Covenant with the Earth
Loving Father, help me bring my straggling thoughts in focus, so I may be with You and rejoice in You.
Read Genesis 9:1-29
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“How many are Your works, O Lord! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures” (Psa. 104:24).
“Covenant” is first mentioned in the Bible in 6:18, the promise of what is now “established” (9). Repetition reinforces its solemnity (9,11,12,13,15,16,17), as does the sign that shows that God will remember (16) even if humans forget. Although often called “the covenant with Noah,” every mention explicitly embraces more than Noah. Verse 9 cannot be read without joining the detail of v. 10. It is a covenant between “me and the earth” (13), involving “all living creatures of every kind” (15), “all life on the earth” (17). Why so much emphatic repetition? Indeed, throughout chs. 6-9 the frequency of all-embracing mentions of non-human life stands in contrast to minimal instances in ancient Near Eastern documents. “Living creatures” are more than an afterthought or appendage to humans (see 8:1). Noah (and all subsequent readers) has no excuse for limiting God’s concern to humans. We are co-recipients with all nature of God’s gracious providence, able to enjoy and share in his care of the biodiversity.
One shadow, however, is continuing violence (6:5,11; 8:21) leading to “fear and dread” (2), with both animals and humans accountable (5, 6). Killing for food is warranted (3), but the immediate juxtaposition of the following verses points to there being no justification for blood sports or cruelty to animals, including any cruel conditions under which animals are raised. The nexus between “all flesh corrupting” and God’s “destroying” is broken: “never again” (15). How human (and animal) violence will be ultimately overcome is unstated, but God’s promised continuation of life leads into the future, “for all generations to come” (12). The “whole creation” will be set free (Rom. 8:20-22; see Isa. 11:1-9; 65:17-25; 2 Pet. 3:13). God’s covenant is with the whole earth.
As you enjoy the benefits of God’s life-continuing provision, how might this affect your attitude to other living creatures?
Covenant-keeping God, how great is Your faithfulness. May I treat all living persons and creatures with the dignity You require.
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