Monday, January 9, 2012

Noah: The Covenant of Preservation

All four of these passages (Genesis 6:17-22, 8:20-22, 9:1-7, 9:8-17 ) that we are going to be picking through today make of the Noahic covenant.  The first passage referring to pre-flood, and then the last three referring to post.  Now, reflecting back on the Adamic covenant, or the covenant of commencement, we remember that God administered a promise when he pronounced cursing on Satan.  He said that “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15.  The promise here is that there will be this perpetual war, between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of Satan.  A war between the city of God and the city of man.  The history between Genesis 3 and Genesis 6 records the beginning of these two cities.  Approximately 1650(minimum) years separate the fall from the flood. This is significant for it reveals how large the city of man had grown.  One research firms says this “Genesis Chapter 5 states that each person had "sons and daughters" in addition to the son whose chronology is given. Since a plural is used to describe the number of sons and daughters, a minimum of two sons and two daughters are assumed. Therefore, a reasonable value would appear to be a range of 5 to 8 children per family. As previously stated, Adam and Eve had seven children. Using 5 to 8 children per family, the population falls with in a range of ~2 billion to 11.5 billion (over the range of 16 to 22 generations).  The most conservative estimates would be 2 billion people.  That is even taking into consideration  that “...plagues, famines, and wars were no more common than in the last several thousand years” 2  
The Center of Scientific Creation puts it’s estimate at 7 billion people.  Moving on to Genesis 6:5-8 we find God’s disposition towards this city..  “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.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”  
So as a consequence of the fall of Adam, God completely wipes out billions of people.  This massive judgment is a sign of the ultimate judgment to come, and is in fact pointed to in the N.T. as such.  The city of man (seed of Satan) can only produce covenant-breaking, God-hating, traitors.  God decided to punish the entire world, at that time, for their treachery.  Genesis 6:17-22  “For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.”
What we find in this passage is the same pattern that we saw in Genesis 3:  covenant breaking on the part of man; AND judgment being executed and gracious promises being extended on the part of God.  Notice also, that just like the Adamic covenant, we see a mixture of both common and special grace.  We see special grace, in that Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.; and we see common grace in that God promises to preserve the earth in ways that are applicable to all.  
THE BIG IDEA is that the Noahic covenant is the vehicle for which both common and special grace have been delivered throughout history. 
I. The Noahic Covenant and common grace.
II. The Noahic Covenant and special grace. 
I. The Noahic Covenant and common grace.

