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Costly Worship
Genesis 8:20-22
February 21, 2016
Today as we study in Genesis 8 we return to a familiar theme in the Bible: the
worship of God. Humans instinctively worship because we are hardwired to
worship. As we go to get a coffee, please talk with someone else about what you
think it means to be “hardwired to worship.”
If it isn’t God… it will be something else or someone else or even ourselves that is
worshiped. This is one of the reasons why there are repeated warnings given in
the Bible to be careful… to worship God alone.
There is another reason given as to why we are to be careful when it comes to
“who” we worship. We become like whatever it is we worship.
2 Kings 17:15: They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.
Worship what is worthless… and a person will become worthless.
Worship what is worthy and a person will become…
This is why, when we gather on Sundays, it is with great intentionality that we
focus on our God and Savior. We need to remember him; to see him; to hear him.
It is why our call to worship, our prayers and our opening songs declare who God
is and what he has done.
It is also why we sing our response songs at the end; waiting until we’ve
acknowledged who God is and interacted with him through his Word. Then we are
in a place and are ready to respond to him. Otherwise we can so easily shift the
focus of our worship off of God and on to us, or what we want God to do for us, or
what will give us a warm and fuzzy feeling.
After a year in the ark, the first thing that Noah did after stepping out onto dry
ground was to worship God.
Read Genesis 8:20-22.
In the book of Genesis God repeatedly made himself known through what he had
done. But I remind you there is another way God revealed himself.
Through his names!
Two have been used in the first eight chapters.
ELOHIM is in the plural form. This name reveals God to be the Creator, the Ruler
who is "mighty, strong, prominent."
YWHW is translated LORD and is written in our English Bibles with capital letters
in order to distinguish it from Adonai, which is also translated “Lord.”
With this name God reveals himself to be present, accessible, and near to those
who call on Him.
Sometimes in the first eight chapters just one of the names is used.
God - Genesis 1:27, 31; 6:11; 8:1.
LORD – Genesis 4:4; 6:3, 8; 7:1.
And sometimes the two names are joined together.
LORD God – Genesis 2:4, 22; 3:8, 22.
Is there any significance to the fact that when Noah made a sacrifice, he made it
to Yahweh, the LORD?
Noah and his family had seen first hand the power of God to judge.
They had lived through the destruction of the earth, mankind and its creatures.
Though they were made in God’s image, they had experientially learned with
great vividness that God was far above them.
And yet, throughout that year in the ark, God had related to them as Yahweh
(7:1; 16). This is who Noah worshiped and honored with his sacrifice; the LORD
who had been actively present with him and his family.
As humans it is common for us to move towards extremes when it comes to God;
to emphasize one aspect of God’s nature at the expense of another of his qualities
- ie. his otherness vs. his accessibility; his anger vs. his love; his mercy vs. his
There is nothing more important than knowing and worshiping God rightly.
That said, it is not uncommon to find ourselves in a place where we are uncertain
of how to hold together qualities of God which at a particular moment may seem
to be contradictory or in conflict.
I wonder if this is what it was like for Job when he lost everything.
And yet Job 1:20 says that Job “fell to the ground in worship and said, ‘Naked I
came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the
LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.’”
Job chose to worship, even as he waited for understanding to come.
I’m certain Noah also had many questions.
But he too chose to worship and to sacrifice the best of what he had to the One
who was… fierce in his justice, but abundantly kind in his care.
In verses 20-21 three words are used for the first time in the Bible.
Altar, burnt offerings, and pleasing aroma.
Altar – was a specific place where a sacrifice was made.
Genesis 4 introduced us to the concept of sacrifice in the story of Cain and Abel as
they presented their offerings to God.
But here in chapter 8, this is the first mention of a specific object that was built
in order to make sacrifice to God.
Altar is an important word in the story of the Bible.
Burnt offerings - the word literally means “to ascend;” “to go up in smoke.”
What was the purpose of a burnt offering?
There is much more said in the Bible about burnt offerings.
You can start reading about this kind of offering in Leviticus 1.
But let me summarize: it was a voluntary act of worship that was offered:
(1) to make atonement for unintentional sin; or
(2) as an expression of devotion, commitment and complete surrender to God.
