A Pattern of Restoration (1)
So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” Genesis 9.1
God’s unchanging plan
I can imagine that some believers become uncomfortable considering the Gospel in terms of restoration. We’re so used to thinking of salvation as the forgiveness of sins and eternal life – that is, going to heaven when we die – that making any serious investment of effort in the stuff of this world can seem like a distraction from spiritual and eternal matters. Isn’t that the mistake Christians made back in the days of the “social gospel”, when the modernist/fundamentalist dispute rent the fabric of the Church?
But we need to remember that the call to follow Jesus is a call to His Kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2.12). The Kingdom of Jesus – His rule and reign at the Father’s right hand – extends to the entire cosmos, which He upholds by His Word of power (Heb. 1.3), which He has reconciled to the Father together with the “all things” it contains (2 Cor. 5.18, 20), and in which He is making those all things new (Rev. 21.5). The work of reconciling all things to the Father has been passed on to us, and we continue the work Jesus began as we seek the Kingdom and righteousness of God (Matt. 6.33).
Moreover, our calling to the glory of God applies to everything in our lives (1 Cor. 10.31). Whatever we do has the potential to show the goodness of God and to reveal His wisdom, beauty, and truth. But only if we consciously live in all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities as unto the Lord and in the service of Jesus Christ (Col. 3.23, 24). This means taking captive every thought and thing and action for obedience to the Lord (2 Cor. 10.3-5), within our own spheres of influence (2 Cor. 10.13-18). This is the work of restoration.
In this part of our study of Restoring the Reconciled World, we’ll see that a recurring pattern of restoration pervades the Scripture, incorporating all the various aspects of restoration we have discussed thus far – the soul, relationships and society, culture, and creation itself. By this pattern, God means to imprint on our souls a way of being in the world that will prepare and sustain us for the work of restoration.
And that pattern begins with Noah and his work of restoration following the flood.
Noah and the work of restoration
Noah’s life following the flood was one of restoring life and hope to the world. Imagine the desolation and devastation that everywhere prevailed after the waters of the flood receded. It might have been easy for those eight people, as they disembarked the ark and watched the animals disperse, to simply resign themselves to an unpromising existence of hopelessness and despair.
But this was not God’s intention for them.
The first order of business was to re-establish connection with God – to get their souls back into proper orientation. To that end, Noah built an altar and sacrificed some of the clean animals God had commanded him to take on board by sevens (Gen. 8.20-22). God received Noah’s offering and held out the promise of blessing and long life to Noah and his family.
Their souls thus rightly oriented, God next reiterated the charge He had given Adam and Eve – to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 9.1). God’s intention here is clear, and it echoes the mandate and vision He set before Adam and Eve. The creation is to be populated, ordered, and cultivated so that it and the people who inhabit it can know the blessings of God.
A law concerning murder was added to restore right relationships between people, who had for generations been living in violence with one another before the flood (vv. 6, 7). The society of human beings is to be founded on mutual respect and care, rather than on violence.
God also charged Noah with the work of cultivating the earth (v. 7). This would entail a variety of cultural activities to allow the creation to fulfill its productive potential. Homes, vineyards, tools, and the work that goes with these were all invested in restoring the fruitfulness of the earth and its people.
God pronounced His covenant with Noah, as He had promised before the flood; and it’s clear this covenant was not just for Noah’s salvation. All creation, all Noah’s work and family and future, and especially Noah and his family’s relationship with God were bound up in this covenant. All the work of restoration was to be undertaken, maintained, and advanced so that the earth and its people could realize the goodness of the Lord once again.
That this did not actually occur does not negate God’s plan; rather, it reminds us of the need for divine intervention to break the cycle of sin and rebellion that prevents God’s covenant from realizing its full blessing and potential. God made the rainbow a sign of His faithfulness, pointing back to the promise made to Noah, and forward to His coming eternal Kingdom (cf. Rev. 4.2, 3).
Lessons from Noah
As this first stage of the pattern of restoration unfolds before us, let’s make just a few quick observations.
First, the work of restoration is all-encompassing, overlapping, and ongoing. Keeping their souls, relationships, culture, and the creation fruitful and blessed would be the daily work of Noah and his family, and not always with the most impressive results. Restoration is not a once-and-done proposition. It’s what we’re called to by the Lord, Who intends His goodness and glory to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2.14).
Second, the work of restoration unfolds according to God’s Law and promises. Put another way, God promises to bless our work as long as we abide within the framework of worship and life He has appointed for us. Depart from that, as the descendants of Noah soon enough would, and you end up on the short end of God’s big stick. God tells us what He intends to do and how we must do His work. Our duty is to hear His Word, aim for His promises, and obey His Law.
Finally, restoration is a work at hand, and not far off in the future. It’s not for after we graduate college, or get a new job, or the kids grow up and leave home, or we have a little more free time. It’s for now, always, in every situation, at every opportunity, investing all our time and talents in the work of bringing the goodness of God to light in the land of the living.
With Noah, God establishes the pattern and template for the work of restoration. As we shall see, He repeats this pattern again and again throughout Scripture, to prepare us for the work of reconciliation we have received.
1. Summarize the various aspects of Noah’s work of restoration.
2. What would have happened if Noah had refused to take up that work?
3. What are the main lessons for you from Noah’s work of restoration?
Next Steps – Transformation: Begin putting to work the lessons you have learned from Noah’s work in your own daily walk with and work for the Lord. Where will you start?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.