Genesis 8:11 (ESV) … “And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.”
We can hardly imagine the indescribable scene of desolation that must have greeted Noah and his family when they eventually came out of the ark. The earth which once teemed with people and wildlife and where there was an abundance of trees and vegetation now presented a hostile and inhospitable environment. “Then God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it’. So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 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 after another” (Genesis 8:15–19). But in spite of the desolation of the earth, the great thing was that the Flood was now over and there was the possibility of a new beginning for the human race by the grace and mercy of God. Noah knew this, since he himself and his family had experienced that mercy and grace in their own salvation from the catastrophe which had overwhelmed the rest of mankind.
Therefore, immediately he leaves the ark, Noah’s thoughts turn to God. “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. 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’ ” (Genesis 8:20–21). Here was Noah, through the act of worship giving praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for his deliverance and the opportunity of a new beginning for life on the earth.
This scenario of a new beginning is repeated again and again at the spiritual level whenever a person is regenerated through the power of the Holy Spirit. When our Lord said to Nicodemus ‘You must be born again’ he was in fact talking about the need for a new beginning. Similarly when the Apostle Paul says, ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17), he too is describing an experience which is a new beginning, a new life in the power of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. Regeneration or being born of the spirit is not merely a reformation or improvement of the old sinful nature to make it spiritually acceptable to God. Man is a sinner from birth and is spiritually dead and he cannot perceive or understand the things of God, “they are foolishness to him” (1 Corinthians 2:14). In order to have the capacity to understand the things of God he has to be quickened by the Holy Spirit on the inside, in his heart and conscience, so as to grasp the truth of salvation and begin the new life in Christ.
But there is another dimension to all this. The best of all new beginnings for the believer is yet to be when this life is over, when history comes to its close and this earth passes away. For we shall then begin our new life in our new risen body in our new heavenly home. This will happen when Christ comes again to establish His eternal kingdom. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare … But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:10–13).