Memory Text: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD”(Genesis 6:8Genesis 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.).
Bacteria are plant organisms too small to see without a microscope. A single, common round bacterium appears no larger than a pencil point, even after being magnified 1,000 times. Given favorable conditions for growth — sufficient warmth, moisture, and food — bacteria multiply at an extremely rapid rate. For example, some bacteria reproduce by simple fission: a mature cell simply splits into two daughter cells. When fission takes place every hour, one bacterium can produce over 16,000,000 new bacteria in 24 hours. At the end of 48 hours, hundreds of billions of bacteria will have appeared.
This microscopic phenomenon in the natural world illustrates the rapid growth of evil after the Fall. Gifted with giant intellects, robust health, and longevity, this virile race forsook God and prostituted their rare powers to the pursuit of iniquity in all forms. While bacteria may be exterminated by sunlight, chemicals, or high temperatures, God chose to check this rampant rebellion by a universal Flood.
The Week at a Glance: What did sin do to God’s creation? What were some of the characteristics of Noah? What elements were involved in the covenant with Noah? In what ways is God’s grace revealed in the covenant with Noah before the Flood? What does the covenant God made with humanity after the Flood teach us about His universal love for us?
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 17.
The divine opinion at the end of God’s creation was that all “was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Then sin entered, and the paradigm shifted. Things weren’t “very good” anymore. God’s orderly creation was marred by sin and all its loathsome results. Rebellion reached terrible proportions by Noah’s day; evil consumed the race. Though the Bible does not give us many details (see Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 90-92 for more), the transgressions and rebellion were clearly something that even a loving, patient, and forgiving God couldn’t tolerate.
How could things get so bad so quickly? The answer is, perhaps, not that hard to find. How many people, today, looking at their own sins, have not asked the same thing: How did things get so bad so quickly?
Look up the texts listed below. Write down the point they make. Notice the steady progression of sin:
Genesis 6:5 and 11 did not arise in a vacuum. There was a history before them. This terrible result had a cause. Sin progressively got worse. It tends to do that. Sin is not like a cut or a wound, with some automatic, built-in process that brings healing. On the contrary, sin, if left unchecked, multiplies, never satisfied until it leads to ruin and death. One does not have to imagine life before the Flood to see this principle operating. It exists all around us even now.
Amid all the texts about the evil of the antediluvian (pre-Flood) world, the man Noah stands out in contrast to those around him. Look at the above text, at the three particular points that the Bible mentions about him. To the best of your ability, write down what you think each of these points mean:
There is no question, Noah was someone who had a saving relationship with the Lord. He was someone whom God could work with, someone who would listen to Him, obey Him, and trust in Him. That is why the Lord was able to use Noah to fulfill His purposes and why Peter, in the New Testament, called him “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:52 Peter 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;).
Read Genesis 6:8Genesis 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.. How does this text help us understand the relationship between Noah and the Lord?
The word grace occurs here for the first time in Scripture and clearly has the same meaning as in the New Testament references, where the merciful, unmerited favor of God, exercised toward undeserving sinners, is described. Thus, we need to understand that however “blameless,” and “righteous” Noah was, he was still a sinner who needed the unmerited favor of his God. In that sense, Noah is no different from any of us who seek earnestly to follow the Lord.
“But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” (Gen. 6:18Genesis 6:18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.).
In this one verse we have the basics of the biblical covenant that God makes with humanity: God and humankind enter into an agreement. Very simple.
Yet, there are more elements than first meet the eye. To begin, there is the element of obedience on humanity’s part. God says to Noah that he and his family shall go into the ark. They have their part to do, and if they do not do it, the covenant is broken. If the covenant is broken, they are the ultimate losers, for in the end they are the beneficiaries of the covenant. After all, if Noah said No to God and did not want to abide by the covenant or said Yes but then changed his mind, what would have been the results for him and his family?
God says that it is “my covenant.” What does that tell us about the basic nature of the covenant? What difference would there be in our concept of the covenant if the Lord had called it “our covenant”?
However unique this particular situation, we see here the basic God-human dynamic found in the covenant. By establishing “my covenant” with Noah, God here again displays His grace. He shows that He is willing to take the initiative in order to save human beings from the results of their sins. In short, this covenant must not be seen as some sort of union of equals in which each “partner” in the covenant is dependent upon the other. We could say that God “benefits” from the covenant, but only in a radically different sense from which humans do. He benefits in that those whom He loves will be given eternal life — no small satisfaction for the Lord (Isa. 53:11Isaiah 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.). But that is not to say that He benefits in the same way we — on the receiving end of the same covenant — benefit.
Try this analogy: a man has fallen overboard from a boat in the midst of a storm. Someone on the deck says that he will throw a life preserver over to haul him in. The one in the water, however, has to agree to his end of the “deal,” and that is, to grab on and to hold on to what has been provided him. That, in many ways is what the covenant between God and humanity is all about.
“And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Gen. 9:12-13Genesis 9:12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 9:13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.).
Few natural phenomena are more beautiful than the rainbow. Who does not remember as a child one’s first fascination and wonder as those amazing bars of light bent across the sky like some sort of beckoning, mystical portal into the heavens (or maybe merely a clown’s belt)? Even as adults, our breath can be taken away by the sight of those outrageous colors in the clouds. No wonder that even today the rainbow is used as a symbol for so many things: from political organizations to cults to rock bands to travel agencies (look up the word “rainbow” on the Web and see). Obviously, those beautiful bands of color still touch chords in our hearts and minds.
