The Covenant with Creation

July 19, 2020 / No. 4046

This month we have been looking at the truth of the covenant. Concerning Enoch, we read in God’s Word that he walked with God. The covenant is a relationship of fellowship and friendship with God. Concerning Noah, we learned from Genesis 6 that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Yes, the covenant that we talked about is a covenant of grace.

Today, we will see that God establishes His covenant with Noah and his sons with him. And there is more. We read in Genesis 9:8 ff., “And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.”

We have one covenant of God. It is the covenant of grace. Some think that there are several different covenants, for example, with Noah, with Abraham, with David, with Israel. No, there is one covenant of God—the covenant of grace. But there is a development of the covenant. So, what is described to us here in Genesis 9? Why is it with all creatures? And what is the token of this covenant?

Notice, first of all, it is a covenant with Noah and his family. Now there are some who compare Noah with Adam,and they would see him as the father of all humankind. Therefore they say that this covenant is with all humankind. But that is obviously not true. First of all, Noah, in Scripture, is nowhere called or likened to the head of the human race. Adam was the head of the human race. He fell. Second, we saw that God’s grace was not with all humankind. In fact, in Genesis 6:5-8 we read: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” God was grieved. God was angry. And God destroyed the human race. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

The covenant was established with Noah and his family in distinction from the rest of humankind. The covenant was with Noah and his family, his seed, but not all his seed. Where do I find that? At the very end of Genesis 9, Noah, through the way of his sin, speaks a prophecy. That means he spoke God’s word concerning the future and his seed. There Noah blessed Shem. And Japheth would enter into the tents of Shem. But Noah cursed Canaan, the fourth son of Noah’s son Ham. You remember that story, do you not? Ham revealed his wickedness and his hatred of his father. Finding Noah drunk and unclothed, he calls for his brothers to join him in mocking their godly father. Noah was a righteous man. Oh yes, he was still a sinner. He was involved in a serious sin—alcoholism is a sin. He is like all of us. While Ham was organically in the church, he was not of the church. In other words, he is a hypocrite, a reprobate. His son Canaan is like his father, only further developed in sin. Canaan is cursed. Notice, it is not Noah in his wrath, but it is God, speaking through Noah, about Canaan and all of his seed.

So the covenant is not with all of Noah’s seed, head for head. God’s covenant is particular. That means that the covenant is only with those whom He loves, whom He has chosen. We read in Psalm 5:5, “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” Or again, in Psalm 11:5: “The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.” So, it is only the elect in Christ Jesus that are in the covenant. God told Noah to build an ark, and God saved his house.

We read in Genesis 8:1, “And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark.” And again, in Genesis 9:1, “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth.” So, God’s covenant is not just with Noah and his seed in the line of generations. They are the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15, but how do we understand Noah’s seed? As I said, not each and every one of them head for head. Does the Bible justify that? In Genesis 3:15, when God makes that promise of salvation, not all descendants of Adam were God’s children. The seed of the serpent also came out of Eve. In Galatians 3:16, we find the answer: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” Christ is that spiritual seed. And all those who believe in Jesus Christ are children of God. Seeds never mean that God shows grace and love to every child in a believer’s family. God’s covenant and God’s grace are particular. It is the one and same covenant, a bond of friendship with God, in Christ Jesus. God establishes His covenant sovereignly, unilaterally. Notice He says, “I will establish My covenant.” We will hear more about the certainty of God’s covenant in our next message.

Let me move on.

If God’s covenant is not with everyone, if God’s grace is not for everyone, why, why does our text include verse 10, where we read: “And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.” The unique feature, the development of the covenant that we find in our text, is that it was with all creation. Why is that? When God created, Adam was made the king of creation as God’s servant and friend. With the fall of Adam, creation fell and suffered all the effects of the Fall. Creation was cursed. Creation was corrupted. Bondage and suffering entered into the creation. Animals started dying. There was no death before the Fall. There came disharmony in creation. What is, at times, good could also be evil, that is, the water that quenches the thirst of the land and of humankind now came and drowned every living thing. The sun that gives life and heat will also burn up the land in a famine, so that during the time of king Ahab we read that the sky was like bronze and the earth became as iron. Thistles and thorns flourished. Humankind, no longer friends with God, do not rule creation. Creation will not submit to man’s rule over it.

