Genesis 8:20-9:17 “God’s Covenant with Noah”
Redeemer Church Sunday School: Genesis Class
Sunday, February 8, 2009
God’s Covenant with Noah
Crucial Question: Does God Keep his Word?
Read Gen. 8:20-9:17
Introduction; Today we shall begin looking at the covenant that God made with Noah and the world in this passage. The concept of covenant is very crucial in the Bible. Back when we studied ch.1-2 we saw an implicit covenant between God and Adam, but now we come to the first explicit covenant in the Bible. The language of the covenant is common in the ancient Near East because it is used by many kings. There are a couple of types of covenant, (1) Conditional- “I will do this, if you do that; if you do not do that I will not do this but rather this…; (2) Unconditional- I will do this, and you are to do that, but even if you don’t do that, I will still do this. This covenant in Gen. 8-9 is an unconditional covenant, God quite simply promises to never again destroy the world by a Flood. This morning we shall examine this covenant and try to see just what Moses is telling us about Noah and Israel in Moses’ day.
I. The Nature of the Covenant (most of this discussion comes from Derek Kidner, TOTC, p101)
A. Notice first of all the Breadth of the Covenant. Vs. 8:2 “I will never again curse the ground…” vs. “Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature…” vs.22 “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Vs.9:9-10 “I establish my covenant…with every living creature” vs.9:11-17 “never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth…”
When God created the world he pronounced it “Very Good” in 1:31. But after Adam sinned, not only were Adam and Eve ejected from the Garden, but the very ground was cursed in 3:17-18, bearing thorns and thistles. Now, after the Flood has worked destruction all over the world, the LORD is promising, “Never again!”
This covenant, then, applies to Noah and his family, vss. 9:1, 7-9, 11-17, and to all the generations that follow.
We see some signs of this covenant and its ultimate fulfillment in other portions of Scripture. Rom.8
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
We see glimpses of Creation restored in some OT passages like Isaiah 11:1-9 that speaks of Christ and how all of creation will be transformed eventually and Isaiah 65:17-25. Jeremiah 31:31-40. Notice how permanent the New Covenant is, how it is related to the permanence of sun, moon and stars, which sounds similar to what God promised in Gen. 8:22.
Yes, sin has wrought great devastation upon the world, not just in the Flood, but in the natural disasters that are a part of this world and in the man made disasters of pollution, deforestation, strip mining, poor agricultural procedures that deplete the soil, over building that leads to more rain runoff and more flooding. Our efforts at exercising dominion are tainted with sin and therefore we are destroying the earth. But there is coming a day, and I believe soon, when Jesus will return and transform us, and this world so that the curse is lifted and the Garden restored and the promise of the Rainbow is fulfilled. There is an aspect of Redemption that, like this Noahic Covenant, applies to all creation and we find great hope in that. Here is then, a beginning text for a Christian view of the environment. For too long we have allowed the pagans to run wild with their form of environmentalism. We need to practice both dominion and a biblical environmentalism, realizing that as man exercises dominion we do pollute and destroy and mismanage, yet we have the capacity, through a study of the Bible and through science, to ease the burdens of pollution.
B. Notice next the permanence of the Covenant. See vs. 8:21, “I will never again curse…” 22; 9:11 “Never again…” vs15 “I will remember my covenant…the waters shall never again become a flood…” vs.16 “I will…remember the everlasting covenant…” The LORD words it both negatively (3X) and positively (2X)
Praise God that we worship a God who keeps his word and never lies or forgets. Numbers 23:19
God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
8 “Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
9 remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
11 calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.
13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word
When the LORD makes a covenant, an unconditional covenant, he keeps it because he cannot break his word or lie. He has made a covenant with his Son to save for himself a people. He has made a covenant with all the redeemed to bring them safely through this world and death to himself. The good old Baptist doctrine of “once saved always saved” or, better, “the perseverance of the saints and assurance of salvation” is rooted in this idea of covenant and the truthfulness of God himself. He has promised to save us for all eternity and we can rely on that promise, that covenant, sealed in the blood sacrifice of his son, Jesus.
C. Notice the generosity of the covenant. It is an unconditional covenant in that Noah and all men after him would still be sinful from their youth. Sinful, fallen man is not capable of not sinning. This covenant, then, shows amazing grace. In the next part of ch.9 we see Noah fall into the sin of drunkenness.
On what basis does God make his covenant of salvation with you? How are you chosen? Is it rooted in anything that you have done or will do? No, we believe in what is called Unconditional Election. God chooses to love and save you not based upon anything you have done or could ever do, it is based solely upon his mysterious will and good pleasure, for his glory alone.
II. Parallels Between the Covenant with Noah and with Moses/Israel (this point comes from John Sailhamer in EBC, vol.2, p.93)
A. The covenant with Israel in Ex. 23-24 comes after a salvation experience at the Red Sea, several weeks before and the Covenant with Noah comes after he has been preserved from the Flood.
B. An altar and offering mark the establishment of a covenant in Gen.9:9 and Ex. 24:5-6.
C. Both covenants bring about God’s blessing in Gen. 9:1 and Ex. 23:25
D. The central provision in both covenants is protection from “beasts of the field” or “wild animals” in 9”2 and Ex.23:29 and human enemies in 9:5-6 and Ex.23:22.
E. Specific mention is made for the earth to be preserved from destruction in 9:11 and Ex.23:29
F. A visible sign of the covenant is given in both accounts, the rainbow in 9:13-17 and the glory cloud on the mountain in Ex.24:15
G. A command to obedience is given in 9:4 and Ex.24:3
All of these similarities suggest that Moses was attempting to show his people that this new covenant that they were entering into with the LORD had an antecedent in the covenant with Noah. The covenant at Sinai with Israel is not new, it is linked back to Noah. It is a return to God’s original promises, God is still at work bringing sinful man back into fellowship with God. This covenant with Noah lies about halfway between the covenant blessing of man in 1:28 and the covenant with Abram in 12 to bless all peoples on the earth through Abram.