January 6 – Noahic Covenant
Check out the video above for some background on covenants in the Bible. A covenant was a formal agreement from biblical times, entered into by individuals or whole people groups. Think of the role covenants had in a society that predated notarized contracts and social security numbers. It functioned as a solemn, binding oath, and failure to meet the requirements resulted in a serious penalty. Each party would agree to stipulations that are often contingent, sort of like, “I’ll do this if you do that.” So when you see covenants in the Bible between God and mankind, they typically fit this form. Which makes God’s covenant with Noah, called the Noahic Covenant, interesting, because of the lack of contingency. Check out the video above for more on that, it’s really interesting in the grand scheme of the Bible.
In our discussion we’ll start with an overview of the story of Noah. This is obviously helpful for folks in your group with little Bible background, but getting a quick overview can also help more seasoned believers. Folks with a lot of background in the church tend to assume they know everything about familiar stories like Noah’s Ark, but taking a moment to look back over the story can unearth surprising things. As you prepare for discussion, read back over Genesis 6-9, and note how soon this is (in the grand scheme of things) after the Fall in Genesis 3.
One of the big struggles you might have with God in this specific story is over his destruction of all mankind, save one family. His judgement could seem calloused, vindictive, even sadistic. Yes, God destroyed the vast majority of mankind in this flood, but to view this as sadistic requires reading Genesis 6:5-8 and deciding that God didn’t have good enough reasons to act as he did. It also requires ignoring God’s favor on Noah and his covenantal promises in Genesis 8-9. God voluntarily enters into this covenant, promises protection and provision to mankind, and requires nothing in return. (Note: the one requirement God gives in this passage isn’t in return for the covenantal blessing in 9:8-17, so it technically isn’t part of the covenant. That statement is in 9:5-6 and is specifically about murder, which supports social order and reinforces the value of all people.)
Taking time to reflect on God’s kindness towards us in spite of our wickedness is an excellent way to kick off our year of Loving God and Loving our Neighbor.
Questions for Discussion
• Let’s take a moment to look over Genesis chapters 6-9.
• Could someone summarize the story of Noah for us?
• Now, could someone read Genesis 8:20-9:17?
• What statements does God make about mankind in this passage?
• What promises does God make to mankind here?
• What can this covenant promise tell us about God?
• How can these truths about God define the way you relate to him?