Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 10 2011 - E100.4 – Genesis 8:1f, A covenant remembered

At the beginning of Genesis 8 we read, "God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark" (8:1). God is often spoken of as remembering his covenant (see Exodus 2:24; 6:5; Leviticus 26:42, 45; Psalm 105:8 etc.). God remembered Noah and the promises he had made to him and all those sheltering in the ark with him (see 6:18-19); he remembered his covenant and brought them safely through the flood to dry land.

Noah's first act when he and the animals are safe on dry ground it to build an altar and present burnt offerings to the Lord. The smoke of the burnt offering ascended to the Lord and he was pleased. God said, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." (8:21-22). God recognises that nothing has changed; the human heart is still inclined towards rebellion and evil. Nevertheless God promises that he will never again destroy every living thing; there is an atoning sacrifice by which the world is saved from judgment.

In response to this sacrifice, God renews his covenant promise saying, "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." (9:9-11).

Throughout this section we are continually reminded that humankind, made in the image of God, remains very much part of the created order. The animal creation is condemned to judgment along with humankind and is saved along with humankind. God's promise of mercy encompasses trees and fields and the changing seasons. God's covenant is made not only with Noah but with every living creature.

When we read that God loves the world and is intent upon its salvation we really must not narrow down his love to the 'salvation of the soul'. God loves every part of the world that he has made.

We close where we began, with God remembering. Having renewed his covenant promise to Noah, God says, "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." (9:12-16).

Here is another detail that for years I had failed to notice. I always thought that the rainbow was designated by God as a sign of his covenant to remind us of his promise. But that is not what God says. Twice he declares that it is a reminder to him of his covenant promise. God remembers not in the sense that he is in danger of forgetting but rather in that he acts to fulfil his covenant promise and to save his people. Dare we suggest that New Testament signs of the covenant, such as baptism and the Lord's Supper, are not only reminders for us of all that God has done for us in Christ and promised us in him, they are means through which God himself remembers his covenant?

Faithful God, thank you that you continually remember your covenant promises and act to save your people. More than that, we thank you that in Jesus Christ you purpose to save the world and to bring all creation under his dominion. Gladly we bring you our sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise.

Peter Misselbrook