Christ Covenant Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
15 April 2018
Sermon Text: Genesis 9:1-17; Revelation 21:1-5
God Promised to Remake the World in Christ
Third Sunday of Easter
New series — Covenant: The Story of God’s Promise to Redeem the World in Christ.
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 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. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 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.
“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.
And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 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. 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.” 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: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 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. 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.” 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.”
After the Fall, when the Lord God cut the covenant of grace with Adam and his descendants, he drove the man and woman out of the Garden. They were fruitful and multiplied. Each and every child born to them by natural generation bore the consequences of their father’s sin. Not only were they born outside the garden paradise, they were also born under the influence of Adam’s sin and with the same inclinations towards sin and evil.
Over the course of many, many years, the moral decay and spiritual devolution of the human race became unbearable even to the Lord God.
Things were so bad that in Genesis 6 we read:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
In context, we discover that rampant marital corruption, physical violence, and sexual confusion were the major sins that provoked the Lord God to judge the world.
Under the influence of the serpent, man doubted, denied, and disobeyed the revelation of God—just as their forefathers had done in the garden of Eden.
“Death entered the world through the sin of one man, and death spread to all men because all men sin.” (Rom. 5:12-21)
Thus, sin increased on the earth.
No wonder God’s wrath was kindled; no wonder he decided to rain down hell from heaven.
And no wonder he breathed a sigh of lament; no wonder his heart was vexed.
[ Note: the LXX does not translate nacham (regret) with metanoia (repent) but enthumeomai (ponder, think deeply); and`atsab (grieved) with dianeuó(make signs, nod, wink). ]
This does not mean that the Lord God was taken by surprise by the moral decay and spiritual devolution of the human race — from the fall to the flood — as if he didn’t see it coming. No, he saw it coming and responded accordingly when it came to pass.
But, before he opened the floodgates of judgment, something happens that we do not expect.
God took comfortin the midst of the chaos.
Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
Noah was a light shining in darkness; a blameless man in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation.
Noah was a preacher of righteous who came from a long line of preachers, like Enoch, a prophet who walked with God and was taken away; and like Seth, who moved people to call on the name of the Lord in his time.
Noah stood against the rising tide of moral decay and spiritual decline in his generation.
Now, some pastors like to imagine that Noah was preaching while he built the ark; and that he was trying to persuade as many sinners as possible to join him in it. (I used to imagine that as well.)
But is that what the text says? No.
It says that God told Noah: “Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you (2PS), and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” Period.
The Book of Hebrews sharpens point: “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
So God established this covenant of grace with Noah and his household.
We won’t dive into this now, but I must point out this story of Noah and the flood is the first story of covenant household baptism revealed in the scriptures.
As O. Palmer Robertson says in Christ of the Covenants, “The righteousness of the single head of the family serves as the basis for including his whole household in the ark.”
The flood was a weapon of mass destruction unleashed against the culture of the serpent by God. By means of this catastrophic event the Lord God redeemed his people and remade the world.
After the storm, the Lord God took Noah out of the ark and put him in a new world, just as he had taken Adam and put him in the garden.
Noah is a new Adam — and a shadow/type of the Last Adam.
In response to all these things, Noah worshiped the Lord God. Like his faithful ancestors, he built an altar to the Lord and offered flesh and blood sacrifices on the altar.
And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, God was pleased to his heart by Noah’s offering. And 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.”
This is God’s covenant promise in the face of human depravity.
God knows that catastrophic curses like the flood can restrain evil, but they cannot uproot and eradicate sin from the human heart. Dealing with our sin-problem requires something even more extreme.
And you already know what that extreme thing is, don’t you?
Until all that happens, God re-established the covenant of grace with man, clean and unclean animals, and the rest of creation.
SANCTIONS AND STIPULATIONS
Here are the stipulations and sanctions of the covenant, here’s what the Lord God requires of his image-bearer.
The Lord God blessed Noah and made him his new vice-gerent. That means the Lord delegated power to him and sent him on mission to act as his representative on earth.
First, here are the stipulations of the covenant. These are things that God expects his image-bearers to do in the new world.
Principles— As God’s image-bearer, man is to procreate and propagate the human race — be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
As God’s image-bearer, man is to promote and protect life among all creatures of our God and King — 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.
As God’s image-bearer, man is to punish life-destroyers by putting them to death — whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed. Why? for God made man in his own image. More on this in just a moment.
Permissions— Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.
Prior to the flood, in the old creation, man only ate fruits and vegetables. But, in the new creation, man may also eat meat.
I realize there is a whole movement of people for the ethical treatment of animals. But their ethical standards are not based on God’s revelation, but on their own preference and experience. In other words, their ethics are rooted and grounded in un-reality.
God gave us the gift of fruits, vegetables, and meat. All these should “be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Tim. 4:3-4)
Keep in mind that God (not man) sets the limits on what we can and cannot eat.
Prohibitions— First, the covenant says, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
Just as man was prohibited from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so now man is prohibited from eating meat with its lifeblood. This is why hunters and butchers drain the blood from the meat.
The covenant does not indicate in any way whatsoever that eating meat allows for the murder of any animal. In fact, it is not even possible to murder animals because animals are not made in the image of God.
Murder is committed when one man unjustly takes another man’s life.
The covenant does not say explicitly, “Thou shall not murder.” But, reading between the lines, it does say it implicitly when it says that God will require a reckoning or accounting of man’s lifeblood.
