11 September 2015Genesis 9:1-13
“As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you.” (vv. 9-10)
Psalm: Psalm 88
This chapter begins midway through an interaction between God and Noah. As soon as Noah has come out of the ark he offers a sacrifice to God (Genesis 8:20). This is the marker of someone who is a righteous follower of God and God's requirements, and reflects the temple sacrifices which are in the minds of the writers. The sacrifice prompts, according to Genesis, some internal reflection by God, "the Lord said in his heart, 'I will never again curse the ground because of humankind'" (Genesis 8:21). Given that this is a rather human portrayal of God we could describe it as 'soul-searching'.
The sacrifice and the, unspoken, promise not to wipe out humankind naturally leads into the making of a covenant, making God's promise public and universal. God begins by setting out the vision for a post-flood world and its human inhabitants, firstly by repopulating the world (verse 1). Growing the community is an ongoing theme, whether it is Noah and his family here, promises to Abraham and Moses or in our day when we aim to refill our churches and arrest the decline in church attendance in the UK.
The other strong theme is that of "blood" (vv. 4-6), it will not escape the reader that there is a lot of bloodshed in Genesis and onwards. It may be that God, or the writers, hoped for a much less bloodthirsty world. Against this hope we have an appalling Christian history of Protestants killing Catholics and vice versa, with both sides claiming to be believers in and defenders of God. Today, the anniversary of 9/11, is a good day to remember that God urges us away from bloodshed, a message found in the Qur'an too.
The passage concludes, after promises and warnings, with the establishment of an ongoing covenant (verse 9) between God and the whole human race, represented by Noah. This relationship between God and humanity, never repealed, is the key message of Noah's story - he truly does have global significance as a sign of life, rather than judgement. It's worth highlighting this gospel outlook in the Old Testament, showing that God is eternally committed to humanity thriving.
- What does God's eternal covenant with all human beings mean to you?
- What would the world have been like if all God's people had avoided bloodshed?