Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1996
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 2: Buried Truths of Origins
Chapter 6: The Covenant: The Buried Truth of the New World
Lesson 22 – God’s Four-Part Covenant with the New World:
The Parties, a Signing, the Legal Terms, and a Founding Sacrifice
04 Apr 1996
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’re talking about how the pagan mind resents the Christian faith, and in America it’s fashionable for the pagans to hide behind the so-called 1st Amendment, separation of church and state, and there’s an article in the Washington Times, April 3, about DC, the comic strip, and evidently Johnny Hart, whose comic had been running in the LA Times since 1968 has sinned in that he has been running cartoons with religious overtones, and the culmination event came when he had a comic strip for Good Friday, evidently about the suffering Prince and the LA Times refused to print the cartoon for fear it might be offensive. This is how silly this thing gets. Of course we could print quasi pornographic material and it would be perfectly acceptable because nobody cares if it offends the Christians in the community, it’s only when you offend certain other people that it becomes an issue.
The event we are looking at the end of Genesis 8 and 9, so let’s start there and look at what happened after the flood. This constitutes the last event we’ll look at for this part of the series. We will follow this chapter up with 4 appendices, one will be on some interpretive problems in Genesis, the other one will be on biology, biological problems, the third one will be on astrophysics and that sort of thing, the fourth one will be dealing with geological problems, not extensively but just the overall debate, where it’s headed and what some of the issues are.
In Genesis 8:20 after the flood subsides we have an act of worship. “Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” Notice the sequence, you have a sacrifice in verse 20, then in verse 21 “And 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.  While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease”.
Genesis 9:1, “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.  And the fear of you and the terror of you shall be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.  Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.  Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.  And surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast will I require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man.  Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.  And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.  Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying,  Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you,  And with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth.  And I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood; neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.  And God said, This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations;  I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.  And it shall come about, 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 never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.  When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.  And God said to Noah, This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” Then it goes on to describe the sons, etc.
We’re going to look at the covenant. We have the four key events of early Genesis, and these are indeed those which shape everything else that follows in the Bible. You have the creation that deals with the origin of things, the fall that deals with the origin of the evil that appears in creation, you have the flood that is an archetype of God judging sin, and you have the Noahic Covenant which is an archetype of salvation. The Noahic Covenant is the first manifestation of the kingdom of God, and in a sense, in a crude physical way, of security, that the earth has a certain security that is promised by God’s Word, it is ushered in by this act of worship which involves a blood sacrifice, and it encompasses a set of promises.
We want to look at this event from three perspectives. The first way of looking at it is to go to 2 Peter and look at his commentary again because he sets the framework in which this event should be viewed. There’s a certain logical sequence to how biblical writers view history, and what Peter does in this passage is that he says there was an old earth, heavens and earth separated by this flood event. Then there are the heavens and the earth which are now. And then there’s the end of this world, and the ushering in of the eternal state, and there’s complications and complexity in this whole thing, there’s the reign of Christ, the Second Advent, the Millennium, etc. We’re not looking at all that, we’re just telescoping it all for the sake of discussion about the universe into these two points, the reason being that we want to see that there’s an analogy, if we label these events A, B, and C, there’s an analogy that D is to A as C is to B, so that the eternal state becomes the final and ultimate new universe, perfectly secure from any further judgment. Salvation is finished, done, and the original purpose of creation is fulfilled. That’s the final stage, but getting there through the process of history, God looks forward when He designs thing, so the event of Noah and the flood, and what came afterward relative to Noah’s generation, that was salvation.
Think about it for a minute, who passed through the portals of judgment? Who was left at the instant the flood ended? There were eight people, eight and only eight people at that point. Were they all saved? Yes they were. So you have an environment that is totally redeemed. The angelic powers have been put away, I haven’t mentioned them but there are strange things and it gets into very complicated passages of Scripture, it gets into Jude, Peter, Genesis 6, about what strange things were going on prior to the flood. There are some very difficult passages, passages that report that the Bena ha Elohim went in to the daughters of men, and some Christian commentators try to smooth that by saying that the sons of God are godly, because in some cases that terminology tends to be used, but the problem there is usually people who know their Hebrew know that the construction there emphasizes kind, the emphasis is the sons who are divine, over against the women who are human. That’s the sense of the construction.
The question comes, what was happening prior to the flood? Weird offspring occurred in this period of time, and the only thing that I want to say to this, just to kind of stimulate some thinking on your part, is did we at that point in earth’s history have an attempt at what we would now call in our generation genetic engineering, because you have a definite tampering with the gene pool. If angelic beings are manifesting in physical bodies and actually interbreeding with human females, producing these weird, freak offspring, what have we done, what are we doing in that process. It’s not altogether clear. But we have passages in evidence in the New Testament that when Jesus died on the cross and He descended into hell, as the Apostle’s Creed says, that He went to a particular place in hell, and this word is used only for a place in hell, called Tartarus, and when He went to Tartarus it says not that He preached the gospel, it’s not evangelium (evangelium), but it’s kerusso (kerusso), it’s the fact that He made some sort of an announcement. So during the time before Jesus rose from the dead He was busy doing something, and again it’s speculation because we are limited to what the Bible tells us, but in some way Jesus descended into hell, made a certain announcement to spirits that were in that section of hell called Tartarus.
