And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.’”
In many and varied ways the Old Testament points to the new, especially to God’s work in Jesus Christ. We think, for example of prophetic texts that promise salvation through God’s special ruler (Isaiah 9:1-7). Yet, beyond specific prophecies, Christian readers of the Old Testament see other kinds of pointers to Christ. One of these is found in Genesis 8:20-21.
In this passage, which comes after the waters of the great flood have subsided, Noah built an altar so as to offer sacrifices to God. The Lord was pleased with this offering and promised never again to strike down all the creatures on earth. He did this in spite of the fact that “the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth” (8:21).
How does this story point to Christ? In Genesis 8 we see a righteous man offer a sacrifice that pleases God. In response, God announces his decision not to judge the earth as he did previously. Rather, God chooses to be gracious even while recognizing the depth of human evil. Sound familiar? Of course it does. This could serve as a description of God’s saving work through Christ.
To be sure, there are many differences between Noah’s sacrifice and the sacrifice of Christ. Notably, Noah offered animals on the altar while Jesus offered himself as the perfect and final sacrifice. Nevertheless, the story of Noah prepares us for what comes later in God’s plan for the world, foreshadowing the gift of grace that comes through Jesus Christ.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
As you reflect on the story of Noah’s sacrifice, what does this story suggest to you about the work of Christ?
As you think about God’s grace in your life, what comes to mind? How have you experienced his grace in tangible ways?
Gracious God, thank you for all the ways you prepare us to understand the gospel and to welcome Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Thank you for the perfect sacrifice of Christ, which expresses your grace to us and frees us from the curse of sin. Thank you for choosing not to destroy us, but rather to deliver us and renew us. Thank you, Lord, for your amazing grace! Amen.
Image: Noah Sacrificing after the Deluge by Benjamin West, courtesy of San Antonio Museum of Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.