The First Memorial Day: God Remembers Noah, by Jeffery Smith

In the first verse of Genesis chapter eight we have reference to what we might call the first Memorial Day, a day of remembrance. Genesis eight verse one say this: “Then God remembered Noah”. It’s the first mention in the Bible of God remembering something or remembering someone.

What was the occasion? Well chapter seven ended with these words, “And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days”.So for a hundred and fifty days now Noah and his family have been in the ark, floating in the water above the earth. What must have been going through their minds? Here were eight people still alive floating in this coffin-like box of a ship.They had just witnessed an unimaginable, catastrophic terrifying event of divine judgment. Every living thing upon the earth had been destroyed just as God said would happen. What we’re they thinking? I think we can at least make some educated guesses.

First, there was probably a sense of vindication seeing that God had done just as they had warned people He would do. No one would listen to Noah but in the end Noah was right. They probably also felt a sense of privilege, and a great sense of peace and comfort, in the fact that God had protected them and saved them from the flood as He promised. But at the same time, there must have also been a sense of awe and trepidation. Way down below the ark lay the ruins of a dead and buried world. Everyone they had ever known was dead, everyone; neighbors, aunts, uncles, cousins, school mates, everyone was dead; everyone, except them. They alone had been saved. It had to have been tremendously humbling. I imagine at times Noah wondered, “Why me Lord?”. In the language of the hymn, “Why was I made to hear your voice and enter while there’s room, when thousands make a wretched choice and rather starve then come”. We know the answer.  The ultimate answer is the answer we are given back in ch.6, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord”. It was all of grace. It was God’s grace that spared Noah.

I also imagine there must have been a bit of uneasiness Noah felt with respect to what’s going to happen next. We know what happens next but there’s no indication Noah knew at this time. All that Noah had been told up until this time was that God was going to send a flood to destroy the earth and that he was to build an Ark in which he and his family would be protected from the flood. Then as the flood was about to come he’s commanded to enter the Ark. That’s the last word Noah had from God. Now the flood has come and Noah and his family have been floating above the earth in this wooden coffin, as it were, for a hundred and fifty days with no Word from the Lord. No word from God to comfort them. No word from God to direct them or to tell them what’s going to happen next. I wonder if at times Noah had this nagging fear that, perhaps, the Lord had forgotten him. Deep in his heart he knew better but I imagine he sometimes was tempted to be anxious over what would become of him and his family. Are we doomed to living in this Ark forever, has God forgotten us as we?

But, of course, God had not forgotten Noah. v.1, “Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark”. “Then God remembered Noah”. Here in these words we have the entire explanation of everything that’s about to happen in this chapter, the entire explanation for the reversal of the flood. In fact, we have a part of the explanation for why the human race continued to exist until the coming of Christ and beyond and, therefore, why we who are Christian’s enjoy the blessings of eternal salvation this very day. “God remembered Noah”.

Now what does this mean? Does this mean that God had somehow become so busy with the flood and so busy ruling the world and taking care of things in heaven, that for a while He had completely forgotten about Noah? “Oh yea, I almost forgot about poor Noah and those poor folk the Ark”! Of course not! In one sense God never forgot Noah. In fact, there’s a sense in which God never remembers anything because all things are always present in His mind. He doesn’t have to remember something because He knows all things all the time. What we have here is what is called anthropomorphism.  It’s God speaking as if he were a man. It’s a metaphor. But it’s much more than that. In English our word “remember” refers to the mental recall of something. But often in Hebrew this is very specific language. It is language used throughout the O.T. to describe God acting on the basis of a prior covenant commitment to someone or some group.  And this idea carries over to the N.T. as well. This is covenant language that speaks of God’s faithfulness to his covenant. Back in chapter six God had made an earlier promise to Noah. He had established a covenant with Him. And now God is acting in faithfulness to his covenant commitment to Noah. Noah could relate the sentiments we express in a well known hymn, “His oath, his covenant, his blood, support me in the whelming flood”.

Now, again, this is language we find throughout the Bible. Just over in ch.9:14 we see it again, “It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud and I will remember my covenant”. Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage and their occupation of Canaan is said to be the result of God remembering His covenant, Ex. 2:24, “So God heard their groaning and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob”. In Ex. 32:13 God is angry with Israel after the incident with the golden calf. Moses intercedes on their behalf and what is his plea? He cries, “Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Your servants, to whom you swore by your own self and said to them…”, and so on.In other words, remember your covenant. Then as we come to the N.T., at the coming of the Lord Jesus, Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, as he praises God that the Christ is come, here are his words, “God has raised up a horn of salvation for us…to remember his holy covenant”.

