Matins Devotion: March 1, 2023
After the flood waters subside from the face of the earth. And after all the occupants of the ark have disembarked, Noah builds an altar to the Lord and offers a burnt offering of some of the clean animals that the Lord had instructed him to bring onto the ark. By the way, this is the first time in Scripture that we hear of an altar being built.
The burnt offering is described as a “pleasing aroma” to the Lord—indicating that the Lord accepts this offering. And the Lord says something interesting. He addresses not the man offering the sacrifices, but addresses Himself. The Lord vows to himself that he “will never again curse the ground because of man for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” This can also be translated as “even though the intention of man’s heart is evil since his youth.” Then the Lord continues, “Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done…” For as long the earth remains—despite man’s continual and innate sinfulness, the Lord promises that he will never again exact this kind of penalty on the human race, but that he will graciously and patiently preserve it.
As we journey through this season of repentance, we certainly recognize the truth of what the Lord has said about the human heart. We are sinful and unclean creatures—every inclination of our heart is set upon defying God and practicing evil. As Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)
And yet, while the Lord’s words cut us to the very core—they also comfort us because of the depth and kindness of his mercy. Notice that the Lord does not pledge here to excuse or ignore man’s inherent sinfulness, but rather, he pledges to himself that he will never again strike down every living creature. Here, we can look back through the revelation of Christ and see that, as the Lord is smelling the pleasing aroma offered from Noah’s altar, he is speaking about an altar far into the future. There, he would cause his very own Son to be “stricken, smitten, and afflicted” with every judgment that the evil inclination of man’s heart had earned. There on that altar, his own Son would be the sacrifice that was consumed by the fire. There, from that altar, Christ who loved us would give himself up for us—a pleasing aroma and sacrifice to God. There, Christ would atone for the evil inclinations of your heart and mine. There, by his sacrifice, Christ would forever cause God to put away his anger toward us and would make us the beneficiaries of a new covenant by his blood that brings us peace with God.