The covenants God has entered into with man play a vital role in the interpretation of Scripture and history. The Noahic Covenant is important for a number of reasons. The Noahic Covenant, in addition to the fact that it is still in force today, also provides us with a pattern for the interpretation of all of the other biblical covenants. As we come to understand this covenant, we will more fully appreciate the significance of all of the covenants, and especially the New Covenant instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Open your Bibles and go to Genesis chapter six verse seventeen, God tells Noah,
“Everything that is in the earth will die.” That is not good news. However, there is good news in verse eighteen, God told Noah, “But I will establish my covenant with you.”
Note God did not tell Noah when He will establish His covenant with him; He only said He will establish His covenant with Noah. Before God will establish His covenant with Noah there are certain things Noah must do, first, he must build an ark, second he must enter the ark. These are conditions that must be fulfilled before God will establish His covenant with Noah.
Genesis chapter seven verses one through five, “Yahweh said to Noah, ‘Come with all of your household into the ship, for I have seen your righteousness before me in this generation. You shall take seven pairs of every clean animal with you, the male and his female. Of the animals that are not clean, take two, the male and his female. Also of the birds of the sky, seven and seven, male and female, to keep seed alive on the surface of all the earth. In seven days, I will cause it to rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights. Every living thing that I have made, I will destroy from the surface of the ground.’ “Noah did everything that Yahweh commanded him.’” Is Yahweh obligated to establish a covenant with Noah and when?
The covenant was not established before Noah entered the ark or before the Lord closed the door of the ark (Genesis 7:16). The covenant was not established during the forty days and nights it rained. The covenant was not established during the one hundred and fifty days Noah was in the ark. The covenant was not established during the time the water receded from the earth. The covenant was not established when Noah first came out of the ark.
Note carefully what Noah did when he came out of the ark, “Noah built an altar to Yahweh, and took of every clean animal, and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. Yahweh smelled the pleasant aroma. Yahweh said in his heart, ‘I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, because the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again strike everything living, as I have done. While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease’” (Genesis 8:20-22).
There is something important in this statement. While the flood had a great impact on the earth and the inhabitants of the earth, it had no impact on the heart of the survivals.
Do you see what God did when He made these promises? God made a covenant with Himself; note the words “I will.” Then, God blessed Noah and his sons and gave them the responsibility of filling the earth (Genesis 9:1). This is followed by a change in the relationship between man and animals (Genesis 9:2-4) and the setting of the penalty for murder (Genesis 9:5-6).
Why do you suppose God set this penalty for murder, which is not revocable? What was the first crime against God and man committed by man following the rebellion of man against God? “Cain said to Abel, his brother, ‘Let's go into the field.’ It happened when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and killed him’” (Genesis 4:8). The second thing we need to remember in a society that puts little or no value on human life is human life is precious in God’s sight and belongs to God. It is God’s right as Creator to give life and His alone to take it from man.
It is written in the statues of God, “the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life” (Leviticus 17:11), and in Numbers chapter thirty-five verse thirty-three, “you shall not pollute the land in which you are: for blood, it pollutes the land; and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him who shed it.” Men who willfully take the life of another must be put to death by man. In addition to murder, suicide and abortion fall under the willful taking of life. Regardless of what man may say, an unborn child has blood flowing through its arteries and veins, the shedding of this blood, to destroy this unborn child is to violate God’s command and the one who sheds the blood is subject to the death penalty.
In Genesis chapter one verse twenty-seven and Genesis chapter nine verse six we are told
man was created in the image of God. In view of this fact, murder is much more than an act of hostility against man; it is an act of hostility against God. To attack man is to attack God in whose image he was created.
Now that all mankind had perished because of his acts of hostility against God and a new era in history is beginning God can require society to take the life of the murderer. In the act of capital punishment, the law of God is being fulfilled. In his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul wrote, “Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God. Therefore he who resists the authority, withstands the ordinance of God; and those who withstand will receive to themselves judgment. For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Do you desire to have no fear of the authority? Do that which is good, and you will have praise from the same, for he is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn't bear the sword in vain; for he is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil. Therefore you need to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience' sake” (Romans 13:1-5).
Our Lord Himself gave testimony to the fact that government has been given the task of executing law-breakers, “Pilate therefore said to Him ‘You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason, he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin’” (John 19:10-11).
I know this is contrary to the slanted view of the thinking of the twenty-first century.
In the covenant process, the Lord set standards of behavior that are being rejected as outdated and irrelevant, however we need to remember what Jesus told the first century disciples, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets, I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18 NASB).
After all these things, “God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, ‘As for me, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the livestock, and every animal of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ship, even every animal of the earth. I will establish my covenant with you: all flesh will not be cut off any more by the waters of the flood, neither will there ever again be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it will be for a sign of a covenant between me and the earth. It will happen, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh, and the waters will no more become a flood to destroy all flesh’” (Genesis 9:8-15).
Who are the offspring of Noah’s sons? That question is answered in Genesis chapter ten.
The first thing we need to note about this covenant is the covenant is an unconditional, there are no conditions attached to the covenant. The second thing we need to note is the covenant is “everlasting” (Genesis 9:16). The third thing we need to note is the covenant will remain in force until the time when our Lord returns to the earth to cleanse it by fire (2 Peter 3:10). The fourth thing we need to note is every covenant has its accompanying sign. The sign of the Abrahamic Covenant is circumcision (Genesis 17:15-27); that of the Mosaic Covenant is the observance of the Sabbath day (Exodus 20:8-11; 31:12-17), the sign of the Noahic Covenant the rainbow is appropriate. It consists of the reflection of the rays of the sun in the particles of moisture in the clouds. The water that destroyed the earth causes the rainbow. In addition, the rainbow appears at the end of a storm; this sign assures man that God will never destroy all things as He did in the days of Noah. The rainbow is not designed so much for man’s benefit but for God’s. God said that the rainbow would cause Him to remember His covenant with man. What a comfort to know that God’s faithfulness is our guarantee.
For the Israelites who first received this revelation from God, the Noahic Covenant gave reasons for a number of the rules laid down in the Mosaic Law. The prophets of old referred to the Noahic Covenant as well. Isaiah reminded the nation, Israel, of God’s faithfulness in keeping the Noahic Covenant. Jeremiah also spoke of God’s future blessings by reminding men of God’s faithfulness in keeping the Noahic Covenant:
“Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day, and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; the Lord of hosts is His name: ‘If this fixed order departs from before Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘then the offspring of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:35-37).
Every time we see a rainbow it should remind us of the faithfulness of God.
The Israelites could look forward to the salvation that God would bring to pass. We can look backward to that which God has accomplished by the death and resurrection of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. While Israel awaits the complete fulfillment of God’s covenant in the Millennium, they may do so with confidence in the God Who keeps His commitments. We, too, as Christians can be fully assured our Savior and Lord will keep His commitments.