Video commentary found here
If I believe this is true then:
What does it mean about God?
What does it mean about me?
What does it mean about the world?
I wrote a Bible study for the Cumberland Presbyterian Denomination on these verses at is has been published and the whole of the study on covenant can be purchased here.
But here is this particular lesson as I wrote it, pre edit and publication.
A Word about Covenant
Covenant is one of those loaded words in Christian conversation. There are those who view covenant as a legal contract entered into willingly by two persons. There are those who view covenant as a promise secured by some form of guarantee or deposit. Still others see covenant as a handshake deal between “gentlemen.”
In the 1984 Confession of Faith, Cumberland Presbyterians discuss the nature of the covenant of grace made by God with humankind revealed throughout scripture. It affirms that the first and only covenant that God has had with the human family is the Covenant of Grace.
Dr. Hubert Morrow in his book “The Covenant of Grace: a Thread Through Scripture” defines covenant as “ a personal relationship established freely and unconditionally by God with the human family (pg 43)” Our Confession of Faith states that all scripture is to be read and understood in the light of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. (Cof 1.06)
When we look at covenant in this study we will be viewing these covenantal occurrences through the lens of the one covenant of grace.
God speaks to NoahPrep for the journey
The Story of Noah and the Ark is familiar to most of us. When we think of it, we are often filled with images of baby nursery decorations. You know the ones, with cute little cartoon animals a sweet little blue boat and a smiling old guy with a beard. It is safe. It is sweet. It is sanitized.
Take a moment and think about or write down some thoughts you have when you hear the words “Noah” and “Ark.”
On the Road
Noah’s story is found in the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th chapters of Genesis. It begins with a description of the world that is ugly.
Read Genesis 6:5-7.
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
The earth was full of wickedness. People hearts were filled with all evil, all of the time. Things had reached a point where God felt sorry that humanity was even created. These are some intense images. Creation has fallen to a point where the God who created it, and named it "good" now seems to regret ever having created in the first place. God is grieved by the sinfulness of the created world.
How do you respond to the idea of God being grieved by creation? How does this fit into our understanding of God?
God cares for this creation; He loves it to the point of grieving over its downfall. God loves it too much to let it stay in its current state. God acts to redeem creation through the cleansing of the flood.
My mother-in-law was diagnosed with Acute Lymphatic Leukemia at 63 years of age. This horrible disease struck quick and hard. The doctors aggressively fought the leukemia with chemotherapy and many experimental treatments. Each of these necessary life saving treatments tore down her immune system, destroying what little health she had left. There were moments when we were sure the cure would kill her. And, in a very real since that was what had to happen. Everything good and bad had to be broken down for the new cells that they placed in her blood stream to do the work of giving new life. Her body had to begin again, in order to be healed.
This image of death creating new life can be a difficult image for us in our current context. The idea of God wiping out humanity in order to show grace seems to be the antithesis of grace. We much prefer the thought of humanity getting a slap on the wrist, or a standard turn around and repent rather than trusting God to act for our benefit. That is one of the areas of tension in this account. As humans, we cannot always see God’s goodness and redemption in the midst of a world of pain and suffering. But that does not mean that God's goodness and redemptive power is not there.
Just when you feel this scripture has little positive to say, in walks Noah. We are not given any real specifics about Noah. We do not know his profession, his eye color or his childhood activities. But what we do learn is that he was a righteous man, blameless among the people in his time. Blameless does not mean sinless. Noah was not a perfect person. However, he had some sort of personal relationship with the Lord. Something about Noah’s character showed that he was different than those around him. Though he does not speak in the flood narrative, his actions teach us all we need to know about him. Look at the following verses. What can you surmise about Noah based on these verses? 6:22, 7:5, 7:7, 8:6-12, 8:20.
What was it that allowed Noah and his family to survive both the time spent building the ark and the time in the flood waters themselves? What was it that led him to trust in the Lord so completely?
Perhaps part of the answer can be found in chapter 6 verse 18 “But I will establish my covenant with you and you will enter the ark, you and your sons and your wife and your sons wives with you.”
Noah has been given a promise, a hope from God that ensures a future relationship with God and creation. He is given hope, which does not disappoint.
Hope is an amazing thing. It helps us hang on far longer than we could have ever imagine. It motivates us when nothing else can.
Time and again in holy scripture we hear of individuals who press on with nothing more than the hope God has placed before them. Moses led the all Israel out of Egypt based on the hope that God would fulfill the promise of a home. Ruth secured a future for her family by placing her hope in the God of her mother-in-law, Naomi. Paul and Silas sang songs of praise and hope while imprisoned, keeping the hope freedom and restoration alive in their hearts.
Think of a time when hope helped you through a trying time. Write a prayer of thanks to God, or share the story with your classmates.
Through God’s faithfulness we are blessed to participate in God’s work in the world. But to do that we must take time to recognize that God is active in our lives on a daily basis. God remembered Noah and his family during the flood. Even in the midst of the wildest waves of the flood, through the 40 days and nights of rain and even through the over 100 days spent floating in the flood waters, God was there, preserving, protecting and providing. When we recognize that God has been and continues to be active in our lives how should we respond?
Read Genesis 8:20-22. 20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.
As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
When the floodwaters receded, when the ordeal was over, Noah immediately worshipped God. He remembered the God who brought him through, and offerred up the best of what he has to God. Noah did not celebrate what he had done on his own, or that pulled himself up by his bootstraps. Rather, he recognized his dependence upon God, and returned offering to the Lord who had given him the ultimate gift, life. God responded to all of creation with gift of the covenant.
Take a moment and think of ways you as an individual or as a group can begin acknowledging God’s covenant of grace in your daily life. These ideas do not have to be complex worship services, but small daily acts of worship and thankfulness.
Just as in the past, the way into the future cannot be secured by sinful humanity. God knows their hearts are set on evil ways. For this very reason the burden of redemption will be on God’s shoulders. Humanity has shown itself in need of God’s divine promise to hold them in relationship to Him.
Read Genesis 9:8-11.
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
What stands out to you about the words of this covenant? What have you not noticed before?
God acts, God sets the covenant, and God places the bow in the sky so that God will remember. It is the divine responsibility to make and keep this covenant. It will be good because God is good. The covenant does not rely on human action. It is open to all people, and all of creation. In this sense it is a universal covenant, a promise to all creation; God’s grace poured out on every living thing.
As human beings we get to rest secure in God’s covenant. This is good news! Just as God brought Noah through the flood waters, God will bring us through the storms and difficulties in our lives. Will things always be perfect? No, for the world is still influenced by sin and death. But we have the hope of Christ, which does not disappoint to carry us through.