Monuments: Lasting memories

Noah built an altar as he stepped off the ark to show his gratitude because God kept his promises.

Samuel C. Degner

For 375 days, Noah and his family lived on a boat. People who spend a week on a cruise ship sometimes say they feel cramped. Noah and his family spent over 53 weeks on a vessel half that size! For a whole year plus ten days they were confined to that space—together with the animals. Finally, the Lord gave the green light to disembark.

Noah’s gratitude

What would be the first thing you would do if you were Noah? Roll around on the ground just to feel some earth on your skin? Run as fast and as far as you could to stretch your legs and fill your lungs with fresh air?

Noah stooped over and started picking up stones.

Picture him there on the slopes of Ararat. The world must have looked so different since he had seen it last. The force of God’s watery wrath had changed things.

But there stood Noah, safe and dry, surrounded by his family and the beginnings of new life. God had protected them from the waters that engulfed everything and everyone else. He had rescued them from a godless world that had threatened to swallow up their souls. Most important, he had preserved his promise to send a Savior.

So, Noah gathered some dry stones and stacked them into the first recorded altar (Genesis 8:20). Perhaps he laid some driftwood on top. Then he sacrificed some of the clean animals he had brought with him on the ark. It was an act of dedication that sprang from a grateful heart as eagerly as Noah must have jumped off the ark.

Our thankfulness

Gratitude doesn’t come naturally. What was true before the flood is true after it: “Every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). Our tendency is to be quicker to enjoy the good things in front of us than to praise God for them. We step out of bed and hit the ground running without thinking to dedicate the new day to the Lord. We sprint past our morning devotion into the day ahead. We dive into a delicious meal without giving thanks. We spend the paycheck before we can offer any of it to God.

Stop and look around you. Everywhere you see signs of destruction—not past but future. You see an ungodly world reserved for judgment, not by water but by fire (2 Peter 3:7). But not you. The Lord lifted you up and out of harm’s way by the waters of your baptism. For Jesus’ sake, he rescued you from a fate far worse than drowning in a deluge. You’re safe!

Now in your new heart rises a thankfulness that won’t be contained. So, before getting on with the new life that lies before you, spend a few moments picking up stones. Gratefully offer this day, this life, to the God who saved you—then run out and enjoy it.

Oh, do you need a reminder from time to time? Noah’s physical monument on the mountain has been lost to history, but God gave us a lasting memorial: his rainbow (Genesis 9:13). Whenever he sees it, he remembers his promise not to destroy the earth in a flood again. Whenever you see it, remember to thank him for keeping all his promises.

Contributing editor Samuel Degner is pastor at Bethel, Menasha, Wisconsin.

This is the first article in a nine-part series on Old Testament monuments and what they mean to us today.


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Author: Samuel C. Degner
Volume 104, Number 5
Issue: May 2017

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