Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” – Genesis 9:8-17
I set an alarm today. It’s a reminder to start our grandfather clock which has been stopped while we’ve been gone for the past few days. Since it rings on the hour and half-hour, starting it too soon would require waiting for many chimes as it catches up with the current hour. I’ve also set a reminder on my calendar of a meeting I have for June 1. And, oh yes! There is that reminder for our coaches huddle later today, and we may be traveling again soon. A reminder for our flights.
I use reminders most often to keep me from missing an appointment. But I need them for far more important reasons. And so do you.
Feeling anxious? Be reminded of God’s faithfulness, love, and providential care. Are you hurting? Be reminded that God’s healing touch will come, and pray that it will come soon. Are you facing temptation? Remember Jesus’ encounter with Satan after 40 days of fasting and his use of the Bible to ward off the devil’s attacks. Are you sad? Angry? Distracted? Envious? Dissatisfied? In the face of each of these, we have reminders in the Bible of God’s goodness, love, faithfulness, reliability, mercy, and justice. Sometimes it’s a story. Occasionally a warning needs to be heeded. Most often it is a promise that secures our souls.
God has provided all of these for our edification and wellbeing. There is the warning in the account of the flood. There is the account of the release of the raven and the dove after the waters had begun to recede. Now there is the reminder of God’s covenant promise by means of the rainbow. It is a reminder of God’s promise, and a call back to faith in God.
We look for these reminders in times of turmoil. Sometimes the storms are actual rain and wind, lightening and thunder. Sometimes they are the storms of life. Cataclysmic weather brings fear of physical harm. Struggles with temptation, worry, fear, and envy bring their own kinds of threats. Both are real. We need the assurance of God’s lovingkindness, care, mercy, faithfulness, and love in the face of both.
God provides Noah with a reminder of his promise by means of the rainbow. But he adds a significant caveat: The rainbow will serve as a reminder to God himself of his promise! What?!? Does God need a reminder? Might God forget? Is he really a kindly grandfather who needs his memory jostled on occasion? Or might he get so angry that he he needs a cool-off reminder for himself?
Remembering in the Old Testament, however, is far different than it is for us today. We think of remembering as accessing data, like finding the right bytes and bits on the computer hard drive. The disk spins until the data is found and voila!
But the Old Testament concept of remembering is different. Remembering in the Old Testament has to do with putting yourself back into the moment of the past, not bringing the past to mind. God is saying here that he will put himself back into the time following the flood and into the moment of his promise. He will remember it in terms of keeping his promise. He won’t forget. That is, he won’t abandon his promise.
We all need reminders. God won’t forget his promises. We can count on that. And whether it’s a rainbow or Bible verse, or a memory of God’s grace to you through an answered prayer, the promises of God in baptism, or the blessed remembrance of Jesus’ suffering and death in the Lord’s Supper, these are precious memories. And that’s worth remembering.
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