Bible Study Series: 'But God Bible Verses'
But God remembered Noah
by I Gordon
We ended the last message looking at the first ‘But God’ example in the Bible. With a memory like yours I'm sure you remember both the theme and where it is found in the Bible. But in the extremely unlikely case that you have a memory like mine, well, its Gen 8:1 where Noah and family were in the midst of the greatest storm, flood and devastation that this world has ever known. We explored this thought of God's storms last time and this is really part two to that message.
Gen 8:1 But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.
'But God remembered...' Now we've been concentrating on the first two words in that phrase 'But God' but I want to do a short study today on the last two - 'God remembered'. These two thoughts go together like salt and pepper, like a knife and fork, coffee and cream, um... socks and sandals. Actually scrub that last one. Don't be like me and do socks and sandals. Well, not publicly!
This will be a simple study looking at what 'God remembered' means through examples in the Bible and some personal testimonies as well. But before we get into it think for a moment of your own life:
- Have you had times when it seems that God has forgotten you or what you are going through?
- Have the tough times taken longer than you hoped for?
- Have you experienced God 'remembering you' and turning things around?
- If so can you now look back and see why God let you wait longer than you might like?
Let me say straight up that this is all very normal. God has a purpose in all of this. Sometimes, in this "me-centered" age we listen to voices that give the impression that God exists to make all things well in our life. That He exists for our pleasure more than we exist for His. But this is not the case and He has a purpose in His dealings with us... as we shall see. Anyway, let's jump right in.
God Remembered? Did He forget?
After many days in the ark, adrift and at the mercy of the wind and the waves, we read that God remembered Noah. Now that is a slightly odd phrase to use of the Almighty all-knowing One is it not? God remembered. Hmmm… Had He forgotten Noah? Was He up in Heaven checking His daily ‘To Do’ list thinking things looked pretty light today? 'Earth has been flooded... tick. Wicked humanity and Nephilim judged... tick.' When suddenly He thinks ‘actually… no wait a minute… wasn’t there a boat somewhere? Yeah Noah and family. Gabriel, what happened to that big boat? Have you seen that lately? Still upright? Oh look, good, there it is. Ok… better get onto that today. Right I'll make a note of that on my list. "Save Noah". Actually, might as well do that now. Wind, blow strongly from the east!’
Is that what 'God remembered' means? Obviously not! 'God remembered' does not mean that He has forgotten! Now if you and I were God… well, that would be a different story. In fact that would be a mess! It's bad enough trying to remember where you put your keys last night let alone remembering everything that the world needs to operate successfully! But God isn’t like that. He doesn’t forget anything (well, apart from one thing that He chooses not to remember as we'll see!) So what does it mean that God remembered Noah? John Gill writes:
“Not that God had forgotten Noah, for he does not, and cannot forget his creatures, properly speaking; but this is said after the manner of men, and as it might have seemed to Noah, who having heard nothing of him for five months, and having been perhaps longer in the ark than he expected, might begin to think that he was forgotten of God; but God remembered him, and his covenant with him, and the promise that he had made to him.”
So from a human point of view, especially when we are going through a storm, it can often seem that God has forgotten us can it not? He hasn’t. But that is how it can seem. Think about Noah and family for a second. The force of the flood coming from both above and below the earth would have wiped out humanity very quickly. Yet it continues to rain for 40 days and 40 nights. The waters flooded the earth 150 days. Now the Bible doesn't say that God was speaking to Noah during this time. It is quite likely that Noah didn't know exactly how long he was going to be on that ark... but it all seem to be taking longer than expected! All up Noah and family were on that ark for approximately one year. Now that is a long time to be cooped up closely with the same human beings let alone all the animal sounds and smells! 'But God remembered Noah...'
The fact is that often the ‘but God’ and ‘God remembered’ moments take longer than we expect. Be not surprised at that Christian. It is not a lack of faith. You are not being treated strangely. That is normal Christian living experienced by all saints throughout all the ages. The patient waiting makes the 'But God' moment all the better! So let's look at some of these saints of whom it is said that ‘God remembered’ them and ponder their story.
God remembered - Egypt and the children of Israel
Can you remember how long the Israelites were in slavery down in Egypt? It was 400 years. (Gen 15:13) Think about that for a moment. 400 years is a long time. That is a long wait! That is a lot of prayers! If anyone had reason to believe that God had forgotten them it was them. But He hadn't.
Exo 2:23-25 Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. (24) So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
It was a long wait but here we are, 2500 years later, still talking about their 'but God' moment! Why? Because it was so incredible. The length of their wait and the manner of their deliverance makes for an incredible story. God remembered His covenant with Abraham and spectacularly delivered them. But God used that long wait for His purpose. You see, before the Lord could take Israel out of Egypt, He had to take Egypt out of Israel! He actually had to bring the Israelites to the place where they wanted to go to the Promised land. And that wasn't easy. It involved difficulty and mistreatment by the Pharaoh's of Egypt. But when the perfect time came, according to His word to Abraham, God heard their groan and God remembered His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He can deliver at any stage. But always remember that He has a higher purpose with a goal not to just primarily rescue you from trouble but to develop His character in you. The saints of old knew this even if it is not popular to teach so today.