It’s surmised by some theologians and Bible students that what He really was doing there is that He was going down and telling them that not only were they defeated, taking the angels who were confined to hell, the fallen angels in this period of time, the spirits that were disobedient in Noah’s day, taking them as angelic things and not human beings, at Tartarus, that Jesus descended there, announced to them that the salvation had been completed, and that basically they were doomed forever, they had failed to stop the incarnation, no matter how badly they had tried in human history to eradicate … maybe this was a satanic plot to dissolve true humanity, if Satan could do that and really contaminate and mess up the human gene pool, he could stop the incarnation, a clever move. And if that’s really the case of what was going on Genesis 6 it does sort of make sense that Jesus would go and proclaim the victory, he would make a victorious proclamation and announcement to these very spirits that disobeyed in Noah’s time, and try to do this little stunt, sorry guys, I won.
There’s a lot to do with that, and we can’t get into that because all I’m trying to do in this series is go through the basic events and grab the meat of the basics of the Christian faith in such a way that we will never as Christians be tempted to slink away into our little private religious thing and not openly confess the authority of Scripture as the authority in every area of life. That’s what this whole series is about.
I want to start, as I point out in the notes, with 2 Peter 3:7 just how Peter points out that “the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire,” just as the first world, world letter A, this world was somehow tied up with water molecules, in other words water played a massive role in whatever was going on, in this strange past, to our planet. We don’t really know, and when I get into the appendix and we deal with the geology problem we’re going to talk about that a little bit. But there were some strange things going on in the design of this planet prior to the flood, and whatever it was, because in 2 Peter 3:5, where world letter A is talked about, notice the language with which Peter speaks, he says “the heavens that existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water.” So water, as it were, seems to be the original molecules, it seems to be the original substance, and everything else seems to be derivative of water in that situation.
Then it says in verse 7, “But the present heavens … are being reserved for fire,” so whatever the structure of our physical universe, letter B, is, that somehow when the conflagration comes at the end of history it’s going to be in some fiery explosion, the universe is going to dissolve in fire. It’s not going to be a quiet death of darkness and cold; it’s going to be a flashing end, dissolution down to the molecular level apparently in some way. So we’re trotting cosmic things here, this is not just a little local thing happening in the Mesopotamian valley, this is a statement about the whole heavens and the whole earth here, the whole universe, both in verse 5 and 7. That’s Peter’s rendition of this text.
What we want to do is come to the first part of that, go back to Genesis 8 and look at what a covenant is all about, because this is the first time that a covenant is mentioned. Go back to Genesis 9:9 and we will look at this new word, we’ve never seen this word before, because it’s not in the text, it shows up here for the first time. In one sense there’s no mystery to this word, it’s just the word for contract. The word for covenant comes from the word for cut, it was used often, because of the way they signed their contracts, they got real serious about contracts involving oaths, they did what Abraham and God did, where they would cut an animal in half, put half here and half over there and walk between them, and there’s a lot of discussion about the meaning of what that strange process was all about, and many thing that what it was, was what we call self-malediction, in other words, what happened to these cattle happened to me, if I break this covenant, it’s a pretty hairy weight to the signing of these contracts. The covenant idea starts with Noah. This is the first one mentioned in the Bible. Since this is the first time it occurs, we want to think about it.
In the notes, on page 84 I cite Dr. William F. Albright who taught for many years at Johns Hopkins, at the end of the first full paragraph is an extremely important note. You ought to circle it, this is a handy little reference for you; you may need this tool some time in sharing your faith with people because Albright makes a rather stunning observation about the Bible. Let’s look at that quote. “The father of American archeology, William F. Albright, makes a stunning observation, ‘Only the Hebrews, so far as we know, made covenants with their gods or God.’ ” That’s a simple sentence, but let’s talk about it for a minute. Why do you suppose that’s true? Think of it, all the many religions on the earth and the Old Testament, the Bible is the only on where there’s a contract that goes on between God and man! This is stunning. This is absolutely stunning information, and it ought to set off triggers in our thinking about why does the Bible show man and God in covenant, and everywhere else it’s not true.
We’ll start with what are the prerequisites for any contract. Let’s think about an ordinary contract in the real world. Obviously you don’t make contracts with a process; you make contracts with a person. So what does this trigger in our thinking about the implications, why do you suppose the Bible and the Bible alone has God entering into covenant. What would be true of the pagan mind? What does the pagan mind try to do? It tries to destroy the Creator/creature distinction, and when you do that you make God part of the universe, and He becomes one of us, He’s sort of like Dr. God and Mr. Man, and that’s what we are like, we’re just different relatively, but we’re not different absolutely, He just has more of what we have, that’s all. That’s what paganism finally does; it cuts God down to size, cutting Him from an absolute Creator, infinite personal Creator down to a big boy, so to speak, or a superman. When that happens, remember the Enuma Elish epic of what pagan literature looked like and how they conceived creation. Remember the observations we made? We said that there were two features to the pagan doctrines and religions of this time, and it’s still true. One is that the Creator/creature distinction is submerged so God, if He is still around, just becomes sort of like a super person. So instead of being the Creator/ creature He becomes less than that, He becomes part of the Continuity of Being, with God here, angels here, man here, animals here, rocks here, we’re just sort of on a scale.
