“Then God remembered Noah, and whatever was with him in the ark: all the wild animals, all the cattle, all the birds, and all the creeping things. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.” (OSB)
Earlier in Genesis, as God was inspecting the corrupted way of human life on earth, Moses tells us that God “took it to heart” that He had made man (Gen 6:6-8)—that is, God “consoles Himself,” God is “grieved,” God has “second thoughts,” as it were, about His plan to have made humanity and to have given them free will. This of course is the way that the inspired authors of Scripture were guided to talk about God—in anthropomorphic terms, in terms of human emotion and physiology (e.g., God has an “arm,” “feet,” etc.), all of which communicate to us the various “Energies/Operations” of God in the world in a way that is considerate to our human understanding.
Now, in the midst of the Flood, God remembers Noah, and not just Noah, but all his family and all the other creatures in the Ark. The near-total destruction of creation that ultimately came through the disobedience of one man is being reversed through the faithful obedience of one man, Noah, who with his family comprises the “righteous remnant” of humanity (cf. Rom 5:12-21).
The scenario that is unfolded here is a paradigm that explains the nature of God’s relationship with His people across salvation history, all of which leads to and is focused in the Cross & Resurrection of our Lord. Simply put: the exile and suffering of God’s righteous remnant evokes God’s compassion, His remembrance, which “compels” God to act on His promises and thus to intervene and save His people.
In Deuteronomy 32, Moses predicts Israel’s disobedience and exile, as God uses the gentiles as tools of judgment against His own people. Yet, when Israel’s suffering reaches its height, then “the Lord will judge His people, and have compassion on His servants; for He sees them disabled and left in distress and weakened” (Deut 32:36)—a verse quoted by one of the seven martyred sons in 2 Maccabees 7:6. Is this not the prayer of Christ, who is Himself the “Righteous Remnant,” the New Noah, the True Israelite, the True Human, when He prays on the Cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46)? A prayer which must immediately be connected with Psalm 15:10: “For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption,” to which St. Peter appeals in his sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:25-28). Is this not why we pray “Memory Eternal!”—i.e., “May God eternally remember you!”—for our departed loved ones?
Genesis 8:1 also connects back to the Creation story of Genesis 1, and anticipates the salvation of Israel at the Red Sea in Exodus 14: the motifs of wind/spirit, water, the emergence of dry land as a way to life and salvation, all combine such that we must understand all of God’s acts of creation as works of salvation, and His works of salvation as acts of creation and restoration, re-creation. It is thus that our Baptism is connected with the Flood and Red Sea Crossing, our Chrismation with the Spirit’s “mighty wind” at Pentecost, and the Eucharist as our continual Passover Remembrance of our departure from the “Egypt” of sin and death—our becoming a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17)—in Christ’s death and resurrection.
~ By Reader Justin Gohl