Many of us remember a time when the word “promise” had real weight and authority.
It was a word that parents used cautiously; because once rendered to a child, the expectation of the promise being fulfilled was as iron clad a contract as could be made in their youthful minds.
Breaking of the promise would lead to disappointment, loss of faith, and the breakdown of trust in anything the parent might say thereafter.
I remember a friend recounting to me how their parents routinely got around the promise covenant.
The parental promise would often begin with words to this effect,
“Hey boys, there’s a new movie coming out this week and if your good we can go to it tonight!” Their mom would say.
They would enthusiastically respond, “Yay, we’ll be good momma!”
But the excitement from the declaration of their mother would lead to energetic roughhousing.
Before long, CRASH; a household furniture item of their choosing would fall victim to their antics and mother would enter the room enraged at the damage and exclaim,
“That’s it, were not going to the movie!”
Immediately the brothers would respond crying,
“But you PROMISED!”
“Ah” the mother replied, “But you promised to stay out of trouble…and you couldn’t even make it one day!”
Promises kept, promises broken…it is the tale told generation after generation.
Disappointment and heartbreak rules the day.
As the old 80’s song says, “You made me promises promises, you knew you’d never keeeeeep!”
So our lesson tells us today, “God said to Noah and his sons with him, Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you.” (Genesis 9:8-9)
Here God was raising up a promise to his people after the world wide destruction of the flood.
Never again would they be judged so harshly as to wipe out every living thing.
Years ago in my former parish it rained 10” in one 24 hour period non-stop.
One little girl in the congregation lived in the woods where the water was rising the quickest near her home and she asked me, with no small amount of suspicion,
“Are you sure God said he would never flood the whole world again?”
Taking her somber countenance equally seriously I said, “Yes, I’m sure Megan!”
Turning to me she shot back, “How do YOU know?”
More gently this time I replied, “Because I can see the rainbows God set as a sign of His promise.”
That settled her down for the time being. It wasn’t long after that she accused me of preaching false doctrine because I said that a butterfly came from a cocoon instead of a chrysalis. We managed to iron that one out as well.
When God makes a promise he does something we simply cannot do. He keeps it and leaves a sign of His covenant so it can never be denied.
Lord knows we deny His promises with nary a whisper of regret, routinely…consistently…and totally.
We deny our time to be in devotion with His extraordinary words of life for our souls.
We dismiss our opportunities to love our neighbor as Christ first loved us.
We delegate the spiritual nurture of our children to the denizens of virtual counselors who spirit them away from forgiveness and strengthening that only God can give.
We do all this and more in spite of our honest desire to do the opposite of it all.
Paul’s exclamation cries from the very reality of our self-expression today, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)
We know that in Noah’s day, Tubal-Cain, who forged bronze and Iron and was the most technologically advanced person for generations didn’t deliver. (Genesis 4:23)
We know the empty promises of all the kings of Egypt, Israel, Judah, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece combined didn’t deliver.
We know that Rome; the mightiest empire of all human history and its’ most powerful emperor’s did not deliver.
But in the mud and muck of all the disappointing promises the world ever meted out, arises a deliverer giving us room to breathe above all that chaos covers.
In 1995 the musical group “Jars of Clay” released their hit song “Flood”. In the song they sing words that perfectly capture what God is communicating to us today.
Rain rain on my face
Hasn’t stopped raining for days
My world is a flood
Slowly I become one with the mud
But if I can’t swim after 40 days
And my mind is crushed by the crashing waves
Lift me up so high that I cannot fall…
Lift me up –When I’m falling
Lift me up –I’m weak and I’m dying
Lift me up –I need you to hold me
Lift me up –Keep me from drowning again!
Today God reminds us that He does lift us up again and again and again.
In vs. 8 He lifts up this covenant for Noah and all who come after him.
In vs. 11 He lifts up His promise to never flood the world again.
In vs. 13 He lifts up the rainbow in the sky as a sign of His covenant between God and man for all to see.
When you look in the mirror these days, what do you see?
Maybe a few more wrinkles around the eyes? A little less hair on the forehead? A little more meat in the middle?
I guess a friend of mine was right all those years ago, we don’t get younger and prettier do we?
Except Marcy…I swear she is prettier than the first day I fell for her 29 years ago…ah but I digress.
Let me ask you this now. When you look in the mirror, do you see a sinner? A law breaker? A man or woman cut off from God because of the World, ourselves and the Devil himself?
…If you don’t…look again, I PROMISE that’s whose there.
But when God looks…what does HE see in the mirror?
Remember Paul said, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)
Well he said something even more, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)
When God looks in the mirror, He doesn’t see what we see and our lesson today tells us why.
God lifts up the only thing worth looking at.
Verse 16 says, “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant…”
This week as we studied this lesson, Dale made a comment that explains perfectly what God is saying and expresses exactly how His love for us works. Dale said, “The rainbow is so we remember that God remembers to always look at the rainbow and not our sin.”
So too when we stand in the mirror and see that sinner staring back at us, God sees only His perfect Son!
His perfect, blameless, innocent, God-man Son, whom the Father lifted up and nailed to the cross along with all our sins.
Lift me up – Jesus was falling on the way to the cross
Lift me up – Jesus was made weak and dying
Lift me up – Jesus just wanted His daddy to hold him
Lift me up – Jesus Drowned in the fluid of His lungs
Indeed Jesus was lifted up to die for us sinners, so the Father could lift us up to be made perfect by His Son’s sacrifice.
God starts with the man in the mirror, and even though that man or woman in the mirror is a sinner…the rainbow reality and crucified clarity makes that image perfect in God’s sight.
Thank-God He makes us what we could never be in the mirror.