The Wonders of God’s Covenant with Noah
THE WONDERS OF GOD’s COVENANT WITH NOAH
Rev. Noriel C. Capulong, Senior Pastor, Silliman University Church
(Sermon delivered on the 2nd Sunday in Lent, February 25, 2018, Silliman University Church)
Gen. 8:20-22; 9:1-10, 18-19
Last Sunday’s sermon was truly a beautiful and a powerful message on the story of God’s covenant with Noah sealed with the sign of that colorful rainbow right after the flood that destroyed the earth. It has inspired me to continue to reflect on this story. But this time I will focus not so much on the rainbow but on the covenant itself of God with Noah.
The flood was supposed to be God’s punishment for the deterioration of morality and the upsurge of wickedness and corruption that has characterized the life of the people during the time of Noah. God has no choice but to carry out a punitive cleansing act to remove the manifestations of wickedness and sin that were embraced by the people in those times, to cleanse the whole earth and then start anew, hopefully with a new humanity through Noah and his descendants. Noah’s solitary righteousness in the midst of a sea of corruption and wickedness provided the seed and sign of hope that humanity can still have a new beginning and a new covenant relationship with their creator God.
Truly, this story is a story not so much about the wrath nor cruelty of God as popularly perceived. This is more a story of hope founded on God’s grace alone. It is grace that knows no bounds. It is grace and the love of God that remain as the primary motive of God in his initiating this covenant relationship. Why is this? Let us take a look once again at the story and try to discern a few points from it.
First, the covenant relationship, was a relationship initiated by God itself. It was a divinely initiated act that was offered to Noah and the rest of humanity no matter how underserving all human beings may be. For as affirmed by Paul later on, we are all sinners and we all have fallen short of the glory and grace of God (Romans 3:23). God knows this, and yet still, He persisted and pursued the establishment of this covenant relationship based purely on nothing but God’s grace and love for all humanity. Despite and in spite of who we are, God is a God who has not given up on us, a God who would not give up His hope for the restoration of humanity and the renewal of His relationship with them.
Second, God’s offer of a covenant relationship involves the whole human family descending from Noah. That means all of us humans. For from the three sons of Noah, Ham, Shem and Japhet, we all have descended. According to 9:19, these three were the sons of Noah, and from them, the whole earth was peopled. Shem is the ancestor of the Semites that includes the Jews and the Arabs. Ham is the ancestor of the African peoples. Japhet is the ancestor of all others, including us.
That is why, we all can say that having a common ancestor in Noah, we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of who we are, or where we come from, or the color of our skin, or whatever we profess, whatever is our set of beliefs and traditions. If Abraham is the father of Israel or the Jewish people, Noah is the one common father of all peoples, all nations. There should be no boundaries, no distinction of classes and races and political affiliations, no prejudices against each other. We are one family of God brought together into a gracious covenant relationship with him.
The reality however is that, we tend to build fences and boundaries to keep others out of the circle of our concern. We look down on others whom we consider inferior to us especially those who may not have received the kind of education that we had here. We look with suspicion on others who look so strange and unknown to us. We hesitate from welcoming those strangers who may be looking for shelter. We tend to practice our own version of racism as we classify people as us and them.
We create our own inner circles, our own factions to keep others who look and think differently away from us. We have practically circumvented, ignored and violated the covenant we had with God as children of Noah. To acknowledge all peoples as our brothers and sisters is to affirm our common covenant and the fatherhood of our one creator God through Noah.
Third, this covenant is so all embracing and so encompassing that it includes all other living creatures of God. As stated in 9:9: I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. All living creatures, ( I hope excluding the dengue mosquitos and cockroaches and the rats) aside from us, humans, are included among those with whom God had established this covenant relationship. Yes, animals too are included in this covenant. They are also creatures that are also objects of God’s care and sustaining grace.
We therefore should regard and treat all these other creatures with as much regard, care, respect and responsibility as God has been extending to them. /I used to be so be so bothered and annoyed by the sound of the cicadas, the croaking of the frogs and other eerie sounds from whatever creature outside our house in Banilad, especially when its time for me to sleep. But somehow I got used to them and they have become the sounds that lull me to sleep. And I began missing them when I am in Manila or in other places. We need to regard them as fellow creatures, living with them in the spirit of kinship in the spirit of living together and sharing with each other our common home here on this planet earth.
However, our wanton disregard for the life and sustenance of so many endangered species of animals these days, like the diminishing number of wild animals, both here and in other countries, like the polar bear in Canada, steadily disappearing because of the continuous melting away of the polar ice caps in the north pole which is primarily their home and source of food, the vanishing whales because of relentless whale fishing, the regular occurrence now of fish kills in various bodies of water, affecting both big and small fish, the steady decrease now in our tuna population, our own tamaraw in Mindoro that now seems to be visible only in the zoo, our beautiful mountain eagle which needed emergency rescue intervention just to save the remaining few from irresponsible hunters.
All these creatures, along with so many others, whether domesticated or wild, are valued creatures too of God, beloved and cared for. They should therefore be the object of human caring, and other human preservation efforts. To help and protect them from extinction is to help preserve the future of our world and the integrity of our covenant with God.
Finally, in chapter 8:20-22, right after the flood, Noah built an altar to the Lord, and choosing from every clean animal and every clean bird, he offered a burnt offering or sacrifice to God as an expression of his own gratitude and thanksgiving for the renewal of life on earth that God has finally brought forth after the flood. Then God smelled the sweet odor of the sacrifice and then said to himself, “Never again will I doom the earth because of man, since the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start; nor will I ever strike down again all living beings as I have done.” And here, the sign of this promise of God is the changing of the seasons and their regularity: seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
God gave a promise never again to destroy the earth even if the desire of man’s heart remains evil from the start. The flood may not have after all changed the heart of humanity for the better. The flood did not completely transform the character and the heart of the human. It remains evil from the start. It remains so self centered, stubborn, so egoistic and full of pride..
But here is the good news, the greatest wonder in this covenant of God with us through Noah. God persists and insists on his covenant promise never to destroy us inspite and despite of who we are or what we are, in spite or despite of what is in our heart, God remains a God of grace, a God of glory. We can only bow down and humble ourselves especially in this season of Lent before this God for this mighty and everlasting demonstration of His love for us which even culminated in the coming of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God and all praises be to Him. Amen.