The Covenants with Noah and Abraham

GOD’S COVENANT WITH NOAH

Suggested Readings:

Genesis 4:1-16; Genesis 6:5-7:23; Genesis 8:13-9:17; Genesis 11:1-9

After the Fall and introduction of sin into the world, people became increasingly alienated from God, starting with Cain killing his brother Abel (Genesis 4). People became so wicked, God was sorry he had made them, and vowed to destroy all life on Earth.

Noah, however, was “a good man and blameless in that age, for he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9b-10a). “[God] said to Noah: I have decided to put an end to all mortals on earth; the earth is full of lawlessness because of them. So I will destroy them and all of life on earth” (Genesis 6:13). God plans to destroy all life on Earth with a great flood. God commands Noah to build an ark and to bring his family on to the ark. “Of all other living creatures,” God instructs Noah, “you shall bring two into the ark, one male and one female, that you may keep them alive with you” (Genesis 6:19). For forty days and forty nights it rains, flooding the Earth and killing all life on Earth, except Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark.

When the rain stops and the waters of the flood recede, Noah and the animals leave the ark. The first thing Noah does is build an altar to give thanks to God. God establishes a covenant with Noah, promising never again to destroy the Earth, and setting the bow in the sky as a reminder of “the everlasting covenant that I have established between God and all living beings” (Genesis 8:20-22; 9:8-17).

Sadly, it did not take long for humankind to fall back into sin. Out of pride and wrongful ambition, humans attempt to build a tower to the sky (Genesis 11:1-9). God responds to their sin, not by destroying them, but by confusing their language and scattering them over the Earth. God then turns to forming for Himself a nation that would be both the instrument by which He would be made known to the world, and the people from whom would come the One Who would save humankind from sin and reconcile the world to God.

The Church has long understood the story of Noah as a symbol of Baptism (1 Peter 3:20-21). Those in the ark are saved by passing through the waters of the flood, just as the members of the Church are saved by passing through the waters of Baptism.

WHAT TRUTHS DOES THE STORY OF NOAH REVEAL ABOUT GOD?

  • God is ruler of Creation.
  • God punishes people for their wickedness.
  • Even still, God blesses the righteous one and saves him.
  • Because of the faithfulness of the righteous one, and his gratitude, God renews His covenant with humankind.

 

THE PATRIARCHS: GOD’S COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM, ISAAC and JACOB

Suggested Readings:

Genesis 12:1-9; Genesis 15:1-6; Genesis 18:1-19:29; Genesis 21:1-8; Genesis 22:1-9           Genesis 24; Genesis 25:19-26:5; Genesis 27:1-45; Genesis 32:23-32; Genesis 37                   Genesis 41; Genesis 42:1-7; Genesis 45; Genesis 49 

God called Abraham out of his homeland of Haran to travel to the far distant country of Canaan (Genesis 12:1-9), promising Abraham he would be the father of many descendants. Abraham’s decision to move was an act of trust in God’s providence. God made a covenant with Abraham. He promised Abraham that, in spite of his old age and the old age of his wife, Sarah, he would have a son (Genesis 15).

Abraham’s faith in God’s promise was weak at first. He took matters into his own hands and conceived a son, Ishmael, by his slave, Hagar (Genesis 16). But God insisted that Ishmael would not be Abraham’s heir. Instead, Abraham would have a son through Sarah, name him Isaac, and Isaac would be the heir of Abraham’s wealth and his covenant with God (Genesis 17:1-22).

Isaac was born, and Abraham and Sarah rejoiced in God’s blessing (Genesis 21:1-8). But then God demanded that Abraham sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham followed through, trusting that God would make good on His promises. In response to his trust, God spared Abraham the sacrifice of his son, and provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice in substitute for Isaac (Genesis 22). Thus, Abraham proved his total faith in God.

God renewed His covenant with Abraham, first through Abraham’s son, Isaac (Genesis 26:1-5), and then through Isaac’s son, Jacob (Genesis 28:10-15). After Jacob literally wrestled with God, God changed Jacob’s name to “Israel” (Genesis 32:23-32). Israel, through his wives Leah and Rachel, became the father of twelve sons, who became the fathers of twelve tribes. It is these twelve tribes of Israel who became the heirs of the covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Jacob’s favored son, Joseph, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, eventually made his way to Egypt. There he came to power by virtue of his ability to interpret the pharaoh’s dreams so that the country was able to avoid a disastrous famine. Jacob’s eleven other sons traveled to Egypt to obtain food in the face of famine. There they encountered Joseph, but failed to recognize their brother, whose authority in Egypt was second only to that of the pharaoh. Joseph revealed his true identity to them, and forgave them. Jacob himself was brought to live in Egypt, and his descendants prospered in the land of the Nile (Genesis 37-50).

WHAT TRUTHS DO THE LIVES OF THE PATRIARCHS REVEAL ABOUT GOD?

  • God is faithful to His promises.
  • God demands total faith in Him.
  • God does not always do things the way we think He should. He is God, we are not. It is for us to be faithful and allow God to do His work in us.
  • God respects human life.
  • The people of Israel are God’s chosen people, the instrument chosen by God to reveal His truth to all people.

 

 

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