The second thing we observed when we read that pagan literature of the creation, we said something else happened? Remember that passage where the gods and goddesses were going at it for creation, and we said who’s in charge? I said it’s like a committee without a chairman. So you can’t tell for sure whether next year Marduk is going to be on the throne, or some other god is going to be on the throne, because they’re all competing for the throne, they’re all big boys, they’re all super people. So how do you know which one calls the shots? The pagan mind has a problem with this and to keep itself from falling apart usually what pagan influences do is they revert to another idea that they quickly bring in to save the day, called fate, and fate or the table of destinies comes into play. Whatever it is, as far as making a covenant, is that this party, we’ll call this the God-side of the covenant, is missing or very weak in pagan thought. Either God becomes a process, like He does in modern thinking, in the beginning was gas, either He becomes a process or He becomes so weak that who wants to make a covenant with Him anyway. So right away there’s something to start connecting in your mentality. You want to see this without our faith, there is no God strong enough to make a covenant.
What else do you have to have in order to have a business agreement between two people? Could two people that can’t communicate make a business agreement? Companies are going global now, what’s the problem with that, what’s the big demand now in all these international companies? People who can speak languages, people who can go over there and talk their language. So if you don’t have communication you’re in trouble again. The second thing that paganism lacks is a God that verbally reveals Himself. We haven’t touched much on this, but paganism, while they’ll say they have dreams and visions, etc. they are minus public revelation. For example, there’s no thing that corresponds in any other religion to what went on at Mt. Sinai. No other religion on earth has a God who spoke in a valley of a mountain and one million people heard it. No other religion claims that, Buddha doesn’t claim that, Confucian doesn’t claim that, Daoism doesn’t have that, Hinduism doesn’t have that, no other religion has that, not a talking God, not a publicly talking God, yes, he may show up in a dream or something, but I mean public talking, where you could take a tape recorder and hear Him and click the tape on.
So the Bible relates back to who God is. You have to have a God who is the Creator, who has the power and the authority to enter into covenant agreement, it doesn’t mean anything, and you have to have a God who’s going to talk to you in order to get the agreement. And those are fundamentals of our faith. Those are two things, before we go into the details of the covenant, I don’t want to get submerged into the details of this, part of the discipline of going through this course is so that you will master the great outlines of our faith, the great basics, the great ideas that you can’t compromise, the powerful ideas that collide into the gut of the whole world system. And this is one of those great ideas. The God of Scripture is absolute, He is sovereign, and He publicly speaks. If you don’t have those preconditions, you cannot have a covenant, and this is precisely why the Bible alone has a covenant making and a covenant keeping God.
Let’s go to another part of this great idea of the covenant, the preconditions we could call it. We have number one precondition that He has to have authority, He has to have power; number two precondition is that He has to publicly reveal Himself in order to get terms in the contract. And the third part of this idea is this: why do two businessmen lock into a covenant. Why, when you buy a car, do you sign an agreement? Think about this, because this is the first time in the Bible we see a covenant. We don’t see the word “covenant” with Adam and Eve. You see it with Noah. What was the intervening event between Adam and Noah? The fall. What did the fall introduce? A ruptured relationship.
Why do you have treaties and business agreements? Think of a treaty. What’s the whole deal in Bosnia right now? Why do we have the Air Force constantly monitoring the entire electromagnetic spectrum over Bosnia? Why do we have satellites looking down, reporting every highway junction? What’s going on, how many trucks are moving north on this highway, how many people are camped in this area, etc. What’s going on, I thought we had an agreement. What do you need besides agreement? Monitoring the agreement. What do contracts td then? What’s the whole field in law called contract law all about? It is to verify the faithfulness of the parties. Contracts always involve some form of verification. That’s why you see the term in the Bible, “I am a covenant keeping God.”
Why do you think God Himself would demean Himself, as it were, to enter into a covenant with us? What advantage accrues to God, not to us, what advantage accrues to God by having Himself come in, and He comes up to us and He signs His name on a piece of paper with certain promises. What advantage is that for Him? Think about the argument for the rest of the Old Testament. In prophet after prophet, in the rest of the Old Testament, on into the New what is the issue again and again? Is God faithful to do what He has promised? How do you measure God’s faithfulness? Think of a contract, what does a contract give you that you can use as a tool to measure faithfulness? It gives you promises, it gives you terms, it gives you something to get your hands on as a yardstick to control behavior. So the covenant is an enormously important thing.
This alone, this third part of the great idea, some of you are smart enough to reason this out and see the implication. I wonder how many people have noticed once we introduced this idea of verification what that tells you that the Christian faith has to say about the Bible. If the Bible becomes a record of God’s faithfulness to His contract, what does that say about whether the Bible is errant or inerrant? It compels a doctrine of inerrancy. What does the Bible become? It becomes part of a legal piece of evidence to which the laws of evidence are applied. So the idea of a covenant immediately implies that the Scripture has got to be inerrant. They have to testify.
This also tells you why, when you turn to Matthew, you see the genealogies and go to sleep before you get out of chapter 1. What do you suppose all that stuff is about? Why, when you go through Leviticus and Numbers, the river so and so and all the way over to this, etc. and I’m not a cartographer, what do I want all this stuff for; a land survey … land survey, ah, that’s interesting. Is there a land survey connected to the mortgage on your house in some way? You’d better believe it is. You’re paying taxes on the basis of it. Now why do you suppose those land records are in the Scripture that everybody says oh, they don’t mean anything. What do you mean they don’t mean anything? Aren’t they the records that say that group of people were promised that land and they lived in it and there the boundaries are? So this turns on a vast new light onto the whole testimony of the Old Testament and New Testament.
