Lesson 8 –
Genesis 9:8-17 NRSV
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 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 clouds, 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.”
The Great Flood is a story that is found in multiple religious traditions around the same time. Scholars argue that due to the resonance across traditions, there may have actually been a historic great flood of epic proportions at this time! This is rare because we often do not have historic proof of events that happen in the Bible. The story of the Ark and Noah spans a few chapters. In your own devotional period, start with chapter 6.
Today’s lesson will focus on the relationship between God and all Living Beings. Read the scripture out loud together. If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be and why?
What’s happening during this passage?
God says to Noah and his sons, after the flood, “I am establishing a covenant with you.” God promises to make a covenant with “every living creature.” God promises to never harm living beings the way they were harmed this first go round. The rainbow will serve as a sign of the covenant between God and all living creatures for all future generations. And when the rainbow is in the clouds, God will see it and “remember” the “everlasting” covenant. Though the passage is a bit redundant, it highlights the seriousness of God’s intent to never do a worldwide flood ever again.
How is God described here?
God gives Godself a reminder. God tells Noah and his family that “I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant… I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. The waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.”
As mighty and powerful as God is, God still needs a reminder. God uses the rainbow as a celestial sticky note. God seems remorseful. It is hard to hear this passage as we look out into the world and see so many natural disasters. If God promised never to destroy future generations like this, then why do we still experience floods, tornadoes, winter storms, hurricanes and earthquakes? How should we pray and act about that?
Who is the covenant for?
It’s for everybody! That’s the simple answer. If you let the wrong people tell you, God only cares about human beings. Or God only cares about U.S. Americans. God Bless America, and no place else, they say. But in this passage, God says to Noah, I make this covenant between “me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations.” In other words, Let everything that Hath breath! The creatures of the field, the flowers, the mushrooms, the trees, the single celled organisms, the bacteria in our gut.
Why is this passage important for us now?
We’re watching parts of the country get weather they never get at this time of year or ever. Summers are getting more intense, with hotter days on record every year than the ones before. Glaciers are melting. Entire species are either in danger of extinction, or extinct, due to climate changes that have decimated their habitats. All of us can do our part to support a healthier planet. We can take shorter showers, we can be less dependent on meat (as meat factories are major producers of methane gas), we can recycle, we can use only the things we need. These are things we should do.
But according to a report from EcoWatch from a few years ago, the US Department of Defense has “left a toxic legacy throughout the world in the form of depleted uranium, oil, jet fuel,
pesticides, Agent Orange and lead.” The Department of Defense produces more hazardous waste than the 5 largest chemical companies combined. Wherever you find U.S. military bases across the world, you will also find that jet and rocket fuel contaminate drinking water sources and soil. Organizations like the Black Alliance for Peace are working to bring awareness to embody an anti-war, anti-imperialist and pro-peace movement. They specifically engage Black people and discuss how powerful forces destabilize Black nations globally. They also use Dr. King’s stance on militarism and violence to ground their work. To learn more, you can visit https://blackallianceforpeace.com/
What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?
Connection to Today’s World
Hattie Carthan was a Bedford Stuyvesant environmentalist. She was born in 1900 in Virginia and moved to Brooklyn in 1928. In the 60’s she began a collective project to plant trees in the neighborhood. She believed that the neighborhood should be beautiful, and that greenery would support the quality of life for all who lived here. When you see trees in the neighborhood, you are looking directly at her legacy!
There is a community garden named for her, down the block from Concord at Clifton and Marcy! This garden preserves her mission and vision by “increasing access to locally grown fresh food, farm culture and intergenerational agricultural education to all facets of community in a neighborhood classified as a ‘fresh food desert.’” You can learn more about programming at https://www.hattiecarthancommunitymarket.com/about_us
Journal: What is one thing in your daily routine you can be more mindful about? How do your actions impact the Earth?
Closing: Listen to “How Great Thou Art.”
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
You are the one who remembers us in your heart. And you do what you can to remind yourself about our needs. The rainbow is your reminder and it is our reminder.
We are in need of a different world. So many human and collective actions have put the world in jeopardy.
Redirect our energy, God. Remind us to commit to our end of the covenant. You asked us to be stewards of this Earth. Show us how to love on this planet as it loves us back. Every time we eat something delicious, use herbs to heal our bodies or look at beautiful flowers, we are joining with nature in praising you.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.