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. (Genesis 8:20)It must have been a long, yet joyful day for Noah: the joy of leaving the ark, the joy of a change in scenery, the joy of unloading the animals... by the time all was finished, perhaps darkness was beginning to fall. But still, there was another joy, and yet, in a sense, fear, to be experienced: the task of building an altar to the LORD.
The reason why Noah could offer up clean animals without causing the extinction of the entire species was simple: over a year ago, when he had loaded the ark, he had brought two of every animal— except for the clean animals. Of the clean animals, he had brought fourteen, seven of each gender. Those extra animals were now about to serve their purpose: they would soon be slaughtered.
And so, Noah began building the altar (perhaps making use of some of the loose rocks which must have been readily available on top the Ararat Mountains). Soon enough, smoke began to arise from the completed altar. One by one, or perhaps several at a time, Noah offered up the animals.
The contrast could not have been any greater. Around Noah: new life was blossoming, refilling the post-flood world. But in front of Noah: a violent, bloody offering. Noah clearly knew, especially after the flood, that he was a sinner— alive only because of the mercy of God. Sin was not to be played with, and atonement was certainly needed.
But Noah's offering was only a temporary solution. Noah's offering did not take away sin, but only covered it. Over 2000 years later, a sacrifice would take away sin: Jesus Christ would come. And He would die for all those who walk by faith— including Noah, of whom Hebrews states: By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
The Lord Smelled The Soothing Aroma - Genesis 8:21
Noah Leaves The Ark - Genesis 8:18-19
A New Year, A New Era, A New World - Genesis 8:13
Noah's Name: Its Meaning and Significance - Genesis 5:29
God's Ark Which Noah Built - Genesis 6:14