Obedient hope

There used to be a saying that someone was too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use. I’m increasingly sure that the assessment is the wrong way round. It is as we become more aware of the hope of heaven that we become more useful here. It’s because we are looking forward to that day when we are with Jesus, more and more that our investment and enjoyment in time now becomes more not less important.

Read Genesis 6:9-22

We are now introduced to a new period in history involving the generational line of Noah. The focus has shifted from the consequences of Adam’s relationship with God, to how God’s dealings with a new man will affect those who follow.  We might see the marker “These are the generations” as indicating a new beginning. If you like, Noah, Abraham and so on are new or alternative Adams.

Noah is characterised as both righteous and blameless. The former describes his relationship to and status before God as “right with” whilst the latter tells us something more about his moral character,  Note, that it is a relative evaluation.  Noah is blameless in comparison to his compatriots.[1] He is not without sin, though the word has the idea of being free from defect and is used to describe sacrificial animals.[2] We may describe him as wholesome. [3]  Noah has three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth, this might be seen to echo the three named sons of Adam and Eve (v9-10).

In contrast to Noah’s character and status as well as to its pre-Fall state, the earth is described as corrupt and full of evil, it is contaminated and polluted (v11-12). God chooses to speak with Noah and to share his purposes with him. He tells him that he is planning to send cataclysmic destruction upon his creation (v13).[4] God however intends to save Noah along with his family and some of the animals. So her instructs him to build an “ark” or boat/barge because the nature of judgement will be a flood that will affect all creation (v14-17)

God now announces his plan to establish a covenant with Noah.  This is the first time in Scripture that the word “covenant” is used. For this reason, although many refer to an implied covenant of works with Noah, I prefer to count this as the first true example of God’s covenants.  The covenant will be for Noah and his offspring. It confirms that God’s purpose for Noah goes beyond the Flood. Therefore, included in God’s salvation plan are Noah’s family (v18). It is also in the basis of this covenant promise that Noah is to act. If God has made promises of blessing and mercy fort Noah that reach beyond the cataclysm then this means that the creation mandate to fill and subdue will still apply to him.  Noah will still have responsibility for the care of creation and so, he is to populate the ark with the creatures that will then repopulate the earth.  The ark can be seen as a miniature creation (v19-21). Noah obeys God completely (v22).

Because of the promise …

I am particularly struck by the way in which the instructions to Noah about his family, the living creatures and provision are tied into the promise of a covenant, just as in Genesis 2, we saw the close proximity of God’s command to Adam concerning the Tree and the provision of a helper in Eve. Noah can obey God’s instructions as he plans for the coming judgement because God has given him sure and certain hope that he will know life in its fulness on the other side.

We too have a certain hope. God promises us that there is life to come, not just on the other side of present troubles but on the other side of death.  This is first, the basis for responding to the Gospel and finding life in the saviour. It also gives us a basis for obedient, godly living now as we store up treasure in heaven.

[1] Some translations e.g. ESV use the word “generation” here and at the beginning of the verse “These are the generations”.  Genesis in fact uses two words here which helps us distinguish between “generation” as family line/history and generation as “contemporaries.”

[2] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 277.

[3] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 277.

[4] C.f. Genesis 18:16-26. Compare the similarities here with God’s decision to tell Abraham of his plans for Sodom.  As in that case, God has a rescue plan in place for his people.  However, there are differences. Specifically, Noah does not seek to bargain God down, perhaps partly because unlike in Genesis 18, God has already made his final evaluation here and partly because in Genesis 18, God speaks for the righteous man, Lot, whereas here, the one righteous person is Noah himself. The comparison between Noah and Lot may help us to see why 2 Peter 2:7 describes Lot as righteous. The focus is on God’s choice to save his people from destruction.

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