By the way, what do we call these, the Old and New what? Testaments. Legal documents. Now isn’t it strange that so many Christians …, this was a big discussion back in the 70s, this went on in evangelical circles and I thought what is the problem, we had evangelicals all over the country rethinking the doctrine of inerrancy of the Bible. Excuse me! If the Bible has errors in it, how do I measure covenant performance? I can’t, I’ve got to have a tool here to measure. What happens in a court room, some witness comes in? The opposing lawyer always tries to make a witness look like a dork in the court. This guy can’t remember what he had for lunch, for breakfast, he doesn’t know what clothes he wore yesterday, and you’re telling me you saw so and so bang the car into this other person? Come one, don’t believe this witness. What’s happening? We’re demeaning the witness’s capability of providing valid information. So what do you suppose Satan wants to do to the Bible? Destroy it, because if I can destroy the Bible I have erased the tool that measures God’s faithfulness. No promises, no confirmation, very simple logic. All of that is just by way of preliminary remarks on how powerful this idea of covenant is. It exists in the Bible and the Bible alone, because only the Bible has a God who can make a covenant. It’s very simple. The Bible has to be that inerrant legal document that provides evidence of His faithfulness.
On page 84 I go into the parts of the covenant, and wherever you go in the Bible, you look for these four parts, because I’m going to give an outline and you can follow this outline, not just in Genesis but anywhere in the Bible. The four parts of a covenant: obviously every covenant has parties to the covenant, who is signing on this contract. As you go through the Bible and you see different contracts, the first thing to ask is who’s making this, and who’s signing on the dotted line. Look at the text in Genesis 9:9 and ask the question, who are the parties to this new world covenant. Who’s doing the main making? God is. Verse 9. Who’s establishing the contract? Is Noah establishing the contract? What Noah did is he worshiped God, in Genesis 8:20-22, but Noah’s not making any covenant with God. You don’t see that, he’s not saying God, I’m really not too sure of this deal, I’ll make this paper up and hold it up and you write your signature in it. That’s not the way this goes.
God makes the covenant, and who does He make the covenant with? Look carefully at the fine print, who is included in the Noahic Covenant. “I Myself do establish My covenant with you,” that’s Noah, “and with your descendants after you,” which is the rest of the human race. So the parties to the covenant, God and all present humanity, because all present humanity have the genes of Noah and his sons and daughters-in-law. I’ve established My covenant with you. Does this mean there are believers and unbelievers in the Noahic Covenant? You’d better believe it. This covenant is made with everyone, Christian and non-Christian, it has implications as we’ll see later. I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you.
What else? Genesis 9:10, who else is included in the terms of this agreement: “and with every living creature that is with you,” that comes out of the ark, “the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth.” Notice he’s not making it with all the creation; He’s making it with animals that come out of the ark, those which are saved. So all present humanity, and all animal life that descended from the ark, they came out of the ark. Those are the parties to the agreement. That may be a tip that many of the species that have died out in history are ones who were not on the ark and there are no promises ever made to them for their continued survival on this planet. I’m not saying that for sure but it’s an interesting thought here.
In verse 11, “And I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood,” etc. so it’s quite clear that the parties to the covenant are humans and animals. That should tell us something about how God is concerned about the environment. This is an ecological dimension to the covenant here. It beats Earth Day, hands down. If I were a kid I’d just love Earth Day because I would love to talk about Noah and see how far I could push it.
The second part is: what is the sign of the covenant? This is crucial because in different covenants there are different signs. Communion service has a sign to it, that’s why every communion service we go through the cup and the bread, this is the sign of the covenant, remember Jesus said that, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” That’s another covenant. But that wasn’t the sign of this one. The sign of this one is in verse 12, the rainbow. “I set My bow in the cloud,” the implication is it wasn’t there before, another testimony to the fact that the old earth was a strange place, no rainbows. How do you get no rainbows? There may be some physics behind this because in order to get a rainbow you have to have a raindrop big enough to fall, and it turns out that the raindrop that’s big enough to fall has a big enough diameter to create the optics necessary for light refraction. If you have a small, fine mist it doesn’t make rainbows. You will not see that in a fine drizzle or a fog, you’ll see coronas, you’ll see all other kinds of what we call glories in the atmosphere, but you won’t see that complete refraction over the spectrum. That occurs when and only when you have droplets of certain sizes. So there are some interesting physics about God signing His name with His covenant.
But there’s even something more interesting theologically. Turn to Ezekiel, a very difficult book to interpret. Ezekiel, like Isaiah, sees a great Theophany, a great glorious revelation of God on His throne, and in the last verse of chapter 1 he mentions the bow, and I want you to see where else the rainbow occurs. In Ezekiel 1:28, “As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.” Let’s go to Revelation 4:3, it’s a picture, this time not Ezekiel, but this time the Apostle John, but both Ezekiel and John have this experience of being able to view the very throne of God Himself, and both these guys report that when they had a chance to look at God’s throne they saw the same thing. Revelation 4:3, “And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance,” so it had a shading of green in it.
[blank spot] What has Ezekiel 1 got to do with the signing in the way of covenant? Where is the archetype of the rainbow? Remember back in the creation narrative I said that man was made in the image of God both in body and in spirit, and that caused a little discussion. Then I said that it’s not we should speak of an [can’t understand word] like man, we should really revert and invert that kind of speaking, and speak of ourselves as theomorphs, in that as images of God we are theomorphic. It’s not that God is anthropomorphic; it’s not that He’s patterned after us, we’re patterned after Him, precisely the reverse, we are theomorphs. So in the creation there are analogues to the prior forms that God has.
