Work from the Beginning: Genesis 7-8

By David Williamson, part seven of a series.

God’s intent in saving Noah and the contents of the ark is broader and more comprehensive than the particular creatures and plants. God uses Noah and this remnant from the original creation to preserve all forms of life. Is Noah in this way an environmentalist, understanding and protecting the whole hearth for future generations?

In this mission or project, ordained and directed by God, there is the affirmation of a wide range of human work, various occupations and avocational endeavors, each important to the survival an dell-being of the earth and the creatures of the earth. As God continues to instruct Noah about the contents of the ark, Noah exercises the skills of record keeping, inventory control and a variety of other administrative or organizational tasks. God uses them together, in partnership with the human worker, to preserve and enhance life.

Thus, whatever preserves, supports and enhances life is consistent with God’s purpose and is God’s work. And whatever helps to produce new or renewed life, both physically and metaphorically, is God’s work. Life is good – intrinsically good – and the work that makes life possible is good as well.

Chapter 8 begins with God “remembering Noah and all who are with him.” In remembering, there is an echo of God and humans working together in Eden (Genesis 1-2). Noah’s work and mission fulfill God’s purposes. They are co-workers in accomplishing the salvation of the earth and human history.

This partnership continues after the flood, as Noah actively searches for dry land, engaging the natural world. God takes care of the big things, like the flooding and the subsiding of the flood. Noah – humankind – handles the day-to-day tasks, like sending out the dove and noticing signs, doing the necessary tasks in partnership with God.

As Noah and his family settle back onto and into the earth, they are actively involved in the re-development, replenishment and renewing of the earth. They use all their skills and resources for earth’s re-development.

In this, there is an affirmation for any and all work of renewal today, post-flood. Or perhaps I should say, “post-resurrection.”

We enable the land, communities and individuals to be re-developed, renewed for God’s purposes: a faithful relationship with God, mother earth and the whole human family. This includes all work from re-forestation to urban renewal, from rehabilitative medicine to spiritual revival. All work that is restorative to God’s original purposes is consistent with God’s work. It is a way of working with God.

In the flood and in the crucifixion, God’s judgment has been exercised. God’s justice has been ratified. So now there is new life – or, rather, more accurately, renewed life. The new age of salvation has begun.

Worship comes right out of that sense of partnership – co-work with the creating, rescuing God. The results of the process evoke worship, sacrifice, praise, gratitude to God. Hence, Noah builds an altar. Work and worship are again brought together (see Genesis 4:3-4, Romans 12:1 and Colossians 3:17 & 23).

Professor Gerhard Von Rad wrote in his commentary on Genesis: “The first human work that the liberated earth, which is again restored to man, sees is an altar for God the Lord. The usual distinctly non-cultic theology of the Yahwists attributes great importance to this sacrifice….It has the character of a sacrifice of reconciliation” (p. 21).

The chapter concludes with a word of praises – a poem, perhaps a song, affirming the continuing goodness and provision of God, indeed a re-affirmation of the rhythms of nature, seed-time and harvest. God’s provision of the seasons, and human activity that adjusts to or cooperates with the seasons, assists, nurtures and recalls the harvest of this magnificent divine process. Co-operation, the human worker with God, the worker’s provider and benefactor as well as creator.

So today we can sing: “Great is thy faithfulness…Lord unto me….Summer and winter and springtime and harvest….all I have needed thy hand has provided.”

This is co-work, partnership that leads to doxology, to gratitude and to praise. Thanks be to you, creator and re-creator God!

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