Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the Book of Genesis. This is study #27 of Genesis, chapter 8 and we are looking at Genesis 8:20-22:
And Noah builded an altar unto JEHOVAH; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And JEHOVAH smelled a sweet savour; and JEHOVAH said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
We have been looking at the statement: “And Noah builded an altar unto JEHOVAH.” He offered burnt offerings on the altar and that is very fitting and appropriate thing to be in view at the time they came out of the ark, representing the transition of the people of God leaving this earth and entering in to the new heavens and new earth. Noah and his family entered a “new earth” that was vastly changed from the earth they previously knew.
It was the foundation of the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ that was performed at the foundation of the world. Christ’s sacrifice is itself the basis of the foundation of the world, both for this present world and for the world to come. The historical picture is pointing to entering in to the new heavens and new earth, so we see that the first thing God caused Noah to do was to build an altar and offer sacrifice because all sacrifices were a demonstration of the one “acceptable sacrifice” of Christ at the foundation of the world. With this action, Noah is illustrating that Jesus’ atonement for the sins of His people is the only reason they can be brought into this new creation, because sin was paid for by His sacrifice and that was the foundation for the eternal future that the people of God will enjoy in the new creation.
We know the altar points to Christ. We learn of the souls under the altar in Revelation 6:9:
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
These souls are in heaven. It is only their souls because they do not have bodies; they are people of God that lived on the earth and they were “slain for the word of God,” so their physical bodies are in the ground somewhere. The Bible tells is that when a true believer dies his body goes into the ground but his soul goes to be with the Lord. These are saved people that currently exist in their souls and are waiting for the redemption of their bodies at the end of this world, so they are in heaven and, yet, we read of the “altar.” It says, “I saw under the altar the souls of them,” and that is because the altar is a picture of Christ. It is a figure of speech to represent that they are covered by the blood of Christ that was shed on the altar, just as Abraham, in a figure, laid his son Isaac upon the altar and raised a knife to slay him. It did not happen because God stopped him, but it typified something that did happen when God the Father “raised the knife” and slew Christ at the foundation of the world and spilled His blood. Of course, that is all figurative. God “slew” God and that is a mystery we cannot understand and it was done from the foundation of the world. His blood was shed and that blood, as it were, flowed down the altar and the souls of God’s people are “under the altar” and covered by the shed blood of Christ on that altar. That is the picture.
So now we read of an altar in the new creation after the flood and this new creation is a spiritual picture. Of course, when Noah came out of the ark, it was in the same world. But the Bible speaks of it as the “second earth” and it points to the new heavens and new earth to come. In this new world we find the “altar,” just as there was an altar in heaven. There is nothing surprising when we read about an altar on which sacrifice has been performed and the clean animals are being laid upon the altar. It points to the sacrifice of Christ, which is in God’s sight eternally. God is forever viewing that “acceptable sacrifice” of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Speaking of “acceptable,” we read in Isaiah 56:5-7:
Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to JEHOVAH, to serve him, and to love the name of JEHOVAH, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
So we see that God accepted the sacrifices upon His altar. It also says in Isaiah 60: 5-7:
Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of JEHOVAH. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory.
Here in this passage, the Lord is speaking of the sons of Ishmael and the Bible indicates that a great number of “sons of Ishmael” were saved and counted among the great multitude that came out of the Great Tribulation that concluded on May 21, 2011. The language here says, “they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar.” They will find acceptance on His altar and that altar is the Lord Jesus Christ.
We read in Genesis 8:21, “And JEHOVAH smelled a sweet savour.” After Noah built the altar, he took of every clean beast and every clean fowl and offered burnt offerings upon that altar and God’s reaction was that He “smelled a sweet savour.” That response from God is indicating the sacrifice is acceptable. We see the opposite situation in Leviticus 26:28-31:
Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you. And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.
Here is language of God judging His unfaithful corporate body, Israel of old, which represented the New Testament churches. A huge part of the judgment is that God will not smell the savour of their sweet odours. He will not accept them and that is because the Lord Jesus had departed from them and without Christ there is no acceptable sacrifice pleasing to God.
It says in Amos 5:21-22:
I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.
We can see the connection between God smelling something and accepting it and God refusing to smell something and then not accepting it, as He says in Amos 5:21: “I will not smell.” We should not think that this is an actual aroma that rises to the nostrils of God and that He smells like we smell. It is all spiritual language. To “smell the aroma” is an expression that indicates He accepts it. It is like when there is a nice meal cooking on the stove and the odor permeates the house and you take a deep smell and the aroma attracts you. It is very desirable and it is acceptable to you. We have also smelled things that are very unacceptable to us and we refuse to smell it; we hold our noses and we make a face and turn away. That is the idea.
