In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
A sigh of relief! The Flood is over. Last week we held our breath as we heard of the wickedness of man. A wickedness so great it required God to judge the earth and start over. A wickedness so familiar to each of us we can’t hear of this event and not cringe, for it strikes too close to home. By a great flood of water the Triune God blotted out sin from the face of the earth. But now it is over. God remembers His promises. (Gen. 8:1) He sends a wind—His breath, His Spirit—on the earth. (Gen. 8:1-3) It closes up the fountains of the deep. It shuts the windows of heaven. The waters recede. So that just as at beginning (Gen. 1:2), and even now (Matt. 3:16-17; Titus 3:5-6; Ac. 2:38), the Spirit of God hovers over the water, bringing forth a new creation from the waters.
But the white dove comes back. It was sent out three times, with seven day intervals between each sending. Those seven days are not merely marking weeks, a set amount of time to let the earth dry out, but instead remind us of God’s rest on the seventh day. His salvation. His providence for life. Life given by His Holy Spirit, Who later descended on His Son in the form of a dove. (Matt. 3:16-17) And when this dove came back to Noah it came back with an olive branch in its mouth, becoming a universal symbol of peace forever more. For God has worked peace with sinful mankind by His own saving action. By His own promise to preserve and save life. By His own promise to bring a saving Son to crush the serpent He works peace with mankind. (Gen. 3:15)
The Dove brings an olive branch. Peace. For God has cleansed the earth of sin by water and His Word. (Eph. 5:26) Foreshadowing baptism. (1 Pet. 3:20-21) You see, God worked wonderful things through this Flood, not the least of which is that from this time forth this washing of the earth became an eternal image of Holy Baptism, which our hearts yearn for. This event is so ancient, so universal in its themes and in what God accomplished by it, that cultures on every continent, whether they remember the God behind it or not, still remember many details of this event. There are flood stories in every corner of earth where mankind is found. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flood_myths, http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/flood-myths.html) The Flood is a sign, a memorial which gives testimony to God’s saving action throughout all the earth.
However, now all life on earth would fear and dread mankind. (Gen. 9:2) For now God has allowed mankind to eat all living things, (Gen. 9:3) not merely the plants. (Gen. 1:29-30) He allows eating of meat so that we might know that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4) God’s word now allows flesh to be eaten. And this command finds its fulfilment in Our Lord`s establishing the life-giving flesh of the Son of God to be our spiritual food! (Matt. 26:26-28) However, there is a limitation. He does not allow the eating of meat with blood in it. (Gen. 9:4) For the life of a creature is in its blood. (Lev. 17:11, 14) And you should not look to anyone or anything in all creation for life, except for He who created life Himself. But when He gives the flesh of His Son for food, He also commands the drinking of His Son’s blood! (Matt. 26:27-28) For His eternal indestructible life is in it. We do not live by bread alone but by the life of the Word of God made flesh.
And the Triune God gives to Noah a sign of His favour for mankind. A sign still valid today. That whenever God sees the rainbow put in the clouds caused by the sun’s light reflected and diffracted through rain falling from the sky. It makes you wonder, did God literally change the physics of the universe at that moment? (Probably not, since He has not created anything new since He rested from all His work of creating, Gen 2:2; Heb. 4:3-4, 10) Or was this a result of windows of heavens being opened whereas before this the waters above the firmament (Gen. 1:6-8) somehow previously blocked out light in such way that diffraction through rain was not possible prior to flood? We don’t know. But we do know that God established a rainbow as a sign that He will never again destroy all life by a flood. (Gen. 9:13-15)
And so we who are made in the image of God, whose lifeblood is precious to the Triune God—for we are His offspring, made in His image, even if our sin has obscured that original image, that original righteousness we had before Fall—He gives us an unqualified promise of His grace to us and to all creation. But more than that the rainbow points us to God’s ultimate grace in Christ. For in Him the accounting for all the blood of mankind which has ever been shed since the founding of the world was done. On that great and glorious day of Our Lord, Our Lord in our flesh shed His blood for all the times you or I have ever shed the lifeblood of another, made their lives bitter by our words or actions, or by our lack of action, or even when you’ve wished to shed another’s blood and end their life. God Himself held Himself to account, spilling His blood for yours. Giving you an eternal sign of His love and salvation. There on the cross, and now on altars where bread and wine are blessed with His promise He gives us that blood in which is the life of mankind. And in water washed over us blessed with His promise that this water does not destroy all life but rather makes we, who have the image of God, who we are meant to be—His beloved children. (Matt. 3:16-17; Rom. 6:5) In Holy Baptism He establishes His own covenant and promises in your flesh, through His Spirit hovers over those waters killing sin and bringing righteousness and life to you.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON