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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Genesis 9

 

 

Verses 12-16

DISCOURSE: 17

GOD’S COVENANT WITH NOAH

Genesis 9:12-16. And God said, This is the token of the Covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: and I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud, and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

MAN has no claim whatever upon his God, any more than a vessel has upon the potter who formed it. He is indebted to God for the existence which he has, and depends altogether on his will for the continuance of that existence. But God has been pleased to lay himself under voluntary engagements with his creatures, in order that they may know how gracious he is, and be encouraged to serve him with more lively gratitude. When he had formed man at the first, he entered into a covenant with him to bestow on him blessings to which he could not otherwise have been entitled. And after that the extreme wickedness of the world had provoked him to destroy it, he vouchsafed to make another covenant with Noah, whom he had preserved in the ark. He knew that the severe judgment which he had inflicted on the human race would, for a time at least, strike terror into succeeding generations, and perhaps deter them from cultivating the earth. He therefore gave to Noah an assurance that he would never again destroy all his creatures with a flood; and confirmed this promise by a covenant and an oath.

It will be instructive to mark,

I. The peculiarities of this covenant—

In many things it differs very widely from any other covenant that God has ever entered into. Its peculiarity is visible,

1. In the parties with whom it was made—

[The covenant made with Adam, included him and his posterity. That with Abraham, extended only to him and his believing Seed. That with Moses, was limited to the Jewish nation. But the covenant with Noah comprehended the whole creation: it embraced the beasts of the field, as well as the human race: every living creature, not excepting the meanest reptile, was interested in it.]

2. In the blessings which it promised—

[All other covenants held forth spiritual and eternal blessings to those who were admitted into them. Even the Mosaic covenant, which dwelt so much upon the enjoyment of the promised land, can by no means be considered as confining the prospects of the Jews to temporal happiness: for the presence of God amongst them was very distinctly promised them, together with the special manifestations of his love and favour: and the very land itself was regarded as typical of a better rest, which they were hereafter to receive. But the covenant made with Noah, promised only that the earth should not any more be destroyed by a flood. It engaged indeed that there should be a constant succession of the seasons till the end of time: but it gave no intimation whatever of spiritual mercies. Being made with the whole creation of beasts as well as men, it promised only such blessings as all the creation could partake of.]

3. In the seal with which it was confirmed—

[Every covenant has a seal affixed to it, as a pledge of its accomplishment. The Adamic covenant was confirmed by the tree of life; the Abrahamic, by circumcision; the Christian, by baptism. In each the seal was significant, either of duties undertaken, or of benefits conferred. But the seal that was chosen for the covenant with Noah, was very peculiar. It was the rainbow. Whenever a rainbow appears, it is a sign that there is rain at that very moment descending on the earth; (for a rainbow is nothing more than the rays of the sun reflected from the drops that fall): consequently, it is in itself rather a ground for apprehending that another deluge may come. Yet God was pleased to appoint that as a token and pledge, that he never will deluge the earth again: he has chosen that, I say, which is an intimation of our danger, to be his pledge for our security.]

Without insisting any longer on these subordinate matters, we proceed to notice,

II. Wherein it accords with the Christian covenant—

There certainly are some striking features in this covenant, which, if not intended absolutely to typify the Christian covenant, are at least well calculated to draw our attention to it.

1. It was founded upon a sacrifice—

[This is particularly deserving of notice. As soon as Noah had come out from the ark, he built an altar, and offered sacrifices upon it. These sacrifices were to God “an odour of a sweet smell:” yea, so acceptable were they to him, that he immediately “said in his heart, I will not curse the ground any more for man’s sake [Note: Genesis 8:20-22.].” Can we refrain from acknowledging the correspondence which this bears with the covenant of grace? The hopes which God has been pleased to give us of deliverance from the curses of his law, are altogether founded on that great sacrifice which was once offered on the cross. The covenant indeed was made thousands of years before our blessed Saviour became incarnate: but he was, in the divine intention and purpose, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” From the moment he undertook our cause, he engaged to “make his soul an offering for sin [Note: Isaiah 53:10-12.]:” and it was on that ground that he was to have a people given to him for “a purchased possession [Note: Ephesians 1:14.].”

Let us never forget this glorious truth; “Our curse was removed by Christ being made a curse for us [Note: Galatians 3:13.]:” Our reconciliation with God was effected solely by the blood of his cross [Note: Colossians 1:20.]: God smelled the sweet savour of his sacrifice [Note: Ephesians 5:2.], and determined that all who came to him through Christ should find acceptance with him; and that “through the blood of the everlasting covenant” he would be a God of peace unto them [Note: Hebrews 13:20-21.].]

2. It embraced all, without any respect to their moral character—

[In the passage before cited [Note: Genesis 8:20-22.] God declares that “he would not anymore curse the earth, though [Note: The marginal version is “though;” and it is certainly preferable to the word “for,” which stands in the text.] the imagination of man’s heart was evil from his youth.” It was not on account of the merits of mankind that God made that covenant with Noah, nor would he withhold the blessings of it on account of their demerits: yea, though he foresaw that men would still be naturally and universally prone to evil, he voluntarily entered into this covenant, in order that he might display his own grace and mercy towards them. And what did God find in our fallen race that could induce him to enter into covenant with his Son on their behalf? Had he respect to any merit of theirs; or was he prevented by what he foresaw in reference to their demerit? Had he, in short, any other view than that of displaying “the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus?” The parallel in this respect is exact. There is indeed a point connected with this, which forms rather a contrast than a parallel: and we the rather specify it, because the mention of it is necessary to guard against all misconception of our meaning. The covenant made with Noah not only extended its benefits to the ungodly, but left them still as ungodly as ever: whereas the covenant of grace makes provision for the change of men’s characters [Note: Jeremiah 31:33.]: it offers indeed all its blessings to the most unworthy; but when they embrace it, they are made partakers of a new and divine nature [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.], which secures the gradual renovation of their souls after the image of their God. “Sin is no longer suffered to have dominion over them, because they are not under the law, but under grace [Note: Romans 6:14.].” Nevertheless, we repeat it, the Christian covenant includes none on account of their superior goodness, nor rejects any on account of their more atrocious sinfulness; but embraces all who will accept its benefits, and imparts salvation to them freely “without money and without price.”]

3. It was immutable and everlasting—

[It is above four thousand years since the covenant was given to Noah; and no part of it has ever yet failed. There have been partial inundations, and partial suspensions of fruitful seasons: but at no period, from the deluge to this hour, has any thing occurred like the desolation that was inflicted in the days of Noah. And we may rest assured, that the revolutions of night and day, summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, will continue till the day of judgment, when the earth, and all that is therein, shall be destroyed by fire. And can we not affirm the same respecting the covenant of grace? Is not that “ordered in all things and sure?” We are told that “God, in order to shew the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to Christ for refuge, might have strong consolation [Note: Hebrews 6:17-18,]:” And when did He ever violate his solemn engagements? Who that ever sought to lay hold on this covenant, was rejected? Who that firmly trusted in it ever found it to fail him in any one particular? We challenge the whole world to produce a single instance, wherein “God has ever broken his covenant, or altered the thing that had gone out of his lips [Note: Psalms 89:34.].” The comparison between the two covenants in this particular is not forced or fanciful; it is suggested by God himself; who assures us that the covenant of his grace and peace shall be more immovable than rocks or mountains, yea, as unalterable as the covenant which he made with Noah [Note: Isaiah 54:8-10.].]

We will close the subject with two suitable reflections:

1. What reason have we to admire the forbearance of God!

[The continuance of the world, considering the state of its inhabitants, is a most astonishing proof of God’s mercy and forbearance. Let us only look around, and see whether mankind be not almost universally living as they did before the flood: “they were then eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage,” and regardless of the warnings of God’s righteous Monitor. And this is precisely our state: yet God has spared us, instead of inflicting on us the judgments we have deserved. He has even sent us “fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” What reason then have we to bless and magnify his name! But let us rather turn our eyes inward, and see what reason God has had to make us monuments of his vengeance. Let us contemplate how many of our fellow-creatures are at this moment suffering the just desert of their deeds, while we continue upon mercy’s ground, and have all the offers of salvation still sounding in our ears. Let us “account this long-suffering of God to be salvation:” let us “seek him while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near.”]

2. What encouragement have we to seek his grace!

[Without ever once adverting to it in our minds, we are at this moment enjoying the benefits of the covenant made with Noah: and, notwithstanding all our unworthiness, we are yet daily invited to embrace that better covenant, the covenant of grace. What shall we do then? Shall we continue regardless of God’s mercies, till our day of grace is irrevocably past? O let us “not despise the riches of his patience and long-suffering and forbearance; but let his goodness lead us to repentance.” Let us “not receive such stupendous grace in vain.” Let us intreat him to “look upon the face of his anointed,” as he looks continually upon the rainbow; and for the sake of Jesus to pity and pardon us. Then shall we find favour in his sight, and be delivered from the desolations, which must at last come upon the unbelieving world.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 9:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/genesis-9.html. 1832.

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