Tied Up With A Bow
When I think of the word “bow” I think of presents. Birthday presents, Christmas presents, etc. I don’t know how it’s done in your family but in mine Judy does almost all the Christmas shopping. She shops for her family, my family, and for me. The only shopping I usually do is for her. I must admit that I do not like wrapping presents and I usually find myself wrapping her presents on Christmas Eve or if I am lucky on December 23. A lot of it’s because I am just not very good at it. I also don’t see the point of wrapping the presents and putting ribbons and bows on them just to have it all ripped off and thrown away. Almost every year I ask Judy if it’s ok to skip the ribbons and the bows on her presents and her reply is always the same: NO. So I put the ribbons and the bows on all her presents, why? I do it for her because she likes them and because I love and care for her.
One of the most extraordinary and beautiful natural wonders is the rainbow. Rainbows have fascinated people throughout the ages. The rainbow is a bent or curved line in the sky composed of or consisting of seven colors...red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Since only one color of light is observed from each raindrop because the sun hits each different raindrop at a different angle, an incredible number of raindrops is required to produce the magnificent spectrum of color that is characteristic of a rainbow. Usually a rainbow is seen when part of the sky is dark and it is raining and the sun is shining in another part of the sky. For the rainbow to be visible, the sun has to be behind the observer who is, in effect, facing the rainbow. God chose the rainbow to be his sign to humanity that he would never destroy the earth by flood again. Honestly, he did not have to give us this sign to seal the covenant that he made with Noah. He made a promise and we can either believe it or not. Instead God blessed Noah and covenanted with him and his sons to never destroy the earth by flood again and he tied it up with a bow, the rainbow. And he did this because of his love and care for us which brings us to our big idea this morning that “God loves and cares for his creation.” Everything that we will see in our passage this morning God does because he loves and cares for us and every time we see a rainbow after a storm it should remind us of that love and care.
As we think about how much God loves and cares for us, let’s pray and dedicate this time of worship and of the study of the Word to Him. Loving Father, we thank you for your love and care for us. We thank you for sending your son to die on a cross as the ultimate act of love for us. Help us to appreciate your love and care for us and to show your love and care to others. Pour out your Holy Spirit upon each one of us and guide us in the study of your Word this morning. May it speak truth and life to us and may we speak its truth and life to others as we share it with them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
There are two points this morning, Commands and Covenant. The first point is Commands and is found in Genesis 9:1-7. This is what God’s Word says, “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth, and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”
In this section God addresses three areas about life. The first is multiplying life. God is speaking to Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. This is the first time during the entire story of Noah that God has spoken to his sons. So far it has been about the righteousness and blamelessness of Noah that has saved not only him but his family from the flood. Now Noah’s sons will start to take center stage. We will see in chapter 10 that they will be the ones who repopulate the earth. Shem’s descendant, Abraham, will be the next major player in the Bible as he becomes the father of the chosen people, which will birth the promised Messiah, who will save the world from their sins.
God repeats the blessing command, “to be fruitful and multiply,” to Noah and his sons, that he first gave Adam and Eve in the garden. This would have taken the first hearers back to Genesis 1 and would have reminded them of their special place in God’s creation. God is jump starting the blessing that has been stalled by the flood and infected by sin. Despite sin and the resulting flood judgment man would still be able to reproduce and fill the earth with his kind. They have been given a second chance and even though man will continue to sin God still blesses them. This would have instilled hope for the future in the hearer. Human beings are still made in the image of God and are still supremely important to him and he loves and cares for them.
The second area about life that God addresses is sustaining life. We notice that God does not repeat the command “to subdue and rule over the earth” as he did in the garden. There is no longer harmony between man and the animal kingdom because of sin. Now all the beasts of the earth, all the birds of the air, every creature that moves along the ground and all the fish of the sea will have a “fear and dread” or “terror” of human beings. Before the flood “subdue and rule” meant that man was able to easily domesticate and have use of the animals in a mutual respect. They came to Noah but now will be terrified of man and the tendency will be to flee from him. Man will still rule over the animals but it will be a forced and subservient rule. This new response of “fear and dread” will be a means of survival for the animals since they are given into humanity’s hands and are now food for them. This will be the natural response of the animals to being hunted prey. God’s command allowing humans to kill animals for food is further evidence of his grace toward them for a couple of reasons. One, with the extreme temperatures of hot and cold and summer and winter, meat would now be needed to sustain the human metabolism. Two, because animals reproduce at a quicker rate than human beings, they would soon overrun humanity on the earth. This was seemingly not a problem before the flood because of the special relationship and mutual respect between human beings and the animal kingdom. We have seen that Cain was a farmer, Abel was a shepherd and now Noah and his sons are hunters.
