A Rainbow Covenant
A Rainbow Covenant:
“And God Remembered”
When I got up this morning I discovered new freedoms.
I could set my alarm louder than usual.
I could turn on my light.
I didn’t have to stumble stealthily through the dark.
My wife is in Montreal visiting our daughter and her family.
However, I do not like the price of these so-called freedoms.
I much prefer to have my wife presence and to consider her when I get up earlier than she does.
Theresa’s only gone for a few days but I miss her and we phone once or twice a day.
One important role my wife has is to help me remember! Theresa, where did I leave…? Of Theresa, what is the name of the new person in church?
We need ways to remember, don’t we?
What tricks (or methods) do you use to remind yourself of an important event – or a persons name?
· Leave notes around the house
· Tie a string around your finger
· Leave a message for yourself on the answering machine
· Use special techniques for memorization
God speaks of himself as remembering – as if He might forget!
God uses human terms to describe Himself.
He wants us to understand some attributes about our unknowable God.
Only as He reveals Himself will we know God – even though our knowledge of God is still very limited.
Gen 8:1 “God remembered Noah” and events turned around.
Everything changed when God ‘remembered’.
God remembered Noah…
What a statement!
A statement of relationship.
God – creator of the universe,
God, all knowing, all powerful
God who is totally other.
God remembered Noah and this was the turning point in the Flood story.
The story began with great tension.
There was a total disconnect between God’s intention for His creation and the way creation has refused to embrace that dream of God.
The world had betrayed God’s intention and was described as:
· And filled with violence
And God made a decision: “So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth— men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air— for I am grieved that I have made them."” (Ge 6:7 NIVUS)
God holds an expectation for His world and He will not abandon it.
God is serious.
He will send a flood to destroy all he has made.
But God is not described as an angry tyrant who is out for vengeance.
He is described as a troubled Parent – One who grieves over the alienation of His people.
He is deeply grieved and saddened over the decision of His people to abandon God and to abandon His purposes.
They turn instead everyone to their own way.
We know this in our own experience today.
The world around us, and the universe which we experience, disintegrates due to a lack of faithfulness to the plan of God.
When we line up our lives according to God’s intention for His creation, we move towards peace, harmony and unity.
When we decide to live according to our own understanding; when we place ourselves at the centre of our world, the world spins increasingly further apart.
God desires for us to enjoy the creation.
When he sees us going along the path of destruction He is grieved.
The Bible presents God in human terms – as a Person who
celebrates with His creation
and who hurts when creation rebels.
In the Flood story God is presented as One who has changed His mind.
He abandons what He has created.
But we see an alternative as we are introduced to Noah.
God does not abandon all.
He rescues what He has condemned.
God will bring His creation into a relationship of trust and obedience,
but He will do so not by command
but by invitation;
not by force
but through great anguish and grief on the part of God.
God loves – and when we spurn that love, God is deeply pained.
In this story of flood, destruction and death, we are introduced to Noah.
“8 ¶ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. 9 This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” (Ge 6:8-9 NIVUS)
And the refrain is repeated:
“Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” (Ge 6:22 NIVUS)
“And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.” (Ge 7:5 NIVUS)
“… as God had commanded Noah.” (Ge 7:9 NIVUS)
Noah stands as an example to us today.
Perhaps we might want to describe our world as corrupt as in the days of Noah.
Noah calls to us still: reminding us that faithfulness towards God is possible even in the midst of the downward spiral of evil in our modern world.
God chose to rescue Noah and his family from the Flood destruction.
With Noah a new creation is begun.
Life begins again and with this new creation God has a new resolve.
He will create something new
and resolves within Himself to never destroy by Flood again.
[When I chose to preach this morning on the story of the Flood I had forgotten that I preached on this passage just last year – June 1st, 2008 – not even a year ago. I did not remember! J]
At that time we recognized that the Flood did not change the heart of man.
The very next account after the Rainbow Covenant, Noah sins.
After the Flood we read:
“The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma [of Noah’s sacrifice] and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.” (Ge 8:21 NIVUS)
Since man’s heart has not changed, we know that salvation cannot come from within.