We could go on and talk about animals, it’s very interesting, angels always show up with animal forms. And you could make the case, and I have to my veterinarian son, just to see what his reaction was, that animals really are designed from angel parts, because the angels preexisted them, apparently in creation, and they have parts that look like bird wings, and eagles, they’re described in terms of animal forms, so the inference you have since they were prior is that that form that we are taught by our pagan teachers that this is just an accidental result of natural selection, that’s not an accidental form. The form of a cat, a mouse, a dog, a bird, is patterned after ideas in the mind of God. And He designed other parts of the universe like those things. Angels were designed like those things. So these forms that we observe are not chance-born forms, they’re not accidental collocations of molecules; they are forms that come out of God’s mind.
What I’m getting at here is that the rainbow is seen at the throne of God. Now it obviously had been there probably forever, because God is forever. Therefore what is the source of the rainbow? Think, do it theologically. Where does the rainbow get its form from? It gets its form from the throne of God. The very optical phenomena that our eyeballs see out in the sky, and the rule to see a rainbow is always put your back to the sun and look, because it’s always going to be 180 degrees away from the sun, on a rainy day. The rainbow is a physical analogue to the glory of God on His throne. That’s why it is a sign given to man and it’s given to all men, everywhere, because God is God of all men everywhere. It’s stunning to think of this.
Next time you see a rainbow it should be a worshipful experience, because when you look at the bow in that cloud you only see pieces of it, usually. A rainbow actually is a circle if you get high enough in an airplane, but you can’t see a circle when you’re on earth so you only see what looks like a hemisphere. So you have just a piece, just a fragment of that bow. But when you think of that, think of what Ezekiel and John the Apostle are reporting. That’s what they saw when they looked at God Himself. So this is His own personal signature that is given into our atmosphere. The atmosphere, as it were, has been branded with His glory. It’s not just an optical phenomenon. You don’t exhaust it by just saying ooh, that’s interesting optics. Where did the optics come from? Why that color? So much for the sign.
God signs His contracts in many stunning ways, and all the ways He signs His signature are glories of Himself. A lot of the books of the Bible can be thought of ultimately as testimonies that harp back to covenants. I’ll give you a quick example of just how crucial this is to understanding parts of the Old Testament. One of the covenants given was the Mosaic Law, the Mosaic Law Covenant. If you do certain things I’m going to do this to you, if you disobey and I’m going to do this, this, and this. Now what’s striking is that you can take the curses of the law in the book of Deuteronomy, make your list of all the curses, then read 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, the history of the prophets, and watch what they’re talking about and make a list. Then take the two lists and put them together. Guess what you find. You find that the prophets are talking about the curses that have come upon the nations, specific terms of that Mosaic Covenant.
It ties together the study of the whole Old Testament, and if you really want to see how this comes out, turn to Isaiah 1 because Isaiah was a prophet that the liberals always like say he was a great social prophet. Yes, he was, but he basically was a lawyer for God, and if you look at Isaiah 1:2, look who he appeals to. That is so little, it’s just a little verse and when you read it, because you’re so interested in everything else you just whip by it and never pay attention to what that clause says. But that’s a stunning clause, “Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the LORD speaks: Sons I have reared and brought up, But they have revolted against Me.  An ox know its owner, and a donkey its master’s manager, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” It’s a lament by God Himself before witnesses.
The stunning thing is, you take the “O heavens and O earth” of verse 2 and go back to Moses in Deuteronomy 28 and 32 and you’ll see that when the covenant was installed the heavens and the earth were to be the witnesses of that covenant. And so when the prophets come centuries later to indict the nation on the basis of that covenant, they go back and they appeal to the witnesses for the courtroom. It’s a legal case. It’s called a reeve proceeding, from the word “lawsuit.” And a lot of passages in the Old Testament are actually more than just complaints, they’re not just a prophet, you know, going like this [shaking his finger] at the people; that’s in there, but the structure of the Old Testament is a harping back to a legal proof of a violation of these terms. These men are not operating in a moral ethical vacuum. They are operating inside a previously written and agreed upon agreement. We’re not worried about Moses’ covenant; I just did that to show you the type.
Let’s look at the terms of the Noahic Covenant. In Genesis 9 He is very clear on the terms, what the terms are, what the terms aren’t. In verse 11 is says not that all flesh shall never be cut off, it says that “all flesh shall never be cut off again by the waters of a flood,” very specific, “neither shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” Two things, the flesh and the earth, so every other weather disaster in history that will ever happen, whether it’s the hurricane tides of Bangladesh or where ever it may be, the Mississippi delta or wherever, there will never ever again be a geological disturbance that violates either of those two terms in verse 11. So these two terms of the covenant establish a geophysical system of verification. If there were ever a geological disturbance that did this, that covenant would be broken. It is meant to be enforced forever, it will never be challenged and nothing can happen that will violate that. There are certain physical problems that we’ll get into, that have stunning implications about the physics of the rest of the universe.
The point is that that covenant cannot be violated, and the terms obviously are quite clear and above board. Let’s see how that carries out. In Isaiah 54 this covenant is referred to as a basis for all other covenants. In other words, if God is faithful geophysically, then God can be faithful spiritually, and again I point out to you the Bible is not talking just about people’s religious experiences. Don’t retreat to that ground. You yield all the external world to the pagans, and then you start talking about religious experiences in your heart as though God doesn’t rule outside of your heart. Wrong. God is a public God. In Isaiah 54:9 look at the logic, this is embedded deep within the prophetic structures of the Old Testament. Verse 8, “In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you, Says the LORD your Redeemer.”