The only acceptable sacrifice is Christ’s sacrifice, as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world and if Christ made sacrifice on our behalf, then God “opens His nostrils,” as it were, and He smells a “sweet odour.” It is very pleasing to Him and extremely acceptable.
On the other hand, if someone tries to come to God with another gospel or religion and they have a manmade salvation program where they have performed works, whether great or small, it is a stinking stench in the nostrils of God and it is abhorrent to Him – He will not “smell it” or accept it. Therefore, He says, “I will not smell.” In the statement right before that He said, “I hate, I despise your feast days.” Maybe they went through all the “right motions,” just like the New Testament churches go through the motions of baptism, the Lord’s Table or the motions of preaching the Gospel and, yet, they have failed because Christ has left them. Therefore, whatever they are doing and whatever activities they are involved in, it is unacceptable. It is not pleasing in any way to God. He will not smell it.
On the other, let us go to Philippians 4:18:
But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.
What would that be? It would be the Lord Jesus Christ having atoned for the sins of Epaphroditus and, therefore, the things of Epaphroditus would have also been acceptable to the Father.
It says in Ephesians 5:2:
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
This is the essence of the sacrifice that Noah made. Noah was a child of God. He had found grace in the eyes of the Lord, just as Abel did in his generation. Remember that God required of Cain and Abel a sacrifice. Cain worked hard in presenting his sacrifice, but God did not accept it. Let us go back and read about Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:3:
And in process of time...
Just to remind you, we saw that this term actually means, “And in the end of days.”
Again, it says in Genesis 4:3-4:
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto JEHOVAH. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And JEHOVAH had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
We could word that another way and say that Abel’s offering was “acceptable.”
Then it goes on to say in Genesis 4:5:
But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
With Abel’s offering, it was like a sweet smelling odour and with Cain’s offering, God refused to smell and He would not accept it. And this all goes back to the foundation of the world to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was that “sweetsmelling savour” in God’s nostrils. Abel was covered by that sacrifice and his sins had been paid for and Cain was not covered by that sacrifice and his sins were still upon him. Abel was not trusting in the act of offering itself, but he was trusting in what it represented, the sacrifice of Christ from the foundation of the world.
The same was true of Noah. He was not trusting in the sacrifice of animals, but he was trusting in the sacrifice of Christ and the death of Christ in sacrificing Himself for the sins of His people.
So we read in Genesis 8:21:
And JEHOVAH smelled a sweet savour; and JEHOVAH said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth…
The language that says, “and JEHOVAH said in his heart,” is not too common in the Bible. Why did He not simply say, “and JEHOVAH said”? I searched the Bible and I found only a couple of references. One was in Psalm 33 where we read of the Lord speaking of His heart. It says in Psalm 33:10-11:
JEHOVAH bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of JEHOVAH standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
In the Bible, the heart, the mind and the soul are synonymous, so we could say, “the thoughts of His mind to all generations,” as it does say in 1Corinthians that we “have the mind of Christ.” The Bible is the Word of God, but it is also a record of the thoughts of God or the thoughts of His heart and the thoughts of His mind.
When we say something in our hearts, we are thinking it. And God is thinking this and it was spoken inside Him and the Bible is a record of the thoughts of God’s heart. It is a revealing in written record of the inward thought process of Almighty God. Anything we read in the Bible is something that is going on in God’s heart and this verse says, “and JEHOVAH said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.” The language here is very unusual. It almost sounds like a reversal of the curse when God said to Adam after the fall, in Genesis 3:17:
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
But, in Genesis 8, verse 21, God said, “I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake.” Does that mean that after the flood the ground is no longer cursed? We are living after the flood. Is the earth not cursed at this present time? Of course, it is because the curse is still upon the creation. It is upon everything, including the ground, but this statement is awkward and it does not seem to fit the reality. However, it does fit with the time at the end of the world and with the transition to the new world. God says of that new creation, in Revelation 22:3:
And there shall be no more curse…
Then it goes on to tell us of that glorious and wonderful new heavens and new earth. There is no curse upon that place, but the curse is upon this earth and, yet, to agree with the spiritual picture that is being portrayed when the Lord smelled a sweet savour and said in His heart, “I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake.” This can only apply to the new earth after this world ends and that world begins. Then there will not be the curse anymore. The way God is wording it we can see how He is directing our gaze to the new heavens and new earth.