Genesis 8:15-9:29 God’s Covenant with Noah

There were many parallels and connections made this week.  I’m going to try briefly to discuss four of them this morning.  They will not be in chronological order, but try to stick with me.  I have four C’s to help you organize your notes if that will help.

Creation

Covenant

Context

Completion

(Here is a copy of the  Whiteboard notes  from our session, both for those who missed class and for those who requested they be added.  It is a PDF document that should be downloadable.  Let me know if you have issues with it.)

First, Creation.  Last week, we spent time in our homework noticing how God was accomplishing a sort of de-creation through the flood.  We saw the wiping out of creation in a reverse order – taking it all the way back to waters covering the face of the earth.  That should have reminded us of chapter 1, verse 2: the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters.  God has reversed and undone creation, with the exception of the people and animals on the ark.

Turn with me to our passage for today and see something.  At this point, the waters have receded – and if you are thinking that sounds familiar (and you should!) it should direct you to chapter 1 verse 9: Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let dry land appear.  Already we can anticipate a repeated pattern.  But wait!  There’s more!  Our passage, starting in verse 15.  What does it say? “Then God said. . .” There are many places where the scriptures quote God speaking, but do you see what happens next?  Let’s keep reading.

Then God said to Noah, “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.  Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”  So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him.  Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.

God said it, and it was so.  It’s like Genesis 1 all over, right?  God said, and it was.  God said for Noah to go out, and he did!

Not only there, but we see a repeat of the command to be fruitful and multiply in chapter 9 verse 1, which is a repeat from chapter 1:28.  Right after that, in verse 29, God provides them with food—in Genesis 1 it is plants and fruits.  In Genesis 9, we see the addition of meat.  And, the gift of meat was not given without conditions, which parallels the conditions to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (We are also introduced, by the way, to the idea that will become so critically important, that in order for man to live, blood must be shed.  Here in chapter 9 the blood is shed for food, but also as punishment – to show how dire it is to take the life of an image bearer).  Then the blessing to be fruitful and multiply is repeated.

What does this matter?  I think it primarily reinforces the understanding that all of creation is God’s, and He is purposeful in his ruling over it.  It also adds to the evidence that he has a rescue plan.  We will get to that more when we talk about Completion.

Next is Covenant.  We did those charts on pages 56 and 57 of our study guide that delineated the main points of the covenants with Adam and Noah.  The covenant with Adam was initiated by God, as was the one with Noah.  Adam’s was between God and Man; Noah’s was between God and Man and animals.  Here’s where they start to differ a little.  God promised Adam safety, provision, fellowship.  Noah was promised that God would never destroy the earth with a flood again.  Why the difference?  I think the answer lies in the next row of the charts.  Adam’s covenant required Adam’s obedience.  Do not eat of the tree.  When Adam and Eve rebelled, the covenant was broken, sin entered the world, and the perfect obedience was not possible.  God then, when he made his covenant with Noah, did not require anything FROM Noah.  He took all the responsibility upon himself.  Therefore, while the consequence of Adam’s disobedience was death, because God is perfect and is the ONLY one who can EVER use the words ALWAYS and NEVER truthfully, there were no consequences given in Noah’s covenant because God would NEVER break it.

Now, let’s talk about Context.  I could have called this one “Curse”, but I didn’t want to stretch too far to connect the curses in chapter 3 and chapter 9.  Besides, I think the curse in chapter 9 is meant for a different purpose – maybe.  So, instead, let’s focus just on the strange curse in chapter 9, and see if some context can help us make sense of it.  Let’s start reading in verse 18.

 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed. 

 

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard.  He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.  And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.  Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father.  Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.  When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said,

 

“Cursed be Canaan;

a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

He also said,

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem;

and let Canaan be his servant.

May God enlarge Japheth,

and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,

and let Canaan be his servant.”

 

After the flood, Noah lived 350 years.  All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.

Noah got drunk, got naked, and passed out.  Things haven’t really changed much, have they?  But the point of this passage isn’t Noah’s drunkenness.  It’s actually something much cooler than that –I think, anyway!  Let’s look at verse 25 again.  “Cursed be Canaan.”  Wait!  What?! Why not Ham?  Wasn’t he the one who, instead of respecting and helping his father, celebrated his father’s sin and magnified it?  So why are we told that Noah cursed Canaan?  Well, who is Canaan?  Ham’s son.  See verse 18 – Ham was the father of Canaan.  Why does this matter?

