Redemptive-Historical Survey: 3 | The Flood & Noahic Covenant (LDBC Recap 2/28/16)

Explanation

logo-lake-drive-baptist-churchOn Sunday, January 24th, 2016, I began a Core Seminar on Redemptive History & Biblical Theology at my church, Lake Drive Baptist Church. During the course of this series I’ll be sending out emails recapping lessons and directing recipients to resources for further study.

Rather than just share these recaps with my church family, I’ve decided to share them here on the blog for anyone else who might be interested. I will be posting them occasionally over the next couple of months on a weekly basis or so.

See previous posts:

Recap/review

This week we covered the flood and the Noahic covenant, noting how this event and God’s dealing with humanity and creation in this event fits into redemptive history. (We also began discussing the Abrahamic Covenant; but since we did not finish our discussion on that topic, we will hold off on recapping that section until we make our way through it completely.)

Overview of Biblical material

As always, we began with an overview of the Biblical material in this stage of redemptive history. This is important because we want to make sure we know what we are talking about before we talk about how it actually fits into the all-encompassing storyline of scripture.

Genesis 6:9-11:2

  • Mankind demonstrates incredible wickedness. Note, for example, the “sons of God” having sinful relations with the “daughters of man” (Gen 6:1-8). Whatever this means, it is clear that this is the final straw.
  • God determined to destroy mankind with a great flood.
  • But Noah found favor in God’s sight. And so God makes a covenant[1] with Noah and saves Noah, his family, and all kinds of animals by instructing Noah to build an ark.
  • God sent the flood and destroyed mankind and the animals.
  • After the flood, God affirms his covenant with creation and humanity through Noah—never again would He destroy His creation by flood. The sign of the covenant (that which points to the promises of the covenant) is a rainbow.[2]
  • But mankind’s sinful story continued with the tower of Babel and God’s punishment of confusing their language and dispersing them over all the earth.

Role within redemptive history

So, what’s the point? What role do these events and interactions play in contributing to redemptive history, the story of God working out his plan of restoring humanity and creation (i.e., the new-creational kingdom as we’ve described it). In short, in the account of the flood, and particularly God’s covenant making with Noah, we see that here God confirms his commitment to his creational-kingdom intent despite humanity’s depravity.

We looked at a variety of dimensions that unpack this and make this clearer.

We see how devastating man’s condition has become

Looking at the state of humanity prior to the flood, we noticed how corrupt humanity has become. We observed Genesis 6:11-12, which states,

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

Yet God is committed to his new-creational kingdom purposes.

We noted specifically Genesis 9:9-11 in which God expresses this commitment in the form of a covenant to Noah, his descendants, and all of creation.

Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth.[3]11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

This is (paradoxically) an incredible expression of unexpected grace. What is remarkable is that, despite mankind’s utter sinfulness and the fallenness of creation, God nonetheless remains committed to his creation. In a sense, we should expect God to have completely wiped out mankind and creation—and then that’d be it! But, in his grace, Noah found favor with God; and God saved Noah, his family, and the animals and commits himself to creation in terms of a covenant.

Furthermore, we should not that this act sets the stage for God’s future restoring purposes as we see them unfolded throughout the rest of redemptive history. This sets the stage for God’s plan of redemption, which begins with Abraham (the next stage of redemptive history). The key here is that before God begins to unfold in greater detail His plan to restore his creation, he first affirms that he is committed to His creation. Thus, the Noahic covenant serves as something like the backbone for the entire rest of scripture’s movement towards restoration. It provides the “box” into which all subsequent covenants fit, the framework in which all the subsequent covenants are administered. As Peter Gentry (Kingdom through Covenant, 175) states,

The unmerited favour and kindness of God in preserving his world in the covenant with Noah creates a firm stage of history where God can work out his plan for recusing his fallen world.

The flood is an act of re-creation; God gives mankind a fresh start.

When we look at the flood account, we notice that the author seems to be purposefully presenting it as something like a re-creation. We noted that there is a reversal of creation (e.g., creation goes back to the watery formless state, and the separation of water and land as seen in Gen 1 is reversed here). We noted that the flood account includes elements that also occurred in the original creation account (e.g., the Spirit/wind hovering over the water [Gen 1] and the command originally given to Adam to be fruitful and multiply [Gen 1) is repeated here and given to Noah [Gen 9:1, 7] who it seems is to be understood as something like a new Adam, the head of new humanity), thus indicating that this is a recreation account of sorts. The creation post-flood is like a restart [for further evidence of the flood as a re-creation, see footnote 4].

The point is, this is something like hitting the restart or reboot button on your computer. You know–when your computer is acting all crazy and you don’t know what else to do, you restart it and it normally fixes the problem. Well, here, creation and humanity is getting a fresh new start. God hits the reboot button, as it were.