In the Hebrew there are two words for love, and one of them is chesed and it’s that word translated “lovingkindness” and that word is more technical than that, it means faithfulness to a covenant. Example: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy in Hebrew loves girl, that’s one verb. Boy loves girl, boy marries girl, husband loves wife, that word is different, it’s chesed. Why is that? Because there’s a covenant, different word. So there’s a technical term used here in the Old Testament, and again it’s slipped over because people don’t think about what we’re reading, we’re so familiar with it. Wow, wait a minute, the word everlasting lovingkindness is powerful in verse 8 because He says I will forever adhere to My covenants that I have told you about, everlasting, I never will break them. That’s what’s going on here.
Now what does He use as a sign: Verse 9, this is what He’s talking to Israel in Isaiah’s day, “For this is like the days of Noah to me: When I swore that the waters of Noah should not flood the earth again, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, nor will I rebuke you.” The eternal security of Israel is grounded on the verification of the Noahic Covenant. So if this covenant doesn’t hold, we’re in deep trouble.
Let me pause and show you the ridiculousness of the accommodating school of Bible interpretation. These people always want to localize the flood. Don’t you see a problem with this? If the Noahic flood was local, there have been some other local floods, right? What do we do with the whole justification for the Noahic Covenant? It goes down the drain. You can’t have a local flood in the book of Genesis, it’s already been violated. You have to, if you’re gong to interpret the text seriously, you have to hold to a global flood, there’s no way around it. You tear down all the covenants, and this is a typical verse, verse 9, in the Old Testament, where if you tear down one covenant you tear down them all. It’s interesting that Jesus goes back to this, because as He talks about His advent, what does He talk about “as in the days of Noah.” Let’s look at one other place in the Old Testament and then another in the New Testament.
Turn to Psalm 29, this is a praise Psalm of David, but in the Hebrew language there’s one special vocabulary word that is used in this Psalm that cannot never to anything else other than the flood of Noah. In Psalm 29 it starts out with praise, “Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty,” that’s an address to the angels, “Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.  Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name, Worship the LORD in holy array.”  “The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders, The LORD upon many waters.  The voice of the LORD is powerful, the voice of the LORD is majestic.  The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.  And He makes them skip like a calf, Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.  The voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire.  The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.  The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve, and strips the forests bare, and in His temple everything says, ‘Glory!’ ” Now what is the emphasis in verses 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9? The voice of God, the voice of God, the voice of God, the voice of God. What does that tell you? The publicly, revealing, speaking, God of Scripture.
Then it concludes in verse 10, as it moves from worship to exhortation and practical application, because verse 11, “The LORD will give strength to His people, the LORD will bless His people with peace,” is the practical application of the Psalm. In verse 10, “The LORD sat as King at the mabbuwl,” [flood] and this is the word that is used exclusively for the flood of Noah. “Yes the LORD sits as King forever.” If the Lord can control the chaos of the flood, I have full confidence that He will give His strength to His people. See the argument; it goes from the greater to the lesser. If He can globally control and restrain and promise things, then surely He can deal with my problem, He’s got geophysical molecules by the billions that He’s working with, magnetic fields, gravity and everything else, and I’ve got my little pimple here. So that’s the logic of these covenants.
Keep in mind verse 10 and what it tells you about the God of Scripture, and turn to the New Testament, to Mark 4. If God’s characteristic is that He can quell the powers of chaos, what happens in this little incident in the Gospel of Mark? Mark 4:38 it’s Jesus in the boat in the Sea of Galilee. Here’s an example of why if you don’t read the Old Testament you will never understand the New Testament. The New Testament has subtleties to it that are closed completely to anybody ignorant of the Old Testament. You can get a lot out of the New Testament just reading it, I’m not knocking it, but I’m saying that the New Testament is addressed to people who are schooled in the Old Testament. After all, who was it written to first? Jewish Christians. And they knew the Old Testament cold. Now think of the Noahic episode, Psalm 29 and all this.
Mark 4:38, “And Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they awoke Him and said to Him, Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?  And being aroused, He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, Hush, be still.” Look at what happened? “And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.  And He said to them, Why are you so timid? How is it that you have no faith?” Now the rebuke wasn’t that they were supposed to calm the storm. What’s the rebuke? Hey, I’m sleeping, it doesn’t bother Me, boys, that water is not going to do anything because you know who’s here in the boat, the guy that made the promise back there to Noah, that’s Me, those waves aren’t going to do anything in Galilee because I control them. And that’s exactly what the disciples had because look at their reaction in verse 41, “And they became very much afraid and said to one another,” why do you suppose they became very much afraid? As good Jewish guys, do you suppose they had read the story of Noah? They knew exactly.
This is one of those passages where the deity of Jesus Christ is clearly proclaimed if you have the eyes to see it. If you know your Old Testament you know very well what’s going on in this text. It’s subtle, He’s not going to say “I’m Noah’s God” here, it’s much more subtle than that, because Jesus didn’t go around saying that. When Jesus presented His person, the people who looked at this Jewish carpenter and said, wow, this guy is no man, look at what He just did. Remember back in the synagogue when we read the Torah, and we’re talking about who sits on the king of the waters here, did you see what He just did, He stopped them, all He did was speak, the voice … the voice, the voice, the voice, and who sits on the flood? This is one of those neat and exciting passages in the New Testament that assumes … it assumes that we all know the Old.
