(A) God provides immediately after judgment, despite Man’s continued wickedness (8:20-9:1-7)
The passage starts off with Noah exiting the ark and worshipping God (v.20-21). Noah is one who recognises that God was the one who kept him alive from the flood. Imagine for a moment, the setting of Noah stepping out of the ark. The flood has wiped out every creature from the face of the earth, and Noah steps into an area which is destroyed -- empty and desolate. Noah could have been destroyed with the rest of the world, if not for God's gracious intervention. Noah’s thankfulness and gratitude towards God was reflected in his immediate worship of God after stepping out of the ark. He does not build a shelter or starts rebuilding his life, but builds an altar, worshipping and praising God. These verses also stand out to us and confronts us today. How have we given thanks to God today? Do we recognise that God is the one who gives us all that we have?
Verse 21-22 tell us that man is evil from his youth, and this sin nature continues even after the flood! The flood did not completely deal with man's real problem. What does God do in response to this? God’s response is one of love. God resolves to never destroy all living creatures as long as the earth remains, even though he knows that Man will continue sinning. (We will pick this up later in chapter 9.)
God blesses Noah and his family immediately after the flood. He also commands them to multiply and fill the earth, akin to what he said to Man in the beginning in Gen 1:28. Here, God is starting over again with Noah; Noah is like the new Adam. God is giving Man another chance. God also places the fear of Man in all living creatures. This gracious act ensures man's safety and grants protection against animals. God also gives every moving thing as food for Man, just as how He has given them green plants for food in Gen 1:29. Here, the command to use animals for food is given. There is also a provision for Man not to eat flesh with blood, a possible provision against treating animals cruelly.
Verses 5-7 also lays out the basic principle of capital punishment in verses 5-7. God will demand a settlement/reckoning from every beast and from man for the blood of another man.The reason given for this principle is given in verse 6, where “for” signals the reason. The reason here is that “God made man in his own image”. Each human being is an image of God, and when one murders a human being, he/she is killing an image of God. Every human life is precious in this way, as human beings are image bearers of God. In our world today, much have been discussed about capital punishment, we have cited it to be a deterrent, or even said that capital punishment shows that life is cheap. But here, God gives only one reason, and that life is precious, for God made man in his own image. Not only did God protect man from the animals, God also sought to protect man against other men.
(B) God makes a covenant with all the earth, and redirects His wrath (9:8-17)
God also establishes a covenant with Noah, and his offspring, with every living creature that came out of the ark with Noah. (v.8-11). The covenant that God makes with all living creatures is that never will God cut off all flesh by a flood, and no flood will destroy the earth. This is similar to what we have read at the end of chapter 8.
Here, we see a gracious God that protects Man from Himself, as He appears to restrain Himself,
The sign of the covenant is the bow, a war bow (v.9-17). A rainbow in the clouds represents this. Notably the bow tells us a few things:
- It tells us of God’s presence in times of darkness/storms. There are no rainbows on a sunny day. The storms of our lives show us our insufficiency and God’s grace to us.
- The rainbow shows us that God has hung up his war bow/his weapon and this is the sweeping promise of God’s grace.
- The bow shows us the reason that God is able to make such a covenant is that he has redirected his wrath elsewhere, away from the earth.
Notice how a rainbow points up. This bow points us to Jesus Christ, who bore God’s wrath in our places; that is the reason why God is able to make such a sweeping promise. The purpose of the bow is for God to remember his covenant with the earth. But does God need reminders? Surely, this sign serves as a reminder to all living creatures of the covenant that a gracious God has made with the earth. The covenantal sign of the bow gives the earth assurance that God will not destroy all flesh again. God contains Himself in a covenant promise, He promises to withhold his wrath, and sustain life. We are to see this bow, and remember the grace of God given to us, through the death of Jesus Christ, where that bow in the clouds is directed.
The theme of “common grace” can also be seen here. This is where theologians have differentiated between saving grace (the grace shown to Christians on the cross), and common grace (grace shown to all, without exception). In this passage, God shows common grace to all the earth through his covenant. This has practical implications for our lives! Why do non-Christians “do better” than Christians? God gives good gifts of wisdom, talent, beauty graciously, in unmerited ways. These good gifts make life on earth more bearable than without them, and we enjoy the good gifts of common grace that God has granted to this world, to Christians and non-Christians alike. It also challenges us to study different cultures and languages to expand our appreciation of the created world and the Creator behind it. And, because of common grace, this world is gifted with morality and wisdom, and we are not left to our own destruction.
God graciously saved Noah and his family and creation from the judgment of the flood. This same God sought to protect Man's life after the flood. Yet, the problem of the world -- sin -- has not been truly addressed with just the flood. We know that the problem lies in the heart, and we see in this passage that God is not naive to think that now Man will be able to live obediently. He seeks to bless man, provide sustenance for him through the animals, and also protected man from other man (i.e. capital punishment) and ultimately from himself. These gracious provisions were undeserved and they point forward to the day, when He will send His own Son to save the world and make all things wrong, right again.