Be Fruitful and Multiply...or Not
God’s way to blessing is the only way to blessing.
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”
– Genesis 9:1
Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. And it came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there...And they said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
– Genesis 11:1, 2&4
When the water finally subsided, the ark came to rest on a mountain, and the animals went their own way. And so it was that Noah and his family escaped God’s judgment of evil in the world, not because they were without sin, but because they believed God. And God blessed Noah and his sons and told them to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The number of Noah’s descendants increased greatly, but they remained as one people. They did not fill the earth as God commanded. Instead, they built a city. Then they built a tower reaching to the heavens. God was not pleased.
– The HOPE, Chapter 4
Observe & Consider
Have you ever longed for a fresh start? Well after the flood, Noah and his family experienced one of the most remarkable fresh starts in human history. They had a blank slate on which to begin a completely new story for their lives. And furthermore, God spoke a blessing of prosperity over them (Genesis 9:1, 7). God then promised never to destroy the world with a flood again ...and He sealed His promise with the first rainbow (Genesis 9:13–15)!
What an opportunity for renewal. Unfortunately, it was never realized!
God told Noah and his family to fill the earth. Instead, they gathered in one place and built a city. They wanted to be one people in one place. But that is not what God wanted. In the next lesson, we’ll see God’s response to their disobedience, but for today let’s reflect on how they could possibly have missed such an incredible opportunity to walk in the way of blessing!
According to God’s story, Noah and his family entered the ark on the second week of the 2nd month of the year. They left the ark on the 27th day of the 2nd month of the following year (Genesis 8:14–15). Assuming a lunar calendar of 365 days, Noah and his family could have been on the ark an entire year!1 Linger on that thought before moving on.
When they finally stepped off the ark, what were they feeling? What on earth did they see after everything had been under water for nearly a year? Was it a strange, horrifying sight, perhaps even surreal?
Of all people, Noah and his family should have been prepared to follow God no matter what they saw.
- In the entire world they alone had been preserved by God through the flood.
- They personally heard God and saw Him do amazing things.
- God pronounced a blessing on them that they should have fruitful lives.
Still, after radically trusting God and having experienced His faithfulness as they did, Noah’s family failed to do what God told them to do. Either they didn’t listen carefully or they listened but didn’t obey. You’ve probably heard the saying that there is safety in numbers. Perhaps they stayed together because they were afraid. Whatever their reason, they disobeyed God. They did not attempt fill the earth.
From today’s lesson, consider that:
- God wanted Noah and his family to prosper and “fill” the earth (Genesis 9:1). That was the way to discover God’s blessing. But the way to blessing may not have looked to them like a blessing. The people feared being “scattered” across the earth (Genesis 11:4). The difference between “filling” the earth (as God commanded) and being “scattered” across the earth is primarily one of perspective: one of choosing or being forced.
- They wanted to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4). That prideful motivation sounds a lot like the attitude that led to Satan’s downfall (Lesson 14).
- Even though they didn’t want to follow God, they still wanted to get to heaven. But they wanted to do it their way – by building a tower (Genesis 11:4).
ask & reflect
- Why do you think that Noah and his family failed to follow God’s instructions after having seen and experienced so much with God?
- Can you think of a situation where the thing God asked of you did not look like a blessing at first, but that is what it turned out to be in the end?
- What would you say to someone who wants to get to heaven, but they want to do it their way instead of God’s way?
- Can you identify at all with Noah’s spiritual “regression?” Do you feel that there was a time when you trusted God more radically than you do today? Why? If so, what happened?
Decide & do
In the previous lesson, you were encouraged to trust and obey God like Noah did when he built the ark. But as we consider the rest of Noah’s life, we see a clear warning. Don’t stop trusting and obeying. If you are slacking off spiritually, don’t wait to address the issue.
The people of Babel built a tower to get to heaven. Similarly, people throughout history have built their own ways or religions to get to heaven.2 There is only one way to heaven ...and that is God’s way.
For Further Study
- Jimmy Williams, Why a Moral Life Won’t Get Us to Heaven (Probe Ministries, 1998). (http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/moralife.html). Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- World Religions Index Table on Major World Religions (Probe Ministries, 1995–2006). (http://www.leaderu.com/wri-table2/God.html). Retrieved October 9, 2006. This site provides a more comprehensive exploration of the beliefs of major world religions across a grid of subjects (such as God, Man and the Universe, Salvation and the Afterlife, Morality, and Worship). Links to data on Biblical Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Primitive Religion.
1How Long Did It Take Noah to Build the Ark? How Long Was Noah on the Ark? (http://www.gotquestions.org/Noahs–ark–questions.html). Retrieved October 8, 2006.
2How Major Religions View Salvation and the Afterlife. (Probe Ministries, 1995–2006). NOTE: Taken from: The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error 2. Compiled by Steven Cory. (Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Moody Press, 1986). (http://www.leaderu.com/wri–table2/salvation.html). Retrieved October 8, 2006.