Summary: God’s promises deliver his people from despair and empower faithful living.
Lest we suspect that God is like Santa, winking at sin and hoping we will be more nice than naughty, the Bible records the catastrophic and world-wide flood in the days of Noah – God’s judgment on the rampant violence and wickedness which characterized mankind. That gruesome tale sometimes shocks modern sensibilities; we prefer our deities calm and detached. God, however, is passionate and involved.
So what is next? God mercifully spares eight lives, but where will they obtain the courage to begin again? What do you do the day after judgment?
To protect Noah and his descendants from despair, God gives precious and very great promises. The beginning of covenant promises is our topic; I will take up God’s word with Genesis 8.20, and read through chapter 9, verse 17.
[Read Genesis 8.20-9.17. Pray.]
When Rebekah was very little, she occasionally woke during the night, fearful from a bad dream. Suddenly I would hear the alarm piercing the previous silence: “DADDY!”
I jumped out of bed, rushed in my little girl’s room, and said, “Daddy’s here; what’s wrong?”
“Daddy, I had a terrible dream; I dreamed our house was blown down in a storm.”
I took little Rebekah in my arms and said those perfectly soothing words, “Don’t worry little one; daddy’s here. It will be OK. I promise.” Simple words, really, but when the one making the promise is trustworthy, they are all she needed. A few moments later, she rests assured and returns to sleep.
In the year 2000, I did not have any computer problems, but I did travel to Turkey on a “mission” trip of sorts. While there, we drove through parts of that country devastated by the earthquake of 1999. In certain places, every street was piled high with rubble which a month earlier were homes. In God’s providence, that disaster presented a unique opportunity to show the love of Jesus. Our denomination collected about $250,000.00 and sent it through our missionaries and church planters to rebuild a community. We went in and said, “I know you are hurt, but help is coming. We will make it better; we promise.” Simple words, really, but by proving them with love in action, trust is built. People who never before met a Christian were opened to hearing about Jesus.
In “Bible-speak,” we call the place in which we live, “a fallen world.” We are saying that sin abounds, and with it, misery and suffering. Some are able to hold off the effects, at least for a while, by insulating themselves and their families. Others may deaden their ability to feel the pain by immersing themselves in pleasures. But neither insulation or immersion allows anyone to escape forever. When you face a terrible reminder that the fallen world cannot provide comfort and satisfaction for which your soul longs, what will you do? How do you repel fear, find hope, and remain motivated?
Noah spent over a year packed in a boat with the seed of the entire new world. And when the doors finally come off, he sees… complete destruction. Maybe you remember the tsunami of 2004, the five year anniversary of which is in a couple of weeks? Though it was one of the worst water disasters ever recorded, its devastation pales when compared to this flood. Noah woke, and the disaster was not a dream.
So he does what all trusting children do: he calls for his daddy. Noah calls on God, and God answers. The Father in heaven assures as only he can, “It will be OK my child. I know you hurt now, but I will make it better. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. I promise.” Simple words, really, but when the one making the promise is trustworthy, it is all we need.
When God promises, he calls it a covenant, and the Bible tells us that God is the covenant keeper. In other words, whatever he says he will do, he does. And as a result, his people act in faith on those promises.
For example, Hebrews 13.5 tells us that God “will never leave you nor forsake you.” Verse 6 then responds: “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.’” God promise, and we respond in faith, because he who promised is faithful. The Bible repeats this pattern frequently: God promises, God’s people act because they know he who promised is faithful. And it begins right here with Noah. Five truths about the covenant promises of God.
1. God’s Covenant Promises Give Hope to Displace Despair (Genesis 8.20)
If we consider what life must have been like in the ark, we will understand Noah’s need for a promise after getting out. The screams of people dying must have rung in his ears regularly; the smell of the animals could not be washed from his life; the sight of so small a band of survivors cramped into such tight quarters would not stir confidence in his chance of survival. And apparently Noah feared that God had forgotten him, for when Moses explains how God made the waters recede, he says, “But God remembered Noah” (Genesis 8.1). And when, after more than a year, the boat touches land and the eight depart, they see first-hand the consequences of sin: a fallen world, freshly judged, newly destroyed, completely wiped out.