Covenants of God
Week Three: Noahic
We are in week three of our series, Covenants of God. First, we saw the creation covenant called the Edenic covenant, where God gives Adam a land grant of sorts—he is to cultivate the earth and tend it, enjoying all its bounty. This covenant included the stipulation that he was not to eat of the tree of knowledge between good and evil, for on the day he does, he will certainly die.
Well, as we know all too well, God’s first image-bearers, Adam and Eve, chose to be persuaded by the serpent’s clever twisting and lying about the Edenic Covenant, eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, thus breaking the covenant…which lead us to covenant #2.
The Adamic Covenant contained multiple curses to the serpent, the woman, and the man. But it also contained provision and grace. God killed the first animal to make coverings of skin for them. But also contained in the curses to the serpent was the promise of a way out for sinful man…a way to escape death through the offspring of woman, namely Jesus, who would crush the head of the serpent. This is known as the proto-Gospel.
We’re going to be focusing on Genesis 9 this morning, but we need to briefly talk about how God’s creation got to the point of worldwide disaster and the Noahic covenant. Chapter 5 of Genesis contains a long genealogy of the descendants of Adam to Noah. It is the bridge between the days of Adam to the days of Noah. At the beginning of Gen 6, the first epoch of human history known as the Adamic age is ending.
Thousands of years have passed in the Adamic Age…long enough for the world to become completely corrupt. Murder, violence, and corruption characterize Noah’s world. Within most every human heart is complete and widespread depravity. Listen to God’s heart:
Gen 6:3à “My Spirit will not contend with (remain in) humans forever, for they are mortal (corrupt); their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
Gen 6:5à “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”
Gen 6:6à “The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”
God’s response is to start again—which leads to both worldwide catastrophe and second chances. Listen to God’s words:
Gen 6:7à “So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, birds, and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.’”
Enter Noah (whose name means rest). His role is to rescue enough of the created order that a new start is possible to reintroduce Adam to their Creator.
Gen 6:8à But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord…(9)Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.
The flood is an act of God that rescued humanity from ourselves and offered our corrupt race a second chance.
Gen 6:13-4à So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress (gopher) wood…”
Gen 6:17-18à “I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you…bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female”…Noah did everything just as God commanded him(6:22).
Gen 7:1à The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.”…And Noah did all that the Lord commanded of him (7:5).
The bursting forth of the waters below and the waters above is a reversal of God’s good work in Genesis 1. In a sense, the great flood is a de-creational event. Gen 7:17àFor forty days the flood kept coming on the earth…(24) The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.
Then the waters ceased and receded…
Gen 8:1à But God remembered Noah…and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.
Gen 8:6à After forty days Noah opened a window…and sent out a raven and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth.
Gen 8:8à He sent out a dove…but the dove could find nowhere to perch
Gen 8:10à After seven days, he sent out the dove, it returned with an olive leaf!
Gen 8:12àAfter seven more days, he sent the dove out again, but it did not return.
It was time for Noah to start over.
Gen 8:15à The God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives”…(18) So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives.
Gen 8:20à Then Noah built an altar to the Lord…he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.
Gen 8:21à Having smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done…”
Let’s now read Genesis 9:1-17, what’s commonly called the Noahic Covenant.
By means of Noah’s covenant, God redefines his relationship with humanity for the first time since Eden. The salvation of humanity and all creation has always been God’s plan. The world has been “washed” clean of the effects of the sin of Adam’s generation. God begins again with his fallen children, the passengers of the ark.
God begins with echoes of Eden: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Whereas the gift to Adam and Eve was every fruit and plant in the garden (except tree of knowledge between good and evil), now the gift is “everything.” But there is a stipulation:
Gen 9:4à “You must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it…from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.”
In Eden, there did not need to be a prohibition of consuming the blood of an animal. The result of the fall and the corruption that had come upon the earth in Noah’s age, the taking of life—even human life—was commonplace. So God adds this stipulation about an accounting for the life of another human being. This prohibition comes generations before the Sinai Covenant (10 Commandments) which prohibits taking of innocent life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of our nation…our human corruption and depravity. When we have state after state take up legislation legalizing not only abortion, but the taking of an infant’s life up to the point of birth! Friends, God’s Word is forever: THERE WILL BE AN ACCOUNTING!
Let’s move into the specifics of the Noahic Covenant. First, let’s look at the parties of the covenant:
Gen 9:9à “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you…”
The parties of this covenant are God, Noah, sons and their offspring, every living creature and all flesh, and the earth. He repeats the parties of the covenant in verse 12: “This is the sign of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come. Like Eden, the nature of this rescue plan is cosmic—it is with all creation.
Second, there’s the promise of the covenant:
Gen 9:11à Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of the flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
(This promise is repeated in verse 15.) You might remember the floods experienced in the Houston TX area a couple of years ago (Harvey). It brought back memories of the devastating water event connected with Katrina in 2005 . Thousands of homes lost. Lives lost. BUT, it was NOT a universal flood. It did NOT destroy all life on earth. The flood of Noah’s day did. And now, God is showing his mercy by declaring he will never do that again.
