The next time we see God making a covenant, it is hundreds and hundreds of years later in the aftermath of the great flood. After warning the world for 120 years of impending judgement for their sin, only 8 individuals from one family heed the call and act in obedience to escape judgement. God washes away the wicked stain and the world begins afresh. In many ways it’s a discomfiting account and sobering. We don’t like to be confronted with our sin and our dependence on God. We like to think we’re in control, that we can call the shots about our behavior and desires. We want God to look the other way and excuse our sin, but God loves us too much for that and the flood is as much about God’s grace and provision as it is judgement. The two are always entwined.
Noah and his family embraced the way of escape God offered and found protection in the ark. As they stepped out into a new world, God made this covenant:
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
And God said, “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. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” Gen 9:8-16
While this is referred to as the covenant with Noah, notice that it is all-inclusive. All of his family, all of the animals, and all of the earth are included in the scope of God’s covenant to not bring widespread judgement for sin on the earth again. God set a rainbow as the sign of His promise. Every time He or the inhabitants of the earth saw the rainbow after a rain, it would bring to mind the covenant of God’s patience and provision instead of punishment.
Jesus echoed this when He said “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” In the time of Noah, and in every time since, the awful truth has been the weight of sin that separates us from God and from each other. Now God in the flesh had come to save the world from sin, to obliterate its power, and to win back Paradise. And this was done when Christ hung on the cross and bore the consequences and death of every sin. His righteousness bore our sin and He suffered punishment in place of the world. Like the rainbow, the cross now stands as a symbol of God’s mercy and salvation. The covenant of peace that God speaks of at the time of Noah is made complete in the cross, which achieves peace between God and man and welcomes us back into relationship with Him.
This is the invitation of God which speaks between the rainbow and the cross.
“To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
never to rebuke you again.
Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Is 54:9-10
Blessings to you,