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THE TYPICAL MEANING OF NOAH’S OFFERINGS

(SERMON #51 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, May 31, 2008

“And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake…” (Genesis 8:20-21).


Two different Hebrew names of God are given in the eighth chapter of Genesis. The first word is “Elohim.” This is the word used in Genesis 8:1,

“And God [Elohim], remembered Noah,”

and in Genesis 8:15,

“And God [Elohim] spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth of the ark…” (Genesis 8:15-16).

But a different Hebrew name for God is used in our text. It is Jehovah (or Yahweh),

“And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord [Jehovah]…And the Lord [Jehovah] smelled a sweet savour…” (Genesis 8:20-21).

Theological liberals say this shows that there were different sources of Genesis, that there were Jehovistic authors and Elohistic authors, and that their writings were mingled at a later time. But I do not accept that thesis. Although I studied it at a liberal seminary, I was not convinced of the authenticity of this theory. The true reason for the two names of God was given in The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (R. K. Harrison, editor, Moody Press, 1988 edition, p. 360):

Jehovah represents God in His special relation to the chosen people, as revealing Himself to them, their guardian and object of their worship; Elohim represents God in His relationship to the world at large, as Creator, providential ruler in the affairs of men, and controlling the operations of nature.

The name “Jehovah” was translated by the Greek word “kurios” in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament). The word “kurios” is used to translate the Hebrew “Jehovah” throughout the New Testament. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985 edition, p. 379) says that the title “kurios” was constantly used of the Lord Jesus Christ:

From the onset of His ministry this was a common form of address to the Lord Jesus, alike by people, Matthew 8:2; John 4:11, and by His disciples, Matthew 8:25; Luke 5:8; John 6:68…Christ Himself assumed the title, Matthew 7:21, 22; 9:38; 22:41-45, etc…Thomas, when he realized the significance of the presence of a mortal wound in the body of a living man, immediately joined with it the absolute title of Deity, saying, “My Lord [my "kurios"] and my God” (John 20:28).

Thus, in the New Testament, Jesus is called “kurios,” the Greek translation of “Jehovah.”  Jesus is "Jehovah," the Second Person of the Trinity. 

Therefore we should not be surprised that Noah’s sacrifice was “unto Jehovah” (Genesis 8:20). Dr. Merrill F. Unger said,

The sacrifice was a confession of Noah’s thankfulness for sparing him as a saved sinner, but a sinner nevertheless, from the judgment of the Flood. Jehovah (not Elohim) appears in this section as the God of covenant and redemption (Merrill F. Unger, Ph.D., Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, Moody Press, 1981, p. 44).

I believe that Noah’s sacrifices were made to Jesus, and were about Jesus (covenant and redemption).  Thus, Noah’s sacrifices were a picture of the offering of Jesus on the Cross to redeem man from sin.

“And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake…” (Genesis 8:20-21).

I. First, Noah’s sacrifices were not a picture of his piety, or godliness.

Although he was right about many things, I think John Calvin’s comments on Genesis 8:21 are completely wrong. He said,

Nothing can be more absurd than to suppose that God should have been appeased by the filthy smoke of entrails [guts], and of flesh. But Moses here, according to his manner, invests God with a human character, for the purpose of accommodating himself to the capacity of an ignorant people…[Noah’s] piety breathed a good and sweet odour before God (John Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of Genesis, Baker Book House, 1998 reprint, volume I, pages 282-283).

Calvin was a great man, and he wrote commentaries on every book of the Bible except Revelation. Perhaps he wrote too much. I don’t know why he said those things, but I do know he was wrong on this point.

I trust whatever Moses wrote. I believe that every word of Genesis was given in Hebrew by God Himself through Moses, the human author. I believe that

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (II Timothy 3:16).

The Lord Jesus Christ said,

“For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:46-47).

Moses was not “accommodating himself to the capacity of an ignorant people” when he wrote down those words in our text! No! He wrote down what really happened when Noah offered those sacrifices! If we don’t believe the words of Moses, we will not believe the words of Christ! Moses was not “accommodating” the words at all! He was describing an actual event, that really took place in history. Under the guidance of God’s Spirit, Moses simply wrote down what happened. It’s as simple as that!

Now it may have seemed “absurd” to John Calvin that God would have been “appeased by the filthy smoke” of guts and flesh. I don’t know why he said such a thing about Noah’s offerings! But I do know this: it was not Noah’s “piety” that “breathed a good and sweet odour before God.” Not at all! It was the burnt offerings on the altar that smelled sweetly to the Lord Jesus Christ, because those burnt offerings were a terrible picture of the ghastly torments, the flogging, the crucifixion, and the death that He would endure, and which Noah’s offerings foreshadowed! I agree completely with Dr. J. Vernon McGee:

That burnt offering speaks of the person of Jesus Christ (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981, volume I, p. 45; note on Genesis 8:20).

We cannot be accepted by God because of our “piety,” our own godliness or devotion! We can only be accepted by God the way Noah was, by the sacrifice of another, by the vicarious atonement of Christ Jesus on the Cross, which was foreshadowed and typified in the offerings of Noah! Noah “became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Hebrews 11:7) because, like Abel, he gave an “excellent sacrifice” (Hebrews 11:4) which pictured in advance the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ,

“The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”
      (John 1:29).