Of course, that was God’s whole point.
Why did the Lord say the rainbow would symbolize? Gen. 9:12-17Genesis 9:12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 9:13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 9:14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 9:15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 9:16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. 9:17 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth..
The Lord said He would use the rainbow as a sign of “my covenant” (Gen. 9:15Genesis 9:15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.). How interesting that He would use the word covenant here, for, in this case, the covenant differs from how it is used elsewhere. In contrast to the covenant with Abraham or the Sinai covenant, there is no specific obligation expressed on the part of those who would benefit from the covenant (even Noah). God’s words here are to all people, to “every living creature of all flesh” (Gen. 9:15Genesis 9:15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.) for “all future generations” (Gen. 9:12Genesis 9:12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:). God’s words are universal, all-encompassing, regardless of whether anyone chooses to obey the Lord or not. In this sense the concept of covenant is not used as it is elsewhere in the Bible when talking about the relationship between God and humans.
In what sense does this covenant also reveal God’s grace? Who initiated this covenant? Who is the ultimate benefactor?
“He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark” (Gen. 7:23).
In this text one finds the first mention of the concept of “the remnant” in the Scriptures. The word translated “was left” comes from another word whose root forms are used many times in the Old Testament where the idea of a remnant is conveyed.
“And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.” (Gen. 45:7Genesis 45:7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.; emphasis supplied).
“And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, every one who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem” (Isa. 4:3, emphasis suppliedIsaiah 4:3 And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem:ther shall the flame kindle upon thee.).
“In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people” (Isa. 11:11Isaiah 11:11 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.; emphasis supplied).
In all these cases, the italicized words are linked to the similar words “was left” found in Genesis 7:23Genesis 7:23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark..
Look at Genesis 7:23Genesis 7:23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. and the other examples. How do you understand the concept of a remnant here? What are the surrounding conditions that led to a remnant? How does the covenant fit in with the idea of a remnant?
At the time of the Flood, the Creator of the world became the Judge of the world. The nearing worldwide judgment raised the question whether all life on earth — even human life — would be destroyed. If not, who would be the survivors? Who would be the remnant?
In this case, it was Noah and his family. Yet Noah’s salvation was linked to God’s covenant with him (Gen. 6:18Genesis 6:18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.) — a covenant that originated and was executed by a God of mercy and grace. They survived only because of what God did for them, however important their cooperation was. Whatever Noah’s covenant obligations were, and no matter how faithfully he executed them, his only hope was in God’s mercy.
Read Ellen G. White, “The Flood,” pp. 90-104 and “After the Flood,” pp. 105-110, in Patriarchs and Prophets.
“The rainbow, a natural physical phenomenon, was a fitting symbol of God’s promise never to destroy the earth again by a flood. Inasmuch as the climatic conditions of the earth would be completely different after the Flood, and rains would in most parts of the world take the place of the former beneficent dew to moisten the soil, something was needed to quiet men’s fears each time rain began to fall. The spiritual mind can see in natural phenomena God’s revelations of Himself (see Rom. 1:20). Thus the rainbow is evidence to the believer that the rain will bring blessing and not universal destruction.” — The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 265.
“What do You want us to do this coming year?” he prayed.
After praying for a few weeks, Gustavo learned from the district pastor about hopes to plant a church in Playas del Rosario, another small community outside the city. He prayed for three weeks and agreed to helm the project.
But where to meet? That problem was solved when a church member offered his house for the Sabbath meetings. He didn’t live there, so Gustavo could use the house freely. It wouldn’t cost a peso.
On the first Sabbath, two mothers and twelve children joined Gustavo and his wife to worship. Seeing so many people at the first meeting, he felt that God was blessing the project and he could move forward.
He organized weeklong evangelistic meetings in the house church, and the number of children increased to twenty. With so many children, Gustavo decided to conduct a special Sabbath School for children on Sabbath mornings and a worship service for both children and adults in the afternoons.
Trouble struck one of the two mothers who was attending every Sabbath. The owner of the house that she rented saw that she was going to the meetings and threatened to evict her and her five children. “If you keep going to those meetings, you will have to leave,” the owner said.
The mother kept going to the meetings, and she was evicted. But she was not discouraged. She found a new house to rent and continued worshiping.
At the house church, worshipers prayed and intermittently fasted for the former landlord. During a literature distribution drive, she accepted an Adventist magazine and asked for prayer. A few weeks later, she accepted a loaf of sweet bread from a church member and asked for more prayers. She has become a friend of the house church.
Gustavo, meanwhile, organized a second set of evangelistic meetings, this time in an Adventist church located a half-mile (one kilometer) away in a neighboring community. A woman and a boy were baptized at the meetings, becoming the first fruits of his church plant. The house church had its first two members just four months after opening.
“By faith we know that God will add more members and our small group will grow into a full-fledged church,” Gustavo said.
Thank you for your Thirteenth Sabbath Offering three years ago that helped expand the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Southeast Hospital in Villahermosa, Mexico.