The story of Noah and the great flood is one of the most well-known Bible stories. At the center of this epic tale lies a covenant – a solemn, binding agreement between God and Noah. This covenant serves as a powerful demonstration of God’s faithfulness and the new start He provided for humanity after wiping away sin through the destructive flood waters.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: God showed His everlasting covenant with Noah by making a promise to never again destroy the earth with a flood and sealing that covenant with the sign of the rainbow in the sky after the flood.
In this comprehensive article, we will examine the background leading up to God’s covenant with Noah, the exact details of the covenant promises, the rainbow as the sign of the covenant, and the implications this covenant has for people today as we await the final fulfillment of God’s promises in the new heavens and new earth.
Background on Noah and the Flood
Noah’s Righteousness in a Corrupt World
In the generations leading up to the flood, the world had become extremely corrupt and violent (Genesis 6:11). Yet Noah stood out as a righteous man who “walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:9). While the rest of humanity followed the inclinations of their sinful hearts, Noah obediently followed God’s ways and commands.
This shows that even in the midst of a culture saturated with evil, it is possible for individuals to live uprightly through God’s empowering grace.
God’s Grief and Judgment over Widespread Sin
God saw how great man’s wickedness had become, with lawlessness and evil filling the earth (Genesis 6:5, 11-12). This brought God intense heartache and pain. According to Genesis 6:6, God was “deeply troubled” and regretted making humankind.
Yet Noah brought God comfort and hope in the midst of this depraved world (Genesis 6:8). As a result of humanity’s unrepentant sin, God determined to purge the earth with a flood (Genesis 6:7, 13). Though harsh, this demonstrates God’s justice in dealing with the prevalence of wickedness across the whole earth.
Noah’s Obedience to Build the Ark
Out of His grace, God chose to preserve Noah, his family, and representatives of every kind of animal through the coming catastrophe. God gave Noah very specific instructions to build a large ark that would keep them safe during the flood (Genesis 6:14-16).
Despite the enormous scope and difficulty of this task, and the likely ridicule from his skeptical neighbors, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22). This remarkable obedience amidst a culture closed off to God’s ways further testifies to Noah’s strong faith and trust in God against all odds.
The Covenant Promises to Noah
A Covenant to Never Destroy the Earth Again
After the devastating Flood that covered the entire earth and destroyed every living creature except those on Noah’s ark, God made an everlasting covenant with Noah and his sons, as well as every living creature, stating that He would never again destroy the world with a flood (Genesis 9:8-17).
God said He would set His “bow in the clouds” as a sign of this covenant promise. This first covenant promise provided comfort and assurance that such a global catastrophic flooding event would never again occur.
A Promise for Continued Seasons and Harvests
In this post-Flood covenant, God also promised that seasons on earth would continue uninterrupted, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Genesis 8:22).
This brought reassurance that the rhythms of life and cycles of nature would persist reliably, enabling ongoing agriculture, crop growth, and food production for all living creatures.
A Renewed Blessing to Be Fruitful and Multiply
Additionally, in re-establishing His creation, God renewed to Noah and his sons the blessing He had originally given Adam and Eve, to “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1).
After the massive loss of life from flooding, God essentially gave Noah and family a “fresh start” – to begin again the human mandate to multiply and spread throughout the earth. This reiterated blessing echoed God’s enduring purpose for humanity to reflect His image over all the earth (Genesis 1:28).
The Sign of God’s Covenant – The Rainbow
The First Rainbow as a Sign of God’s Promise
After the great Flood, God made a covenant with Noah that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood (Genesis 9:8-17). As a sign of this everlasting covenant, God placed a rainbow in the sky for Noah and his descendants to see.
The rainbow would be a constant reminder that God always keeps His promises. When Noah, his family, and all the animals exited the ark after the Flood, the Bible says that God told Noah, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13).
Imagine what an incredible moment that must have been for Noah! After surviving 40 days and nights of flooding and destruction, Noah could finally see signs of God’s faithfulness and redemption. As Noah gazed up at the colorful rainbow arcing across the sky, he was filled with awe at God’s majesty and goodness.
