God Keeps His Promises
Genesis 9:8-17

Have you ever experienced waking up from a nightmare and feeling as though it was real?  Have you ever had a child wake in the night in a cold sweat having had a bad dream?  What’s the one thing that child and you really need at that scary time?  That one thing is reassurance.  The child especially needs a trusted figure in their lives to hold them, comfort them and reassure them that it was indeed all a bad dream and that it’s OK to go back to sleep.  Reassurance is important in the building of trust.

Noah and his family had just seen the entire face of the earth wiped out in a massive flood.  It rained forty days and forty nights, the waters covered the entire earth, then they spent months cooped up with all of those wild animals as they waited for the water to dry up and to be able to release all of the animals and begin a normal life again.  They were the only eight people and their ark full of animals to survive.  It must have been difficult to believe that God was a loving and caring God, but when the waters had gone and the land had dried up, and Noah and his clan released all of the animals, God came to them and gave them reassurance.  Never again would the entire earth and all its creatures be wiped out by a flood.  God repeats himself a couple of times to reiterate his point, “Never again will all life be destroyed by waters of a flood, never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”  And then he gave them a sign to help them remember and be reassured, “This is a sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

Not only did God tell them a couple of times that he would never do that again but he gave them a sign as a reminder. Not only as a reminder to human beings for all generations but to remind God too.  Every time we see a rainbow in the sky to this day we should remember the promise or covenant that God made with Noah and all people and all creatures on the earth.  There may be floods that come but when we see dark clouds looming on the horizon it doesn’t mean the whole world will be destroyed, when the rainbow appears we are reassured that all will be well with the world.

The flood had been God’s way of washing the face of the earth clean so that Noah and his family could start afresh.  They were still sinful, but they obeyed God and built the ark in the midst of ridicule from the rest of the people around them.  God had saved them and provided for them in every way. And now he had given them a promise and a sign that he would continue to protect and provide for them.

As we know the world became populated again with the descendants of Noah, and God made another covenant or promise to Abraham that he would have many descendants, they would be a great nation and they would be called blessed.  Again there was a sign as a reminder, this time it was circumcision.  Perhaps this sign was a more constant reminder for the men of Israel than a rainbow but a sign none-the-less and a reminder of the covenant that God made with them.

We Christians live under a New Covenant, we hear about that covenant each week during worship as a part of the words of institution in Holy Communion.  “This is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

This new covenant was given to us by Jesus, the Son of God, perhaps an even more important covenant than all of those that went before it.  In this covenant we are guaranteed forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Every time we receive the body and blood of Christ we are not only reminded of that forgiveness as we see and taste the bread and wine but we receive that forgiveness again.  The bread and wine of Holy Communion are more than just a sign, in with and under them is the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for us.

In our gospel reading today God provided a couple of signs for the people as his Son Jesus was baptised, firstly was heaven being torn open, then the Spirit descended on him like a dove and then a voice came from heaven saying, “You are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.”  Jesus didn’t need forgiveness of sins, but he was baptised anyway, just as we are.  In our baptism we are made a part of the new covenant that I mentioned before.  We are made children of God, rather than being circumcised the signs of water and the word are used along with God’s promise that whoever believes and is baptised will be saved.

God keeps his promises!  We’ve never had another flood, Abraham did have descendants as numerous as the stars, and we still see his rainbow hung in the sky for all to see.  In these uncertain times we need reassurances and comfort from a loving and caring God.  Here in Australia we’ve been experiencing people that we should be able to trust, that we should be reassured by, bickering and fighting over who’s going to be the leader of the government.  Many of us probably don’t care who leads us as long as someone competent is just getting on with it, not spending their time trying to argue over who might be better at it.  It’s not particularly reassuring is it; in fact it’s a sign of the times in Australian politics.  We just wish that they would keep their promises like God does!

As we begin this Lenten season, be reassured, God has made a covenant with us, our sins are forgiven, use this time as an opportunity to be reminded, to be reassured and to know that even if you feel like your life is a bit of a bad dream or nightmare at the moment, God is with you, he hasn’t abandoned you and you live in a covenant relationship with him.  We are people of the promise, and he is the God that made that promise with us.

Amen.