“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him… ‘I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth’” (Gen. 9:8–11).
Many believers assume there are only two types of covenants: conditional and unconditional. The covenant of works, for example, is often seen as wholly conditional, having no grace at all. In turn, the covenant of grace is usually said to be only unconditional with nothing required of man to gain its blessing.
This broad categorization can be helpful. Adam’s reward was predicated upon conformity to the Lord’s prohibition (Gen. 2:16–17). Likewise, salvation comes only because of His grace (Eph. 2:8–9).
Yet we should not think the covenant of works is solely conditional, for it includes grace. Nothing obligated God to create us, form a relationship with us, or meet our needs for security and significance so wonderfully with marriage and labor (Gen. 2:15, 24).
Similarly, the benefits of the covenant of grace are based on a condition — perfect obedience to God’s law. The covenant of grace is unconditional for us because another fulfills its demand, not because salvation lacks a condition. God imputes Christ’s merit to us by faith alone precisely because Jesus has fulfilled the Law in our stead (Matt. 3:13–17). His righteousness established our redemption (Phil 3:9).
What about the Noahic covenant? First, God gives no proviso for preserving nature’s cycle. The seasons will continue, and He will not destroy all flesh as long as the earth remains (Gen. 8:22). Even if no one obeys the laws of 9:1–7, the Lord will not break this promise (v. 11). However, consequences remain for those societies or individuals who defy the Noahic covenant. Babylon, which ignored the prohibition against murder and built its empire with blood, had its destruction foretold (Hab. 2:6–17). Rain will never again wipe out all creation, but it can be withheld from men who do not praise the one, true God (Zech. 14:17) as Noah did after the flood (Gen. 8:20).
After the flood, the Lord retains the right to send calamitous judgments upon sinful human society. Moreover, He only promised not to judge with water (9:11); God still has the right to pass sentence on the whole world in other ways. This He will do at the consummation when He judges all things with fire (2 Peter 3:5–7).
While we cannot always draw a one-to-one correlation between natural disasters and divine judgment, we should not be surprised when evil nations suffer the ravages of nature. Moreover, we must never think God has nothing to do with inclement weather, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, or other such phenomena, for He is Lord of the storm (Ps. 107). Consider donating your resources to an organization that affirms the Lord’s sovereignty while providing disaster relief.
Passages for Further Study
- Deut. 11
- Ps. 83
- Prov. 10:25
- Isa. 24
- Luke 13:1–5
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