"The furnace of affliction is a good place for you, Christian; it benefits you; it helps you to become more like Christ, and it is fitting you for heaven."
But praise God that He also does hear prayers and even groans, and remembers... in His perfect timing.
A few weeks ago I heard a wonderful example of God hearing a groan and remembering His promise. And I heard it with my own ears, which as you shall see is the miracle in itself! It came from a friend (my brother-in-laws niece.) Several years ago Andrea found herself under a lot of financial and work stress. The stress continued to build for sometime before breaking out in an odd way - she lost her voice! All she had was the fainest little whisper. Now you would think that given a few days and maybe some rest things would come back to normal. But sadly no. The days became weeks, the weeks months and the months years. She obviously had to leave her job as a teacher because you can't teach when you have no voice! Over the coming years the financial pressures for the farm that she and her husband operated only continued to increase. Without a voice and no job, she carried on looking after her children but the stress didn't let up. Despite many prayers from many people, and many trips to various health consultants and voice specialists, she carried on over the next three years as best she was able, but still only speaking with the smallest whisper.
Until a few weeks ago that is! A weeks back I rang to speak to my sister and Andrea answered the phone... and her voice was perfectly normal! I was amazed and asked her what happened.
She told me that she was down on the farm by herself trying to gather the cows and they had split into two groups. One was going one way and one the other. Being by herself, and having no voice she was getting really frustrated because she couldn't call out to them and get them together. Not knowing what to do, she let out an exasperated sigh, really coming to an end of herself. It was all just too much. But then she told me that as she let out the loud sigh, she heard God clearly speak to her saying 'Speak low'. And so she tried. And though it was still a very quiet voice, the lead cow of the group stopped, turned his head and looked straight at her. He then turned direction and walked exactly where she wanted him to and the rest followed. And in a greater miracle from that moment on her voice started to come back. She said initially it sounded like a monotone, like she was depressed and her kids would tell her to not talk... it was bringing them down! : ) But she kept practicing by herself and here we are, a few weeks on and it is now perfect again! Even after all these years!
Now that is one awesome 'But God' story and to be honest only scratches the surface of the difficulties and the stress that she went through. 'But God remembered' and proved faithful to Andrea! Fantastic!
God remembered - Two famous women and two awesome sons!
The next example of 'God remembering' comes through the life of two famous woman in the Bible who shared many things in common. So here is a quiz starter... Two famous biblical women... who am I?
- They were both well loved by their husband.
- They were both in a marriage where their husband had another wife!
- They were both barren and desperately wanted to have children.
- They were both provoked and cried out to God for many years.
- They both experienced a 'but God' moment where God heard their cry and remembered them.
- They both gave birth to a son that would become legendary in Israel's history in their own right.
This is easy is it not? Clearly this is Ruth and Esther.... Ok, its not Ruth and Esther. No... it's Sarah and Rahab. Alright no. I can't trick you... its Delilah and Jezebel... Mmm, this is getting less and less likely! No pulling the wool over your eyes though try I must... Rachel and Hannah!
Gen 30:1-2 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or I'll die!" Jacob became angry with her and said, "Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?"
Gen 30:22-24 Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. So she conceived and bore a son and said, "God has taken away my reproach." She named him Joseph, saying, "May the LORD give me another son."
It wasn't easy for Rachel. Despite being loved by Jacob, there was a fierce rivalry in the home with her sister Leah who was pumping out the children. And how many had Rachel had? None. Think about it for a moment. She knows the promises that had been spoken about how God had appeared to Abraham and Isaac and had told them that He would make a great nation out of them. Jacob, her husband, has also encountered God and had the same promises. So here is her chance to be the mother of a God-ordained special nation! Her children will go down in history. She knows that she needs to produce a son or many sons... but despite her desire and many prayers, it just isn't happening. She can't even have one! Hence the verse in Gen 30:1 where she shouts at Jacob 'Give me children or I'll die!'
Hannah was in a similar position in that she was loved by her husband Elkanah but was also barren. And what made the situation even worse was that she was getting bitterly provoked by Peninnah, her husband's second wife who was very fruitful.
1Sa 1:10-11,19-20 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."... Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him."
In both cases, despite being barren, the scripture tells us that the Lord 'remembered' them. And what came from that? For Rachel the long difficult wait led to the birth of Jacob's greatest son - Joseph. For Hannah, her difficult waiting led to a vow to offer any child she had back to the Lord for His use. The result was the legendary godly Judge and leader of Israel - Samuel! Both had to wait amongst many tears, groans and heartache, but God blessed them incredibly when the time was right.