A. This covenant binds together creation and redemption.
  1.   Provision for animals.
And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female.  Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive.  Gen. 6:19-20 (cf. Gen. 8:17)  Here God preserves all animal life so it will not perish in judgment.  This is a keeping with his creational ordinance back in Genesis 1.  When God is preserving here a “seed of the woman,”  he does not neglect his other decree of creation.
2.  “Be fruitful and multiply.’
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”  Genesis 9:1  This is an identical command given to Adam and Eve back in Genesis 1:30.  Because God was starting over so-to-speak, this command to image forth God, founded in creation, continued to be Noah’s responsibility.  
3.  Subdue the earth with terror.
It was already man’s responsibility to rule the earth.  He imaged forth God in that he had dominion over both land and animals. In the Adamic covenant we already saw creation being cursed in that Adam would bring forth food out of thorns and thistles by the sweat of his brow.  Here God adds an element to the dominion over the animals. Genesis 9:2 “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.”  Calvin says here “Savage beasts indeed prevail and rage against men in various ways, and no wonder; for since we perversely exalt ourselves against God, why should not the beasts rise up against us?  Nevertheless, the providence of God is a secret bridle to restrain their violence.” John Calvin pg. 290 Commentaries on Genesis  BakerBooks 2009  
This common grace however doesn’t just result in our safety but also our advancement.  Mankind uses animals all the time for nearly every convenience under the sun.  1) Food.  Still speaking in this covenant God says in the next verse  “...Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” Genesis 9:3  
2) Clothing.  We use the skins of animals in nearly every clothing article we wear.  3) Work.  Animals have always been used to work farms, to bear heavy loads, and for transportation.  This is especially relevant to more rural areas, but indirectly to urban since the two are dependent upon each other.  This subduing relationship that we have with them is not something we owe to our own ingenuity but rather to the creation covenant secured in the redemption covenant. 
Since God saw it fit to reiterate these creational ordinances in this Noahic covenant, it would do us good to pay close attention.  A negligence of these, and other important mandates, can reduce us to those German pietists who personalized their salvation so much to the destruction of so many Jews.  Robertson says “Redeemed man must not internalize his salvation so that he thinks narrowly [merely] in terms of a “soul-saving” deliverance.  To the contrary, redemption involves his total life-style as a social, cultural creature.  Rather than withdrawing narrowly into a restricted form of “spiritual” existence, redeemed man must move out with a total world-and-life perspective.”
  I would say this is done most naturally when the glory of God is seen as the driving force in all our our lives.  1 Cor. 10:31 means that everything we do is worship or idolatry.  So under this first section we see creation and redemption being bound together in the Noahic covenant. 
B.  This covenant has a universal effect.  
The common grace aspect of the Noahic covenant applies to all of creation.  Not only the created order, but to ALL of mankind and animal life.  Genesis 9:8-10 says  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.”  God covenants with the animals--”it is for every beast of the earth.” Not only do the benefits of this covenant include fruitfulness in reproduction and dominion over the earth(plant and animal life), but it includes a regulation of time and the seasons.  Genesis 8:22 says “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”  God graciously bound his word to keep these ordinances, that He is not obligated to keep, in order to effect His creation.  
 1. The ultimate effect. 
“This universal character of the covenant with Noah provides the foundation for the world-wide proclamation of the gospel in the present age.”
  The Noahic covenant provides the platform,TIME, in order for God’s purposes of redemption to be consummated.  This benefit extends to all, and especially to the elect.  God is committed to His own glory and the spread of His fame.  These “seasons,” and “weather” and “days” that He promised to regulate, do extend grace to us; but ultimately serve to make much of Him.  Psalm 19 speaks of the created order showing God to be glorious in every language under the sun, day after day, year after year.  That TIME to show God glorious was secured by God’s covenant to Noah.  That glory seeing, firmly planted in the time secured by the Noahic covenant, is what God uses to save His elect.  2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  God is redeeming real people over real time.  The Noahic covenant effected this.  Prior to those comforting words in 2 Peter 3:9 we can see the Apostle clearly connecting these two ideas together.  In vv. 5-7 we read  “...that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.[FLOOD]  But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”  The word of God effected all of creation in the beginning-v. 5; AND the word of God (God’s word to Noah) upholds the world even now for the purpose of spreading His fame, and saving souls.  That’s one clear example of how all of these covenants are bound together.    
2.  Governing effects 
Genesis 9:4-6  “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.”  Here we see God instituting a way of governance.   
a. We see that animal blood was to be revered.  
Not because it was blood per say, but because it was a sign of life that pointed to something else.  In Leviticus 17:11 God says “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.”  So God had given us animals to eat in the previous verse, but the restriction to abstain from blood was put into effect to tell a different story.  That was fulfilled in the spilt blood of Christ Jesus.   Under the new covenant God has made all foods clean.   As an interesting footnote Calvin comments on the Apostles requiring the Gentile converts to abstain from blood in Acts 15:20, 29 “For the apostles, in commanding the Gentiles to observe this rite, for a short time, did not intend to inject a scruple into their consciences, but only to prevent the liberty which was otherwise sacred, from providing an occasion of offense to the ignorant and the weak.” John Calvin pg. 294 Commentaries on Genesis  BakerBooks 2009
b.  Man’s life is to be revered. 
Here we see this idea of  trespassing.  Man, being made in the image of God is sacred not because of man’s nature, but because of his essence.  In essence, man is an image bearer of the Most High, and to snuff that out is an attack on the holiness of God.  That’s why v. 6 says “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”  God made man in His image, and only God has the right to disintegrate that image.  We see him sharing that dominion in this verse for those who would usurp his authority.  Any man or animal that violates God’s authority in this way, their life will be required.  And it will be required at the hands of man.  Robertson says here “While the words spoken to Noah do not present an elaborately developed theology of the role of the state, the seed-concept certainly is present.  In effect, God institutes the temporal power of the state as his instrument in the insistent necessity of controlling evil.  This power of the sword, now for the first time placed in the hands of men, terrifies the potential evildoer and restrains his conscious activity of wickedness.”
  We see Scriptural support for this regarding animal murders in Exodus 21:28 and people murderers in Exodus 21:12-14  This is not just an O.T. thing.  God instituted governments in order uphold his image in society. He gives them the sword in order to punish those who do wrong-1 Peter 2:1.  They do not exist for themselves.  Romans 13:4 says “...he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.”
To sum up these last two sections, we could say that 1) God covenanted with Noah to continue the ordinance of time in order to fulfill his plan of redemption and 2) God covenanted with Adam to institute governance in order restrain evil.
 D.  The sign of the covenant  
Genesis 9:12-17 “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.”
First of all, God doesn’t forget anything.  This sign does say something about God, and great at that.  But this is a condescension on His part for our benefit.  It is to remind us that God did judge all wickedness at one point and destroyed billions of people.  That should bring a Godly fear.  However it should bring delight and praise, for God promised that he will not do it again.  When it rains, there will again be dry land.  Ultimate judgment will come at some point, but it will not come through a flood.  “...the recurring rainbow imposed on the retreating storm by the shining again of the sun is God’s battle bow laid aside, a token of grace staying the lightning-shafts of wrath.”
II.  The Noahic Covenant and special grace. 