Last and final section is the founding sacrifice. Every covenant is made with sinful man, and therefore every covenant is grounded on the sacrifice. Obviously in Genesis 8:20 and 22 you have that great act of worship by Noah, you also remember how many of the clean animals did Noah bring aboard the ark, not 2 but 7. Why do you suppose he had more clean animals than unclean? Because he had to use them right away, therefore he had to have a greater supply of these animals that would be used in sacrifice.
So the last point here is that the Lord, notice the word in Genesis 8:21, “And the LORD smelled” that sacrifice, and He was satisfied. There’s another word in the New Testament used for satisfied, it’s called propitiate; propitiation, a big theological term but what it means is God smells. He smells the pleasantness of Noah? The pleasantness of the animals? Probably not, I don’t think the ark smelled too good right about then. God isn’t smelling them; He’s smelling the sacrifice that was given to Him, that’s what makes Him satisfied, not their BO. So we have the sacrifice.
When you look at all covenants in the Bible they have these four elements, and it will help you to line up the study of the Scripture, think it through, wait a minute, where’s the sacrifice here, and you can come to the New Covenant and run this whole scheme through, but it’s throughout the Scripture. We’re going to stop with this exposition of the covenant, and next week we’ll go to the implications of this covenant for nature, and then we’ll deal with the implications of this covenant for man, because we’re dealing with a whole new world here and it’s going to be dealt with in terms of a covenant, or a contract, so we get more and more, as we go on in Genesis, more distinctively biblical, and the elements of the Bible become much more clearly into focus.
What we talked about tonight is a real fundamental piece of the Bible, and this whole idea of covenant is something that’s very powerful, it’s the key to understanding a lot of the Bible, and why we are so adamant in fundamental circles about an inerrant Bible. It shows why liberal theology can’t work, because in liberal theology God never reveals Himself because He can’t, He mumbles but He doesn’t speak, and as long as that’s the case then it’s just playing shadow games with God, then you can’t develop any theology, you don’t have any yardstick to measure behavior, so the whole thing goes down the drain. That’s why this whole part of the Bible is important, you can start to see as you advance into the Old Testament that structures begin to set into place, and they’re never abandoned in the rest of the Bible. None of those creation structures we talked about in Genesis 1 have been changed in the flood, they’ve been hurt by the fall, but they haven’t been changed, they haven’t been eradicated, and as we deal with nature and the implications scientifically for what this covenant means, powerful implications, when we get into man we’re going to see there’s a whole new institution that comes into existence here, and people speculated for years as to the issue of capital punishment, the issue of where did that come from, and that’s a whole institution, that’s civil government, civil authority, it originated not originally, it’s a post-fall institution, and we’ll talk about that institution.
So these are the structures that are always debated socially, you have people in the hippie movement in the 60s it was a big thing, they followed Rousseau, and Rousseau had the idea that what we call sin came about because we got to civilized, we got too involved with contracts, constitutions and this sort of stuff and the solution is to get back to nature, the simple life, etc. And the answer to that is it was all simple before the flood, and it resulted in one of the most violent episodes human history has ever seen. Anarchy doesn’t work, it was an experiment that was tried for 1600 years and failed. So whenever there’s somebody complaining about the government, that the government is sinful, sure it is, it was established after the fall, not before, it was established because of the fall and it’s going to err. But the alternative to civil government is anarchy, and anarchy is what terminated this globe at one point. So there’s no sympathy, God has no sympathy for anarchists, absolutely none. There’s a political philosophy that begins to develop here, what is power all about, what does political power, cultural have to do with it? It starts with Noah. So that’s where we’re headed and you can begin to see these structures and that’s why the Scripture, when looked at this way is really exciting because it applies to every area of life.
Question asked: Clough replies: Depends which pagans, but Rousseau and these other guys, not believing the Bible at all just argue that civil government is arbitrary, and it was an institution that was instituted, perhaps as a mistake, but it’s just fundamentally unnecessary, anarchists believe the government is absolutely unnecessary or they wouldn’t be anarchists. The whole argument of this passage of Scripture is yes, it is necessary. Which would you rather have, a dictatorship or a mob? That’s the ultimate answer, and the answer is of course, a dictatorship, it’s always preferable to a mob. And that’s the result of all this, there is a certain philosophical thing that happens, it doesn’t solve political problems but it just gives you the setting for it.
Question asked: Legally any contract has to be signed by both parties, simply by reading this all I see is God signing off on it and giving it to Noah, saying here’s the contract, I know Noah built an altar but that was before the covenant. So where is man’s part? Clough replies: A very good question, there are two kinds of contracts that God makes with men, there are the unconditional covenants and the conditional ones, and they’re different, because the conditional covenants men sign, they really do, but in these biblical covenants the only parties that sign it are the parties that are making promises. What’s stunning about this covenant is man’s not making any promise. Did you notice what God said to Noah as He was sniffing the sacrifice? It was a very melancholy analysis of humanity, and I love this text because Paul didn’t write it. So often people think it’s just bachelor Paul, he had all kinds of problems in his life or something and he was so depressed that he had this bleak view of the sin nature. If you think Paul had a bleak view of the sin nature, then what do you do about this passage where God is speaking, right at the point where man was worshiping, that’s what’s so stunning about this thing, right in the middle of this worship, Genesis 21:8, “the LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself,” and by the way, if He said it to Himself, how did Noah know that? It was probably revealed later, but it’s interesting that probably at this first point all Noah got was that God was pleased with the sacrifice.
