Over the last couple of weeks we have looked heavily at the first chapters of Genesis. These chapters are crucial to understanding the story of Jesus. We’ve seen how Satan does not want us to believe in Genesis 1–11, we’ve looked at key battles on the spiritual warfare map, and finally we saw mention of God’s first covenant with man.
Today, I want to take a closer look at Genesis 6 and God’s first covenant with man. I want to look at four attributes of God we’ll find nestled in this crucial chapter of the Bible.
If you haven’t read the previous articles, you can catch up to us by clicking the links above. For those who have been following along, we know that Genesis 6 is about more than just the flood. This chapter contains a word in verse 18 that will show up many more times in Scripture:
But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.
As a means of a reminder, a covenant is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties. A covenant always begins at a certain point–they are never automatic. Two parties must enter together into a covenant. That God would ever choose to enter into a covenant with man is truly an amazing thought.
This first covenant we find here in Genesis 6 is the first covenant between God and man but it is not the last. We will see in the weeks ahead several other covenants God lays out–all equally important as each one’s validity is dependent upon the validity of the other.
Before we get to God’s attributes, let’s do a quick summary of Genesis 6-9:
- Chapter 6: God tells of the Flood and promises a covenant.
- Chapter 7: God strikes the world with the Flood.
- Chapter 8: The waters recede.
- Chapter 9: Noah and his family come out of the ark and God gives the sign of His covenant.
People typically see Genesis 6–9 as the account of the flood, and certainly it contains this but this chapter is also the account of God establishing a covenant. The promise of the covenant comes in Chapter 6 and the reality of that covenant begins in Chapter 9.
But why the covenant? Why is God compelled to make an agreement with man when clearly He would be free to continue in His nature without ever a single interaction with us? The answer is found in who He is. Let’s take a look…
4 Paramount Attributes of God We Find in Genesis 6–9
We could spend a lifetime looking at God’s attributes without ever fully understanding the depth and richness of His character, but in these four chapters of Genesis we will see God clearly working through four of His vital attributes.
1. God is Holy
We say, “God is holy” so haphazardly because we really don’t have as good a definition of this as we think we do. Why are we so limited in our understanding of God’s holiness? Because we are unholy individuals. Positionally, he has made believers holy but on an experiential basis we are all still sinners. It is not until we go home to be with the Lord that we will be completely done with our sin nature.
If you start with the holiness of God and understand that He alone is holy, along with the angels that are with Him, then it is easy to see everything else is not.
We are able to glimpse Him exercising His holiness in Genesis 6.5:
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
God’s holiness grants Him (and Him alone) the authority to declare the definition of sin, wickedness, and evil. He does not ask for anyone’s input, nor does He seek anyone’s direction or approval.
If you asked the people on the earth at the time of the Flood if they were a wicked people, they would most likely have said, “No! Of course not…” By that time they were involved in all kinds of deviant activities that they would consider normal and right. They answered to no authority.
Anyone or anything that is not holy stands in contrast to God, who is. If you start with yourself and work your way toward God, God ends up looking a whole lot like you. However, if you start with God one sin will leave you totally defiled.
When God declares the world evil in Genesis 6.5, He is also declaring His holiness.
2. God is Sovereign
6 The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6.6-7)
In His sovereignty, God has the authority and means to blot out anyone and anything that is contrary to His nature.
Jesus said in Matthew 24.37-39,
37 For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
The author of Hebrews also wrote (11.7),
By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
The people in Noah’s day thought they were fine right up until the day they were drenched. God is sovereign over mankind whether people accept His sovereignty or not. Putting themselves under God’s authority is not a decision left up to man–they are there whether they know it or not.
God saw the whole earth (Genesis 6.12) and that they were all corrupt except for Noah and his immediate family. God did not miss a pocket of godly people somewhere else on the planet. He didn’t choose only Noah out of 10,000 other “Noah’s.” The entire world had turned against Him, and in His power over all things, He declared to wipe the slate clean.
3. God is Gracious
Look at the contrast between Genesis 6.7 and Genesis 6.8. “[God] will blot out man” verses “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
Noah was a righteous man (Hebrews 11.7), blameless in his own time and he walked with God. Works of merit did not save Noah, but rather God extended favor to Noah, and because of this, Noah accomplished good works. Righteous acts could not make Noah good, but he walked with God and performed righteous acts. There is a big difference between the two.
Noah was a sinner–as much as anyone found in the Genesis 5 genealogy–as much as Adam. He did not live a perfect life. For him to be righteous, God must have extended righteousness to him. For Noah to be accepted by a holy God, some kind of provision had to be made.
Not that he completely understood it at the time, but Noah found his righteousness in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No one can be saved any other way.
God makes grace possible but it’s never automatic or something that happens as a mere by-product. Grace is part of a covenant and we know that any covenant must be entered into, whether it’s marriage, a peace treaty, or a covenant that God Himself makes.
4. God is Faithful
God declares in Genesis 6.13 that He is going to bring about a flood to destroy life on earth. If he does not bring about a flood He is not faithful to His Word, even if it means a promise of judgment. If he makes a promise of judgment and judgment does not come, He is no longer a faithful God. Because of this, we can trust Him in the blessings and promises as well.
The second He declares there will be a flood, it’s going to happen. No one can get in His way. No one has the strength to say, “No it’s not!” It is a done deal. When He exercises His sovereign will, no one can resist it.
Until Next Time…
These four attributes of God are going to play a critical role in the establishment of the first covenant. In order to understand God’s covenants, we have to first understand God, at least to the capacity He has allowed us. Next week, we’re going to look at how these all-important attributes are incorporated into this first covenant and how they work themselves out in our everyday lives. Hang on to what we’ve done here and we will build on it in a few days.
Beloved, I hate to leave you hanging without much application, but the application is coming. We have set the table for a thorough understanding of God’s first covenant, which we will begin looking at in depth next week.
Dr. Greg Harris
Church: Teaching Pastor at Lake Hills Community Church
Education: B.A. Campbell University
M.A. NC Central University
M.Div Talbot Theological Seminary
Th.M Talbot Theological Seminary
Th.D Dallas Theological Seminary
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Author: The Cup and the Glory, The Darkness and the Glory, and The Stone and the Glory