We can only imagine how Noah and his family must have felt as they finally stepped out of the ark and into the world. Almost a year had passed since their feet had touched steady ground. The world they knew had been washed away, and the world they were stepping into must have seemed strange and lonely.
Although we are not told what Noah was thinking or feeling as he made his way out of the ark, we do know that he recognized God had saved him. We know this because when Noah left the ark, he built an altar to God (Genesis 8:20). God was pleased with Noah, and in receiving his worship promised to “never again curse the ground because of man” (Genesis 8:21). The land bore the curse when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden; it was the land that had absorbed God’s judgment when humanity had given themselves over to wickedness (Genesis 3:17; 6:11–13). But from this point forward, the land would never bear the curse of sin again.
God turned to Noah and his sons and gave them a blessing and a mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). If this sounds familiar it’s because it should. Because in this blessing and mandate, we see a mirroring of Genesis 2. God is remaking his creation, but unlike before, where he blessed a man and a woman who knew no sin, here he blessed these men even in their sin. And isn’t that the best news? God does not reserve his blessings for the sinless. He pours them out on us even when we can’t help but mess up.
Just to assure Noah that he can be trusted, God sealed his blessing by making a covenant. Although we call this the Noahic covenant, its benefits reach well beyond its namesake. And in this way, it is unique among the covenants, as God commits himself not only to Noah but to his descendants after him, and to every living creature on the earth. God would never destroy the earth by flood again, and to mark his commitment to humanity and all of creation, he gave a sign—a rainbow.
The Noahic covenant is a unilateral covenant, which means God entered into this commitment requiring absolutely nothing of his creation. In doing so, this covenant re-established what was already true of God’s relationship with the world. God is the giver and sustainer of life—all life.
In the Noahic covenant we see God promising to be faithful even if humanity is not. And just as that was something Noah and his family could count on back then, it is also something we can count on right now. The good news of the Noahic covenant is that when we are faithless, God is faithful. When we are sinful, he is merciful. God will never give up on his creation. He will never give up on us.