June 1, 2008
Proper 4 (A)
God of the Covenant
Genesis 6:9-22, Genesis 7:24, Genesis 8:14-19

In 19th century England, with trust in God and powerful prayers, George Mueller provided support for hundreds of orphans. This godly man once said, “Life that is lived unto God [often] forfeits human companionship, knows only divine fellowship, and . . . does always the things that please God.”

In the Old Testament we are told that Noah and his family knew what it was like to “forfeit human companionship” in order to live in covenant with God. Jesus himself said to his disciples: “You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32). To be holy, then, is to be set apart from the world for God.

How far will God go to preserve the holiness of His people? In Noah’s day, except for a faithful remnant, God destroyed all living creatures in order to preserve a “covenant people” (Genesis 6). Note the progression of thoughts in these passages:

Sin and Sinners
In Genesis 6, “the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose” (Genesis 6:2). The offspring of these ungodly unions were perceived as a kind of “super race”: “they were the heroes of old, men of renown” (Genesis 6:4). These godlike humans were wicked, for it is written: “every inclination of the thoughts . . . was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5) It is no exaggeration to say that they sought immortality through immorality.

Noah realized that living in covenant with a holy God demanded that men live holy lives. Noah is described as “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

A legend says that the Church Father Chrysostom was arrested by a Roman emperor who tried to force him to recant his faith. When he refused, the emperor shouted: “Throw Chrysostom into prison!” Said one of the guards, “That will only make his faith stronger, for he loves to commune with his God in silence.”

“Then threaten to execute him” exclaimed the emperor. Again the guard responded, “He fears not death for he believes he will go to heaven.”

“Is there no way to make this man recant?” cried the ruler? “One way only, my lord,” exclaimed the guard. “Force Chrysostom to sin, for that alone does he fear.”

Grief and Judgment
Jehovah created humankind for fellowship, even friendship – to live with Him in covenant. The Sin of Adam and Eve resulted in their expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). That act, which theologians call the “fall,” was soon followed by Cain killing his brother, Abel (Genesis 4:8). In the Genesis 6, it is recorded that men have become so wicked that “the Lord grieved that he had made man,” and the Lord determined to “wipe mankind . . . from the face of the earth” (Genesis 6:6-7). The righteous Noah and his family were exceptions (Genesis 6:8).

God gave very specific instructions to Noah on the building of an ark, which would save his family and the animals from the coming horrendous deluge (Genesis 6:14-18). Two birds and two animals of every species were taken aboard the ark; these would repopulate the earth following the flood (Genesis 6:20-21).

For 150 days the rain fell, and all living creatures, except those aboard the ark, were destroyed. Finally, true to his word, the day came when God dried the earth and allowed Noah’s family and the animals to leave the ark (Genesis 8:13-14).

Promise and Covenant
Some skeptics have asked, “How could a loving God ever kill so many lives in a flood?” Believers answer: “In preserving a holy people, God’s judgment on those of Noah’s day was an act of love, as was the Lord’s protection of Noah, his family, and the living creatures aboard the ark.”

After all this destruction, God made a promise through Noah to humankind: “I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Genesis 9:11). The sign of this eternal covenant would be the rainbow (Genesis 9:13).

This Old Testament narrative demonstrates how far will God go to preserve the holiness of His people. In the New Testament, we discover that God was willing to sacrifice His own Son in order that we might be spared sin’s penalty (Revelation 5:9). Surely, that supreme act of love will motivate us to live as a holy people, set apart and in covenant with our Creator.

Share This On: