaps of examples throughout Scripture of God using something insignificant – perhaps a remnant – to achieve something significant:

  • He used twelve disciples (11, actually) to turn the world upside down.
  • He used a small band of exiles, under Nehemiah, to re-establish Jerusalem.
  • He used Jonathan and his armour bearer to rout an army.
  • Gideon launched with a big army (32, 000 soldiers) to take on the Midianites – but God had him whittle his force down to a paltry 300. (Judges 7:2)
  • He used a single sentence (“Forty more days and Ninevah will be overthrown”) to save the “very large” city of Ninevah.
  • Jesus used five loaves and two fish to feed thousands.

There’s a pattern here!

  • God used a stable, and a manger, and a peasant girl to ignite his amazing rescue plan for the human race. When Mary learned of the plan, she rejoiced, saying,

“My soul glorifies the Lord …

For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant!

… He has lifted up the humble.  He has filled the hungry with good things.  He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever!”  (From Luke 1)

  • From 1 Cor 1:27-28:

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things …”

  • It’s no surprise that the pottery metaphor comes up so often in Scripture. Like a potter, God can take a lump of clay and turn it into something astonishing.  He seems to delight in taking a few people – a remnant – and using them and amplifying their meagre efforts to impact the world.  This, surely, gives hope to us this morning who have little to offer (like Alistair Riddell), or who feel squeezed out by a world which scorns Christian faith.  God can and does use us, amazingly, and his results are sometimes far-reaching beyond all expectation, when he chooses to bless our simple offerings.

So, one of the thoughts emerging from Gen 8:1 is that God loves to take something unlikely and strategically create something mindblowing out of it.

Secondly (that was the third point, remember, going backwards!), notice who God remembered.  Who he saved.  Not just Noah.  But his family.  Because, I notice another pattern in Scripture:  God seems willing to bless people by household.  Not just by families.  A household might be a family, but the word means more than that, in both Hebrew and Greek.  Oikeiosis means a group of people living in relationship, likely under the same roof, or tent, or compound … it included family, but also servants and slaves, and even possibly guests and neighbours.

[Tell the story of the Philippian jailer as an example of this, and quote Acts 16:31 (“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household”) and 16:33b (then immediately he and all his household were baptised.”)]

There are plenty of other references to God dealing with people “by household”.

  • Paul also baptised the household of Stephanus (1 Cor 1:16).
  • And he prayed God would have mercy on the household of Onesiphorus (2 Tim 1:16).
  • And remember how God saved the Hebrews by household, during the Passover (as indicated by lamb blood on the houses’ doorposts – Ex 12)?
  • The two most compelling Scriptures on this are Prov 12:7 and Josh 24:15:

(“The wicked are overthrown, but the house of the righteous shall stand!”)

(“Choose you this day whom you will serve.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua was speaking for his whole household.)

So what this says to us is, think of yourself as a household.  Pray for the people in your house.  Be an example to them.  The blessings you seek for yourself, seek for those in your house.  There’s a ‘covering’ principle going on here.  Doesn’t matter if you have a blended family, or a divided family, or a dysfunctional family, or even no family!  Whatever it looks like, bring your household before God, and trust that he will bless it/them.

“As for me and my house, …”

Lastly, let’s focus on the word “remembered”.

God remembered Noah (and his household!).

Does this mean God had forgotten Noah up till now?  That he suddenly thought, “Noah … What did I do with Noah?  Oh, yes … woops!  Forgot about him.”

No way.

So, what does it mean, God remembered Noah?

Recall that God had just judged the world, and “the demands of divine justice had now been met” ((Matthew Henry).  You get the sense of God crying out, “Enough!  It’s finished!  Now, Noah – let’s sort you out, so we can move forward.”  He turned his attention to Noah.  I like to interpret it thus:  “God made himself mindful of Noah.”

Did you notice in Mary’s prayer, a while back, she said, “he has been mindful” of his humble servant?  It reminds me of Joseph, too – his experience in prison.  He languished in prison for years before God finally brought him an opportunity to be free.

This has all sorts of implications for us: how often do we feel God has forgotten us?  Then out of the blue, it seems, we find ourselves suddenly enjoying God’s favour again.  He has become mindful of us!

Not that we were ever out of his sight.  It’s interesting that even while Joseph was in prison, it says in Gen 39, “the Lord was with him; he granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden.” (Compare with the Philippian jailer story.)

Yes, so suddenly, by comparison with what’s been happening, God becomes mindful of his servants.  “Ok, Ken,” he says.  “Now, here’s the plan.  Here’s what I’m wanting you to do.”

God know what he’s doing.  If he seems to be leaving us alone for a time, be patient.  Our time will come, when he will remember us!  It may be the darkest time, when all seems lost … or sad … or wasted – look out for God remembering you!  Expect it.  As, no doubt, Noah did on the barren ocean.

So, there you are.  Three things on your buffet table to take home:

  1. God delights to bless by household.
  2. God strategically remembers his people.
  3. And God delights to turn the insignificant … to his glory.