Even though mankind had sinned greatly, God was willing to give humanity a fresh start through His servant Noah. The rainbow represented God’s commitment to creation and His desire to remain in relationship with His people, despite their failings.
For Noah, the first rainbow held deep spiritual significance. It was a beautiful symbol marking the end of a catastrophic storm and the dawn of a hopeful new day. Most importantly, it was a reminder that God’s promises are trustworthy and endure forever.
Just as the rainbow appeared after the rain had ceased, God’s covenants shine brightly even in the darkest storms of life.
The Enduring Significance of the Rainbow Covenant
The rainbow covenant between God and Noah remains relevant and meaningful today. For Christians, the rainbow continues to signify God’s enduring faithfulness and salvation. Despite humanity’s ongoing struggles with sin and imperfection, God keeps His promises.
The colorful rainbow speaks of God’s commitment to creation and His desire for relationship with people.
Scientifically, we now understand how rainbows form when sunlight interacts with water droplets in the atmosphere. But for people of faith, a rainbow is still a incredible reminder of God’s promises. It points to the redemptive plans God has for the world, from Noah’s time until today.
Whenever we see a rainbow stretched across the sky, we can recall God’s covenant love for all humanity and His commitment to bring restoration after the storms of life.
The rainbow also represents inclusiveness, diversity, and God’s care for all people from every nation. The rainbow’s many beautiful colors reflect how God lovingly embraces people from every tribe and language.
The rainbow covenant encompasses all peoples, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or background. It is a unifying, hope-filled sign of God’s eternal love and faithfulness.
Implications for Humanity Today
Evidence of God’s Faithfulness and Patience
Noah’s story highlights God’s incredible patience and faithfulness towards humanity. Despite mankind’s wickedness, God gave them over a century to repent before bringing judgment through the flood (Genesis 6:3).
Even after the flood, God made a covenant with Noah and all living creatures to never again destroy the world with a flood (Genesis 9:8-17). This proves that even when we are faithless, God remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).
He continues extending mercy and grace to give people a chance to turn to Him.
Today, God continues to patiently hold back His final judgment to allow more time for people to repent and find salvation through faith in Christ (2 Peter 3:9). Despite humanity’s continued rebellion and sin, He provides opportunity after opportunity for people to turn to Him.
This truth should lead us to repentance and motivate us to share the gospel with others while there is still time.
A Reminder of God’s Coming Judgment
While the flood displays God’s patience, it also serves as a sobering reminder that He will judge unrepentant sin. Just as He judged the world in Noah’s day, the Bible warns that one day God will judge the world again – this time by fire (2 Peter 3:7).
No one will escape this final judgement unless they have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus and clothed in His righteousness (Revelation 20:11-15).
Remembering the flood should instill a healthy fear of God in our hearts and move us to take sin seriously. We must examine our lives and repent of anything not aligned with God’s standards. We only have so much time left to get right with God before facing final judgement.
Let us make the most of our remaining days on earth by pursuing holiness and leading others to salvation.
The Ultimate Fulfillment in the New Heavens and Earth
The covenant God made with Noah guaranteed the stability and continuity of the natural world until the end of this age (Genesis 8:22). But the Bible promises that one day God will again remake the heavens and earth into something far better – a place with no more sin, suffering, pain or death (Revelation 21:1-5).
All who have been reconciled to God through faith in Christ will dwell with Him forever in this perfect new creation. There we will enjoy unbroken fellowship with God, unhindered by the corrupting effects of sin.
The hope of this coming day motivated Noah to faithfully follow God despite the rampant sin of his generation. Similarly, this eager hope can empower believers today to remain faithful to Christ amidst an unbelieving culture.
In closing, the covenant God established with Noah serves as a bedrock demonstration of God’s trustworthy character and enduring promises. When we see a rainbow stretched across the sky, we can be reminded of God’s pledge to sustain the earth until the final day of salvation and judgment.
Though humanity continues to sin and rebel, God patiently keeps His covenant. He yearns for all to hear the Gospel and be saved from the coming judgment. Just as He provided an ark of refuge in Noah’s day, He now offers salvation through Jesus Christ to all who repent and believe.