************ Sermon on Genesis 8:22 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on Novermber 24, 2005
"A Promise and Sign of Seedtime and Harvest"
I'm not even sure of the movie's name anymore, but I certainly remember what it was about. For some reason the earth's climate was changing; temperate areas turned into frozen wastelands; jungles turned into deserts. It was no longer possible to grow crops in the world's bread baskets of the American Mid-West, the Canadian Prairies, the Ukraine. Food riots took place in all the world's major cities. To safeguard the little food they had, the movie showed farmers blocking the highways with combines, riding shotgun over their few cattle, and setting traps around their garden plots. The movie's main characters struggled to keep their sanity and families intact while at the same time trying to help out those in need. More than once they were shown in their frozen fields, helplessly shaking their fists into the sky and shouting "Why? Why God?"
Scientists talk of the greenhouse effect caused by air pollution – a gradual global warming which will turn most growing areas into desert and melt the polar icecap. A couple of weeks ago Ruth and I watched a documentary about the super volcano at Yellowstone; when this volcano blows the world will surely enter another ice-age. With the proliferation of nuclear weapons there is also talk about a nuclear winter – so much dust and debris thrown into the air because of a nuclear exchange that the sun is blocked and an ice-age begins.
Are these real possibilities? Will there ever be a time that the earth heats up so much or cools down so much that there can be no seedtime or harvest? I doubt it. I don't say that because I doubt man's endless capacity for sin. I don't say that because I doubt man's capacity to pollute the environment. I don't say that because I doubt man's capacity to start hurling nuclear weapons at each other. I say that because of the kind of God we have: a merciful, loving, and gracious God Who gives us in Genesis 8 a promise and a sign of seedtime and harvest.
Subtopic: Good Advice
There is a great line in one of Charles Schulz's Peanuts cartoons. It is raining "cats and dogs" outside the window when Lucy asks the most profound question of the day. "Boy, look at it rain. What if it floods the whole world?" Fully up to the occasion as usual, Linus, the resident theologian, answers that a worldwide flood is impossible since Genesis 9 promises that God will never again flood the earth. Obviously relieved, Lucy sighs, "You've taken a great load off my mind...." Linus's final summation: "sound theology has a way of doing that!"
The past 12 months have seen all sorts of disasters: a tsunami in SE Asia, a horrid earthquake in Pakistan, a Hurricane season that broke all records in terms of numbers and the amount of destruction. Yet, through it all we still have seedtime and harvest. On this Thanksgiving Day we thank and praise God for the harvest and all His other blessings.
I Man is Sinful
A When God gives to man His gracious promise and sign about seedtime and harvest, He does so within the context of sin. In our Scripture reading, God is talking about man when He says, "every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood" (Gen 8:21). God is saying, "Even though you are a sinner, I will still supply your needs."
Man is so afflicted with sin that he is totally helpless on his own. Man's whole being is sinfully inclined, so he badly needs the forbearance, patience, and love of God. Sin has taken such a hold on man that without God's blessing and help, man is unable to even provide for his most basic needs. This shows us that God's promise and sign about seedtime and harvest is part of His mercy and graciousness towards us.
B God gives His promise and sign of seedtime and harvest after the Flood. God sent the Flood because
(Gen 6:5) The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. Yet, after the Flood, God said about man, "every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood" (Gen 8:21). Notice that almost the same words are used to describe man after the Flood as before the Flood – in both instances God admits that the inclination of man's heart is evil.
The first time God makes this observation, He sends the death and destruction of the Flood. The second time God makes this observation, He gives a promise and sign about seedtime and harvest. Obviously, the promise and sign to a lost-in-sin mankind highlights the grace and mercy of God.
C Why this big difference in God's actions? Why does man's sin lead to destruction in one instance and a gracious promise and sign in the second instance? The difference lies in the man Noah. Like the men before the Flood, he was sinful. But unlike them, he believed in and tried to serve God. Remember the first thing Noah did after he got out of the ark? He built an altar and offered sacrifices to God. This he did in order to thank the Lord for His gracious protection and to pray for His mercy in time to come.
We are told that Noah's sacrifice pleased the Lord. It was accepted by God. To Him it was a "pleasing aroma" (Gen 8:21).
Why did God accept Noah's sacrifice? Noah's sacrifice was acceptable and pleasing to God because of Christ. In Noah's sacrifice, God saw the sacrifice of His Son. You see, it is the sacrifice of Jesus and only of Jesus which is acceptable to God. It is because of Christ's sacrifice that all other sacrifice is acceptable.
In Christ, then, Noah's sacrifice was pleasing to God. And in and because of Christ, our gracious God gave Noah a promise and a sign that concerns us on this Thanksgiving Day – a promise and a sign about seedtime and harvest even though we are sinful and deserving of God's wrath and judgment.