But what God was saying in His heart is “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth;” notice this sentence, “I will never curse the ground again on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth,” that’s a pretty bleak analysis of man. Then He makes the covenant and man doesn’t sign it. I would say the answer is that He doesn’t trust that we can keep the covenant. His analysis of us is that way, it’s spiritually you’re in such bad shape I wouldn’t make a covenant with you because you couldn’t keep it and it wasn’t done in the Old Testament and that was the engagement at Sinai, because there the people did sign on the dotted line, and they were condemned for it every century afterward. So it’s an eloquent theological statement as to who saves who. If it’s us that sign on to a salvation covenant you’re brining in good works, because now you’ve got a performance standard, and there’s no performance standard for Noah here. This is not to say God’s not interested in holiness and righteousness, but He’s holding Himself to the standard, not Noah.
Question asked: Clough replies: The answer to that business of literalness of interpretation is the same as … the people who raise that don’t think too carefully about literature in general. When you read a sonnet by Milton, or you read your newspaper, don’t you know which is to be taken literally and which is to be taken figuratively? You do because it’s inherent to anyone who is a language speaking being that we use metaphors. Daily we use metaphors in illustrations. So figurative speech is always used poetically, and in every day speech, and people who speak and think shouldn’t have too much problem communicating because they themselves use metaphors.
[someone says something else] In terms of the Mosaic Covenant, the answer to that is simple, that the Mosaic Covenant doesn’t apply to the church, the church and Israel are distinct, and Christ was the end of the law. That was the argument that was going on in the book of Acts because the church was expanding, it was largely Jewish, we forget that but the early church was basically Jewish, and Gentiles didn’t come into Christianity until some time later, and as the Gentiles began to come in, in the book of Acts it created big problems, because the early Christians were keeping the Mosaic Law, and remember what happened, Peter and Paul had a little fallout over this issue, because Paul was out there evangelizing and his churches, that he started, though he started them often in a synagogue, became very quickly Gentile dominated churches, and when they did, the Gentiles had no concept of eating kosher meat, hey, what’s the problem with you guys. So the diet created the issue of Acts 15, and you have it clearly stated that it’s no longer an issue, and that God’s grace has come forward, we have the creation of this new thing called the Church, it’s not saying that Jews can’t adhere to it if they wish, but there’s no command any longer once in Christ to adhere to these things. I’ve known Hebrew Christians, several outstanding Hebrew Christians and they grapple with this personally in their own lives. Does the Jewish male have to be circumcised now? Does the Jewish man submit to Passover and the regular Jewish feasts? And a lot of the Hebrew Christians will continue those traditions as cultural vehicles to reach their own communities, their own Jewish community.
Question asked: What about the Ten Commandments? Clough replies: Nine of the 10 commandments are rephrased in the New Testament. [something else asked or said] But when you get those kind of question they are often times, I kind of consider them kind of little nitpicky things, are people really being serious when they ask those kind of questions. If they really are serious then we have to sit down and give them serious answers, but a lot of times they are just trying to put you off about that. But the covenants, the Noahic Covenant is still in force, the Mosaic Covenant isn’t, the Davidic Covenant is, the Palestinian Covenant is, and the Jews are still debating it. There’s a Jewish party in Israel today, this is what this argument about retreat off of the West Bank is all about because there are Jews today who hold that that West Bank, all the way to Jordan, is biblical Israel. And Menachem Begin was the guy that held to that, he was the one that got the Jewish colonies all over there, and now Arafat’s taken over that area, why did he do that? He says this is the land of Israel, God gave it to us and we intend to take it, if they don’t like it, lump it. That’s their attitude. So there’s a whole party in Israel that does that, and then there’s the hyper orthodox party in Israel, the guys with the beards and stuff, and they don’t believe that they can do that, which is significant, until Messiah comes. They’re still waiting on the Messiah and they refuse to support Israel. And in the 1948 War, the Hassidim, the ultra orthodox Jews cited with the Arabs against their fellow Jews. And the reason wasn’t because they loved the Arabs; it was because they felt that no Jew could meet the demand of the Palestinian Covenant, if the Messiah wasn’t there to enforce the covenant. So those questions of the Old Testament have come up again and again.
Question asked: something about do you believe that your child’s unruliness is … let the elders deal with it…:Clough replies: It’s a court proceeding [other people say something] Clough says: I think the answer is you go back to the context of where this thing came from that you’re talking about. If it comes out of the Mosaic Law that was addressed to Israel, not addressed to the church. If it comes out of the New Testament epistles, and the particular one you’re talking about is 1 Corinthians 11, that’s one where the church gets greasy on it, that’s a very difficult passage and good Bible students stumble on that one, and I don’t pretend to know the exegesis of all that one, that’s the one you quoted about the women and the authority, and the question is whether those are hats or whether it’s hair. The whole thing hinges on this, and then if that wasn’t hard enough in 1 Corinthians then you get in the middle of the passage and you have the angels sitting there walking down the aisles during church service, and you go wait a minute, what do with that? So there’s a lot to those things, but I think the basic answer you give is let’s look at the context, let’s turn to the context and see what is being talked about here. And this is a good illustration because that was a quotation out of criminal law proceedings that protected society from raising monsters. If a person hasn’t learned discipline and authority by the time they’re 18 or 19, basically the attitude of the Mosaic Law is get rid of them. It sounds very cruel to us, but if it had been enforced you’d have had a law abiding society.
Next week we’ll work with the implications of the covenant.