This language is also used of God, in his covenant love and faithfulness, acting on behalf of his people in response to their distresses and cries for mercy. God we’re told, “Remembered Abraham”, when he delivered Lot out of Sodom. (Gen. 19:29). God remembered Rachel and he opened her womb and she gave birth to Joseph (Gen. 30:22). Samson, now a humbled and repentant man, cries to God in Jud. 16:28, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray, strengthen me, I pray just this once”, and God remembered Him. He gave him strength to take down more Philistines in his death than he had ever done in his life So this is language that speaks of God’s faithfulness to his promises, his faithfulness to his covenant. And it also speaks of his acting on behalf of those who cry to him and trust in Him for mercy. So, you see, it’s in this sense that God remembered Noah. All of these months had gone by since the door of the Ark had been closed. One hundred and fifty days the Ark is floating above the earth with no word from God. But now God is about to act in fulfillment of his promises. God remembered Noah.

Now what is one of the applications of this for you and me, those of us who are God’s people? Well, my friend, perhaps, you’ve been going through a difficult time. You’ve being tossed about by a swirling storm and a painful trial. And, perhaps, you’re haunted by this feeling that God has forgotten you. In fact, it seems that God has not acted in any noticeable way in your life for a long time. Well remember that if you’re in Christ, God is committed to you by covenant, the New Covenant, one of the promises of which is that He pledges to never turn away from you to do you good (Jer. 32:40). It may seem to you that God has forgotten you but He’s not forgotten you. He remembers you and in due time He will make you to know that He’s not forgotten you.

How exactly did God remember Noah? In other words, how was that remembering of Noah expressed? Well at this point He didn’t say anything to Noah. That’s what we might expect but He doesn’t say anything. God doesn’t speak to Noah again until the earth was completely dry, which was over a year after the flood began.  He doesn’t speak yet but He remembers Noah in a way of doing certain things. He acts. He does something about the situation. We read in v.2 that God made a wind to pass over the earth and the waters subsided. Later Noah is given a sign for good when the dove he sent out returns with an olive leaf in her mouth. God acted. He did things. Now He will speak to Noah later. And sometimes He strengthens us and helps us by speaking to us. He comes to you as you’re reading the Bible or He comes to you in a sermon that you hear on the Lord’s Day. The message was so powerful and so relevant to your situation and God is drawing near and having dealings with your soul. But it doesn’t always happen that way. And you can’t dictate to God and then be disappointed when He doesn’t act immediately or in the way you thought He would. No, sometimes He waits and then He shows you that He remembers you by certain things that happen or by certain people he brings across your path or in any number of ways.

God remembered Noah and He brings a wind. God remembered Elijah as he lay in that cave on Mt. Horeb spiritually depressed. And what did He do? He gave him a time of rest. He gave him sleep and then He woke him up and provided a meal for him and then more sleep. Elijah needed refreshment and rest and time away from the pressure. Then eventually later God spoke to him in a still small voice to encourage his heart.

So, perhaps, I’m writing to a child of God who feels abandoned by God. You’re adrift as it were, upon a stormy sea and everything is dark and dreary in your life and in your soul. What do you need to do?

First of all, I would exhort you to keep trusting in the Lord. He hasn’t forgotten you. It may seem to you that He has but God has pledged Himself to his people by covenant and you can be assured that He will not forsake you.

Secondly, I would exhort you to be patient. Noah had to be patient. He’s been cooped up inside that ship with all of those stinking animals and no sunlight for a hundred and fifty days now with no word from the Lord. And he’s going to have to continue to be patient. For it’s still a little over two hundred more days before he’s actually out of the boat with his feet on dry land, soaking in the sun and breathing fresh air. But through it all, God had not forgotten him. So be patient. Ps. 27:14, “Wait upon the Lord; Be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord”!

And then, thirdly, my friend, pray. Here you are drifting upon a stormy sea, you need to pray. Perhaps, the state of your mind is such that you find it difficult to pray right now. Well here’s a simple prayer, a prayer that shouldn’t be very taxing upon your troubled mind. It’s a very simple prayer. What is it? Here it is, “Lord, remember me”. “Lord, remember me”. This was Nehemiah’s prayer in Neh. 5. He was facing tremendous problems and  opposition, threats and pressures were pressing down upon him. What did he do? He prayed, Neh. 5:19, “Remember me with favor, O my God”. And God did remember him and God always remembers His people. He remembers us in all our trials and in all our a afflictions and in all our spiritual needs because He has pledged Himself to His people by covenant.

Think about it, if God had not remembered Noah then Noah would have been lost and doomed with the rest of the world at that time. And if Noah had been lost, so would the promise of the gospel be lost that God had made way back in Gen.3:15. The promise of the Christ to come would have been lost, the promise of the one who would one day come from the seed of a woman to crush the serpent’s head and to save his people. If Noah had gone down, God’s promise would have gone down. And if God’s promise had gone down God Himself would have gone down, as it were, and would have lost His integrity. But that will never be. And so it is with you, dear Christian. God has pledged Himself, not to give you everything in this life your heart could desire or to keep you from ever having trials and tribulations. No, but He has pledged to you in Christ that He will bring you safely all the way to glory and that He will keep you from sinking and going under. And in the end you will know that His promise was true, that God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose. So trust Him, be patient, call upon Him, “Oh, Lord remember me”. and be assured that He Has not forgotten you. “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”.