Imagine what creation looked like after the Flood! Everything—wiped out! Plants, fertile fields, all destroyed. How are Noah and his family going to be fruitful and multiply? How are they going to replenish the earth? And imagine, if clouds begin to form and rain begins to fall, which had never happened before the Flood, how could Noah and his family be sure that it was not the beginning of another worldwide Flood? In God’s particular covenant with Noah and his family, God’s covenant will include creation. Yes, it is a creation that bears the effects of sin. But God is going to preserve that creation until one day when He will renew that creation. When His purpose with earth is finished, then He will bring a renewal—a new heavens and a new earth. We read in verse 11 of Genesis 9, “And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.”

God’s purpose we find in other places of Scripture, such as Romans 8, and especially the book of Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. God’s purpose is to raise the creation to a level far above their original. A new heavens, a new earth, renewed, where there will be the fullest harmony realized.

That is now promised. After the Flood, it is the same creation but, by the Flood, there was a renewing and a cleansing of the earth. At the end of the world, it will be the whole universe. Any boy and girl who has had geography knows from the globe that the continents were all one before the Flood. Now they are divided. Mountains were formed. There were glaciers. The curse of the earth was removed. Why was that? Because the world serves the church. This is where the church must live. This is where the church must reproduce. This is where the church finds their food and their employment. As the creation fell with man, so also it is delivered or it is raised up with him. The curse was lifted.

Now, this is important. It is for our sake. It is not for the sake of mankind in general. God has a covenant with creation for the sake of His people. The covenant is cosmic in its embrace. Not only at the end of the world, when Jesus comes again, will it be renewed, but now already. Man cannot exist without the earth. God’s covenant cannot be established, maintained, and realized without a stage on which this takes place. God’s covenant people must have a place to develop, to bring forth the covenant generations, a place where eventually the great Seed, Christ Jesus, would be born, live, and die. It must have a place where the church grows and is gathered, as we read from Noah’s blessing. Even Japheth will enter into the tents of Shem. That is you and me. God assures His people of earth’s continuous existence. He promises that there will be no more worldwide Flood. He promises that there will be seedtime and harvest. He lifts the curse from the ground. The earth and its fullness are for the sake of God’s people, so that they may replenish the earth, so they may bring forth the seed of the covenant, so they may sow their grain and reap their crops.

Oh, it is not as though this earth is our final home. We are not here to heap up earthly treasures. But all things are ours for the sake of God’s kingdom, in the hope of the new creation. Did Noah and his seed believe this? Can they trust this promise? Can you and I?

As a sign and a pledge of this covenant, in its cosmic embrace, God gives the rainbow. After the Flood, God says, “I do set my bow in the cloud” (v. 13). There is a sign in creation itself. Yes, it appears only when it rains. Noah might worry when the rains start dropping from the sky—is this another worldwide cleansing? When the sun is shining, we look the opposite way of the sun. The bow is set there in the clouds. It appears through the rain. The cloud is God’s wrath, breaking through the Flood. God’s grace and light breaking through His destroying wrath—a rainbow. How appropriate. In the rainbow there are seven colors and, as many of you have learned in Sunday School or catechism, seven is the number of God’s covenant. And the span of the rainbow—God’s covenant is all-embracing and universal. The whole creation is included in God’s covenant of grace. One day the creation will be delivered from the bondage of corruption.

Look at that rainbow. It is seen in the sky by all but, sadly, explained away by many. God’s people look and have comfort and assurance. But it is not God’s people alone that see the rainbow, for we read in verse 16 that God sees the rainbow. We read: “I will look upon it…I will remember the everlasting covenant…I will not forget My promise.” What a seal is given to us! God will be faithful to us in our generations. In the rainbow we have a sign and a seal for believers. God’s purpose of creation will continue until Jesus comes again. God’s people develop here in the world. We have our children, we live here, we move here. God is gathering His church. Truly we may say with the hymn writer: “This is my Father’s world.” We can also say with the hymn writer: “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father.”

Let us pray.

Father in heaven, we thank Thee for Thy covenant of grace that embraces not only us as believers and our children in their generations, but the whole creation given to us so that we may serve Thee; that we may develop, that we may gather Thy people from all the nations of the world. We are thankful for the comfort of the rainbow—Thy promise that Thou art faithful to us. Hear our prayer, receive our thanks, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.