The implication then is, although God’s judgment is wrathful, God’s judgment is also gracious, in that by eradicating evil God is giving his creation a fresh start, so to say.

However, as we will soon see, this reboot doesn’t fix the problem. And this is one of the profound things that the flood account teaches us: mankind needs, not merely a fresh start (recreation through flood), but actual restoration. And these promises of restoration come in later covenants, beginning with God’s purposes expressed in the Abrahamic Covenant, but reaching the fullest conclusion in the New Covenant which finally deals with the problem of sin.

In other words, we see that…

Man is still terribly sinful

Notice the parallel descriptions of humanity before and after the flood.

  • Before the flood:

Gen 6:5 – The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

With such wickedness wiped out in the flood, one might expect the problem to be resolved.

  • But after the flood:

Gen 8:21 – And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.

What’s the implications of such a description before as well as after the flood? Humanity’s condition before the flood is the same as humanity’s condition after the flood. The same wickedness that provoked the flood remains among mankind today.

And we see this wickedness exemplified immediately after the flood in the account of the Tower of Babel and the need for God, again, to judge humanity. The rebellion at the Tower of Babel is only an initial expression of what characterizes man post-flood: rebellion.

There may have been a recreation of sorts. But man’s condition is still the same. What is needed, then, is an actual recreation of humanityitself–as we might say in New Testament language: humanity must be born again.

Furthermore, this fact creates a profound tension in redemptive history: The same sinfulness that resulted in God’s judgment still exists after that judgment. Yet now God has expressed his commitment to bringing about his creational-kingdom intent, an intent which he has now formalized and guaranteed in the form of a covenant. Thus, a tension exists—a tension that drives us towards the need to undue the problem of human sin in order to bring about this new-creational kingdom [for further elaboration on this redemptive-historical tension, see footnote 5].

And, so, to close, by way of recapping this lesson and the role of the flood and the Noahic Covenant in redemptive history, the big takeaway here is that God confirms his commitment to his creational-kingdom intent despite humanity’s depravity.

Next week

Next week will will conclude our survey of the Abrahamic Covenant and the promises to the patriarchs and then venture into the role of the Exodus in redemptive history.


Notes

[1] By way of reminder, the simple definition of a covenant: “A binding agreement between two parties involving promises and obligations.”

[2] On the bow as sign—Two notes:

  • First, the word here is bow, as in a weapon of war (note: there is no Hebrew word for “rainbow” actually). “The rainbow, then, is a physical picture that God has ‘laid his weapons down,’ as indicated in the promise, ‘never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ It is interesting that the bow set in the clouds is always aimed or pointed up to the heavens, and never downward at us on the earth.” (Kingdom through Covenant, 170)
  • Second, interestingly, the text doesn’t say, “When you see the bow, remember,” but, “When I see it I’ll remember.” In other words, the sign is Godward. As an illustration, we might think of the the following: “when you look at your wedding ring, I will remember my commitments.”

[3] The fact that God saves even the animals—reinforced by the fact that his covenant promises include the animals–shows that God is committed to his creation as a while, which of course includes his animal creation.

And, again, interestingly, creation’s fate is bound up with man’s (cf. Rom 8). It is destroyed as man is destroyed. And animals are preserved as Noah—the representative man—is preserved.

[4] Parallels that point to a new creation after the flood: (1) creation out of water and chaos (1:2; 7:11-12, 17-24); (2) birds, animals, and creeping things are brought in to swarm upon the earth (1:20-21, 24-25; 8:17-19); (3) God establishes days and seasons (1:14-18; 8:22); (4) animals are commanded to be fruitful and multiply (1:28; 9:1, 7); (6) dominion over the world is reestablished (1:28; 9:2); (7) God provides food for humans (1:29-30; 9:3); (8) human beings are still in the image of God (1:26-27; 9:6) (Schreiner, The King in His Beauty, 14). Kingdom Through Covenant notes further parallels: God’s spirit (1:2) and the wind sent by God (8:1-2); division of the waters (1:6-8) and the re-gathering of the waters (8:2); separation of the waters (1:9) and the dry ground emerging in stages (8:3-5); the sky houses the winged creatures again (1:20-23; 8:6-12); living creatures of sky and land are called into existence (1:24-25) and called out of the ark by God (8:17-19); reappearance of the family bearing the image of God (1:26-28; 8:16,18; 9:6); re-giving of the creation mandate (1:28; 9:1-2) (see also the table on pp. 168 in Kingdom through Covenant by Gentry and Wellum).

[5] An implication of this: “Since we are virtually being told that a deluge would be an appropriate response by God to the sin of any age, mankind has been preserved by grace alone. Until the end of time the continued existence of the created order will thus be grounded simply in the gracious nature of the divine character” (Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation, 26-27). Based on this logic, we can also say that a judgment at least equivalent to (if not greater than) this deluge is due humanity, pointing us to the judgment bearing work of Christ.

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