Giver of New Beginnings. You are only one verse into Genesis chapter nine and you hear language that is very reminiscent of Genesis chapter 1: “God blessed Noah and his sons” (9:1a; cf. 1:28a) and “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (9:1b; 1:28b). And so as to bracket the opening section of this chapter, and just in case we missed it, a similar benediction is pronounced six verses later (9:7). While God did not take another lump of clay from the ground and breathe into it the breath of life, this was nonetheless a new beginning via a re-commissioning. Just as the entirety of humanity could trace its beginning to Adam, so, too, can all humanity trace its origin back to Noah and his sons (cf. 9:19). Incredible. And it all began with a post-judgment benediction of blessing that was reminiscent of a new beginning. And New Testament Christians surely know something about new beginnings – “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Such a one has entered into a New Covenant (Mt. 26:28), received new birth from above (Jn. 3:3-8), walks in newness of life (Rom. 6:4), will receive a new name (Rev. 2:17), and spend forever with the God who makes all things new (Rev. 21:5).
Relentless. You could say that in commissioning this new beginning, God, in relenting from destroying the entirety of the human race, demonstrated that He is relentless. He did not abandon His plan. The earth would still be propagated with people. The seed of the woman would indeed crush the head of the serpent. And in the fullness of time one of the descendants of Adam and Noah’s son, Shem, would give birth to a child under the law who would redeem His people from the curse of the law.
Protector and Provider. One could imagine Noah and his sons being apprehensive about life post flood. After all, the beasts of the field could quickly become a more formidable opponent than Noah and his family could handle. So while there are similarities between the commission that Adam and Noah received (as seen above), there are clear distinctions of circumstances. Adam was called to exercise dominion in a sin-free world with un-fallen animals; Noah did not have that luxury. But God made provision for man’s protection. He told Noah and his sons: “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on the sea. They are given into your hand” (9:2). Imagine what life would be like if even domesticated animals, yet alone wild ones, had no fear of man and no awareness of man’s superiority. Such contemplation helps us appreciate the Genesis 9:2 protection that we still enjoy today. But this imposition of dread upon the animals was not only about security; it was about sustenance. God declared that man could eat animals as a means of provision (cf. vs.4). Who knows what life would have been like, or how long it would have lasted, if God had not taken these steps of protection and provision. But mankind never had to find out – because God is a protector and a provider.
Esteemer of Life. In case man would, say, become capricious in dealing with life after God canonically declared that men could use animals for food, God warned that He would demand a reckoning from both man and beast if man’s blood was shed (Gen. 9:5-6). Concerning the former, the Mosaic Law provides an example – if an ox gored a man or a woman, it was to be stoned (Ex. 21:28). Using that same example, the next verse goes further to state that if an ox was enabled to gore a man or woman by another person’s negligence, that person would likewise be put to death (vs.29). The point being – man’s life is so incredibly precious that no man (or even animal) could incur guilt for the loss of another person’s life, outside of accidental homicide (Deut. 19:4) or executing capital punishment, without incurring the loss of their own life. The legislation and the reasoning behind it is further expounded upon in verse six: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Gen. 9:6). God is not predicting the providential outworking of what happens if one man sheds another man’s blood; rather, He was giving a precept of capital punishment and the reason for it. The reason given is not for helping the city budget, nor is it because the killer’s life is not worth anything, but because the person who was killed was made in the image of God and no one has the right to snuff out God’s image and the person who, by virtue of being made in the image of God, has the capacity to have a relationship with God. God is pro-capital punishment, both in the Old and New Testament (Rom. 13:1-7), not because He thinks too little about the value of life, but because He esteems life, the sanctity of life.
Covenant Maker. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but no covenant would be properly kept unless God were the one solely responsible for keeping it. Here, as opposed to a mutual covenant (i.e. the Mosaic Covenant), the covenant is one-sided. No human or animal had to sign on the dotted line to ratify it; there wasn’t a congress to approve it; this was simply a sovereign demonstration of sovereign grace. The covenant stipulation was that God would not again flood the earth (Gen. 9:9-11) and the rainbow was the sign (vs.12-18). Concerning the former, there was no claim that any human being had on God to whereby demand that there never be another global deluge. If it were not for God’s grace, each generation could rightly see a global flood. But no generation ever will… because the covenant-making God is also a covenant-keeping God. And then there was (and still is) the rainbow – a perpetual sign of God’s grace and a perpetual reminder of man’s sinfulness. If the rainbow is a reminder of God’s grace and our sinfulness, how much more are the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Table? Thanks be to God that the last four thousand years have borne witness to the Scriptural truth – Yahweh is faithful (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Thes. 5:24) in keeping His covenant promises (cf. Deut. 7:9).
Gracious Communicator. God could have decided in His heart to never flood the world again and left it at that. He was under no compulsion to disclose that information. He could have had every successive generation of human beings wondering if another flood was going to come. But instead every successive generation has enjoyed the sign of God’s covenantal commitment to never flood the earth again.
Demander of Honor. While we do not know all that went on in Ham’s heart when he beheld his father’s nakedness and then eagerly told his brothers (Gen. 9:22), we do know that he clearly dishonored his father. Rather than simply taking a garment and clothing his father while he was in his tent like Shem and Japheth did (vs.23), or as God did for Adam and Eve, Ham sought to broadcast his father’s shame. He should have been a protector of his father’s dignity not a reporter of his father’s weakness. Where, then, is the attribute of God seen in this passage? Well, I think it’s implicit given the fact that Noah’s condemnation of Caanan (vs.25), Ham’s son, and benediction of Shem and Japeth (vs.26-27) proved prophetic. That doesn’t mean that Canaan had sinfulness imputed to him by God. Not at all. He likely walked in the irreverence of his father, as well as his own unbelief, and as subsequent revelation bears witness, his descendants would be marked by rebellion and debauchery. Additionally, Shem’s primary commendation, when he did the same thing that Japheth did, speaks to the fact that there were more variables in play then those seen in Genesis 9. But with that being said, staying within Genesis 9, both the curse and the blessings came as result of honor that either was or wasn’t shown to Noah. God not only demands that He be honored but that children honor their father and their mother (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:2). Rendering honor to whom honor is due is incredibly important to God.