The story of Noah and the flood is one of those Biblical narratives that many are familiar with and love. I remember hearing this story when I was a kid and I loved it!
There are two ways that I hear this story now. First I hear it as a children’s story. A story of animals and rainbows. A story about God’s love for animals, about remembering God’s love each time we see a rainbow. For the adults we extend the story to capture the storms in our lives — combine all of that with the assurance that God is with us and in the end there is a rainbow where we see and feel God’s love for us.
The second common interpretation is a story that is not for children. In this interpretation, God is so angered by what humans are doing to the what God has created that God floods the whole earth, wiping out nearly everything in a fit of divine rage. This is a story about a God whom you’d be crazy to want to have anything to do with, a God of wrath who is ready and willing to strike down on those who do not obey God’s Law.
While both of these ways of looking at today’s text has some truth to it — there is a message that we need to hold to our hearts – a message that even though we sin, even though we fall short of living a life completely devoted to God.
God calls us back.
God establishes a covenant, a promise with Noah and his descendants, in this covenant God tells us that in the act of hanging up the bow, God puts aside forever the option of destroying the earth. God will never destroy the entire earth again — instead God will go to great lengths to nurture even the slightest opportunity for us to be saved.
God is a God Who loves this world so much that He makes the rainbow a sign and reminder of His promise never again to flood the world again.
Now, the decision to destroy the whole world must not of been an easy one. But if we look through the beginning of Genesis we see how our sinfulness led God to make this decision. In Genesis 3 we first see that sin results in disharmony — between humans and other creatures, between humans and animals, between relationships we have with each other. Then in chapter four it gets worse — in chapter four we ready about the first murder, between brothers Cain and Able.
Finally, in Genesis six God said he was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
God saw that “every inclination of the thoughts of [human] hearts was only evil continually.” This is what led God to his decision. God was not controlling what people did. His hope was that we could live in peace and harmony with one another. But we couldn’t and Yet God’s response to this is not one of anger or revenge. Rather, God was “sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart”. God sorrows over the corruption of the beings that He made with such care and love, and God’s heart, is grieved by their betrayal.
[bctt tweet=”So He sends the flood, —- not as an act of revenge, but out of grief.”]
That destruction, of course, is not total. God doesn’t wipe away the creation entirely and then walk away. The flood is in fact the means of re-creation. the earth is clean and He can begin again.
Because of the Flood all of creation is given a new beginning, a new opportunity to live in the harmony that God intended. This is a story of the re-creation.
Which brings us to the covenant, the sealing of the newly-restored relationship between God and us.
One of the reasons I am amazed by God’s love for us is because this covenant is God’s doing. God enters into an eternal covenant with all creation without requiring anything in return. So many times we equate covenant with contract. Something that both parties agree too. So if God is going to love us — what do we have to do for that love?
Nothing. Isn’t that amazing? We don’t have to do anything to receive the love from God and even if we mess up — God is still going to love us.
I am sure that God does this and is fully aware that we are going to sin again. The flood has not cleansed the human heart of sin. But God knows this, and God enters into covenant with us anyway.
[bctt tweet=”God will seek us, despite or perhaps because of God’s knows our every sin in our lives.”]
This is the Good news that John the Baptist is talking about in the Gospel Lesson today. Because this covenant that God has made with Noah does not stop at Noah – it extends itself throughout the Old testament through the new testament all the way to us.
And we see that promise in our lives through our baptism — the same baptism that Jesus experiences today. The same baptism which is a visible sign of the promise made to us that God will always be with us.
Noah had the bow in the clouds is the sign of God’s promise, we have the bow too – however we also have the cross. Which is a reminder in our lives of the power, the love and the sacrifice God has made for us — to continually fulfill the covenant that God will never destroy the whole earth again. Instead he will do everything else to show us his love. And to walk with us into eternal life. Amen
To hear the full sermon click on the link below:
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