What is grace?  
Remember that all of this took place because of Genesis 6:5-8 “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.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”  
Every rests on this word here “favor.”  There are only two camps when it comes to interpreting this verse.  The foundation of this “favor” rests on either merit or mercy.  It cannot be a mixture of both.  Matt on Sunday just preached from Rom 4:4-5 which says if you earn something-the payment is due to you, but if you don’t earn something and are given it anyway it is a gift.   The law of excluded middle is at play.  Monergists think the foundation is mercy, while Synergists hold to merit.   Monergists, or those who think salvation is entirely of one, being God, will say that this could have been Tom, Dick or Harry.  It didn’t have to be Noah, because Noah was in this fallen race just like Tom, Dick or Harry.  Noah found favor, because God showed it to him sovereignly.  Synergists, or those who think salvation is a cooperative effort between God and man.  They look to the next verse (v. 9) which says “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.”   So Noah found favor because he was righteous and blameless.  The more careful synergists will say that he was righteous because he believed.  Which in one sense is true.  In the ordo salutis  or order of salvation, belief does proceed justification or righteousness. 

However the question still remains for our synergist friends:  is there anything that proceeds that?  They essentially say no.  They say there is an outward call that goes to everybody.  But they nullify the inward call by saying that Christ draws everybody equally.  This is  from their misinterpretation of John 12:32 where Jesus says “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”   Which violates everything else Jesus said in John 6.  So Noah here in Genesis 6,with no special electing grace, put his faith in God.  He out of the 7 billion people on earth was able to “make the clean out of the unclean” Which Job 14:4 says that “no one!” can do that.  This word “favor” in Genesis 6 is the cause of the Noah being saved, and not the effect of Noah’s righteousness.  Grace precedes faith otherwise grace is no longer grace.  Law of identity.   This later group fails to take into account many Biblical texts, one of which was God’s declaration right after the flood in Genesis 8:21  “...the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth.”  It sounds strikingly similar to that of Genesis 6:5 except with one important difference.  Everybody else is already dead.  This charge would rightly be applied to Noah.  He was in the category of only, evil, continually like the rest of mankind.  Ephesians 2:1 says “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.”  Noah was dead.  But it pleased God to make him alive through special grace.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
All other quotes not cited are from O. Palmer Robertson The Christ of the Covenants  Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1980

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