The story of Noah
is about the making of a covenant...a
between God and humanity.
It is a story full of drama with God angry at the wickedness of his creatures...and Noah's ark riding the waves for more than a month.
And because the story is so dramatic...we must look carefully in the text for the elements that make up the real point of the story which is...the covenant with Noah.
There is God full of regret that he made humans...because they thought only of doing evil (Gn 6:5ff).
God is so distraught that he plans to wipe mankind...and all the rest of his creation...from the face of the earth...in a massive flood.
However...God's disgust is melted...and his hand stayed...because he would also be destroying Noah...a good and blameless man...who walked with God.
By inviting Noah to contract with him...God will try again to salvage his creation and his relationship with humanity.
Now most people know that God saved a reproducing pair of all the animals on earth (including pesky mosquitos!). He designed an ark for Noah to build...where they all would survive the flood he was determined to send to punish his creation.
Well...Noah survives with his family and companions.
The new covenant with Noah (Gn 9:1ff) is like all other covenants or contracts.
The benefits...or contents...of the various covenants change...but their formal elements remain the same. They are the same strict conditions that make up modern civil contracts.
Just as with Adam and Eve...and later with Abraham and Moses and David and all the others...the covenant has the strict elements of all contracts.
In the story of Noah...the benefit to God was for Noah to be fertile and repopulate the earth...hopefully with good human beings like himself.
The benefits to Noah were generous and sweeping...
But these benefits are conditional.
All contracts have conditions...strings attached...to the benefits received.
God may love us profoundly and be profoundly grieved when that love is mocked by ingratitude and evildoing...as we see at the beginning of the story of Noah.
But even Noah...favored by God out of all creation...does not get benefits as mere gifts. There are strings attached to benefits in all covenants and contracts...right down to modern day credit card contracts.
The conditions are just as sweeping that God attaches to the generous benefits he awards Noah.
Just as Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from a certain tree...the conditions in the story of Noah (Gn 9:4ff) are...
God warns Noah sternly that he will demand a strict accounting from him to see that he complies with these conditions.
Then he tells him what the penalty will be if Noah defaults.
If anyone sheds the blood of man...by man will his blood be shed.
Having made himself clear to Noah...God then reiterates the benefits he has bestowed.
Then God signs the covenant with Noah by placing a rainbow in the sky as a symbol to the ages of those promises.
Those who maintain that God loves his human creatures unconditionally have failed to heed the conditions...the strings God attaches...to the benefits and advantages he gives us with such generosity.
The covenant...made up of benefits (or graces)...conditions...and penalties...is the form that God uses to close the gap that Aristotle said exists between God and humanity.
God binds himself to act in certain ways under a covenant just as much as he binds his humans.
There is no penalty that humans can apply to God...because God is true to his covenants...to his word...even if it means enforcing the penalty clause against those he loves...as he did with Adam and Eve and with Moses.
From the story of Noah you can return to the covenant page.
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