II God's Covenant Promise and Sign
A God's gracious promise is found in our text for this Thanksgiving Day:
(Gen 8:21-22) Never again will I curse the ground because of man ... And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. (22) "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."God makes a promise here that never again will He bring a world-wide catastrophe like the Flood. He promises that one season will faithfully follow after another in a never-ending stream until the end of times. God promises reason and order in the universe. He has established laws to make this so. Never will there be a year with 4 winters or a year without a spring. So, even though there have been hurricanes and tornados and earthquakes and tsunamis, we can say with certainty, "Spring is coming, crops will be planted, the sun will shine, the rain will fall, flowers will bloom, trees will bud, and crops will be harvested."
B In giving this promise, God makes a covenant. Most of our relationships today are defined by contracts. I have a contract with Wells Fargo for my mortgage. I have a contract with AIG and Northwestern Mutual Life for my insurance needs. I have a contract with Clark Pest Control to spray for bugs and The Yard Doctor to spray for weeds. I have a contract with SMS to alarm my house. I have a contract with Verizon for my cell phone, Comcast for my Internet, and DirecTV for my television. Teachers have a contract with the school board. Big businesses have contracts with suppliers, unions, and customers. Now, as we all know, contracts are only for a specified period of time. They can be moved, switched, changed, and ended. For a penalty, they can even be broken when either or both sides fail to live up to their agreement. I fail to pay my mortgage and Wells Fargo can sell my home. I fail to pay my insurance premium, and AIG will rightly drop me as a customer. In business and commerce, contracts are good and necessary. However, it makes me shudder to realize some couples make marriage into a contract – in other words, something that can be broken, changed, or ended.
God does not make a contract with us. Rather, He makes a covenant with us. A covenant is forever. It can never be changed, switched, ended, or broken. That's why we call marriage a covenant: husband and wife are bound together for life. A covenant is like the relationship between a parent and a child. Even when a child doesn't listen or if a parent does a poor job in raising him up, the parent-child relationship still exists. Of course, God's side of the covenant relationship is always held up. It is man's side – because of sin – that isn't held up. Yet, the relationship is still there. God is always the Father and we are always His children – disobedient children, but still children of God.
In Christ and because of Christ, then, God has established a covenant with us and with every living creature. Listen to what God says:
(Gen 9:9-11) "I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you (10) and with every living creature that was with you--the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you--every living creature on earth. (11) I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth."God covenants with us and with all living creatures to always send seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.
C This does not mean there will be no disasters. There will be droughts in some places so that crops won't grow. There will be floods in other places so that crops will drown. But these disasters – and this is God's covenant promise – will never again be world-wide. They will be local. And, they can be overcome by planning and forethought and generosity. Think of Joseph, who set food aside for the 7 lean and hungry years. Or, think of the saints in Corinth who sent food and money to the poor and hungry Christians of Jerusalem.
D God also gives us a sign of this gracious covenant promise – the rainbow. Our children and youth learn all about the rainbow in school. A rainbow is most commonly seen when sunlight shines on falling raindrops. The rainbow is always observed in a direction opposite to the sun. It is caused by the bending or refraction of light waves that enter the raindrop. Each color, because of its different wavelength, is bent through the raindrop at a slightly different angle. So, when the light emerges from the drop, the colors are separated. The most brilliant and common rainbow is the primary bow which results from light that is reflected only once inside the rain drop. In this kind of rainbow, red is always at the top of the arc and blue or violet is at the bottom. Occasionally, a secondary bow may be observed in front of the first or primary bow. This is a bow that results from light being reflected two times inside the rain drop. In this kind of rainbow, the colors are reversed with blue or violet at the top and red at the bottom of the arc.
The most important thing about the rainbow, though, is not what we learn from science and physics. The most important thing about the rainbow is what we learn from the Bible. There we learn that the rainbow is a sign of God's covenant with mankind and every living creature, that it is a sign of the promise about seedtime and harvest.
The Flood lasted for exactly one year and ten days. For one year and ten days there was no seedtime or harvest, no summer or winter. For one year and ten days the cycle of the seasons was interrupted. For one year and ten days God overthrew the laws of nature which He had established and upset His created order of things. In Genesis 1 we read that on the second day of creation God separated the waters which were under the expanse from the water above the expanse – thus sky and ground were separated. On the third day of creation God separated land and sea. During the Flood, God reversed what He did on the second and third day of creation: the windows of heaven opened up and the fountains of the great deep burst forth so there no longer was any difference between land and sea and between earth and sky. Everything reverted to the original disorder for 40 days and 40 nights.
Every time we see the rainbow we are reminded of God's gracious promise to never again interrupt the seasons.
Did you notice, God put the rainbow in the sky to remind Himself of His covenant promise:
(Gen 9:16) Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.This is not to say that God is forgetful and needs reminders. Rather, it is a sign to us that God is forever faithful to His promises and always stands upon His Word.
Because of God's grace in Christ Jesus, we know there will be a seedtime and harvest. We know we don't deserve this because we are sinful. However, God in and through and because of Christ has covenanted to bless the world so that our needs can be met. This is a promise of His – a promise that He has sealed in the rainbow! As you see the rainbow, then, see God's promise that
(Gen 8:22) "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."
On this Thanksgiving Day we praise God for this, we thank God for this, we rejoice in God for this.
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