I have spoken about this before (probably more than once : ) so will be very brief here but the difficulty, the cries, and the length of waiting that these two women endured reminded me of an experience my own mother had. Her difficulty was not in having children (thankfully for me!) but with a husband that was damaged, abusive and very difficult for the whole family to live with. To put it bluntly and quickly, our house was one fight after another growing up. Weeping and crying out to the Lord one day (for she didn't know how we would manage and go on as a family) the Lord spoke a scripture clearly to her. He said:
Jeremiah 31:16-17 Thus says the LORD, "Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; For your work will be rewarded," declares the LORD, "And they will return from the land of the enemy. "There is hope for your future," declares the LORD, "And your children will return...'
It took nearly 20 years for that to be fulfilled. But in 1990, my Father, my brother and I were all saved even though we were all living in different areas and didn't really have a part to play in each others salvation. It was just an incredible 'But God' moment. Can't put it down to anything else apart from a mother and sister who continued to pray right through those difficult years, and God who answered those prayers. To be frank it was a miracle that it would happen to any of us, let alone all three! 'But God remembered' my mother and His promises to her just as He had Rachel and Hannah and countless others before her! 'But God' aye?!
God remembered - In deliverance and judgement
Let's move to another example of 'God remembering', this time with prophetic implications. There are two scriptures that I want to look at. One is from the first book of the Bible and the second is from the last. Both are incredibly relevant for the day in which we live.
Gen 19:24-29 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven,... Now Abraham arose early in the morning and went to the place where he had stood before the LORD; and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the valley, and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land ascended like the smoke of a furnace. Thus it came about, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot lived.
Rev 16:18-19 Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. (19) The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.
On the eve of God's judgement falling upon Sodom and Gomorrah, scripture tells that God remembered Abraham. And what was it that He remembered? He remembered His promise to Abraham that He would not destroy the righteous with the wicked. And so before judgement, came deliverance. Lot and his family were rescued by the angels of God before the judgement came upon the city. This is incredibly important because it is one of many examples that show that God's people, the righteous, are delivered before the wrath of God comes. It will be the same for the church of Jesus Christ in the last days. Before His judgement comes, His deliverance through the rapture comes. Jesus will remember His promise made to us and take us to be with Him!
But that is not all that He will remember in this days. Revelation also tells us that God 'remembers' the wicked. In the last days 'Babylon' and the whole Babylonian spirit and system, will be 'remembered' for His judgement. Today we see abundant wickedness and think 'how do they keep getting away with that?' 'How do wicked men plot evil and do evil things in secret places and continue to do so?' 'How long will it be before God judges?' The answer is that no one gets away with anything. None will escape judgment. God has not forgotten. But He is incredibly patient desiring all to come to repentance. But the day is coming when He will specifically 'remember' this Babylonian system and the wickedness of men and will repay justly for all that they have done. This should be sobering and motivating for the ONLY safe place is 'in Christ Jesus'. In Him the fires of judgement have already burnt out on that cross 2000 years ago so that all that are in Him are perfectly safe, free from all judgement.
This brings us to the final point in this study and that is what God forgets...
What God forgets - The one thing God chooses to not remember
I said earlier that scripture teaches that there is one thing that God forgets with the believer. And please be clear that this is only for the believer in Jesus Christ. But there is one thing that he forgets... or better, chooses not to remember. And that is our sins!
Isa 43:25 I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.
Heb 8:12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
And it is not that He blindly overlooks them. No. It is because He has dealt with and forgiven them. They are taken and paid for by another.
Mic 7:19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
“God takes our sins – the past, present and future and dumps them in to the sea and puts up a sign that says, NO FISHING ALLOWED.”
Corrie ten Boom.
Conclusion - Your response...
So God remembers. He remembers His promises. He remembers to deliver. He remembers His own. But all in their own good time for His ways and purposes are deep indeed. But what about our response? For it is not surprising that God would remember you. He doesn't forget. What is normally the problem is that we do not remember Him!
Psa 103:2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;
Psa 105:5 Remember His wonders which He has done, His marvels and the judgments uttered by His mouth,
Psa 106:7 Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember Your abundant kindnesses, But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
Luk 22:19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
Noah spent about a year in the Ark but when God remembered and delivered him, did Noah forget the Lord? No. Noah experienced a wonderful 'But God' moment. and the first thing recorded after leaving the ark is that he built an altar and made an offering to the Lord for all His goodness!
Gen 8:18-22 So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons' wives. (19) All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds--everything that moves on the earth--came out of the ark, one kind after another. (20) Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. (21) The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. (22) As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.
And so should all of us offer what we can back to the Lord for what He has done for us! Are you offering yourself back to Him to be used for His purposes? Listen to these wise words...
Let God have your life; He can do more with it than you can.
And what about our response to others around us... even those that have hurt us? Does 'But God' make a difference there to? Well, that is a bit of a setup question because that is what we will look at next time as we explore three 'But God' verses in the life of Joseph.