This is a warning and a threat.
Mankind will give an account to God for the way we treat our brothers, our neighbors, and our fellow image-bearers; for all the blood that mankind sheds on the earth.
God will ask Who shed it? Why was it shed? And man will give an account.
What should happen if and when one man murders another man?
That leads us to the sanctions of the covenant.
Punishments— It is written: whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed. What is God’s rationale for this? For God made man in his own image.
We have seen that man, as God’s image-bearer, must promote and protect life.
One way man God expects man to do that is by punishing manslayers, murderers, and life-destroyers. How? By putting them to death.
To take the life an image-bearer is to take something from God that does not belong to you. Murder is cosmic theft. That is why Jesus said, Give the Caesar whatever bears his likeness and image; and give to God whatever bears his likeness and image.
Someone might ask: Why is it wrong and evil for one image-bearer to murder another, and yet right and good for image-bearers to put to death image-destroyers?
The short answer is because God said so. God sets the standard for right and wrong, not man.
The longer answer is this: There is a fundamental difference between taking the life of an innocent person who desires life and taking away the life of a guilty person who despises life.
Murder is a violent assault on man and the image of God in man. It is iconoclastic. “It rips the soul apart. It is a violation against nature.”
As RC Sproul explains, “God’s rationale for requiring the death of the murderer is that, in a very real sense, the person who raises his hand to slay a human being is making an assault not just against a fellow human but against God, because every human being bears God’s image. When someone kills a human being, he kills someone who is bearing the image of God. God is saying that to be made in His image is so sacred and so holy, if someone wantonly destroys an image-bearer of God, that person forfeits his right to life and is to be executed. So, God established the death penalty.”
This covenant establishes the sanctity of human life until the end of the world.
Now, remember that one of the major reasons God opened the floodgates of judgment was because the world was filled with violence.
That started with the serpent’s lies in the garden. Not only was he a liar; he was a murderer from the beginning. The violence continued with Cain’s murder of Abel, and Lamech’s killing of another man. One murder led to another and another and next thing you know the world was soaked in blood and shrouded in death.
To prevent that from happening again, God authorized image-bearers put to death image-destroyers.
Suffice it to say for now that the capital punishment for murder described in this covenant is also part of the story of the perpetual conflict between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, between the serpent and the Savior.
So, when God’s image-bearers punish the devil’s image-destroyers, they are confronting satan and crushing the serpent in small yet significant ways.
In this way, the Lord God actually preserves the human race until the coming of the seed of the woman.
Now, the point I want to drive home is that the Lord God showed Noah and his sons that there are consequences (positive and negative) for our decisions and actions.
Thus, from this new beginning, God’s sovereignty established human responsibility.
That’s the heavy part of the story that some of us did not know.
Here’s the lighter part of the story all of us know.
SIGN AND SEAL
God promised 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.” And God set his bow in the clouds as the covenant sign between him and the creation.
The Hebrew word for bow used here means a warrior’s bow. It was the weapon he used to rain down hell from heaven during the flood.
But, after the flood, God retired his weapon of warfare. His bow now hangs in the sky as a memorial. He will never ever use it again to wage war on his creatures with a flood.
As we will see with other covenant signs and seals in our series, the rainbow in the clouds is a covenant sign from God, to man, for God. While man enjoys the benefits of the sign of the covenant, we must keep in mind that it is not man’s sign to God, but God’s sign to man.
Contra American subculture, the rainbow is not a dainty symbol of sexual liberation and gender confusion. It is a sign of God’s covenant.
At the end of this rainbow you will never ever find a pot of gold, but you will always find the promise of grace.
The covenant of grace which God made with Noah finds it fulfillment in Jesus Christ. How?
Genesis 8:20-21 // For starters, Jesus Christ was baptized in the flood of God’s wrath for his people; and he was offered up to God as a burnt offering on the cross. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma of his sacrifice, the Lord said from in his heart, “I will never again curse those for whom he died.”
Genesis 9:3-4 // Also, Jesus declared all food clean when he said whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled.” So whatever you eat or drink, do it all for the glory of God with gratitude in your hearts. (Mark 7:18-19; 1 Cor. 10:31)
Genesis 9:5-6 // Next, Jesus was an innocent man who was rejected by his people and traded for a murderer (Acts 3:14); and he was betrayed and murdered by stiff-necked covenant-breakers. Like the people of Noah’s generation, they always resisted the Holy Spirit. (Acts 7:52; cp Gen. 6:3)
Jesus experienced capital punishment unjustly at the hands of wicked men, so that he might justly execute capital punishment on the serpent and crush his head. (2 Cor. 5:20; Col. 2:15; Gen. 3:15)
Genesis 9:1, 7 // Jesus sends his disciples on mission to all nations and commands them to be fruitful and multiply and to increase on the earth. (Matthew 28:18-20)
Genesis 9:12-17 // Jesus was raised from the dead and sits at the right hand of God “and around his throne is a rainbow that has the appearance of an emerald” that shines like a stained-glass window, with all the radiance and brilliance of light refracting through precious, translucent, colorful stones. (Rev. 4:3) His warrior’s bow is still hung in the sky; his promise is still kept and unbroken.
Genesis 8:21-22; 9:1, 7 // Last but not least, Jesus is re-making all things. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. God’s dwelling place will be with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things shall pass away. (Rev. 21:1-5)
In all these things we see that the covenant of grace that God made with Noah finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ.