The Flood is a story told between two parentheses. The two parentheses can be found in Genesis 6:5 and 8:21: “The inclination of the human heart is continually evil.”God created the world good and blessed it. God ordered the chaos, created spacefor life to inhabit, and filled and blessed the Creation. But, when Adam and Eve violate God’s command, humanity goes tumbling down a treacherous road of increasing violence and anti-creation practices. Humanity has forgotten the language of blessing and life and speaks only curses and death. This inclination toward evil disrupts the order of God’s good Creation, sending it headlong into swelling, swirling chaos. The chaos destroys, the space God had opened collapses, and the great deluge swallows up most of Creation –save for a tiny family and some animals.
It’s a small seed of hope. God begins to do a new creation thing. God separates waters and dry land appears. God creates space and calls humanity and the animals to be fruitful and multiply (the first command given in Genesis 1). The chaos is given order and boundary. Life and blessing are established. For all the beauty and wonder, not much has changed. The inclination of the human heart is still evil constantly! This is said of a righteous family! The harmony of the first creation seems impossible to mess up. The harmony of this new creation seems impossible to keep.
Genesis 9 sweeps across the story like the very ruach (“breath”or “spirit”or “wind” of the Creator God. God entrusts Noah and his family with the same vocational call given to Adam and Eve (“be fruitful and multiply”) and then covenants with all of Creation. God covenants with Noah and all of his descendants, which is not exclusive to one group of people but includes everyone. Noah is established as a new kind of Adam, with one major difference. Noah and his descendants are all still broken by sin. Yet, God covenants, binds God’s very Self to the fate of the creation and humanity. This covenant suggests that God is deeply committed and invested in creating, sustaining, and blessing life. God is putting God’s very life on the line to ensure that God’s life-giving purposes will be realized in the creation.
All of the language of the covenant is rooted in the activity of God: “I establish… I
make… I have set… I bring… I will remember… I will see and remember… I have established.” God is the primary actor in this covenant and God has shouldered the full responsibility for its fulfillment. Although humanity is invited into the covenantal relationship, humanity’s failures will not nullify the promises and assurances of the covenantal God. God will act on behalf of and for the sake of the world. Even as God came seeking Eve and Adam after their fateful decision, God seeks and pursues and moves toward a world still bent on evil.
Not only does God binds God’s Self to the Creation but God also sets boundaries on the way God will work toward this goal of new creation. A sign is given: God will lay down God’s bow in the sky. The bow is a weapon of warriors, particularly those that hurl projectiles from a distance. This is not hand-to-hand combat. It implies space and separation. It suggests enemies and warfare. But God seems to sing: “War, huh, good God, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing’!”The bow is set down, abandoned as a means by which God will operate in the future. God won’t hurl projectiles at a distant enemy. Now, God will consider even those who are enemies as if they were friends, moving toward them/us and closing the distance between us.
The very character of God is intertwined with the promise established in this covenant. God has abandoned violence for the way of covenantal love that seeks the welfare of the covenant partner, a love not based on the performance of the covenant-partner. God is not content to remain distant but moves toward the creation, toward humanity. God will accomplish what God has promised or die trying.
The deep love of God for creation, embodied in this covenant, moved God to act in the
most surprising way: putting on flesh and dwelling among us. This covenantal love knew that human hearts were only ever inclined toward evil, so God, in Jesus, took on a human heart to
sanctify it. God recognized that we were incapable of fulfilling our part of the covenant on our
own, so God became human to fulfill it for us. God was not content to watch from a distance, but
instead came down and entered the fray alongside us. God entered a violent world with no weapons and no pretense on using violence to change the world.When the world crucified Jesus, he did not retaliate by picking up the bow of war. Instead, Jesus embraced the world on the cross and absorbed the violence of the world in his own body without responding in violence. Jesus is God’s faithfulness to the covenant. The Church is a sign of the new creation God is unveiling by
the power of the Spirit.