The Curses and the Covenants

Excerpt from The Curses and the Covenants, a Bible study by Connie Cook.  More excerpts available here: intro, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.  Full study available for sale here.

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The Covenant with Noah: a New Earth

(Based on Genesis 9:8-17 + 1 John 5:1-13)

I will put my rainbow in the clouds to be a sign of my promise to the earth” (Gen. 9:13).

‘To me this is like Noah’s floodwaters, when I swore an oath that Noah’s floodwaters would never cover the earth again. So now I swear an oath not to be angry with you or punish you. The mountains may move, and the hills may shake, but my kindness will never depart from you. My promise of peace will never change,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you” (Isa. 54:9-10).

The Spirit is the one who verifies this, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses: the Spirit, the water, and the blood. These three witnesses agree” (1 John 5:6b.-8).

There was a thump and a bump that shook everyone off their feet and onto their backsides. It was followed by a sickening, grinding sound that would have paled the suntan out of any sea dog. They’d run aground.

But the inhabitants of this ship-of-sorts were no sailors by profession. For these temporary sailors, there was no fear in the sound. Only sweet promise. Land. Precious, blessed, sacred land. The waters were receding. The land was reclaiming its rightful place.

No one was upset if the boat was damaged by its abrupt landing. After all, this was not a vessel anyone wanted to take for another voyage. Ever.

But even after touchdown, the exit sign was still months away. Seven months (plus small change) away. All told, the passengers of H.M.S. Noah’s Ark lived on board ship for one year and ten days. It seemed half of eternity.

And finally! The sweet, sweet gulps of the fresh air of freedom with one’s feet planted on rich, brown earth. What a feeling!

Then God made a promise. To Noah. To Noah’s descendants. And to all living things to come. Never again. (At least, never again with water.)

Then the Mighty Warrior hung up His weapon.

He was the sworn enemy of all evil. Not a trace of it could remain in a final and forever kind of way. It must be destroyed or it would destroy.

Look what it had done to the earth already!

This time, the Mighty Warrior had turned His weapon of water against evil, so when He made His treaty with all that breathed that He would never again use water to destroy the earth, He hung up his watery weapon.

It was a sign ancient warriors would have recognized as a solemn, binding promise of peace. Some still exchange arrows to be broken.

But when a warrior hands over his bow, he’s saying he’s done!

The difference between this Warrior’s weapon and other warriors’ weapons, however, was… well, not dissimilar to the difference between this Warrior and other warriors. His bow was radiant, made of light, glorious.

And so is this Warrior. And so are His covenants.

But what’s a covenant? It’s not a word we toss around in casual conversation, so let’s talk briefly about what a covenant was in the Bible.

Its simplest synonym would be “a promise.” A covenant was a solemn and binding oath; in the Bible, usually a specific kind of solemn and binding oath. A covenant was a peace treaty. And the covenants we’ll be studying here were peace treaties between God and humanity.

But why would we need a peace treaty with God?

In Genesis 3, we see the start of the enmity between man and God—man rejecting God’s rule; attempting to usurp God’s rightful place.

Just so you’ll have a bit of a road map, I’ll tell you more about where we’ll be heading this study and how we’ll get there: On days 1 and 7 of every week, we’ll see the necessary results of the attempt on God’s throne: The Curses.

And in every lesson, we’ll see God addressing that enmity and its results. We’ll see His answer to “the curses.” We’ll see Him “cutting covenants.”

Throughout history, He made (culturally-appropriate) peace agreements with all those who were willing to enter into them. We’ll look at six. For the first five, we’ll see God enter into covenant with five different individuals (with effects spreading to all those under the covenant). But through each of the five, we’ll really be keeping our eyes on the sixth: the New Covenant.

In addition to having you read “The Curses” passages or “The Covenant” passages from the Old Testament, every day I’ve assigned a “plus” passage from the New Covenant (or as we usually call it, “the New Testament,” but it means essentially, “the New Covenant.”). I find the New Covenant helps to explain the Old, but the Old also helps to explain the New.

We’ll see how all the old covenants were finally fulfilled in the final and greatest New Covenant. The New Covenant, the culmination of all the ones that came before, was prophesied in the Old Covenant. (See Jeremiah 31:31-34.) Because of the fatal flaw found in all humans that made them incapable of keeping the covenants they entered into with God, He had to find a way to do away with the fatal flaw. He did so through His New Covenant. Interestingly, we’ll see the how-tos of living within the New Covenant smuggled into the old ones. You’ll see certain symbolic themes pertaining to the New Covenant repeated so often in the old ones that I hope you’ll come to recognize that these hidden gems cannot possibly be there by accident.

Also, as this study progresses, I hope you’ll come to understand that God’s character as the Mighty Warrior is not a bad thing. It is a sad thing because of its necessity. But there is a difference between sad and bad.

But know this: it’s not a forever-necessity. One day, the Mighty Warrior against evil will hang up all His weapons. He’ll be at rest.

And that “rest” that Noah was named after brings up one theme for the week: Creation. After God created His earth, He was finished. So He rested.

But then Genesis 3 happened, and after Genesis 3 happened, every time God made a covenant, He created something new. In His covenant with Noah, He made a new earth—free from the gangrene that had rotted the old world from the inside out. Sort of free. But not really. It was, in fact, the same old earth. The problems of Genesis 3 hadn’t really gone anywhere.

So God would one day make a truly New Covenant to make a truly New Earth. This week, we’ll see more of this truly New Earth and again, how to get there. We’ll enter it through our entrance into the New Covenant just as Noah entered his new (old) earth by entering into covenant with God through his faith and obedience of building an ark.

As we see the Noahic covenant take shape this week, take note of all the parallels between God creating a new earth through His covenant with Noah (though creating through destruction—sometimes in building, demolition is the first step) and God making a New Covenant and creating a truly New Earth. One where there can be a forever-rest because evil is forever ended.

And through Noah’s story, we’ll start to see what life within the New Covenant looks like and how that life is meant to be lived.