Jesus is Lord of the Covenant: Genesis 9

Global sea levels rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century. But that is only one indicator of global warming. CO2 levels reached record levels in 2013, according to new figures published by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). They show that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased last year at the fastest rate for nearly 30 years, and currently 142% higher than levels in 1750, before the start of the industrial revolution. Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the WMO said, “We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions … We are running out of time.” Atmospheric CO2 is resulting in the increased acidification of the seas. Every day, the oceans take up about 4kg of CO2 per person. Globally that equates to 24 billion kilos daily. Based on ice samples taken from deep under the Antarctic surface, the current rate of acidification is unprecedented in over 300 million years. What is the effect of all this? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2014 report insists that, at our present trajectory, we could see a devastating 5C or even 6C of warming by 2100.[1]

Want to know what 5C would look like? Not for the faint hearted.

Such a rise … would have cataclysmic and irreversible consequences for the Earth, making large parts of the planet uninhabitable and threatening the basis of human civilisation… It would cause a mass extinction of almost all life and probably reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles… Very few species could adapt in time… With the tropics too hot to grow crops, and the sub-tropics too dry, billions of people would find themselves in areas of the planet which are essentially uninhabitable… Hundreds of millions will also be forced to move inland due to rapidly-rising seas. As world food supplies crash, the higher mid-latitude and sub-polar regions would become fiercely-contested refuges. The British Isles, indeed, might become one of the most desirable pieces of real estate on the planet. But, with a couple of billion people knocking on our door, things might quickly turn rather ugly.”[3]

To avoid this, we need a dramatic reduction in fossil fuel use replaced by the use of renewable energy. Jarraud says, “We have the knowledge and the tools … to try keep temperature increases within 2C to give our planet a chance and to give our children and grandchildren a future. Pleading ignorance can no longer be an excuse for not acting.”[4]

Last week, we began this short series of studies on “Jesus, Creation and Climate Change”. We read Psalm 24 and discovered “Jesus is Lord of all Creation”.

Please turn with me to Genesis 9. Today we are going to see “Jesus is Lord of the Covenant”. A covenant is a relationship based on a promise. The word literally means “to cut” referring to the death of the sacrifice which confirmed the seriousness of the agreement. The basis of the covenant between God and Noah was the shed blood of a sacrifice (Genesis 8:20-22), just as the basis of the New Covenant is the shed blood of Jesus. That is why Noah is not a story written to entertain the children. It is a story for grownups. It is a story about how God deals with what’s wrong with the world. It is a story about sin, judgment and salvation. The story begins in Genesis 6 with God’s sadness and anger at humanity’s wickedness.

“The Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:7-8)

As we know, God instructs Noah to build an ark that will contain both people and two of every living creature.

The story shows that creation is not simply the wallpaper to God’s salvation story. God wants to save the whole of creation. This covenant is actually three dimensional. First, the Sovereign Lord initiates it. It is his covenant. Second it is with Noah and his descendants (which includes us too). Third, it is with the whole of creation – It is an “everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:16).
We are going to see the Nature of the Covenant: It is unconditional. The Permanence of the Covenant: It is unending. The Extent of the Covenant: It is universal.

 The Nature of the Covenant: It is Unconditional

“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 on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. … As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” (Genesis 9:1-7)

 Notice that God is sovereign and the initiator of this covenant. “I now give you everything… I will demand an accounting… I establish my covenant with you” (Genesis 9:3, 5, 9). God commands Noah to repopulate the earth. But God also commands obedience to his laws to enjoy this covenant relationship – specifically relating to the sanctity of life. So the covenant is first of all, God’s initiative.

The Nature of the Covenant: It is Unconditional.

 The Permanence of the Covenant: It is Unending.

 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 … every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Genesis 9:8-11)

Notice this is an “everlasting” covenant “with your descendants after you.” (Genesis 9:8). In Isaiah 53, the prophet, predicted the saving work of the Lord Jesus who would die on the cross in our place. In the next few sentences God says,

“To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
 So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
never to rebuke you again.” (Isaiah 54:9)

And the Apostle Peter specifically compares the flood to the saving work of Christ.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” (1 Peter 3:18-22)

No wonder, God says four times, “Never again!” (Genesis 8:2; 9:11, 15). Howard Snyder observes, “God promises to preserve the earth, working out his saving plan through the subsequent covenants he will make, culminating in the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus… God intends not merely to preserve but to create something greater. This first covenant with the land prepares the way for God’s plan of salvation and New Creation through Jesus Christ.”[6]God’s covenant with the earth is unending.” Does that surprise you? In our disposable culture, it is easy to imagine this covenant was temporary or only remains until Jesus returns. But the word used for “everlasting” is the same word the New Testament uses for “eternal life.” Snyder asks, “Does God really have an eternal covenant with the earth and all its creatures? The Bible says yes—suggesting that the promised new heaven and new earth in some sense means the renewal, not the extinction, of God’s creatures… We begin to see that God intends to save people with their environment, not out of their environment.”[7] The New Creation we yearn for is not going to be a second creation ex nihilo, out of nothing. It is the restoration and enhanced flourishing of the original creation. The Nature of the Covenant: It is unconditional. The Permanence of the Covenant: It is unending.