While we are told that Noah sacrificed burnt offerings, we are not told for what
reason he did so. It may have been for all of the above-mentioned reasons.
What was offered as a burnt offering?
In Genesis 7 when God told Noah that pairs of animals would come to him, God
spoke, for the first time, of clean and unclean animals. See 7:2, 8-9.
Here in Genesis 8 we read that it was only clean animals and clean birds that were
used in the making of a burnt offering.
Why this emphasis?
It matters to God what is sacrificed to him when he is worshiped.
Not anything will do.
What is given to him must be of value to him.
By nature, a sacrifice made to God is costly.
King David once went to make a burnt offering on the property of Aranuah the
Jebusite, for sin which he, David, had unintentionally committed.
Aranuah told David he could have the land, the oxen, the wood...everything David
needed to make the sacrifice.
But David insisted on paying Aranuah a fair price because in his own words:
I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.
2 Samuel 24:24.
God is always to be worshiped with our best.
And our best always is costly.
Pleasing aroma – what does it mean that God smelled the offering and the aroma
of it was pleasing?
I sometimes smell my neighbors BBQ’ing and think, “Oh that smells good.”
Is that what this means?
I don’t think so.
Why was Noah’s sacrifice pleasing to God?
And in general, what made a burnt offering in the OT time pleasing to God?
Let’s consider what the following Scriptures would teach us.
1 Samuel 15:22: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as
in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the
fat of rams.”
The most important thing to God was not that a sacrifice was made. What
mattered most was the heart attitude of the person making the sacrifice.
Psalm 51:16-17: You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take
pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and
contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Here again, is an emphasis on the heart attitude.
What God delights in... is not a burnt offering in and of itself.
What gives God pleasure is the heart of a person who has turned their life to him.
Micah 6:6-8: With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the
exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams with ten thousand rivers of olive
oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin
of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD
require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
What made and still makes a sacrifice pleasing to God is when it is offered
as a response of love; of obedience; of gratitude; and of commitment.
This is what pleases God.
Where does the truth in this passage connect with you?
We earlier considered that Job chose to worship, even as he waited for
understanding to come regarding what had happened to him.
Noah too chose to worship and to sacrifice the best of what he had to the One
who was fierce in his justice, but abundantly kind in his care.
While it is an instinctive response to complain we have Noah’s example that
encourages us to choose to worship God and in doing so to praise him and to
place ourselves willingly under his sovereignty.
We considered that altar is an important word in the story of the Bible.
This word reminds us that it is right and it is good and it is necessary for us to give
to God – not to earn his favour, but to express our gratitude; to affirm our
commitment to him; and to honor him for who he is and what he has done.
And lastly, we’ve considered that God is always to be worshiped with our best,
which is always costly.
Through the prophet Malachi, God confronted the practice of the people of that
particular day. They had taken to sacrificing to God, not their best, but their
crippled and diseased animals.
The fact that those people did so was an indication that they had lost sight of the
majesty of God’s person. Why else would they give God their cast-offs; their
leftovers; what was of little or no value to them?
The result of their action was two-fold: they offended God and they lost the sense
of God’s presence among them. In stepping back from God; God stepped back
from them.
The worship of God is always a response of reciprocating love.
What does that mean?
God pours his love and grace into our lives.
We in turn respond to him with our love, which moves him to respond to us with
his love. And so on and so on and so on and so on.
This is what happened between God and Noah.
God was present with Noah throughout the year he was in the ark.
When Noah left the ark, he sacrificed to the LORD.
God was pleased with Noah and in turn blessed him.
Today, we don’t make blood sacrifices as Noah did, because of what Jesus did on
the cross. But that doesn’t mean our worship is devoid of sacrifice.
Look at Romans 12:1.
What is it that motivates us to sacrifice to God in our worship today?
His mercy.
What is it that we are told to present to God in sacrifice?
Not an animal, but our bodies. We give ourselves to him.
The sacrifice of ourselves is described as a living sacrifice.
It is a sacrifice that is ongoing.
It is a sacrifice which we present to God day in and day out.
