Genesis 9:8-17

After Cain murdered his brother, Abel, and was exiled to the land of Nod, Cain married and had many descendants. Seth was born to Adam and Eve, and their descendants also became numerous. But the wickedness of humankind became great to the point where God was sorry that He had made them.

He was ready to wipe out humanity and start over, but Noah found favor in God’s eyes.

God ordered Noah to make a giant ark in preparation for the great flood. Two of each animal were collected into the Ark, along with Noah and his wife, as well as their three sons and their wives. It rained for forty days and forty nights and that combined with the ground water that burst forth resulted in a great flood that covered all the mountains and killed all the people and land animals.

The flood continued to swell for one hundred fifty days. It took another one hundred fifty days for the waters to start to abate. It took a few more months before the ark settled on the mountains of Ararat. Another two months, and Noah was able to open the doors and get out onto dry land.

Noah built an altar to God and sacrificed some animals (God had commanded Noah to bring additional clean animals into the ark for this purpose). God was pleased and decided to never curse the ground because of humankind, nor destroy the earth with a flood.

Now we come to today’s passage, where God cements His decision and makes a new covenant with Noah, his descendants and all the animals, and sets the rainbow as the sign of this covenant. Every time we see a rainbow, we are to be reminded of this covenant.

Why did God use the rainbow as the sign of this covenant? If you look at the passage, it never actually says “rainbow” – It actually says, “bow in the clouds”. The bow and arrow were the most powerful weapon in those times, and it was the main tool used during a battle. And an empty bow turned on its side was a symbol of cease fire or peace, since one could not shoot an arrow from that position.

So, God, who acted in aggression towards the earth and its inhabitants, is now offering peace – shalom – to the world. This is good news, since we would not be able to survive God’s continued aggression.

We might imagine that God was willing to establish this covenant because finally, after the great purge, humans were going to be less wicked than before.  But this is not the case, according to Genesis 8:21, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth.”

God knew that there is wickedness in humankind that will continue, and there would come times when He would just rather start over. But the rainbow will be there as a reminder to Him of this covenant (Genesis 9:14-15).

This meant that periodic purging by flood to reduce the wickedness of humanity was no longer an option God would use. In Exodus, we see God making another covenant with Israel and giving them the Ten Commandments to try to guide their behavior. Nine out of the ten commandments were things the people were not to do. This is an indication that God knew that the natural tendency in humankind was to sin.

Even when people took the laws seriously, there was a tendency to see what they could get away with. There are websites dedicated to informing devout Jews of what can and cannot be done on the sabbath, and it is very complex. Instead of celebrating all the liberties that God gives, laws tend to have us focus on the restrictive nature of laws.

When Jesus taught about two of the Ten Commandments in His sermon on the mount, it made the people realize that it is not possible to keep the laws through our efforts. If being angry is committing murder in our hearts, and just by having lustful thoughts about someone is committing adultery in our hearts, then no one is capable of keeping the laws. All they do is to remind us that none of us is righteous on our own. This is what Paul means in Romans 3:10 – There is no one who is righteous, not even one.  And the wages of sin is death. This means that all of humanity was headed to eternal death.

Even though humanity continues to be wicked, God’s desire is to not destroy humanity but to save it. Knowing that humanity cannot save itself, there had to be a way where humanity could be saved – A way to deal with humanity’s sinful nature without compromising God’s righteousness.

The solution to mankind’s sin problem was revealed on Easter, which we will be celebrating the next time we meet.

The Son of God was sent to earth and faced many temptations to sin, and yet remained sinless. So, the man with no sins – the only one in history – died a sinner’s death on the cross. He died not for His sins, since He had none, but for the sins of humanity. That was on Good Friday.

Then on Easter morning, Jesus rose from the dead, validating the fact that His sacrifice in our stead, was accepted by God, and the means for salvation was now available to everyone. Any person who would accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior will now be judged righteous not by what they did, but by what Christ did on the Cross on our behalf. We get to wear His righteousness and become sons and daughters of God.

So, when a rainbow appears in the sky, we should be grateful that it reminds God to not destroy us. Not only that, but it should be a reminder to us of how much God loves us and wants us to live and to have eternal life.

(the above is a summary of the message shared by Shun Takano during our worship service on March 26, 2023.)