Bible Readings for January 9th
After God destroys the world with a flood during the days of Noah, he promises he will never pour out the same kind of judgment on the earth until the very end of time: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22).
In Genesis 8–9, God confirms this promise with the first explicit covenant we find in Scripture, often called the Noachian covenant. The first aspect of the Noachian covenant is that God commands humans to fill the earth. God repeats his earlier command he had given Adam and Eve in the Garden to be fruitful and to multiply and to fill the earth (Gen. 1:28, 9:1). Even though God acknowledges that “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21), he nevertheless continues his plan of filling the earth with his image bearers.
Second, we see a new relationship between humans and animals within creation. Adam and Eve had been given dominion over all the creatures of the earth, but God now tells Noah that all animals would fear and dread humans (Gen. 1:28, 9:2) and that animals were now given to humans as food (Gen. 9:3) as long as the blood of the animals was not eaten.
Third, God places a renewed emphasis on human life by requiring capital punishment for anyone who sheds the blood of man (Gen. 9:5–6). This argument for capital punishment is not for the sake of deterrent or for revenge but for the sake of upholding the sanctity of God’s image. God made humankind in his own image, and so anyone who murders another human being strikes against the image of God.
Fourth, God confirms his promise with a covenant sign: a rainbow. We come across many other covenant signs in the rest of the Scriptures (circumcision, the Sabbath, Passover, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper), and this first covenant sign is very helpful in understanding the role and purpose of covenant signs. God says, “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” (Gen. 9:16). It isn’t that God might forget his covenant promise but that the covenant sign acts as an everlasting symbol testifying again and again to the unbreakable nature of God’s promise. Even today, you and I still live under the protection of the Noachian covenant.
What’s so interesting about the Noachian covenant, however, is that it offers no clear provision for redemption—only for the preservation of life on the earth until the end of time. This raises a major question that should drive us forward, deeper into the story: When and how will God redeem his people from the curse of sin and death?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.