God’s Covenant with Noah

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

3rd Sunday after Pentecost
June 18, 2023

Scripture readings:  Genesis 6:5-8;  7:1-10;  8:13-22

Intro: During the summer, I am continuing to preach a theme called “Covenant Agreements with God.”  In this series, we will explore the various covenants that God made with his people throughout history.  Today’s covenant is the one God made with Noah.


Since today is Father’s Day, I thought I would begin with a little story about my own father.

When I was 17, I got my first job as a janitor in a store in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  It wasn’t a great job, but it put regular money in my pocket for the very first time.  The first purchase I made with that money was of a George Carlin’s hilarious but filthy comedy album.  I took it home and invited my best friend, Greg to come and listen to it with me.

As we rolled on the floor with uncontrollable laughter, my mother came into my room and began reading me the riot act.  The words she heard from that record were offensive, I had NO business spending my money on it, and I needed to turn it off immediately.  Greg beat a hasty retreat while I battled my mother.  

Finally, she said I would be facing my father when he got home in a few minutes.  She left the room, and I sat and waited for my fate.

Dad came home a few minutes later.  To his credit, he entered my room with a grim look on his face – but he didn’t start yelling.  I immediately launched into a stirring defense of my actions that didn’t work with mom – and didn’t work with him either.  When he shut me down, I dared to interrupt him and say, “Dad, you can’t condemn me without even listening to the album.  That wouldn’t be fair.”  Well…no one accuses my father of being unfair, so he closed my bedroom door and told me to put the album on.  As we listened to it, he folded his arms across his chest in a way that told me Mr. Carlin had better work his magic – or I was in big trouble.  

When side one of the album was done, he gestured for me to turn it over and play side two; he gestured instead of telling me to do it because he was laughing so hard he could barely talk.

Finally, when the other side ended, Dad took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes and got himself under control.  Then he laid out a covenant: I could keep the album, but I was only to play it when I was alone.

To this day, I thought that was a good deal.

Recall that a covenant is a deal agreed upon by both sides.  People engage in this all the time, but when God does it, the idea of a covenant takes on a whole new meaning.  In all the covenants that are described in the Bible, every one of them is proposed by God and accepted by humans.

The second covenant in the Bible that I’m going to discuss was between God and Noah.  

It’s important to note the following:

  1.  God calls us to be His faithful covenant partners, but it has not happened consistently by us.
  2.  In the covenant with Noah, God concludes that the world had betrayed His intent for creation.
  3.  Whatever God does, He holds an expectation for His world.  
  4.  God is not an angry tyrant, lashing out against His creation but rather a troubled parent who grieves over the alienation that exists.
  5.  Finally, God is unlike his children – God is NOT captive of old resolves. God can adapt and change when God feels like it.  Often, we human beings become entrenched in which we believe from the past and cannot accept new situations or new deals.

Let’s focus our attention specifically on Noah for a minute.  Noah doesn’t fit the scheme of indictment and sentencing.  He is not condemned, he is not executed, he is not judged as lacking in love or obedience to God.  Instead, Noah presented God with an alternate possibility to the plan of eliminating all life on the earth.

The best evidence of Noah’s faith and obedience exists in this statement: Noah built the ark in faith, not knowing… not realizing its ultimate purpose until God finally told him.  Noah worked for years simply obeying God’s command.  

That is faith.

That is obedience.

Frankly, that is amazing!

The entire Flood narrative turns on the first word in Genesis 6, verse 8: “But…” This Hebrew conjunction reveals how the story changes from the destruction of all life on earth to one of salvation and second chances because of the existence of Noah, his righteousness and obedience.  A new covenant is possible here, and so God began to act.

As we all know, the ark is built, pairs of animals of all kinds enter the ark, the door is closed, and God made the rains come and flood burst forth from the earth.  The ark floated with all the animals and Noah’s family safe.  After the waters subsided, the ark came to rest on Mount Ararat, and all the animals left the ark on dry land.  Noah’s first act was to build an altar and worship God.

Now comes the covenant!  Not prior to the flood.  Not during the storm.  Not when no land could be seen for days and weeks and months.  During all that time, Noah remained faithful and continuing waiting on God to act.

Once everything was done, once the animals and Noah’s family was safe, then it was time for God’s covenant with Noah.

Timing is everything, isn’t it?

Perhaps this is because Noah proved himself once again by remaining faithful during the flood, but I doubt it.  Noah had already proven his faithfulness repeatedly during the whole story.

God puts a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his newest covenant: never again would God destroy the earth.

This covenant is consistent with others that were made throughout the Bible:

  1.  The covenant is unilateral.  God is proposing and keeping this covenant without any consultation or consideration of the opinions of human beings.
  2. The covenant is unconditional; humans don’t have to do anything except stand there and accept it.
  3. The covenant shall never be broken.
  4. The covenant is universal – it affects all humans.
  5. The covenant is everlasting; there is no expiration date.

I would call that a good deal, a holy deal, a perfect deal.

I would also call it a model for how we make deals with one another.  

Do we also set the same standard when we deal with one another?  

Do we propose conditions that are obviously fair to the other side?

Do we impose our covenants upon one another – thinking we are following God’s model to the letter – or do we recognize that we are not God and therefore we are capable of making a bad covenant even when we don’t intend to do so?

And finally…what about the part I left out?

What about love?

When we make covenants, do we act in love?

God loved Noah.  I didn’t include that, did I?

My own dad loved me when he made that covenant with me way back in my teen age years, even though I wasn’t exactly righteous or obedient.

When we get married, that is a covenant that is supposed to be made in love.

But what about all the other agreements, all the other deals, all the other covenants we make with one another: do we make them with love in our hearts?

If not, we have completely missed the lesson from God’s covenant with Noah.

Love is supposed to be at the heart of every covenant made by anyone.

Doing that is to give our best attempt to follow God’s example, whether it’s with our fathers or anyone else in our lives.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads!