20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
1And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. 7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” 8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
I love that old joke, “What do you get if you play a country song backwards?” Answer: You get your truck back, you get your dog back, you get your wife back, etc. Here is a little secret about Roni and me: we really love old sad country songs. For instance, we have a deep love for Vern Gosdin and his heartbreak songs as well as for a number of classic heartbreak songs from various other artists. One of my particular joys in life is hearing my wife sing aloud, say, Patty Loveless’ “Nothing But the Wheel” while driving down the road. One of our favorite sad country songs is Randy Travis’ song “Promises.” In 1987 Randy Travis released the song on his “Forever and Ever, Amen” album. It is a quintessentially sad country song. It is called “Promises” but, in truth, it should be called “Broken Promises” because the song is all about a guy who cannot keep his promises to his wife. The song begins by painting a picture of a guy who keeps leaving his wife to go party. He goes to disreputable places with disreputable people and drinks and carouses while his wife is at home. Then, when we reach the chorus, we find him at home begging for her forgiveness and making promises that he will not keep.
And I’ll make promises…
promises to change.
I’ll make her promises,
swear I’ll rearrange,
and I’ll start giving all the
love she needs, if only she
You can feel the weightlessness of these frantic promises even when you hear this chorus for the first time. You can tell that this is a cycle and that his promises simply are not really going to be kept! Then he speaks of his wife’s assurances to forgive and stay with him and of the temporal nature of those assurances.
Once again, she’ll reassure me.
And I believe her love will cure me,
and I’ll fall asleep with tears on my face.
And I know she’s just a woman,
and her love can’t last forever.
And someday soon, I know
she’ll leave without a trace.
For, broken promises will tear her dreams apart.
Just token promises will someday
break her heart,
and for the last time, she’ll hold me
when I cry, and while I’m sleeping…
she’ll quietly say goodbye…
Promises with no weight and a love that will not last: these are the makings of a great country song. In life, however, these are painful reminders of the fickle nature of human resolve and affection. Yes, all too often human beings prove themselves adept at hurting one another with broken promises. Broken promises do indeed tear our dreams apart!
There is One, however, whose promises will never be broken. There is One whose word is secure until the end of time. I am speaking of God and of His promises. At the end of Genesis 8 and then through Genesis 9, we read of God’s promise to the whole human race through Noah. This promise is called “the Noahic covenant.” A covenant is a binding promise or agreement between either God and all of humanity or God and His redeemed people.
Let us consider this point for just a moment. Some covenant promises apply to the whole world. Some apply only to God’s redeemed people in the world. I want to show you that the Noahic covenant is a covenant, a promise, that God makes with the world at large. We can tell that it is with the whole world, and not only with God’s people, by looking at the wording and the nature of it. David VanDrunen rightly points out four things about the Noahic covenant that let us know it applies to the whole world.
First, the common kingdom established by the Noahic covenant concerns ordinary cultural activities.
Second, the kingdom established by the Noahic covenant embraces the human race in common.
Third, the common kingdom established by the Noahic covenant ensures the preservation of the natural and social order.
Fourth, the common kingdom established by the Noahic covenant is put into place temporarily.
This is true. The Noahic covenant is for the whole world, not merely for God’s own people. We should therefore see it as a divine covenant established with Noah after the flooding of the earth that was intended to set parameters around the human race, the animal kingdom, and the whole world. It is, then, a kind of “rebooting” covenant, a covenant that reestablishes the ground rules. It does not offer eternal salvation. Rather, it offers temporal marching orders to Noah and, by extension, to all of Noah’s descendants, that is, to the entire world. By “temporal” I simply mean that the Noahic covenant is in effect so long as the world exists.
Let us consider, then, this amazing promise, this amazing covenant. When God decided to give promises to the remnant of humanity that survived the flood and through whom the earth would be populated, what did He say? I would like to propose that the Noahic covenant is a covenant of restraint but also a covenant of fruitfulness and faithfulness.