Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,  “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you,  and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth.  I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”  And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:  I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,  I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.  When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”  God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:8-17 ESV)
Yesterday, on what is commonly known as Ash Wednesday, we explored how when Adam and Eve sinned against the holy character and law of God they experienced curse and death. Adam was told, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We are dust. Our lives are temporary and fragile. And they are so because they are corrupt and rebellious.
A few pages after the story of Adam comes the story of Noah. By Noah’s day, we read “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This is what things look like when over time man’s sin continues and multiplies. As in Genesis 3, a holy God must deal with such corruption. God destroys this great evil with a great flood, sparing only the righteous Noah, his family, and the animals taken aboard the ark.
After the flood, a new concept appears in the pages of Scripture – that of the “covenant.” A covenant is simply an agreement that binds two parties together and lays out what is expected of each party if they are to have a relationship. It also describes what the relationship will look like if the parties live up to their end of the agreement, and lays out the consequences if a party does not live up to the terms of the covenant.
In Genesis 9, God promises that He will not again wipe sinful man off the face of the earth with a flood. Why? Did man suddenly become good? No, man’s heart remained wicked and evil. If over time man’s sin continues and multiplies, now millennia after the flood, how evil and corrupt has our world become? (Just think, Nazi Germany.)
God doesn’t make this promise because man can now suddenly live up to the stipulations needed to have a relationship with a holy God. Man proved repeatedly that He fails in every attempt to have a covenant relationship with God. (See how successfully the Jews lived up to the Mosaic covenant that God gave Moses on Mt. Sinai.) God knew man would fail, so He sent His only begotten Son to become a Man. Jesus then, as our substitute, lived the perfectly righteous life required for man to live if he would have a relationship with a holy God, a life we could never live on our own. And He died to pay the price required for those who do not live up to expectations necessary to have a relationship with a holy God, a price we could never pay on our own. Because of this, we can now experience the life and blessing that comes for those who have a covenant relationship with God. Jesus fulfilled our end of the covenant, and God’s end, too.