Genesis 8:20-22 (New International Version, ©2010)
20 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. 21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
22 “As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”
I was "randomly" reading Genesis 8 the other day, finding that the entire passage really spoke to some issues of my heart, and feeling especially moved by the above portions of scripture. What I wanted to share with you from all of it is simply this, "This difficult season won't last forever."
This chapter in the Bible deals with life at the end of a flood that covered everything on earth for 150 days (Genesis 9:7:24). Chaos, confusion, uncertainty, and a maddeningly long wait is what I think of at this point in the story. But on the other side of the story is something beautiful--a new beginning, and a promise from God.
Verses 20 & 21 got my attention because is tells us that the SACRIFICE of Noah was so pleasing to the heart of God that He decided to never again destroy all life on the earth, even though we totally deserve it. Look at all the horrible things we do to each other--genocide, human trafficking, the corruption in governing systems that allow all this stuff to go on. I'm honestly in awe of the grace of God at not destroying this place. Again, what moved God's heart to never do this again? Sacrifice.
I think we all understand that God doesn't need us to feed Him animals. Psalm 50:9-11 straight-out tells us that. I believe that God was pleased when Noah burned up the meet as an offering to Him, not because He likes a good barbeque, but because it was sacrificial worship, an act of extravagant love. Noah took from the supply God had given him to feed himself and his descendents, from the supply of the future for life on earth as he knew it, from the supply for his own need and desire and concern, and poured it out for God. All this after surviving the world's most catastrophic flood, the difficult season of not really knowing what would come next or when, of waiting and waiting. Even after seeing God's wrath poured out on the whole world around him. Noah got it. He saw that God was good and worthy of praise, his only source of life, and he poured out of what he had in response to this truth. I believe God really liked that. I believe it pierced His heart with pleasure.
The Lord followed that up with verse 22, and was showing me, yesterday, that all hardships have their limits. He won't let the seasons of death, darkness, winter endure forever, destroying us to the core, although they are designed and allowed to make us a sacrifice--a pouring out, an emptying, a wasting of our own desires at His feet.
Winter in Maine is long. It feels like it's never, ever going to end. Just when the snow starts to melt, we get hit with another storm or the temp sinks down to freeze-the-blood-in -your-veins levels. It's brutal, and it can feel that way in our spiritual walk, sometimes, too. Some of us have been in a season of darkness, of not seeing where we're going, not even seeing the path under our feet, even while God is leading us. But guess what? It won't last forever! There will be a day when the muddy waters and the chaos recede, and we will be able to see the world around us again, with fresher eyes, with greater clarity. God is not leaving us in this season of confusion. It's almost spring.
For additional reading on this subject, I recommend Isaiah 54. Good stuff.