Hebrews 13:15.
We are to give to God the sacrifice of praise.
We praise him regardless of how we feel.
We praise him because… he is deserving.
Praise is costly because it requires us to take our eyes off of ourselves and our
needs and our troubles, and to speak to God our gratitude and praise for who he
is and what he has done.
Hebrews 13:16.
We are to give to God the sacrifice of doing good and sharing with others.
Again, such a sacrifice is costly.
We do good to others, not for the benefit we will receive, but for the acclaim God
will receive.
This attitude is totally different than doing something in order to be praised by
There is so much more to this theme of sacrifice and worship that is costly.
But we have seen enough to realize that God is deserving of our very best.
Before we sing our closing song, I want to give to you the space; the quiet, the
moment to listen to the emphasis the Spirit is making in your life and to respond
to him in the way he is urging you to respond – with love, with gratitude, with
obedience, with commitment.
The Blessing
Numbers 6:24-26
Clean anima ls and birds – we learn that it mattered to God what was offered.
The sacrifice of clean animals and birds pointed ahead to the sacrifice of the
sinless Jesus.
The covenant
The flood lasted for a year and 10 days. During that time normal life had been
interrupted. God promised this would not happen again, as long as the earth
The word "covenant" is another one of the keywords in the bible. It is first used in
Genesis 6:18; but is repeated six times in chapter 9.
The English word "covenant" means "an agreement between persons or parties",
lit., a coming together, a pact or a treaty. But the covenants recorded in Scripture,
are different from any human transactions. God alone in His sovereignty lays
down the terms, and God himself guarantees the fulfilling of the covenant when
the terms are met.
Quickly note the terms of the covenant with Noah and his seed:
It is based on a blood sacrifice, 8. 20-21.
The curse on the ground would never be repeated, 8. 21.
There was given a promise of continuing natural forces, 8. 22.
Human government would be committed to man, 9. 1-6.
There would be flesh instead of a vegetarian diet, 9. 3.
The sanctity of blood means that it was not to be eaten, 9. 4.
There would be capital punishment for culpable homicide, 9. 6.
The token of the covenant would be the rainbow in the storm cloud, 9. 13-17.
The Sanctity of Blood. "But the flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood
thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the
hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every
man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man
shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man", Gen. 9. 4-6.
This prohibition of the eating of blood is repeated in a strengthened form in
Leviticus 17. 10-1. "And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the
strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set
my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his
people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the
altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an
atonement for the soul".
At the Jerusalem council recorded in Acts 15, when the question of the relation of
the Gentile believers to circumcision and the Mosaic law was discussed by the
apostles, the decision of the whole body given by James was: "that we write unto
them, that they abstain from pollutions offered to idols, and from fornication, and
from things strangled, and from blood", v. 20. Some would interpret this decision
as follows: seeing we are not under law but under grace, therefore Gentile
believers were to show grace by abstaining from the practices offensive to godly
Jews. But the decision goes deeper than, and further back from, the law of Moses.
Immorality, idolatry and the eating of blood was offensive to God, and contrary to
the great covenant which God had made with mankind in Genesis 9 long before
the law of Moses was given. As the eternal purpose of God in redemption
gradually unfolds in Holy Scripture, the importance and preciousness of blood is
more and more emphasized.
We don’t make blood sacrifices today, like they did in the OT era, because it is no
longer necessary. But this theme of the shedding of blood is an important theme
in the story of the Bible, and one you must understand.
Leviticus 17:11.
Three significant statements are made.
– the life of a creature is in the blood
- I have given it (the blood) to make atonement for yourselves on the altar
- it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life
Hebrews 9:22.
...without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
The cost of forgiveness for sin committed has always been blood.
Until Jesus came, God provided a temporary means by which the life of an animal
that was spotless could be offered in sacrifice in order to cover the sin of a human.
But when Jesus came and died on the cross, he was as John 1:29 says, “... the
Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world;” and did so, as Hebrews 7:27
says, “...once for all.”
What was sacrificed in OT times mattered; what was sacrificed had to be clean
because it pointed ahead to Jesus the sinless One.