Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
Noah, alongside the rest of his family, had experienced a great trauma. While we so often focus on the fact that God had saved Noah and kept him safe, I have never thought before about what the experience would have been like for Noah. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to see it rain for forty days straight and to see the water levels slowly rise, until “[e]verything…that had the breath of life in its nostrils died” (Genesis 7:22). I can’t imagine would it would have been like to witness the panic on people’s faces as their homes slowly became inundated, and then as they fought to try to find the energy to keep their heads above the water. I can’t imagine how Noah would have felt, knowing that he and his family were safe, but there was nothing he could do to help others. Noah was forced to witness just how messed up the world was.
But God knew how messed up the world was too. God was witness to all “that had the breath of life in its nostrils” dying. God also saw what Noah went through, the distress that the whole situation would have caused.
God’s promise, the rainbow in the sky, wasn’t a promise that there wouldn’t be anymore suffering. It wasn’t a promise that no would one would ever have to experience or be witness to anything horrible ever again. It wasn’t a promise that life would now be all ‘sunshine and rainbows’.
It was simply a promise that God would try a different way, even though this different way would still involve suffering, and still would have witnesses…God was promising that God still loved the world and would do something to fix it.
A reflection based on the Lenten Cross Reading for the 4th day of Lent.