While Noah may be best known for his ability to count to two and as the first person to captain a floating zoo, there is much more to learn from his six centuries of life. For instance, consider his character. Genesis 6:9 (NKJV) says “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations, [and] Noah walked with God.” This description speaks for itself, but we actually get to see aspects of Noah’s character several times in scripture. We can learn a lot about why “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8). Let’s take a look at the example of his offering in Genesis 8:20: “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”
The first thing to notice about this offering is what did not happen. God did not tell Noah to give an offering. This is interesting because from the time we meet Noah until he steps off the ark, all we see is that he did what God commanded (Genesis 6:22). God said build an ark and Noah built an ark. God said gather the animals and Noah gathered the animals. Noah entered the ark when God told him, waited when God told him, and exited the ark when God told him.
So it’s a really big deal when Noah finally takes some initiative. Everything up to this point has followed the same pattern: God has said it and Noah did it. But in Genesis 8:20, Noah acts of his own free will. What will he do? Think about it. What would you do?
In many ways, he’s like a sailor who is setting foot on dry land for the first time after a year at sea. Maybe he’ll go for a walk and see what the world looks like after a year underwater. Maybe he’ll try to find some of those naysaying former neighbors who no longer have the breath to mock him. Maybe he’ll wander off to get a break from a solid year in the same vehicle with his wife, kids, and animals. Or maybe he just wants some sunlight, fresh air, and peace and quiet. We could understand any of these, but look at what Noah does.
The first thing Noah does after he gets out of the ark is make an offering to God. He responds to salvation with an offering. This is a sharp contrast from the pattern we see in the modern church where people disappear once they get what they want from God. Noah chose to focus on God instead of himself. He didn’t celebrate his deliverance; he worshipped his Deliverer.
While God provided seven of the clean animals for Noah, it would be dishonest to think this eliminated the risk associated with the offering. These were truly endangered species. At the time of this writing, there are only around 60 Javan rhinoceri alive. They are the world’s most endangered species. Can you imagine the outrage if I sacrificed one? How much more reckless is sacrificing one of seven? Yet this is exactly what Noah chose to do. He didn't just sacrifice one-seventh of a single species, but one-seventh of every clean species. Why would Noah take such a risk? God had not commanded it; Noah came up with this plan all by himself. He wanted to make this offering as an act of faith.
What does that mean, that this offering was an act of faith? This is an important question to answer because understanding Noah’s decision can change the way we give. There are three main reasons why people might give. We may give to “cause” God to bless us, we may give “because” God has blessed us, or we may give “because” God will bless us. Let’s explore each of these briefly.
Giving to cause God to bless you misunderstands the nature of God. It stems from a heart that does not recognize what God has already done. It also comes from a person who views God as a cold, transactional Being instead of the loving Father He is.
Giving because God has blessed you is an appropriate response. In fact, we should give as an expression of our gratitude. But while it is a good way to give, it is not the best way. This may seem counterintuitive, but think about it. Once we receive what we believed God for, we move from operating in faith to operating in sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Giving because you see what God has blessed you with is giving by sight. Remember that Cain gave because God had blessed him and God rejected his offering. Why? Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Cain gave by sight, and without faith, so his offering did not please God.
This is the beauty of Noah’s offering. It was a faith response. He probably praised God for His deliverance, but Noah based this offering his faith in God’s perpetual goodness. He was willing to recklessly sacrifice because he believed God “is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Noah gave this faith gift before God’s covenant. He made this offering with no guarantee about the future except his faith in God who had always been faithful and good to him.
And God was pleased! God provided even more abundantly after this offering than He already had. God revoked the curse He had placed on the ground and promised to never destroy all life again (Genesis 8:21). He again blessed humanity and established a covenant through Noah and his descendants (Genesis 9:1-17). Noah’s faith-fueled offering pleased God and mixing our faith with our offerings can have the same effect. Choose to give in faith because God is always good!