Well, think for a minute.  Remember back to week one of our study.  Who is writing this book?  Moses.  Who is he writing this for?  Israel.  WHEN is he writing it?  While they are wandering, awaiting their time to enter the promised Land.  One more question.  What’s the OTHER name of the Promised Land?  The Land of –Canaan!  Moses, as he is writing, wants Israel to be assured that they will overcome the people of Canaan!  I love finding these contextual nuggets!  Hopefully that helps to take some of the fuzziness away from why this whole story is included.

There is another reason the story is there, and it relates to our last C – Completion.  Remember back in Genesis 3 we were introduced to the promised “serpent-crusher”?  If you were reading this story of the flood, and God’s covenant with Noah for the first time – you might wonder if Noah was THE guy, right?  I mean, out of everyone in the ENTIRE world, God spared HIM.  That’s gotta be him!  We see, though, from this story that it can’t be him.  Not only does Noah sin, but we see he fits the pattern of everyone else – in verse 28 – “and he died.”  So, then, how will God complete his plan if it wasn’t through Noah?  Let’s start thinking about this by reading verses 11-17 of Chapter 9.

I establish my covenant with you, 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.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between and you and every living creature of all flesh.  And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.  When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth”  God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Even up to this past month, the story of the flood has always been one I believed – but I only pushed back a very little bit in an effort to understand it.  I always relegated it to the shelf with all the other things I will ask God about when I get to heaven—because then I’m sure I’ll get it, but for now I’ll just trust in God’s goodness, sure that he had his reasons.  What I have realized is that by NOT wrestling with this narrative before – I was not wrestling with my understanding of my own sin, and God’s just wrath.  See – if we struggle to grasp that total destruction is what sin DESERVES, then what we are really doing is failing to understand just how bad sin really is.  God, who is holy and just, in his wrath CANNOT over-punish.

As moms, as daughters, we have experienced this phenomenon of over- or under punishing a child (or being over punished ourselves).  Your child does something wrong for the umpteenth time, on top of everything else that has gone wrong that day, and you SNAP!  Your tempter flares, you lash out, and you heap on too much consequence, you do it louder than you mean to.  Anybody else, or is that just me?

But God. . . God is perfect, and his punishment will ALWAYS (remember-only God can use that word truthfully) fit the crime.  So a paradigm shift needs to take place.  I no longer can imagine the flood as an extreme measure.  Instead, I have to wrap my mind around the total depravity of man that warranted the flood.

And yet, even in this punishment, God held back just a bit of his wrath, didn’t he?  He spared Noah and his family.  And promised to never destroy all flesh with a flood again.  God’s wrath was poured out almost completely on the earth.  But he has kept his promise to Noah.  Never again.

We as Christians are given a promise related to God’s wrath as well: John 3:36 says

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. 

Jesus became our sin and bore the wrath of God.  That physical destruction the earth experienced – Christ endured it not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.  Not just for kicks – but because as Just, and Holy as he is, he is also perfect love.  He took that destructive punishment in our place – and we are promised that if we but put our faith in him – we will be spared God’s wrath.

This is why we celebrate Christmas, after all.  Not to have some world-wide birthday party, or an excuse to spend more and give more.  We celebrate because God, who is holy, righteous, and just, is also love, and mercy, and grace.  He humbled himself, took on our sin, and suffered our punishment in our place!

There’s this video going around, maybe you’ve seen it.  The United States Air Force Band doing a flash mob in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum?  It begins with a cellist playing Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.  It swells to a full band, and choir singing “Joy to the World.”  I love this time of year.  Daily, people who otherwise wouldn’t darken the door of a church are hearing or even singing along with the Gospel!

Joy to the world, the Lord has come.

Let Earth receive her king.

Let every heart prepare him room.

Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns.

Let men their songs employ. 

While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,

repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sin and sorrows grow,

nor thorns infest the ground.

He comes to make his blessings flow

Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,

and makes the nations prove

The wonders of his love.

Fields and FLOODS repeat the sounding joy.

Let’s pray.

You are God and I am not.  Help me to not shy away from the hard truth of my sin, but to rejoice in my Savior and what he has accomplished on my behalf!

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