What’s going on here? 2 After the Storm
Gen 9:12-18 Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. 13 I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. 14 When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, 15 and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. 16 When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.” 17 Then God said to Noah, “Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.” 18 The sons of Noah who came out of the boat with their father were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham is the father of Canaan.) 19 From these three sons of Noah came all the people who now populate the earth.
So here we are continuing our journey through the first 5 big covenants in the Bible and we come of course, to Noah and the covenant given by God after the flood. Now of course the full description of this covenant, runs across multiple chapters and there are parts in those chapters that we will reference. But in order that we are not here until 3pm, we’re going to focus particularly on what is happening around the sign of the covenant; the rainbow.
- Why the rainbow?
One of modern scholarship’s big problems with this story is that it would say: “rainbows do not come about due to some dream-time story, but because of the Sun’s rays passing through tiny water droplets in the atmosphere. If it had rained before-hand, there would have been a rainbow.” Well the Christian response to this objection is: “yeah, and?……” Because we read earlier on in Genesis 2:5-7: 5 neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth. For the Lord God had not yet sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil. 6 Instead, springs came up from the ground and watered all the land.
Ok, let’s pause for a moment and do some science: on the 14th of March 2014, scientists discovered what amounts to a second ocean of water 660kms under the earth’s crust. It is contained in a blue mineral called ringwoodite, and in a state which I quote; “is not previously familiar to us.” In short, Geologists have conceded that water was probably not ‘delivered’ to Earth from ice asteroids but has been pushed up from below. Meanwhile, including ice shelf, subterranean and alternate state water, it turns out there’s enough water to cover the earth.
Back to the theology. If it had have rained before the flood, there would have been a rainbow but of course it didn’t. So, the first rainbow is there to tell us two enormously important things.
- This too will pass.
I love how these grand promises have such an intimately personal core to them. For Noah and his family, the only time they experienced rain was when it wiped out the entire earth and killed everything. What do you reckon they are going to be thinking when they next feel the ‘pitter patter’ on their shoulders? Isn’t it obvious? They’d freak out! “yikes’ it’s going to rain again and this time we haven’t built an Ark. God is now finishing us off too!” So God gives them a sign to ensure them that whatever rain falls in the future. No matter what storms lie ahead….they will get through, they will not be consumed by them.
Hey I wonder what storms you’re facing?
One day, a few years ago, I was just having a tough day. It happened also to have been raining that day. As I drove home over the Dawesville bridge, there was a beautiful rainbow and as soon as I saw it, these words immediately came to mind: “This too will pass.” This too will pass. Dare I say it, some Christians have said to me that they hate the idea that the rainbow has been adopted by the LGBTI movement. (not talking about individual people but the organised movement) I kind of like that it’s a rainbow. Every time I see that flag I think: “this too will pass.” How wonderful is it to know that all the damage that sin has done to human sexuality, including can I add, medical conditions and deformities that people may suffer with….will one day pass.
2. The right time.
If a rainbow is a natural occurrence of the laws of nature, then what if God, watered the world from underground because he was saving a rainbow specifically for one terrified family? That they would receive the consolation they needed at the right time.
I also say the ‘right time’ because another trainspotter will say, “yeah but didn’t the rain clear weeks and weeks before Noah exited the ark?” Again: “Yeah…and?” Gen 9: 12-13 says “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. 13 I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.”
We could talk about how much time Noah and his family spent ‘below deck’ of the Ark (not looking at the sky) and try to square it that way, But I just think it’s easier to always keep in mind that there are technically no tenses in Hebrew. Translators work out the tense from matching the object with the subject of the sentences. In which case, verse 12 works out to present tense, verse 13 however, works out in past tense. Our verses this morning are verses of God’s explanation of the events that have been previously described.
Noah and his family didn’t need to know the meaning behind the rainbow when they were safe on the ark, but now, leaving the safety of the ark, they need to know God’s promises. In chapter 8:16 God say’s to Noah, “Get out of the boat.” Notice that God must command Noah to get in the boat (everyone knows that part) but also has to command Noah to get out?
I’m not sure what challenges your faith. I don’t know what ways you are looking to ‘step out’ this year. But I can tell you this: The only way we can survive ‘outside the ark’ the only thing that gets both Noah and the N.T. version; Peter to get out the boat…..is the assurance of God. Do you know God’s promises to you? Because you’re going to need them.
3. We need to rely on promises that don’t rely on us.
So What’s going on Here? We have the slightly humorous conclusion to the story: Gen 9:20-21 20 After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground, and he planted a vineyard. 21 One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent.
Why does the bible constantly do this? Why is it that after massive victories, acts of faith and resilience by our favourite bible heroes, the text then suddenly displays their faults warts and all? I believe it is because God gives perfect promises to imperfect people. What is happening here, it’s no surprise to God. He knows what is going to happen back when he’s doing the whole rainbow thing and, accepting Noah’s sacrifice, and being pleased with it! (8:21) A bit like he knows David’s going to jump in the sack with Bathsheba when he’s saying to Samuel: “this is the guy that should be king.”
God gives perfect promises to imperfect people because that is the Gospel. What’s the Gospel message? You’re more fallen then you ever dared believe but you’re more loved than you ever dared to hope.
But there’s an obvious question that this text raises. It’s forcing us the reader to say: “What’s going on here?” “The one who is said to have been the only one righteous among men, (6:9) who walked with God, who’s offering is accepted…..we now find is actually not that righteous and yet, God makes a Covenant with him and wait for it….his family.
Guys don’t you see? Here we have a picture of Judgement and in the midst of it, a covenant with One man…..and his Family.
Eph 1:3-6 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
God, changes our eventual outcome and destiny from judgement to grace, through adopting us in to the family of the only single holy and righteous one, through….Faith.
Now let’s look back at Noah, how do we know that Noah, an Old Testament Character is among the company of those redeemed in Christ before the foundation of the world? Because despite all his flaws, the one thing that he did right was he believed God.
That’s all we can do…..that’s all it takes.
4. The world today.
Gen 9:18 The sons of Noah who came out of the boat with their father were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham is the father of Canaan.) 19 From these three sons of Noah came all the people who now populate the earth.
Ok, lastly; where are we at in the World today? Well, maybe the first thing we can say here is that we’re not that sophisticated. I mean, if you ever begin to think you’re something extra special you can always reflect on the fact that you descend from a guy who passed out in his tent naked!
But perhaps on a deeper level, I was reflecting with a friend this week on how the more ‘advanced’ we get as a race, the more basic our problems seem to be. I mean, for all the resources we have, the world is still essentially split between socialism, capitalism or tribalism. We’re all sons of a fallen ancestor. We’re not that different. We’re all in need of grace. There is no man in more need of grace than he who believes he is superior to another.
The final point of the story of the flood; what’s really going on here…is this: We’re all in the same sinking boat! As it were. We need a messiah but where’s he going to come from? To find that out…tune in next week.