Changes in the weather talks are a fascinating topic at every gathering I have been in. When it snows we talk about it. When it rains we talk about it. When there is a bright day we talk about it. I have heard conversations about not having enough rain, sun, ice, snow, heat, or whatever. We are absolutely fascinated by the weather changes and rightfully so because it is one of those God’s acts, which you know insurance company won’t cover, that we don’t have much control over and it is always amazing. After a snowstorm, our part of the world shines brighter. When the sun hits white snow, it reflects a hundred times more light and the place becomes even brighter. This is yet another weather miracle.
Similarly when there are mist or water particles in the air, and when the sun shines on it, we see the rainbow. Every time I see a rainbow I remember this passage from the Bible where God made a promise that He will not destroy mankind ever again as he did in the flood of Noah. God made a unilateral promise. It was not a bilateral agreement, but a promise God made with the hope that we will understand what it is to enter into a good relationship.
Have you ever signed a promissory note? Something that promises you will return, repay, give back that which you borrowed from someone else? Any person who has bought a house, or a car, or anything on a loan has signed one. It is a covenant that you made with the person to return something that you took from him or her. There is a sort of relationship you enter into when you make a covenant. Covenant underlines a relationship for the better or for the worse.
The whole premise of creation is a relationship: the relationship between God and us. Creation is a covenant of love. It’s like us having children. We are making a covenant with the child we bring into this world. A covenant of love and care. We are establishing a non-binding relationship with trust, and hope.
A true and honest relationship does not require a promissory note. But we all do sign some sort of a promissory note when we enter into relationships. Business or marriage or purchase of a property. Why? Because we fail without it. A fear factor keeps us straight and honest many times. It keeps us in line, if I may say so. Or else there is no reason for a promissory note or a contract or treaty that we all sign with consequences we call blessings or curses of life.
How many of you have signed a promissory note in your life? Have you kept your end of the bargain at the end of the signing of the note? If not, I am sure either you will have to declare bankruptcy or suffer the consequence.
If you and I believed that when we borrow money we have to give it back even if no one holds us responsible is a sign of good character. If we have agreed to do the right thing we do it, without worrying about if someone is watching us or not.
We human beings tend to fail in that respect. We break laws all the time. We break our promises very often. We break the promise we have made to ourselves, and to others. Marriages break apart, and so do relationships. Breached contracts, failed agreements, unkept promises; all destroy relationships.
Today’s scripture is all about the covenant of love. It’s much more than contracts and covenants. It’s not about God’s anger at the failure of humankind to keep their end of the bargain to live a holy life. It is not a punishment as it looks like God was angry that we did not keep our promise. But more, in my view, it was the sadness that poured into the world, the sadness God experienced when we did not grow to be the good people we are meant to be. God cried a flood of tears. God was saddened by our inability to keep our end of the bargain when we were let out of the garden to life with our free will. We failed to understand that broken promises hurt one another and God too.
In my opinion, a good relationship begins without a binding contract but an ethical behavior that unbinds us. The intent to keep a unilateral promise is the beginning of Godly behavior, where we do the right thing without being bound by worldly covenants. God does not wait for Noah to sign the covenant before God promises never to destroy the world again. God does not wait to see if Noah complies or keeps his end of the promise. God does the right thing because God knows the good thing.
God is God because God does not need us to hold Him or Her responsible. God is God because God’s covenants are meant to build a relationship rather than a promissory note to extract a certain behavior or benefit or profit from us.
“God doesn’t want us to have rigid rituals with Him. In the new covenant, He is more interested in having a relationship with us.” (Joseph Prince). “The law condemns the best of us because it is a signed contract, but grace saves the worst of us,” because it is an unwritten covenant with God. Why is that? Because “God’s covenant is not restrictive, but protective.” (Russell M. Nelson)
God is looking for a relationship that is free, unbinding, and exhilarating to walk with him in the evening through the freedom of the Garden of Eden. God is looking for ways to get us back into the garden so that we can be fully free to roam the grounds of the garden with total freedom of the child of God.
So from now on every time you see a rainbow remember what the Lord says. “Get back into the garden, my child. Be truly free.” At the end of the day, a covenant is the second-best when the best is a good character.