Our only hope come from God.
God is committed to us, and this commitment is intensified through the story of the Flood.
He will deal with us with unlimited patience.
His covenant sign is a rainbow – an archers bow that is not bent –taut, ready to fire judgment.
No, this bow is at rest.
God’s judgment against His disobedient creation has been completed. His resolve is ‘never again’.
Just as that first Sabbath when God rested from His work of creation, once again God is at rest!
And we see the fullness of that resolve as Jesus, God’s Son enters the stage of human history.
With unlimited patience Jesus reveals the love of God over against the pride and sin and rebellion of mankind.
Even when man chose to strike at the very heart of God, we do not see retaliation or destruction aimed at God’s creation.
This time God turns the deserved judgment on to His own Son – the God-provided Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
That’s the meaning of the word ‘propitiation’ that we found Wed. night in our Bible study from Romans 3:25. God’s wrath against sin is satisfied as Jesus takes man’s deserved judgment into Himself on the cross.
“After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (Isa 53:11 NIVUS)
“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.” (Ge 8:1 NIVUS)
The Hebrew word ‘receded’ is the same word used in Esther 7:10
“So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.” (Es 7:10 NIVUS)
Justice has been meted out.
Justice has been satisfied.
The Just judge can now rest and the waters recede.
God’s resolve was ‘never again will I destroy with a Flood’.
God in His posture towards His creation has set His bow at rest.
Now He will take into His own grieved heart the result of our disobedience.
The change in the Flood story
from destruction to new creation,
from death to new life,
from waters rising in judgment to waters receding in new promise,
the change happens with the words of Gen 8:1
“But God remembered Noah…”
Do you even wonder how Noah felt in the ark?
“Ok, the rain has lasted 40 days, Lord, now when are you going to get me out of here?”
Another month passes, and another.
Now the weeks start to feel like months more.
The days drag on with unending boredom.
Perhaps Noah’s wife has started complaining.
Perhaps his children…
We can imagine because we know how we feel when life has us closed in for too long.
We know what it is like to have the dark night suffocate us.
We cry with the Psalmist: “O Lord, how long?”
“Lord, have you forgotten me?”
The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for many generations.
“During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.
God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.” (Ex 2:23,24 NIVUS)
Here’s the gospel:
This is an act of grace.
God is not preoccupied with Himself.
We do not need like the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel to shout louder, to cut ourselves with swords to attract God’s attention.
We do not need to work to earn God’s favor.
God’s attention is focused on His creation – with His covenant partner.
The Flood might attempt to destroy all memory – but does not succeed with God.
and everything changes.
· From death and destruction to liberation and exodus
· From hostility to covenant commitment
And the story concludes: “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.” (Ge 9:15 NIVUS)
And God chose a sign for this covenant: a rainbow.
The physical rainbow in the sky is a product of sunshine and storm.
During the storm, God remembers us, and turns towards us in grace and with the shining of His sun comes the beauty of the rainbow – the sign that God remembers us.
But we are a forgetful people.
We too need signs to remind us.
I have a marriage certificate that reminds me of my covenant with my wife Theresa.
We celebrate our wedding every anniversary remembering the promise we made to each other.
For a moment I would like to play a memory game.
I will say a word and you focus on the first thing that comes to mind:
Sabbath > Did you think of rest?
Di you think of life – resurrection life?
Offering > did you think of forgiven? A sin offering reminds us of God’s forgiveness.
Passover > protection & deliverance.
Pastor > 1 Kings 17:18 “She said to Elijah, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?"” (1Ki 17:18 NIVUS)
As pastor I have a tremendous responsibility to represent/remind you of God!
The Lord’s Supper > Jesus’ sacrifice and death for us,
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."” (Lu 22:19 NIVUS)
I miss my wife. There are signs all around the house of her presence, but it is not enough. I look forward to Tuesday night when I will once again be in her embrace.
Listen to the word of God who remembers you:
“1 ¶ But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior...” (Isa 43:1-3a NIVUS)