There WILL be judgment. There WILL one day be the separating of the chaff from the wheat. But it will NOT be by water. It’s interesting that Jesus speaks of the great flood of judgment in Matthew 24 and compare it to the future hour of judgment : As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. This is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man (24:37-39). The promise is NOT to destroy the earth by flood, but the promise is also a similar outcome when Jesus returns! Are we ready???
After cleansing the world of the first sinful race and starting again in a fallen world with a cosmic covenant, he seals his promise with the sign of his multicolored bow in the clouds.
Gen 9:12ffà This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
The sign of the covenant is (1) visual (2) universal (unlike Mosaic), and (3) perpetual.
1.VISUAL. It’s visual in that we all can see it. The rainbow. God says that whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, he will see it and remember the everlasting covenant. The sign of the rainbow is a picture of the warriors bow at rest. God who has drawn his bow and shot his arrow of judgment has now set it down for a time.
Some may point to the science of rainbows and discount the value of this sign. After all, Wikipedia which says, A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky.
It’s true; rainbows are what we see in the water droplets as the sun’s light hits them. Did rainbows exist before the Flood. Probably. But God has given the rainbow a new, universal, and everlasting meaning.
It’s interesting that the homosexual movement has taken the sign of the rainbow . Think about it. [Romans 1:18ff] The earth was destroyed because of the corruption of humanity—every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time…corrupt in every way. Repeatedly and consistently throughout Scripture, the PRACTICE of homosexuality is among many sexually immoral behaviors to which God calls abominations. It was for this and all the corruption of humanity in Adam’s race that God destroyed nearly all of his creation through the flood. BUT THEN, God gave us a SIGN that he would never do that again…the RAINBOW. So, this morning, [hold up T-shirt] ‘I’M TAKING BACK THE RAINBOW.’
[By the way, if you’ve never been to the ARC ENCOUNTER and the CREATION MUSEUM in Kentucky, plan a trip.]
1.The sign is UNIVERSAL. It is a visible reminder not only to God, but all of humanity all around the world sees rainbows. The sign of the covenant for Abraham, which we will see next week, is circumcision. It is for a particular people. The rainbow is for everyone!
2.The sign is PERPETUAL. Rainbows have been appearing generation after generation. God promises that it is an everlasting covenant, so there must be an everlasting sign.
Fourth, let’s consider the conditions of the covenant: Who brings the clouds? God. Who brings bow? God. Who makes conditions? God. What does humanity do in this covenant? Nothing.
This is an unconditional guarantee initiated by God. All the other covenants found in Scripture include stipulations for both parties…blessings and curses. “IF you keep my commands, then you will be blessed…IF you break my commands, then you will be cursed.” The Noahic Covenant is unilateral and unconditional.
In the time remaining, let’s turn to the Implications of the Flood and the Noahic Covenant. The epoch of the Flood and Noahic covenant helps us with our biblical worldview in specific ways:
1. God is in control of nature…the Flood waters and the rainbow are a reminder of that.
2.It’s going to rain…even flood in some areas…but the rainbow reminds us that it will not destroy us completely.
3.Sin has consequences. There is judgment and wrath…
4.But there is also grace and redemption. I love the phrase that follows all the negative observations of the Lord toward his corrupt image-bearers:
“BUT NOAH found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” The great RESCUE PLAN of God included a righteous man and his family. It included a huge boat that protected the righteous remnant, his offspring, and all living creatures from utter destruction.
God was NOT giving up on his creation. If that were true, then God would have utterly destroyed every living thing and started over…or not. Instead, God is rescuing humanity from the terribly corrupt condition it had found itself.
Thinking back to Jesus’s words in Matthew 24… “as in the days of Noah, so it will be for the coming of the Son of Man…” I wonder if the corruption of this world must get to a certain level before Jesus will return to judge the inhabitants of this world? Remember these words from 2 Peter 3:9-10 à The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 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 done in it will be laid bare.
This covenant does not establish salvation for anyone; instead it guarantees that there will be a place in which salvation can work itself out in the fullness of time. Imagine if God had utterly destroyed humanity in the days of Noah. First off, there would be no Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…no more covenants…and no need for Jesus to save the world. THAT would have been the work of an unloving, disconnected, revengeful, selfish god.
Instead, our God set the stage for future generations to know him, believe in him, and be saved. The Noahic Covenant is vital to our understanding of a universally omnipotent God—a God over all creation—and an unconditionally loving God—a God who loves us enough to not allow us to live in our sin without a rescue plan.
Of course, God’s rescue plan ultimately includes his Son, Jesus Christ, who paid the price for our sins on the cross. As He did, Jesus established a New Covenant with his own blood.
This morning we celebrate that covenant through Holy Communion. I invite you to turn your attention to the screens this morning as we continue our service with this significant and powerful visible sign of God’s great love for us and our loving response to Him.