Genesis 9:8-171NIV New International Version Translations
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “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.”
As the old world was ruined, to be a monument of justice, so this world remains to this day a monument to God’s mercy. But the sin, that drowned the old world, will remain. God’s covenant with Noah is not to remove sin from the world. When men create agreements, they are sealed, so that what is promised may be even more solemn, and the act of following the agreement will be viewed as an oath to all parties. The seal of this covenant between God and Noah was the rainbow, which, it is likely, was seen in the clouds before, but was never a seal of the covenant till God it made so.
Why a rainbow? The rainbow appears when we have most reason to fear the prevailing rain; God then shows this seal of the promise, that the rains that destroyed the earth will never do so again. The thicker the cloud, the brighter the rainbow in the clouds. To humans, as threatening afflictions abound, encouraging consolations will abound even more.
The rainbow is the reflection of the beams of the sun shining upon or through the drops of rain: all the glory of the seals of the covenant are derived from Christ, the Sun (Son) of righteousness. And Christ will shed glory on the tears of his believers.
A bow speaks terror, it is a weapon but a rainbow has neither string nor arrow; and a bow alone will do little to hurt anyone. It is a bow, but it is directed upward, not toward the earth; for the seals of the covenant were intended to comfort, not to terrify mankind.
Anxious people need assurance, and they need to hear it over and over. God graciously repeats Himself (“covenant” occurs 7 times in 9:8-17), so that Noah and his family will not only hear the message, but also feel it. He promises never to destroy the earth again by a flood (9:11, 15). God’s promise to Noah was not a spiritual promise, since it concerned the physical destruction of the earth. But it points ahead to the spiritual promise He makes to us in Christ.
And what about God’s Assurance?
- It was unilateral.
- It was eternal (9:12, 16).
- It was universal (9:9-11).
- It was unconditional.
- It was confirmed by a sign (9:12-17).
Items for Discussion
- What kind of covenants do we make in life between ourselves and our God?
- Why is confirmation of any agreement or covenant important?
- Why is it important not only to know (intellectually) that you’re forgiven, but to feel it?
- How would you answer the person who said that if we emphasize God’s grace, people will take advantage of it to go on in sin?
- What comfort do you take in the fact that God is quite aware of sin and that it exists?
1 Peter 3:18-22
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
While Peter’s overall point is clear, the details are incredibly complex. Most commentators acknowledge that these are some of the most difficult verses in the New Testament to interpret. Peter’s illustration to explain the point made in the verses is that we are called to bear witness in a hostile world, but we can trust God to vindicate us. Peter uses Christ as the main example, showing that His unjust suffering resulted in being a witness and that He was vindicated through His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God. Noah was another example of a man who bore witness to a hostile world and was vindicated by God who delivered him and his family through the flood. Peter goes on to say that each of us should be willing to bear witness through baptism, even if it meant persecution, knowing that God will vindicate us in the end.
As this is the Lenten season, Lent offers us the opportunity to search our conscience, to consider the implications of our baptism, and to assess which side we are really on. The waters that wash us clean are the symbolic source of our salvation, but our actions sometimes suggest an allegiance to the chaos that lies just beyond the walls of Noah’s ark. Christ proclaims from the right hand of God that the spirits have been bound and we are forgiven. Unfortunately, through our words and our deeds, it seems that we are often asking for those spirits to be set free.
Items for Discussion
- Lent is a time of reflection. What are the areas you find yourself thinking about most as we begin the season?
- Christ died for sinners, for evil people, for the undeserving – How does that make you feel?
- In a world with the storms of sin around us, how should we protect ourselves?
- How do we explain to others our joy that Christ has washed us clean?
- How would you explain the similarity between the rainbow and baptism?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations