You’re probably thinking, “What in blazes do they have in common?” Well, it’s covenants, of course. Take the snake in the Garden. (It’s fitting Satan would show up as a slithering reptile, no?) The first couple had no pressing need of anything. The Creator had provided all things necessary for fully enjoying life. Therefore, the devil knew getting Adam or Eve to break the rules of their covenant with God would be a difficult challenge. He figured the only chance he had was to somehow cause them to question God’s motives. The best way to accomplish that would be to mask the covenant nature of God. A little backstory comes in handy about now. The Hebrew title that describes God as Ruler, Sovereign and Mastermind of the universe is Elohim. But, beginning in Genesis 2, another name’s added – Yahweh. It basically means “Lord,” a word describing God as a person, a friend, a lover, a comforter and even Father. So “Yahweh Elohim” translates as “Lord God.” That distinction is crucial.
The Scriptures read, “Now the serpent was more shrewd than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Is it really true God said, “You must not eat from any tree of the orchard?’” (Genesis 3:1). Satan craftily leaves out the covenant name of God, referring to Him only as Elohim. (Liars are notorious word manipulators.) In her response Eve does likewise. The devil thus succeeded in getting her to focus on God’s authoritative, judgmental traits and to ignore His gracious, loving covenant nature. Satan was playing a slick-but-effective mind game with Eve. Alas, it worked like a charm. He kept at her using the same tactic: “The serpent said to the woman, ‘Surely you won’t die, for God knows when you eat from it your eyes will open and you’ll be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4-5). We’re informed Adam was there with Eve during this conversation but, like a lot of men do, he probably wasn’t paying attention. By using wordplay Satan momentarily got them to think of God as a selfish tyrant who coveted His omnipotence, not as the generous blessing-provider who’d given them a beautiful paradise to oversee. We all know what they did next and this freaked-out world’s never been the same since.
Millenniums afterward life on earth had turned downright hellish and our Heavenly Father was ready to throw in the towel. Yet He’d made a promise in Eden and He never reneges. God had told Satan, “…I’ll put hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; her offspring will attack your head, and you’ll attack her offspring’s heel” (Genesis 3:15). In Hebrew the word “head” connotes the devil’s newfound authoritative rule over the human race; a privilege Adam & Eve foolishly granted him without a fight. Satan had established an iron-clad hold on the planet, though, and God was way beyond angry. Yet even the devil underestimated the actions God would take to rectify the situation. “…The LORD saw the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time. The LORD regretted he’d made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended. So the LORD said, ‘I’ll wipe humankind, whom I’ve created, from the face of the earth – everything from humankind to animals, including creatures that move on the ground and birds of the air, for I regret that I’ve made them’” But then comes the all-important caveat: “…But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD” (Genesis 6:5-8).
Once again, God willfully entered into another covenant with a human being. We’re told Noah was “blameless among his contemporaries” and that he “walked with God.” Evidently that was enough for God to designate him the covenantal representative of mankind before He washed the globe clean. Our species was figuratively “in” Noah when he entered the ark. After the deluge receded God said to Noah and his family, “Look! I now confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that is with you…” (Genesis 9:9-10). Back on dry land, Noah displayed his respectful gratitude by offering God a blood sacrifice. As with all covenants, the terms of their pact were spelled out. Noah and the other survivors were expected to be fruitful and to multiply, were told they could now eat any clean animal meat with their vegetables and they got the go ahead for instituting capital punishment as the penalty for murder. God took an oath: “This is the guarantee of the covenant I’m making with you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all subsequent generations: I will place my rainbow in the clouds… then I will remember my covenant with you… Never again will the waters become a flood and destroy all living things” (Genesis 9:12-15).
What a magnificent memorial God created to commemorate His covenant with Noah! The Hebrew word for “rainbow” in the above passage describes a warrior’s bow. Yet God’s rainbows appear in the sky, not in a position of warfare or judgment, but sideways in the traditional position of peace. (When vacationing in Kauai years ago my wife and I beheld a stupendous rainbow containing colors so intense we were rendered speechless.) It’s also a reminder of how forgiving our God is. Frederick Buechner wrote, “This idea God loves people whether or not they give a damn isn’t new. In the Book of Hosea, for instance, the prophet portrays God as lashing out at Israel for their disobedience and saying that by all rights they should be wiped off the face of the earth, but then adding, ‘How can I hand you over, O Israel?… My heart recoils within me… I won’t execute my fierce anger… For I’m God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I won’t come to destroy’ (Hosea 11:8-9).” Thank God He loves us!