Sabbath Reflection for August 29 (’14)
Text: Genesis 9
Genesis 9 overflows with truth—the kind of truth that gives an “A-HA!” moment. From a type of new Eden to a type of new Adam (in Noah and his pristine, cleansed Earth in vs. 1-3 and 7) to the source of capital punishment (vs. 4-6), there’s much here. Today, we focus only on 9:8-17 which affirms a beautiful truth of God’s character that gives hope and assurance to his covenant children. The way the text is written reinforces this truth in a wonderfully artistic manner completely appropriate to the manner in which God acts to display his character.
In 9:8-11, God declares that he has made a covenant established for the ages. He makes this covenant without asking Noah’s permission. As some say, it’s a unilateral covenant. God establishes his mercy to not only Noah, but to everything he has made, “I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature…that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” God is a God who establishes lasting covenants of mercy. It wasn’t that the Earth no longer deserved a massive judgment; it did. God simply promised he would not bring it with water. Never again would man have to fear such a destruction, whether tsunami, hurricane, torrential rain, or melting polar ice caps. He will not cut off all flesh in such a manner. Notice, though, he doesn’t promise lack of judgment….
In 9:12-17, in beautiful artistry, God teaches us that he is a God who remembers his covenant with his people. In 9:12 and 17, he says, “This is a sign of the covenant…between me and you” and all the earth. These verses act as bookends for this unit of verses. Their identical language tells us (as it were), “There is something important happening here.” Sure enough, there is. 9:13 and 16 are also thematically identical as well as sharing language: “I have set my bow in the cloud” as a sign between God and creation. At the heart of these artistically symmetrical verses is the central truth found in 9:14-15:
When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
Did you see it? God will remember. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and that truth (which comes later in Scripture) is implied in verses like this. Many have said that the Old Testament is often a shadow of the reality revealed most fully in the New Testament (the book of Hebrews labors to show this). Here in Genesis 9 we receive—gladly I hope—that this God of Noah is a remembering God.
How unlike the idols who so often are deaf (Ps 115:5) or busy (1 Ki 18:27)! This God sees, remembers, and acts according to his promise. Human history since this time is testimony. As often as that bow is in the sky….
This is the God we serve. He remembers his promises. Do you remember he is like this? It is very easy to become discouraged. Children abandon the faith, sometimes in spectacular fashion. Great harm comes to us and those we love. The list is as endless as our manual of psychological disorders and as relentless as the aging process. But he remembers. He remembers. This is a God who establishes covenant with his creation (chiefly, us), and who remembers his promises. Take heart. Fulfillment is coming.