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Echoing Eden: The Covenant with Noah

Outside the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is a tall, hollow steel structure known as the Vortex. In addition to seeing its striking architecture, visitors enjoy going inside to hear the cascading echoes of their own voices, hand claps, and foot stomps.

Like the echoes heard in the Vortex, God’s covenant with Noah echoed His faithfulness in Genesis 1 and 2. Despite the ongoing, pervasive effects of sin in the world after Adam and Eve (6:11–12), God continued the initiative of pursuing relationship with His people and His creation. Now He made a promise to Noah, whom He had saved from the floodwaters.

Just as God’s original creation came through waters (Gen. 1:2), God’s re-creation came through the purging waters of the flood. Whereas God commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 1:28), so now God reiterated that command with Noah (9:1). As God created Adam and Eve in His image and commanded them to rule His creation, God again reasserted humanity’s unique status “in the image of God” (9:6), and reminded them that all creatures “are given into your hands” (9:2). And just as God’s care for His whole creation is evident in Genesis 1, the cosmic scope of God’s care was displayed in the sign of the rainbow.

Notice also that God’s original promise of “offspring” (Gen. 3:15) is echoed in God’s promise to Noah: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you” (9:8). Clearly the world was fallen and strained, but the covenant with Noah (and the eternal sign of the rainbow) stands as a wonderful echo of God’s continued intention for relationship with humanity and “every living creature” (9:10, 12).

Apply the Word

As God’s image-bearers, we are supposed to reflect His care for creation. Some practical ideas include joining with others to pick up trash along the roadside or perhaps planning a community garden for next summer. Do these things with thanksgiving to a God who does not give up on His creation—including us.

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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