Just as God gave all the trees in the garden as food for Adam and Eve, with one exception, here he gives everything that moves as food for Noah and his sons, with one exception. This exception would also test humanity’s obedience. He commands them not to eat meat that has the lifeblood still in it. The way that the Hebrew language states this exception means that it is permanently binding. This put a limit on humanity’s rights over God’s creation reminding them that everything belonged to him. The blood is considered to be where life comes from and therefore is sacred and should be respected because all life is given by God. This is why those who hunt deer or rabbit, etc. skin and drain the blood before preparing it to be eaten. Walton says, “Ritually speaking, draining the blood before eating the meat was a way of returning the life force of the animal to God who gave it life. This offers recognition that they have taken the life with permission and are partaking of God’s bounty as his guests. Its function is like saying a blessing before a meal.”
Later in the OT, the blood of animals was important in the sacrifices that the Israelites were to make to God and was to be treated with reverence. In the sacrificial law handed down by God the substitution of the animal’s life, represented by its blood, in place of the offerer’s life, was the atonement for human sin and averted divine judgment. Even though animals would now be part of the human diet they are still valuable in the eyes of God and are to be cared for and not abused. This is seen in the fact that the animal sacrifices were to be the firstfruits of the flock and unblemished. The sacrifice was to be costly to the person offering it, testifying to the enormity of their sin.
The third area about life that God addresses is protecting life. The life blood of human beings is supremely precious to God and he will demand an accounting for it. God will even demand an accounting from an animal that takes the life of a human being. Exodus 21:28 says, “When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable.” In Israel the punishment for an animal that took a human life was the death of the animal.
God will also hold human beings accountable for the taking of the life of another human being. God establishes capital punishment or the death penalty here as he says “whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.” Any person who willfully murders another human being should be held accountable for their actions. God is establishing the idea of a human government here to be the entity to carry out the punishment. God would no longer punish human beings universally. He would deal with our sin on an individual basis and the protection of human life would now reside in humanity’s hands.
God demands this accounting because a human being who murders another human being is killing their fellow man or brother. This is the first time the word for “brother” is used since Genesis 4 when Cain kills his brother Abel. In that story the word brother is used multiple times to show how serious the killing of a family member was. God is reminding us that we are all family and the killing of another family member is not ok with him.
There may be two reasons why God is now establishing capital punishment in order to signify the value he puts on a human life. First, to help limit the violence that existed before the Flood. Second, since he is now allowing human beings to kill animals for food, the stigma against taking life would fade and the weapons used to kill animals would be readily available. But the bigger reason is because man is created in the image of God and even though that image is diseased by sin human life is still regarded as sacred. To take the life of another human being is to extinguish a revelation of God and display contempt for him. Wiersbe says, “To attack another human being is to attack God and God’s judgment will come down on that person. All life is a gift of God and to take away life means to take the place of God. The Lord gives life and he is the only one who has the right to take it away.” This section finishes with God again repeating the command to be fruitful and multiply and increase in number on the earth. Mankind was to be “makers” of life not “takers” of life.
Our second point this morning is Covenant and is found in Genesis 9:8-17. This is what God’s Word says, “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 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.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”
Again God speaks to Noah and his three sons. They are now partners with Noah in the second chance that God has given to humanity, the animals and the earth. He has commanded them about what to do, which is to procreate, and he has commanded them about what not to do, which is to not eat meat with blood in it and to not murder other human beings. Now God testifies about what he will do, which is establish a covenant, and what he will not do, which is never again destroy the earth by flood. This is the first time we see a covenant being made in the Bible and God promises three times (twice in verse 11 and once in verse 15) that he will never again send a flood to destroy all life on earth. He also starts his covenant with Noah and his sons with an emphatic “I now” meaning the covenant obligation rests with the Lord alone. This covenant is unconditional meaning God is the doer and humanity did not have to do anything to see it come to pass. This testifies to God’s resolve to never destroy all living things by flood again and shows his great love and care for his creation.
God addresses his covenant in three ways. The first way is with Noah and his sons and their descendants. This covenant looks beyond the present generation even to all generations to come including us. It points to his commitment to be involved with people and families forever. The second way is with every living creature that came out of the ark with Noah and every living creature on the earth. Again this was for all animals for all time. God mentions “every” or “all” living creatures at least four times in this section reminding us that the animal kingdom is special to him. In Revelation 4:6-7 we see these words, “Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. These are the four living creatures that are before the throne of God in heaven. They have the faces of a lion, a calf, a man and an eagle. These faces parallel the four kinds of creatures with whom God made his covenant: wild beasts, cattle, humans and birds. These four living creatures are eternally worshipping God before his throne because he loves and cares for them. God now spells out exactly what he is covenanting to do. He promises to never cut off all life by the waters of a flood and to never destroy the earth by flood again. This was a promise of permanent security for all living beings on the earth. God loves and cares for his creation.
