I like to think I can begin a fresh, new day with several good hours of peace and calm, and I can be a great example of serenity to my family for a while—that I only seem to fall apart after the pressure cooker has been heating for a while. Truth is, I can’t say that too often, and definitely not every day. If I’m gut-level honest, I have a deep-seated tendency toward wanting things just the way I want them. And it can cause me to behave impatiently, unkindly, or be filled with ugly greed. Some of the threads of my “fabric” can be a little undesirable. Am I the only one? Probably not.
Bear with me as I move to today’s passage. They are connected—I promise.
The journey into more fully appreciating God’s incredible grace led me to explore more of the “pleasing aroma” we read about in Scripture. Yesterday I spent time with the lambs sacrificed at the temple in Jerusalem, morning and evening, every day. But there are earlier references. Leviticus 4 spells out the offerings in the Law, the covenant with Israel through Moses.
Here is what I’d like to explore today:
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:20-22
Noah’s story is often familiar, so I won’t retell it here (Genesis 6-8). I’m taking a close look at the verses above because they speak of grace to me. Let me know if they speak similarly to you (or even if they don’t at all); I welcome the dialogue.
Noah’s first order of business after releasing the animals in 8:19 (I can only wish my household moved in so orderly a fashion!) is to build an altar to the LORD and sacrifice burnt offerings (8:20). Then we see the expected response “The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma” (8:21a).
What follows is the very thing that loudly cries out, GRACE! The LORD “said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of this heart is evil from childhood'”(21b).
Get the flow. Noah, remembering the LORD spared him and his family alone and gifted the whole earth to them, offers burnt sacrifices. He humbly responds to this beautiful, significant event and marks the moment in time with an appropriately honoring sacrifice to the LORD.
The LORD smells the pleasing aroma. (Admittedly, I can’t grasp the scent part, the “pleasing aroma.” I’d love to understand this.)
A promise follows! The LORD’s response to Noah’s sacrifice on the altar is a promise, a covenant that’s often called the “Noahic Covenant.” Some want to boil it down to a promise not to flood the earth, but I have a little trouble with oversimplifying things. Verses 21 and 22 are magnified to me as I read them.
“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood…As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (21,22)
Promises are wrapped up in “‘Never again will I'” and “‘As long as the earth endures,'” but not without calling man’s condition like it is: evil.
When I think I will have several hours of serenity in my days, I have an explanation for why that might not happen. Not only is life’s pressure cooker not like that, my heart isn’t like that, really. The “inclination” is not toward godly choices in my “natural fabric.” One thing is certain, God doesn’t wink at our unholy moments. He calls them “evil from childhood.” Our general tendency doesn’t lean toward goodness and holiness.
So, why explore this? As believers today we live under the New Covenant with Christ. My undesirable “pressure cooker moments” will not lead me to buy a farm to raise lambs, goats, and bulls. Honestly, studying these Old Testament sacrifice passages may not make any sense to some. What makes sense to me is taking a look at the foundation upon which God was building. He established the practice of sacrifice in Israel for a purpose. May I humbly suggest that the regular practice satisfied the requirements of the relationship between the people and their God, and that it laid the perfect foundation for what was to come?
In any case, I see something new to me. God’s response to the “fragrant aroma” wafting from Noah’s altar was a faithful promise, in spite of what he knew about man’s fabric, that evil inclination.
I’d love to read what your thoughts are.
Thanks for reading!