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 8:21)
The opening two chapters of the flood story (Genesis 6-7) paint a devastating picture. God is grieved that he has created humankind, who have turned from him and filled their hearts with wickedness. God releases the destructive power of the waters that he had held back. The whole face of the earth is wiped clean. Only Noah, his family, and the animals are left. In righteous fury, God cleanses the world, vividly demonstrating his judgment against all sin.
Stopping at the end of chapter 7 would leave us with a myopic vision of God. The same God who sent the rain to judge and destroy, commands Noah to make an ark. The same God who opens the floodgates of the heavens also closes Noah into the ark to protect him from God’s wrath. The same God who wiped the earth because of sin chose to save a set of sinners. There are echoes of the gospel even here. While Noah is said repeatedly to be a righteous man, he is by no means perfect. After the flood story concludes, Noah plants a vineyard, gets drunk, and then curses his grandchild when his son sees him naked. Even righteous Noah is not without sin. When God placed Noah and his family in the ark, God was saving sinners from destruction.
After pouring out his wrath through rain, God causes the waters to recede. Eventually, Noah is able to leave the ark and he offers sacrifices to the Lord. God smells the aroma and promises never to work this destruction again. Even though the heart of humanity has not changed, God will not destroy. And God keeps his promise. God continues to save sinners from destruction, not by putting them into an ark, not by pouring out wrath upon the creation, but by taking that wrath upon himself. On the cross, Jesus Christ bore the whole strength of the flood for us.
Never again will God curse the ground, instead he will bear that curse for us.