The third way that God addresses the covenant with Noah and his sons is by instituting a sign. A sign signified that it was more than just a promise. It was the way to know that the covenant was being fulfilled and its conditions were being met. It would remind people of God’s presence and his obligations and seal the covenant giving them reassurance. The sign God gives is the rainbow and it was well-suited to fulfill the function of a covenant sign. Man was not going to be able to produce a rainbow, God was the only one who could make it happen. So every time that God set the rainbow in the clouds it would be a reminder to us that he promised to never destroy all living creatures and the earth by flood again. It would be a sign seen by man but it would also remind God himself of his promise. The sign of the rainbow was like the blood that the Israelites were to put on their doorposts during the first Passover. It was a sign for the people but it was also for God to “see” and pass over the house. God certainly doesn’t need external signs to remind him of his promises but signs like the blood and the rainbow moves him to a certain course of action. The sign proves that God’s promises are entirely believable and trustworthy. He backs up his word with a sign that eliminates the possibility of forgetfulness by man or himself.
This brings us to our first next step this morning which is to claim and believe that the promises of God are entirely believable and trustworthy.
This covenant that God made with humanity is remarkable in its extent, it included “every living creature”, in its permanence, it was “perpetual and everlasting”, and in its generosity, it was “unconditional and undeserved.” It also included a sign which emphasized that it originated with God and was totally out of the reach of human beings to initiate. This covenant could only have come from God and could only have been kept by God. Hamilton says, “Whenever the rainbow appears it serves as a reminder that despite the fact that the world deserves judgment God will show restraint and mercy.” It is an indication of the unique relationship which we have, even in our fallenness, not only with our creator but a covenant God. Lastly we see that God repeats that he has established this covenant between himself and all life on the earth. In Genesis 8:22, God stated that he would not interfere with the functioning of the cosmos. Now he states that he would not interfere with the functioning of the blessing. With the flood, those functions were stalled but now God is covenanting with all living creatures that he will never interfere with those functions again. In this way the covenant is connected to the blessing showing how much God loves and cares for his creation.
There is a now iconic American elm tree that has stood vigil in downtown Oklahoma City for a century. Foresters agree it was likely planted sometime around 1920. In historical photos, the already mature tree is visible in the backyard of a family home. In time, that home gave way to commercial development. Serendipitously, it is the only tree to survive when the parking lot called for the removal of all other trees. Through the decades, the tree bore witness to the changing skyline, the growth of the city and the day-to-day lives of generations of people. It was largely ignored – just another tree dotting downtown – until April 19, 1995. On that fateful day, it became much more than just another downtown tree. It endured one of the worst terrorist attacks ever to occur on American soil. The tree was situated directly across the street from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, completely exposed to the full force of the 4,000-pound bomb that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more. It easily could have fallen victim to the attack. And it nearly did – the tree was slated to be destroyed so shrapnel and evidence embedded in its trunk and branches could be recovered. But like the city’s resolve and unity – it survived. Ever since, it has been known as the Survivor Tree – an ever-present symbol of resilience. As a tribute to renewal and rebirth, the inscription around the tree reads, ’The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.’"
In Genesis, we have one of the greatest survivor stories ever told, Noah. He is the unlikely hero. He is an all too human survivor. Not only does he carry the entire future of God’s crown of creation but also the seed of sin which infects all of us, even today. Through the entire story of the flood Noah has been faithful and obedient to God. He has been righteous and blameless in his generation and God because of his perfect mercy and grace saves Noah and his family from destruction. He saves Noah and the rest of humanity because he created us to be in relationship with himself and he loves and cares for us. The story of Noah and the Flood and every time we see God’s rainbow in the sky should remind us of his love and care for us. It should remind us that God wants to be in relationship with us and it should cause us to turn to him, to repent of our sins and be put back in a right relationship with him. The Creator of the Universe wants to be in relationship with you, because he loves you and he cares for you, will you accept his invitation today? This brings us to our second next step which is to embrace God’s love and care for me and strive to be in a right relationship with Him.
As the worship team comes to lead us in a final song of praise let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we thank you that your promises are entirely believable and trustworthy. Open our eyes so we can daily see how much you do love and care for us. Help us to strive to be in a right relationship with you as we pursue holiness daily. Thank you for your Word. Help it to be nourishment for our soul. In Jesus’ name, Amen.