Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”
The story of Noah and the flood raises all sorts of fascinating questions. We might wonder if the flood account is history, theological fiction, or a combination of both? We might be distressed by God’s decision to wipe out all creatures on earth, with the exception of Noah and those who joined him in the ark. And so forth and so on.
As worthy as those questions are of consideration, I’m going to focus our attention on the end of the flood story as told in Genesis 8. After spending about a year in the ark, Noah received from God the instruction to leave the ark, bringing out all the creatures that had called it home during the flood (8:16-17). As soon as Noah placed his feet on dry land, he “built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (8:20).
This is the first time in Scripture we hear about the building of an altar to be used for sacrifice (though this may have been implied in the story of Cain and Able in Genesis 4:3-5). The Hebrew word translated as “burnt offerings” depicts the basic sacrifices by which God’s people will worship him. Genesis does not tell us why Noah offered sacrifices on an altar, but it’s clear that he sought to acknowledge God after the ordeal in the ark. To put it differently, the very first thing Noah did after leaving the ark was to worship God.
If I put myself in Noah’s sandals, I realize that I might not have done as he did. My first thoughts would be: Where are we going to find shelter and food? Where is a reliable source of water? How can I get my family organized to make sure our basic needs are met? In other words, I’d be focused on the tasks at hand, the practical needs of the moment. Would I have taken time to worship God? Honestly, I’m not sure.
Thus, the example of Noah challenges and inspires me. Will I make worship a priority in my life? Will I stop working long enough to acknowledge God directly? Will I see my life first and foremost in relationship to God?
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you respond to these questions?
Do other questions occur to you as you consider the example of Noah?
Gracious God, as I think about Noah’s actions in this story, I’m impressed by his priorities. Before he gets going with the practical matters of living, he pauses to worship you. I tend to be so practical, Lord, so concerned about – yes, even obsessed with – the needs of life and work that I might easily neglect you. Forgive me, Lord, for all the times I have done this.
Help me, I pray, to put first things first. Help me to set aside time each day for prayer and worship. By your Spirit, remind me to acknowledge you when big things happen in my life, even as I live with you each moment of each day. Help me to make you first in my life.
To you be all the glory! Amen.