II. Second, Noah’s sacrifices were not a picture of his prayers.

I am surprised to find that good men have been wrong on Noah’s offerings. Dr. H. C. Leupold makes God’s answer to Noah’s offerings hinge upon Noah’s prayer! He said,

This resolve was made by God as an answer to the prayer embodied in the sacrifice. Here again in this sacrifice or prayer the word was fulfilled, where it is written: “The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much.” Such blessings for the race were secured by the prayers of godly Noah (H. C. Leupold, D.D., Exposition of Genesis, Baker Book House, 1984 edition, volume I, p. 323).

So, Dr. Leupold says, “prayer was embodied in the sacrifice.” He even tells us that the blessings for the entire human race “were secured by the prayers of godly Noah.” Maybe they were, but I can’t find it in the Bible! I can’t find Noah praying any prayers in verses 20 and 21.

Another good man, Dr. Henry M. Morris, said,

“And the Lord smelled a sweet savour.” That is, He heard and respected the believing – though perhaps unspoken – prayer of Noah, represented by the incense rising from the smoke of the burnt offering. Generations yet unborn, including our own, have benefited from Noah’s sacrifice of intercession, and God’s response to it (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Genesis Record, Baker Book House, 1986 edition, page 217).

Perhaps all this is true. Perhaps “generations yet unborn have benefited from Noah’s” prayer. That may be true, but I can’t find it in the Bible! That is probably why Dr. Morris said, “though perhaps unspoken.” Yes, this would have had to be an “unspoken” prayer, since it is not recorded in Genesis 8:20-21, or anywhere else in the Bible regarding Noah’s sacrifices! Nor is Noah’s prayer “represented by the incense rising from the smoke.” There is no “incense” in these verses, and we are not told that "the smoke" represents Noah’s prayer! In fact the word “smoke” never even appears in the verses! We assume there was smoke, but the Bible does not mention it. It might even have been a "clean fire" without smoke! 

Isn’t it interesting? John Calvin finds “filthy smoke” here. But, from the same two verses, Dr. Leupold finds “prayer,” and Dr. Morris finds “the believing – though perhaps unspoken – prayer of Noah, represented by the incense rising from the smoke.” Yet the words “prayer” and “smoke” are never mentioned at all in these two verses – or anywhere else in the Bible concerning Noah’s sacrifice!

So, we see, from the Word of God itself, that Noah’s sacrifices were not a picture of his piety, or his prayers. In fact, the sacrifices were not a picture of anything Noah did at all.  They were a picture of what Christ would do for man.  Which leads us to the last point.

III. Third, Noah’s sacrifices were a type of the future suffering of Christ.

There can be no question that Noah’s sacrifices pointed to Christ because the Apostle Paul refers to Genesis 8:21 when he says,

“Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour”
      (Ephesians 5:2).

Here then is the true picture – that Noah’s sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s death in our place, to appease the wrath of God, to absorb God’s anger at sin, to satisfy God’s justice, to reconcile us to God.

But without a sense of guilt the sacrifice seems less important than man’s piety and prayers. So the focus in modern preaching turns away from the sacrifice to something Noah did, and tells us what a pious and prayerful man Noah was! So, people think they are saved by praying and being good! That is the great problem today, the error of “decisionism.” In the “decisionism” of our time the focus turns away from what Christ did to what man does. But you cannot be saved by your own godliness or piety. You cannot be saved by saying the words of a so-called “sinner’s prayer,” or by any human effort or “decision.” Christ Himself must save you!

Not the labour of my hands
   Can fulfill Thy law's demands. 
Could my zeal no respite know, 
   Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone; 
   Thou must save, and Thou alone. 
(“Rock of Ages” by Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778).

The godliness of Noah is not mentioned in our text. The prayers of Noah are not mentioned in those verses. The offerings are central, not the man. And that is what must occur for you to experience real conversion. You must look away from yourself to Christ. You must come away from yourself to Christ. You must trust Christ instead of yourself. You must come to Christ. Nothing in your prayers will help you. Nothing in your "piety" will help you. You must be "in" Christ or you are not a Christian, whoever you are.  If you do not come to Jesus all your piety and prayers will be worthless. Wake up! Run away from your false hopes. Look to Jesus, the Lamb of God!  Come to Jesus and you will be saved.

If you from sin are longing to be free,
   Look to the Lamb of God;
He, to redeem you, died on Calvary,
   Look to the Lamb of God.
Look to the Lamb of God, Look to the Lamb of God,
   For He alone is able to save you,
Look to the Lamb of God.
   (“Look to the Lamb of God” by H. G. Jackson, 19th century).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

THE OUTLINE OF

THE TYPICAL MEANING OF NOAH’S OFFERINGS

(SERMON #51 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake…” (Genesis 8:20-21).

(Genesis 8:1, 15-16; John 20:28)

I   First, Noah’s sacrifices were not a picture of his piety, or godliness, 
II Timothy 3:16; John 5:46-47; Hebrews 11:7, 4; John 1:29.

II.  Second, Noah’s sacrifices were not a picture of his prayers,
Genesis 8:20-21.

III. Third, Noah’s sacrifices were a type of the future suffering
of Christ, Ephesians 5:2.