Saturday, September 21, 2013

Never Again

Scriptural Reading: Genesis 9:8-17
Devotional Reading: Isaiah 54:9-14

Six people have been confirmed dead and 140 people remain unaccounted for since local floods began in Colorado on September 11, 2013. The number of people who were rescued was only a small fraction of the number of people rescued from the floods of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Tropical storm Manuel killed 97 people, continuing to cause local flash floods in northwest Mexico on September 19th, affecting more than one million people and 500, 000 have had to evacuate their homes. It continues to rain very heavy and the mud buries the houses. Approximately 58 people remain missing. Although lives were lost during the floods in each of the occurrences mentioned, the localized floods did not cover the earth to completely destroy the living creatures as in the days of Noah. Isaiah wisely recorded at Is 54:9-10, “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. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (NKJV) Despite how wicked mankind has sinned, God may allow flash floods or any other “natural event” to be the cause of disasters affecting both small to large numbers of his living creatures. But the disasters are temporary. Mankind is blessed with God’s grace and mercy. His love and kindness is eternal. Based on His love and kindness, He has granted His living creatures a covenant of peace. God established a covenant to never again destroy humanity or creation by universal flood.

This quarter of study is entitled “First Things”. We are in Unit I – “First Days” of the three units of the quarter. This is the fourth lesson of a five-lesson study. It focuses on God’s promise to Noah and the establishment of an everlasting covenant.

When God saw the wickedness that resulted from the mixed marriages of the sons of God (heirs of Seth) and daughters of men (heirs of Cain), he issued a warning to withdraw His Spirit if their wickedness did not cease within one hundred twenty years (Gen 6:1-3). Such was not the case. Man was even more sinful and God, in His grief, decided to destroy mankind and all living creatures (Gen 6:6-7). There was one man, Noah, who gained God’s grace and mercy. Because Noah kept His will and received God’s favor, the wife and sons and their wives received God’s grace and mercy also (Gen 6:8, 18). Upon His instruction, Noah built an ark of gopher wood of specific dimensions. God commanded Noah to take seven pairs of clean animals into the ark, but only one pair of unclean animals (Gen 7:2-3). Perhaps the clean animals were in seven pairs for purpose of food or eventual sacrifice to the Lord when they would eventually exit the ark (Gen 8:20). At God’s command they boarded the ark and the door remained open for seven days. He then shut the door to keep Noah, his family, and the animals safe (Gen 7:10, 16). From the beginning of the universal flood until the earth was dried was 371 days (Gen 7:11; 8:13-14). It had been a catastrophic, destructive period. Not only had waters flowed from the “windows of heaven” causing massive mudslides, death and destruction, but there had been earthquakes and volcanic eruptions when “the springs of the great deep burst forth”. (Gen 7:11) When God determined the earth to be safe again, He commanded Noah to “go out of the ark” (Gen 8:16). Noah’s immediate response after his family and the animals had deboarded the ark was to give sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise unto God (Gen 8:20). Moses recorded at Gen 8:21, “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.” (NKJV) What a merciful God we have!

After the flood it was time for a new beginning. The Lord God reestablished the human government system by blessing man with the earth, with the ability to be fruitful to multiply and replenish the earth, to have dominion over all animals, and gave man meat to eat as long as the lifeblood was not still in the meat. God also set up the capital punishment system to demand an accounting for each human life because it was made in His image. Earth was not paradise at this point, but it was not hell either. Noah had been so thankful that it did not matter whether it was a paradise or not. He was thanking God for His grace and mercy. God recognized and appreciated His humble servant Noah’s faithfulness. Moses recorded at Gen 9:8-11, “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 destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.’” (NKJV) At Gen 8:21 the Lord God had said in his heart, “Never again…” Now we see God is speaking to Noah and his sons. He is telling them what was in his heart, “Never again…” Only when God is talking to Noah and his sons He is establishing a covenant with them and their descendants and all the living creatures that were with them in the ark. God is not just giving them a promise. He is giving them a covenant where He is bound as the guarantor by His oath along with His promise “never again”. Who would you propose as a better guarantor? It is a covenant of grace. Humanity will never again be cut off by a flood. Although living creatures continue to await liberation from bondage to decay due to the entrance of sin in the world, this covenant of grace extends to them also. They shall never again be cut off by a flood due to the actions of mankind.

It was God who initiated the covenant, and it was God who guaranteed it. Moses recorded the symbol of the covenant at Gen 9:12-15, “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.” (NKJV) The rainbow is a type of covenant. God placed the rainbow in the clouds for all generations to see. It serves as a seal of the unilateral covenant of grace that He made (Gen 9:8-11). We are all recipients of the covenant and are able to see the continuing reminder of His grace in the rainbows. Why would God need a reminder? Our God does not forget anything. But people may act so sinful they can cause Him to have to repent and be reminded as to why He granted a unilateral covenant with humanity and all the other living creatures.

The seal of this unilateral covenant was from heaven. It was a rainbow to be seen in the sky among the clouds when the dew drops begin to formulate and after the rain has passed. It was a rainbow which possessed so many colors that only God could name them. It was not intended to cause terror but to comfort mankind and all the living creatures that everything would be alright. God repeated His promise to them as recorded by Moses at Gen 9:16-17, “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.’” (NKJV) This repetition was an assurance of God’s commitment to His Word. He never breaks His promises nor lies. Moses recorded at Num 23:19, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (NKJV) Noah was the leader of the world at this point, just as Adam had been the leader in the Garden. God spoke directly to Noah in offering the sign of the unilateral covenant He established between Himself and all life on the earth.

The fact that God promised to never again destroy all living creatures through a universal flood does not mean that humans should not get their act together with God. After sin entered into the world through Adam there became a break between God and man. God created a plan of salvation in order that mankind might be reconciled to Him. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, (John 3:13-18) who knew no sin, to be lifted up on a tree (cross), crucified, buried, and resurrected for our sins to give us the opportunity of eternal life and reconciled to Him. Not everyone will accept that opportunity. The Apostle Peter wrote of the scoffers of God who deliberately forget the occurrence of God’s awesome power during the days of the universal floods. The Apostle stated at 2 Pe 3:7, “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” (NKJV)

Written by Deborah C Davis

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