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for the glory of God

5 February 2019

Genesis 9

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

‘But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

‘Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made mankind.

As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.’

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 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. 11 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.’

12 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: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 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. 16 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.’

17 So God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.’

The sons of Noah

18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.

20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backwards and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

‘Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers.’

26 He also said,

‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend Japheth’s territory;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.’

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.

I love rainbows. As a young boy, enduring the Cape winters when the rain seemed to move in and settle for days on end; it was the rainbow that signified we could go outside and play. As I grew older and came to faith, I came to understand that it was God who set the rainbow in the clouds (verse 13) and it is much more than a sign to go outside. It is a sign of God’s covenant (that is, His very special promise to all creation) following the judgement of the flood.

A sign to remind us that sin is serious, and judgement is real. In rejecting God and choosing to decide good and evil for ourselves (Genesis 3); in choosing to follow the wicked and evil path of our own inclinations (Genesis 6); we have done a foolish thing. For a God who is holy and just cannot turn a blind eye to our rebellion and the God who created us to serve Him cannot let us wander away without consequence. No, He will put an end to our wickedness and evil (Genesis 6:13) and send His just judgement upon the world. The rainbow follows the flood, and the flood reminds me that God will not tolerate sin and will not let it continue without judgement … we must remember that!

And a sign to point us to God’s grace and goodness. For in the midst of judgement, He graciously rescued a family and His creatures. He called them to Himself, gave them a safe haven and allowed them to endure the flood. Once over, He not only gave them a fresh start, but a new hope – a promise that never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood, never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth (verse 11). An unbreakable and unshakeable promise not just to provide life but to promote life (verse 1) and to show the preciousness of life (verses 5-6). A sign that reminds us that God values humanity and the creation He made; that He loves us and wants what is best for us.

I love rainbows … the sign of God’s life-protecting, hope-giving, enduring promise.

But … the problem with rainbows is they aren’t usually around very long. They pop up in the moment … but disappear just as quickly. Maybe that’s appropriate too … for the “new-ness” they usher is often short lived too … especially in those old Cape winters. Likewise, in Genesis we quickly learn that, despite the flood, sin is still present, and sin still prevails (verses 21-23). It still leaves humanity naked and ashamed; still leaves us deserving God’s righteous judgement; still needing God’s rescue. For sure, God promised never to send a flood to destroy the earth ever again … and for His part, He will keep His promise. But He is still the holy and just God who hates sin and will destroy it.

So the rainbow also reminds me to look for a new sign, a new covenant – one that provides rescue in the midst of judgement; but with the power to transform sinful hearts and break our slavery to sin. One that will provide new life for today and eternal life for tomorrow. A covenant that will come from the God, who because of His faithfulness, still loves us and still works so that we might find true life through Him in His Son.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your faithfulness to humanity and to life; that You provide it and value it. Forgive us when we undermine the value of life or fail to live as we ought. Help us to remember the seriousness of our sin and the reality of judgement, especially Your final judgement. Help us to take refuge in the new covenant in Jesus and the security that the cross offers. May this become for us the sign of love, of promise, of Your faithfulness and of life; and may we live today in the shadow of it. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.