Signed, sealed, delivered

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How can we be sure that we have peace with God and are safe through and from judgement.  Ultimately our assurance and security are found in what the New Testament teaches us about being justified with God (Romans 5:1-2).  However, there are some important clues in the Old Testament pointing towards this.

Read Genesis 9:9-17

God says that he is establishing -in the process of or about to- his covenant with Noah.[1] The covenant will be established both by God’s words declaring it and by a sign that seals and confirms it (v9).  The covenant is with Noah and with the whole of creation (v10).  The covenant amounts to a promise to all creation, because of Noah’s pleasing sacrifice at the end of chapter 8, God will never again use a flood to destroy the earth and wipe out its inhabitants (v11)

The sign or seal of the covenant which confirms it is a rainbow (v12-13). The sign will appear with the rain, a reminder that any storm is not permanent or worldwide.  When the sign appears, God will see it and will remember his promise.  The covenant sign therefore is something visible as a reminder, not just for humanity but for God too (v14-16). With the promises made and the sign provided, the covenant is now established (v17).

What isn’t promised

It’s important when talking about God’s promises that we don’t end up claiming and trusting promises that God hasn’t made.  Here in Genesis 9, God does not promise Noah that he will never send a flood again.  There will be storms and floods but nothing like the worldwide cataclysm that brough total death and destruction.  Nor is God saying that there will never be judgement again. Clearly, Scripture promises a future day of judgement.  The point is that when we see the forces of nature at work in powerfully destructive ways, then we do not need to be anxious.  Even climate change is not something that will bring about total destruction.  We do not need to fall for the doomsday rhetoric of Extinction Rebellion or Greta Thunberg.  However, this does not mean that we can ignore environmental challenges.  Global warming is still destructive and we still have a great responsibility to be good and wise stewards of God’s creation.

God’s covenant with us

Just as Noah could depend upon God’s covenant promise, so too can we. The promise to us is forgiveness from sin and eternal life with God. We sometimes say that this has been “sealed with Christ’s blood.” In other words, the sign of the covenant being established was the death of Jesus.  Just as God looks on the rainbow and remembers his promise to Noah, so too, we sing:

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Charitie Bancroft, Before the throne of God above

[1] The verb form here is a participle. See also Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 194.

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