A Promise (Genesis 9)


You know anybody whose kids are just straight up bad? The kid never sits down. The kid never shuts up. Won’t a day go by without the kid getting spanked or punished. These last few chapters of Genesis have reminded me of a bad kid. God’s people won’t stop messing up! First they ignore Him by eating the fruit He told them not to, then they go around killing their family members. Next they get so bad God had to punish them more harshly than ever before. From the beginning of creation, all God has been able to do is punish His children. Finally, in this chapter, we can see that God is not just here to spank us.

God is getting ready to bless His people. He is itching to see them begin their new lives on the cleansed earth. He gives Noah and his family guidelines to live by (verses 1 – 7), especially urging them not to take one another’s lives (verses 5 – 6). And then God makes them a promise. He promises not to destroy all living creatures with a flood ever again. He repeats this promise twice – He is serious. He gives Noah and his family a sign to remind them of the promise – a rainbow. It’s a beautiful way to get a new start. Instantly, life begins again.

Things are good for approximately two sentences. Then Noah gets drunk off of homemade wine, takes off all his clothes and passes out. One of his sons, Ham, finds him like this. He tells his brothers. His brothers try to help the situation by covering their dad up, walking backwards with the blanket so that they don’t scar themselves for life. Noah wakes up soon after and is furious that Ham saw him naked. He literally curses Ham’s descendants to slavery to Shem’s and Japheth’s descendants, thus making family dinner awkward for the rest of their lives. Sometime later, Noah dies at 950 years old.

The Treasures Within

The Oldest Promise

There is nothing sweeter, more loving, or more romantic than the promise God made after the flood. First of all, He made it to all of us. When He gives the promise in verse 9 He includes Noah’s descendants. Since those eight people made up the entire population of the world at the time, their descendants are everyone who has ever lived or will live. That’s you and me. Not only did God make this covenant with every human being, He made it with all of the animals, too. Cats and dogs and birds and fish all received a sweet, comforting promise from God – there will never be another flood that destroys everyone again.

If someone hurts you and then promises never to do that again, that might not always be the most convincing thing. Isn’t that what every abuser says? But the difference is in the motivation. The goal of abuse is to hurt. Who’s to say someone who wanted to hurt another person won’t want to hurt them again? But God’s goals were different. He brought the flood to end suffering, suffering that would have tortured His people for centuries, given their life spans and their health. This same love wanted Noah, his family, and their descendants to live without suffering. It wanted them to live with joy. It wanted them to be fruitful and multiply. So when God says He’ll never destroy them with a flood, He’s essentially reminding His people that He’s on their side and that He can’t wait to see them live with true joy.

But God knows how we are, so He gives us a sign to remind us of His promise. Rainbows are gorgeous. God picked something beautiful to remind us of His love. Rainbows often appear after a storm, something uncomfortable and frightening. And in our own lives, even when we’re uncomfortable or scared, God wants us to know that He is with us. We shouldn’t blame Him for what’s happened or begin to panic. God’s not trying to destroy us. He promised.

An Awkward Sin

The drunk Noah story is just odd. I have so many questions. Why did Noah get drunk? Where was his wife during this story? Why didn’t she cover her husband up and spare his sons this episode? However, the most key question I have is: what did Ham do that was so wrong? On the surface, it seems like Ham saw his dad in an unfortunate position and then consulted his brothers on what to do about it. Verse 24 says that later Noah “found out what his youngest son had done to him”, but Ham literally did nothing. What’s the big deal?

Perhaps Ham should have done something about his father’s situation himself. Maybe he shouldn’t have told anyone. Maybe Ham found the whole thing hilarious and told more people than just his brothers. Who knows? I don’t think Ham’s specific actions are the real point of this story. The main point is that Ham did something wrong. Yet on the outside it didn’t look so bad. It reminds me of the garden of Eden. If someone told you that some girl ate a piece of fruit, you wouldn’t think twice about it. Seems fine. Yet Eve did something wrong when she ate from the tree.

This shows us that sin is not just about our specific actions. It is also about our hearts – our motivations, our desires, our hidden choices. We can do something really wrong in our heart, yet someone looking on from the outside thinks that we’re doing fine. Just like God will say in a chapter hundreds of pages down the line, we humans can only see the outside appearance. We can only read one chapter of the story. God knows the entire story.

God’s Message To Us

“It’s you and me”. God made a covenant with us immediately before we started acting a fool. God knew what was coming but He made us a promise anyway. God’s not a fair-weather friend. He’s not just here for us when things are going good. He’s loyal. He’s committed. He is on our side through thick and thin and even set in place a scientific phenomenon to remind us of that. “Don’t forget,” his rainbow says. “We are now a team. I want us to be great.”

There Are Always Questions

  1. In verse 4, God gives Noah and his family and their descendants plants and animals to eat. But there’s an extra condition – God tells His people not to eat meat with blood. Why do some of us still eat meat with blood today? What has changed since then?
  2. In Noah’s anger at Ham over the whole nudity thing, Noah curses him and insists that his descendants will serve his brother’s descendants. Does this happen? When do we see this happen?

What do you think? How does the covenant God made with us make you feel? What do you hear God saying to you in this chapter?

2 thoughts on “A Promise (Genesis 9)

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