And God spoke to Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,…
I. A COVENANT ORIGINATING WITH GOD HIMSELF.
1. Men have no right to dictate to God.
2. God reserves the power to bestow goodness.
3. The character of God leads us to expect the advances of His goodness towards men.
4. When God enters into covenant with His creatures, He binds Himself.
II. A COVENANT OF FORBEARANCE.
1. This was an act of pure grace.
2. Human history is a long comment upon the forbearance of God. (Acts 14:15; Romans 3:26.)
3. This forbearance of God was unconditional. It was not a command relating to conduct, but a statement of God's gracious will towards mankind.
4. This forbearance throws some light upon the permission of evil. We ask, why does God permit evil to exert its terrible power through all ages? Our only answer is that His mercy triumphs over judgment.
III. IT WAS A COVENANT WHICH, IN THE FORM AND SIGN OF IT, WAS GRACIOUSLY ADAPTED TO MAN'S CONDITION. Man was weak and helpless, his sense of spiritual things blunted and impaired by sin. He was not able to appreciate Divine truth in its pure and native form. God must speak to him by signs and symbols, and encourage him by promises of temporal blessing. In this way alone he can rise from sensible things to spiritual, and from earthly good to the enduring treasures of heaven.
1. The terms of the covenant refer to the averting of temporal punishment, but suggest the promise of higher things.
2. The sign of the covenant was outward, but full of deep and precious meaning. Covenants were certified by signs or tokens, such as a heap or pillar, or a gift (Genesis 31:52; Genesis 21:30). The starry night was the sign of the promise to Abraham (Genesis 15). Here, the sign of the covenant was the rainbow; a sign beautiful in itself, calculated to attract attention, and most fitting to teach the fact of God's constancy, and to encourage the largest hopes from His love. All this was an education for man, so that he might adore and hope for the Divine mercy.
(1) Mankind were to be educated through the beautiful. The beauty of the rainbow helped men to thoughts of heaven.
(2) Mankind were to be taught the symbolic meaning of nature. All nature is a mighty parable of spiritual truth.
(3) Mankind were to be taught that God is greater than nature. The creature, however beautiful, or capable of inspiring awe and grandeur, must not be deified. This was God's bow, not Himself. God is separate from nature, and greater than it; a living personality above all things created. If we could pursue nature to its furthest verge, we should find that we could not thus enclose and limit God; He would still retire into the habitation of eternity!
(4) Mankind were to be taught to recognize a presiding mind in all the phenomena of nature. "My bow." God calls it His own, as designed and appointed by Him. There is no resting place for our mind and heart in second causes; we must come at last to a spiritual and intellectual subsistence — to a living personality. Nature without this view becomes a ruthless machine.
(5) Man was to be assured that the mercy of God is equal to his extremity. He will remember men for good in their greatest calamities and dangers.
(T. H. Leale.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,