We are privileged to share with you this week’s Good Word commentary, from the School of Theology at Walla Walla University. The original, along with audio and a downloadable pdf are available at the Good Word website.
Host: Brant Berglin
What was the most meaningful promise someone ever made to you?
Our lesson this week examines Genesis 6–9 in detail, the story of the flood and God’s covenant with Noah. Regarding the covenant itself, three main sections of the story appear:
1. God’s covenant with Noah in a corrupt generation, to save him out of it
2. God’s fulfillment of His covenant promise, saving Noah in the Ark
3. God’s universal New Covenant with Noah and his descendants after the flood
The condition of the earth is described in Ch. 6:5, 11–13. Evil thoughts, corruption, continual violence; these are broad terms for human plight. Maybe we don’t want the specifics! The quarterly suggests a downward spiral from Adam and Eve to Genesis 6 and the reason for the flood, but the effects seem immediate between Ch. 3–4. Most people probably aren’t comfortable with the language of a gracious, loving God allowing, much less causing/sending, a catastrophe that ends the lives of humans. Our current culture would view such extremes as inhumane, torturous, and capricious. Yet the text of Genesis 3–6 presents a fairly strong case for the flood being neither a supernatural tantrum from a gunny-sacking deity, nor an extreme punishment given the crime(s). So many questions can be asked from this chapter (and some that aren’t—on the surface, anyway—related to the covenant such as the Nephilim, the Sons of God and Daughters of Men!), but here are a few to consider:
If Humans were living for nearly 1,000 years, and their natural bent was away from holiness, away from love, away from the Creator’s likeness, how far might a person swerve given that much time?
Do you think that Genesis 6 is hyperbolic? Were the thoughts of the human heart really only evil continually? If you think it’s a figure of speech, what is the text conveying? If literal, how could humanity have sunk so low, and would this condition make the flood into a just response on God’s part?
Enter Noah. The text describes him with a number of moral adjectives: he found favor in God’s eyes, he was righteous, blameless, and walked with God. What a contrast with the world around him at the time. While we might wonder (especially later in Genesis) about his kids, Noah himself represented God on earth.
What might have led Noah to this relationship with God, when the rest of the world was going east, Noah was going west? Who might have been a positive influence in his life?
What would it have been like for Noah to live in such as world? Have you ever experienced times when walking a righteous path was difficult? How did you manage it?
The word for Covenant first shows up here in Genesis 6:18. The verb used with covenant is “cause to stand” or “establish.” The subject of this verb is God. He is the one who makes the promise stand. God is also the “owner” of the covenant as He calls is “my covenant.” Noah certainly has a role in building the ark, but the covenant goes well beyond the floating chest of wood. God hopes to save the righteous, those who trust Him and are willing to obey His voice; and He will! Noah’s role is to get on board. God’s role is everything else!
Who benefits from keeping the covenant? Who loses if it’s broken?
Following the flood, God uses the rainbow as a symbol of His covenant promise with all people never to flood the earth again. While some readers of Genesis have suggested a localized flood event would fulfill the story, the covenant promise of God never to flood the entire earth again would not be worth anything in such light. Every local flooding that takes lives would reflect badly on this promise. That the land hasn’t been flooded entirely (though mostly covered with water already), suggests God’s faithfulness to this covenant.
What is mankind’s role in the “rainbow” covenant of God?
The lesson on Thursday notes the used of the “remnant” concept, the “left-over” faithful through whom God fulfills His promises. While in the Flood and Sodom, the remnant was small, the term doesn’t require it. If I eat two cookies out of the bag and give “the rest” to my family, the “remnant” is certainly the large majority. Context must determine whether a remnant is large or small. In Noah’s case, the remnant was sadly small. But the flood account borrows the language of creation throughout the narrative; God is starting over with a new humanity after the flood. God isn’t giving up on people yet!
Good Word is an invitation to explore biblical and theological topics presented in regularly published Bible Study guides. The Bible awaits our continued study and investigation; Good Word provides one way to approach it.
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