Genesis 8-9: The Persevering & Preserving Grace of God

Genesis 8-9 are stunning demonstrations of the grace of God in the face of man’s sin.

Preservation.  The Lord promises stability (e.g. 8:22; 9:8-17) for a world that hasn’t earned it, thus providing an opportunity for His redemptive purposes to reach full flower, to ripen.  Man’s sin will not defeat the promise of a Redeemer in Genesis 3:15.

Incompleteness.  God’s promise of stability for the world is in the face of, but not a remedy for, man’s sinfulness.  The Lord’s covenant through Noah does not solve the problem of man’s sin.   In fact, the Lord’s perspective on human sin is the same before & after the Flood.  The central problem of history remains the same:  the heart of man.

Before the Flood (Genesis 6:5).   “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the                 thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

After the Flood (Genesis 8:21).  “The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.”

What makes 8:21 even more compelling is that, although 6:5 is a statement about the entire earth, 8:21—coming as it does right after the flood—is not predictive, but, by definition, descriptive only of Noah & his family!  Noah and his family still carry the legacy of Adam.  That cursed chain hasn’t yet been broken.

Weakness & failure of the Mediator—Noah.  Noah’s weakness is depicted even more graphically in 9:20—22, immediately after the covenant.  Noah does not, cannot, live up to the promise of his name (5:29—rest from the curse).  Noah’s sin demonstrates that he is not the promised Seed of Genesis 3:15.  In Noah, the seed of the woman is preserved through God’s judgment, but, despite all his promise & his vital role, he proves that he himself is not that Redeemer.  One greater than Noah must come!

Questions Raised by Noah’s Story

What must God be like to make such a covenant—benefiting all of creation—unilaterally, in full view of man’s sin-ravaged nature (so ravaged & corrupt that even living through the Flood—watching God’s judgment through the window—isn’t enough to reform man’s heart—Noah and Ham)?!

How patient must He be?  How slow to angerHow merciful must He be?  How faithful to His promises must He be?  How broad & wide must the intention of His saving grace be that He would preserve the entire earth?  How eager must He be to show His love to sinners that He would preserve a remnant out of His just judgment? The answers to each of these questions is found in Jesus Christ.

Answers Given Through Jesus Christ, the Promised Seed of Genesis 3:15.

In Jesus Christ, God gives the world a Mediator greater than Noah.  In Jesus, God gives the world a judgment-bearing Mediator who is righteous.  The rest does not come in Noah, but through  him (cf. Luke 3:36).  We need a mediator who would survive God’s judgment against sin, not by escaping it while others perish under it, but by bearing, absorbing, and exhausting it—by becoming that sin—so that others would be spared.

How gracious is this God?  How patient?  How loving toward sinners, those who’ve set themselves against Him?  Look to the Cross!  He gave His Son, to stand in our place, for our sakes, to be the lightning rod for His judgment, to open the floodgates, and to empty the heavens of every last trace—down to the final drop—of His wrath against the sins of His people.  He gave His Son!

We live in the age of opportunity–Matthew 13:24—30. The Lord’s parable of the tares among the wheat resembles His covenant with Noah.  In the parable, the Landowner is fully aware of the tares (vv. 28—30), and that they represent/embody enmity to his purposes, that they constitute violent personal opposition to him.  Yet, what does he do with this accurate knowledge (cf. Genesis 6:5, 8:21)?  He suspends execution of his final judgment for a season so that the wheat may grow and reach maturity (v.29).  In other words, his highest governing value is to create a context of stability for growth in which as much wheat as possible can come to full maturity.

His gracious patience—even though it creates an ambiguous overlap—nonetheless preserves the opportunity for the “sons of the kingdom” to multiply.


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