Daily Family Worship

Genesis 9: The Rainbow Covenant

by | Jan 9, 2022

genesis 9

The blessing of God makes rich. He accepted the worship of Noah and his family, and then sent them out to possess the new earth for Him. They were to replenish it by starting a new human family that would be holy and pure. They were also given authority over all the animals. It is a beautiful thought that God’s Covenant with Noah included every living creature. His care extends even to the beasts. Think of God making a covenant with the cattle that roam the valleys, the sheep that graze in the meadows, the birds that fly in the air, and even with the insects that chirp in the fields. We know that this care is real. Of course, the lesson for us from all this is the one which Jesus taught His disciples: if God cares for birds and flowers, how much more will He care for His own dear sons and daughters?

Indeed, the Lord does deal with His children in a most simple and gracious way. We see it in His gentleness to Noah and his family after they left the Ark. After their terrible experience, they would naturally be in dread every time there was a continuous rain. But the promise of God declared that a worldwide deluge would never come again: “Neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of the flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.” As the little family heard this assurance, it must have been a great relief to them. And ever since that day, this same word has been a ground of confidence to the dwellers on the earth. Floods have left devastation in many places, but there has always been the abiding assurance of the Lord’s Word – “Hitherto shalt thou come and no further” – as this ancient covenant has been remembered.

God assured Noah’s family that He never would again destroy the earth with a worldwide flood. But to make their confidence even stronger, He made the rainbow – which was probably appearing just then – to be a seal or pledge of His promise. “The bow shall be seen in the cloud,” He said; “and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature.” It is a beautiful thought that God allows Himself to be reminded of His Covenant when He sees the rainbow in the clouds! Every time we see a rainbow, we can look at it and think that God is looking at it at the same time, and that He is remembering His ancient promise. And just like the rainbow, the Lord’s Supper is another beautiful token of a Divine Covenant! Christ wants us to receive it and to be reminded by it of His love and sacrifice, and of His blessed Covenant of redemption. It thus becomes a pledge to us that all His promises will be sacredly fulfilled. It is a sweet thought that Christ looks upon the same emblems, and also thinks of us and of His own Covenant of love! Of course, God never forgets. He never needs to be reminded of His promises. He needs no mementoes or memorials to make Him faithful. But His condescension to our manner of human thought, so as to make His love more real to us, is very gracious!

The drunkenness of Noah is recorded in the Bible with that fairness which is found only in the Scriptures, which makes note of the failures even of its heroes, unlike any secular histories. Here we have a sad proof of human weakness and imperfection. It shows that not even the best of men can stand upright, unless they depend upon Divine grace and are upheld thereby. The consequence of Noah’s sin was shame, for drunken doorkeepers leave their gates wide open. The sin of drunkenness, in particular, disgraces men and exposes them to contempt.

It appears that Ham rejoiced to find his father in an unbecoming situation; but when Noah was sober again, he declared a curse specifically upon Ham’s son Canaan. Perhaps this was because Noah recognized that this grandson of his was even more guilty of the same sins than his father Ham had been. He was to be “a servant of servants” – that is, the lowest and most despicable servant, even to his brethren. This certainly points at the victories which the children of Israel later obtained over the wicked Canaanites in Joshua’s day.

Shem and Japheth took care to cover their father’s shame. A mantle of love is to be thrown over the faults of all (1 Pet. 4:8), and a robe of reverence also ought to be thrown over the faults of parents and other superiors. The blessing of God follows those who honor their parents, and His curse descends especially upon those who dishonor them. “Blessed be the Lord God of Shem,” said Noah. It was from Shem that the Jews had their origin, who were – for a long time – the chosen people of God in this world. And Christ Jesus, in His human nature, would descend from Shem’s family “in the fulness of time.” Noah also blesses Japheth; and this blessing speaks of the conversion of the Gentiles (non-Jews), and the bringing of them into the “tents of Shem” – that is, the Church. Jews and Gentiles are united together in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Great Father of mercies! You have said that You will set Your rainbow in the cloud, so that it may be a token of Your merciful Covenant with mankind. Give us grace to look upon it with the eye of faith, and to awaken all the affections of our hearts toward You! May our souls be confirmed and established in the full assurance of faith and dependence upon all Your Covenant-promises. Amen.

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photo: “Dawn of Promise,” by James Staddon/Lenspiration  |  AdobeStock