This Sunday I’ll be preaching on Genesis 9.1-13. The passage at this point in the story is part of God’s response to the chaos of the flood. The flood was a response of God to the wickedness of humanity. God effectively declared “to put an end to all people…” (Gen 6.13, NIV).
Yet the flood does not destroy the inclination towards evil among humanity and God knows this (Gen 8.21).
Logically then, it would seem that since evil brought about such severe judgment, we might immediately expect more of the same from the Lord. Yet this is not what happens. Instead, we hear a promise from God saying “never again.” God promises to never again destroy his creation in such a way. So now we have a promise from the Lord rooted in his grace (Brueggemann, Genesis, 84).
As an assurance of God’s promise, God establishes a covenant with Noah, his descendants, and all living creatures (vv. 9, 11, 15). The appearance of the rainbow will be a reminder to God of the covenant he has established.
What is interesting about the establishment of the covenant, as well as all subsequent covenants God will enter into, is that God is entering into the covenant with his creation. In the ancient pagan world, pagan gods did not enter into a covenants. Rather, such gods served as “witnesses and enforcers” of a covenant (Foster, “The Missiology of Old Testament Covenant,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 205). The fact then that God enters into covenant with his creation reveals something profound to us about this God, the Lord God…Yahweh.
Our God lives as one moved to enter into a relationship with his people for their own sake. The establishment of this relationship serves the purpose of bringing about shalom. Even though this purpose is never fully realized in the Old Testament, it does find fulfillment in the new covenant God enters into through the cross in which God, the Son, suffers death upon the cross (Foster, 206-207).
Although, my childhood memories of Noah and the flood was one of judgment, I now see the emergence of grace taking shape. However, this deserves clarification. The grace emerging here is one in which God risks much by entering into relationship with humanity. This trajectory will move God to incarnate, becoming human, experiencing life as we experience life so that our life may find the redemption that brings about shalom.
Now think about this. What if we, the people of God, learned how to enter into life with others?