The Extent of the Covenant: It is Universal

“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… 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.” (Genesis 9:12-17)

The Scriptures emphasize the earthly and universal dimension of this covenant. All earth’s creatures are included. These verses are surprisingly comprehensive. God emphasizes “all living creatures of every kind,” “every living creature,” “all life on earth”. Ultimately, God says, “the covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13).

Snyder asks, “Why this stress on “every living creature”? The “every creature” emphasis is … practical and ecological, a matter of human sustenance, because robust human health requires an abundance of creatures in wide variety, all in relative ecological balance. It reminds us too of God’s care and concern for all creatures for all generations. Most amazingly, the “every creature” emphasis signals God’s concern for all his creatures, showing that he himself has a covenant with every creature, with every species. So Jesus’ says of sparrows, “not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6).[8] and then in the next verses, Jesus adds, “Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)

So the sign of the rainbow is for all creation – but it is for you personally too. Did you know that when we see a rainbow it is personal to you? Susan Blader observes,
“No two people will see the same rainbow. A rainbow is formed by a raindrop that acts like a prism, separating sunlight into its individual colour components.  If you stand looking at a rainbow, and someone is standing right next to you, each of you is actually looking at a rainbow generated by a different set of raindrops. So not only does God set His bow in the clouds, but He puts a different one there for each one of us. In His mercy, God reaches all of His children.”[9]

Snyder observes “The rainbow is God’s cupped hand over the earth, reminding of his care and concern for the world and its creatures. God sees the rainbow—and remembers his covenant. Do we? Here are 3 reasons, in closing, why we should remember:

All of Creation is Connected

God’s relationship with his people is interconnected with creation. God is our Creator and Sustainer. We are dependent on God for life and salvation; but we are also dependent on the earth for life in all its physical dimensions, including food, oxygen and water. And the earth and all its creatures increasingly depend on us for their well-being and survival too. All of creation is interconnected.

All of Creation is Significant

Earth’s life forms exist for God, not just for our use or enjoyment. God’s creatures have their own right to exist and flourish, because they were created by God. They are his, not ours.

All of Creation is to be Cherished

Snyder observes, “Here is the biblical basis for a theology of creation care. In the biblical view, earth’s creatures and species are to be “stewarded” for four key reasons: God created them; God delights in them; we depend on them; they are part of God’s larger plan…. [because] Salvation Means Creation Healed.”

If you want to get more involved, check out the monthly article on climate change in Connection. Visit the websites of A Rocha and Tearfund to see what we can do to combat climate change.

The story of Noah has even inspired a Christian charity called Operation Noah. Operation Noah is a Christian charity providing leadership, focus and inspiration in response to the growing threat of catastrophic climate change. Operation Noah is leading the campaign, Bright Now, to encourage us to rethink our attitude to fossil fuels. It is part of a growing global movement calling for disinvestment from fossil fuels – in June the British Medical Association voted to end its investment in fossil fuel companies and re-invest more in renewable energy. Unless we choose alternative sources of energy to oil and gas we will inevitably destabilise the climate further, drive up carbon emissions and global temperatures. Doing nothing is not an option.

Hildegard of Bingen observed back in the 12th century: “The high, the low all of creation, God gives to humankind to use. If this privilege is misused, God’s justice permits creation to punish humanity.”

Isn’t that what we are experiencing in extreme weather? Today in Genesis 9, we have seen how God entered a covenant with Noah, with all humanity and with the whole of creation. We have seen that it is unconditional, unending and universal. Above all, it is a covenant of peace – shalom – the personal commitment of God to the wellbeing of God’s earth, the restoration of harmony and right relationships, with God, with one another and with all of creation. “God’s earth covenant recorded in Genesis 9 opens the door to a biblically comprehensive view of salvation and thus of the mission of God, missio Dei.”

The Mission of God. Now do you see why Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers,
 for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9). I think you will agree we have work to do. Lets pray.

If you found this sermon helpful then check out two more about Noah, the Flood and Jesus:

Jesus the Master is Returning (Matthew 24:36-51)[13]
Did the Flood Really Happen? (Hebrews 11:1-10)

 

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/world-on-course-for-catastrophic-6deg-rise-reveal-scientists-1822396.html

http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/materials-based-on-reports/booklets/warming_world_final.pdf

[3] http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/world-on-course-for-catastrophic-6deg-rise-reveal-scientists-1822396.html

[4] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-29115845

[6] http://howardsnyder.seedbed.com/2014/01/13/genesis-9-the-forgotten-covenant/

[7] Snyder, op. cit.,

[8] Snyder, op. cit.,

[9] http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/does-god-care-susan-blader-sermon-on-promises-of-god-98689.asp

 

 

Share Button