Genesis 9:1-17 Divine covenants lower man’s resistance towards godly living
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. 3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. 4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made man.
7 “As for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”
8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9 “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. 11 I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; 13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, 15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
God reiterates His blessings over humanity with the mandate to fill the earth. He also gives humanity absolute dominance over the animal kingdom and permits man to include meat as part of his diet. He reasserts the sanctity of human life by prescribing the death penalty for the murderer or animal who kills a man. God makes a covenant with Noah to never destroy the earth with a flood. Today’s devotion teaches us about God’s purpose in making covenants. While the covenants do not lower God’s expectations of man in regards to righteousness. But it systematically lowers man’s resistance towards godly living and removes the hurdles that has stood against the believer’s endeavour to live like God.
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
God’s blessing for humanity is ratified with modification to the food law and reassertion of the sanctity of the human life. The mandate for humanity to fill the earth is coupled with his dominion over the animal kingdom: The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth… Regarding food law, the new element: Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you is added onto man’s original vegetarian diet (see Genesis 1:29). However, it is unclear if Noah can eat unclean animals as well. Nevertheless, man must respect life and is forbidden to eat “flesh with its life; its blood”. In other words, man is not to eat the animal alive with its blood still pulsating through it.
Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man…
God explicitly prescribes the death penalty for murder with malicious intent: Surely I will require your lifeblood... Man’s blood must not be shed without the retributory shedding of the murderer’s own blood, speaks of the sanctity of the human life. Correspondingly, death is also required of animals who kill men.
Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you…
This covenant assures Noah that man’s efforts to multiply and fill the earth will never again be brought to naught by a global disaster. However, is God binding Himself to never use a flood while not ruling out other means to destroy all flesh? After all, the covenant explicitly states that “all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood.” It is out of character for God and utterly misleading if He reserves for Himself some leeway to justify the destruction of the earth by other means. The intention of the Noahic covenant is to withhold the discharging of His wrath towards humanity until Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice. Notwithstanding divine justice, the wrath of God unfortunately poses an existential hindrance to man’s progress towards reconciliation with God and his ultimate victory against the devil.
I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.
The purpose of a covenantal sign is to pose an explicit reminder for all parties of the covenant: When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant. The sign of the rainbow reminds God of the all embracing universality of divine mercy and the triumph of mercy over justice through the eventual propitiatory sacrifice of His Son. The signs of covenants serve as explicit evidence of God’s faithfulness to propel humanity towards his ultimate victory over evil. Miracles are considered signs (see Deuteronomy 6:22). Circumcision is a covenantal sign (see Genesis 17:11), so is the Sabbath (see Exodus 31:13) as well as water baptism (see Matthew 28:19).
Covenants lower humanity’s resistance towards living out the righteousness of God
Covenant making is God’s way of progressively lowering the hurdles towards achieving God’s standard of righteousness. Put in a nutshell, divine covenants are instruments to help humanity achieve God’s righteousness so that man may live abundantly.
The Adamic covenant (see Genesis 3:15). Here, God predestines the eventual victory of humanity over evil. This covenant demonstrates the trustworthiness of God’s word and His promises, which are the first foundation of life. Through His word, He determines the end from the beginning of human history and nothing escapes His commands (see Isaiah 46:10).
The Noahic covenant (see Genesis 9:8-17). Here, God removes His wrath and divine retribution over evil humanity. Because of the Adamic covenant, He will not leave humanity without a righteous posterity who will eventually bring salvation to the world. God preserves Noah and in mercy makes a covenant with humanity never to destroy the earth again despite man’s continual evil.
The Abrahamic covenant (see Genesis 12:1-3). Here, God provides hope through the vision of a holy nation and a righteous seed for the salvation of humanity. God instructs Abraham to walk through the land by its borders so that he may realise the hope and vision of the Promised Land by faith. Israel and the Promised Land is the vessel through which Christ will come into the world to save it. In the absence of the threat of another catastrophic retribution, the Abrahamic covenant births forth faith and hope for the salvation of humanity.
The Mosaic covenant (see Exodus 19-24) sees to the actualisation of Israel in the Promised Land which foreshadows the coming of God’s kingdom. This covenant puts in place God’s law pertaining to a holy lifestyle. This covenant secures God’s protection against evil influences and military threats from other nations. Through the Mosaic covenant, the people now have a divine law that they can follow that guarantees a life of peace and prosperity.
The New covenant (see Ezekiel 36:26-27) destroys the heart of stone; the seat of resistance against the righteousness of God. This covenant crucifies the sinful nature in the core of man by the atoning death of Christ and by the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit. The New covenant enables those who are led by the Spirit to live out the righteousness of God, the fragrance of Christ.
The removal of divine retribution (through the Noahic covenant) frees man to obey God out of love, not out of fear. However, humanity needs a concrete vision of God’s kingdom on earth. The Abrahamic covenant envisions that kingdom through the Promised Land. The Mosaic covenant sees to the administration of this kingdom by the giving of the law. Israel is unique in that, its culture and laws mirror that of the heavenly kingdom. The Mosaic covenant includes the provision of the law through which members live righteously and abundantly. However, the law is spiritual in nature which man in his existing state is yet capable of living it out. As a result, the people resort to living out the law in form and appearance but not in substance. The New covenant crucifies man’s sinful nature through Christ’s death and regenerates him by the Spirit of truth.
Latter covenants are built upon the foundations of former covenants (see figure below). Each covenant progressively and systematically sees to the dismantling of hurdles that hinder man from living out the righteousness of God. From the Adamic covenant to the New covenant, we see God’s change of attitude to never destroy sinful man; to the birth of the vision of the Promised Land; to the giving of the Law and finally to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that resulted in globalisation of the Christian faith.
Some ministers purport that God, in the end days no longer measures the righteousness of man according to the way he lives as all righteousness have been fulfilled by Christ. In fact, the contrary is true: the covenants reinforce and fulfil God’s vision of a righteous humanity according to the image of His Son. The apostle John teaches,
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:4-6
God recognises one as belonging to Him not by what he knows but by how he lives. The covenants do not lower God’s expectations of man in regards to righteousness, but it systematically removes the hurdles that has stood against the believer’s endeavours to live like God. Therefore, since God has forgiven us and has removed His wrath from us, let us walk by the Spirit as we set our vision towards the realisation of the kingdom.
Is your life goal similar to the goal that God has ordained for you? The covenant making God has prepared all things for the purpose of conforming you to the likeness of His Son. Ask God to revive in you your love for God’s righteousness and renewed passion for His kingdom’s work. Those who has little desire to live out God’s righteousness have in fact put to waste the covenants that God has prepared through the ages.
Dear Lord, I thank you for making the covenants in preparation for my salvation and sanctification. Help me to live out the virtues and gifts that are resident in Jesus. Today, I make a covenant with you to obey all that you have commanded me. Use me in your kingdom’s work so that the world may be saved. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.