Then God said to Noah, “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. And this is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9)
Throughout the Old Testament, God makes covenants with his people by entering into an agreement with one man who serves as the acting representative of all humanity. In Genesis 9, God enters into one of these agreements with a man named Noah.
In this particular covenant, God promises that he will never again allow utter chaos to destroy his creation. The story of the great flood and God's covenant with Noah gives us an early glimpse into the eternal plan of God that unfolds throughout the rest of the Bible.
We can quickly gather three observations from Noah and the flood story:
The sinfulness of humanity is a big problem, and the human heart is more evil than we realize. "The intentions of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Genesis 8). Humanity is full of sin.
God will not remain patient with human sin forever. Sin is anti-God in its nature, and God has time limits on how long he will tolerate unrepentant sinfulness in humanity. God judges sin.
However, God is faithful to his promises and his eternal plan to fill the earth with people who reflect his goodness and who live in a relationship of trusting obedience towards him. God offers hope and salvation from sin.
In the story of the great flood and God's covenant with Noah, we begin to get a whiff of the gospel aroma that permeates through the whole Bible.
Humanity was full of sin, and so the time came when God judged humanity for sin.
Only a remnant of humanity experienced salvation from this judgement (Noah's family), and they were saved by nothing else other than God's grace alone through Noah's faith alone (Genesis 6).
After the flood, God promised Noah that he will never again allow utter chaos to destroy his creation, but he has also promised that a Day is coming where all of humanity will be held accountable for their sin.
And so the question for all of us today is where can we find hope and salvation from this future Day of Judgment? Where is our rescue vessel?
Well, the sign of the covenant that God makes with Noah seems to give us a clue.
The story ends with God setting a bow in the clouds. A bow is a weapon known to bring pain and death, but God sets this brightly colored bow pointed in the direction of heaven and not in the direction of humanity.
It’s almost as if the bow in the clouds is intended to show us how God plans to deal with the human sin problem. You see, in his goodness and grace, God had a plan to offer salvation from sin by taking on the pain and death of judgement upon himself. And this is exactly what we see happen many years later in the story of the Christ and the cross.
And so, just as the wooden ark of Noah offered hope and salvation for the few who had faith; the wooden cross of Christ offers humanity the ultimate hope and salvation for all of us who will embrace it in faith.