October 16, 2021

God’s Covenant and Good News 21-02-2021

21st February 2021
The First Sunday in Lent
Title: God’s Covenant & Good News
(Genesis 9:8-17; Mark 1:12-15)
By Heeyoung Lim 

We are thankful to God that we could hear the good news and hopeful messages, but we live in the flood of negative stories such as corruption, violence, greed, and so on from all around the world.
Today’s text is a story of deliverance and new beginnings, but it contains painful process too.
“The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
What is the most surprising about the story of Noah and the flood is not that God decided to remove people from the earth. Today’s story is more about God’s Covenant with Noah and God’s promise for people rather than eradication. God cleaned the sinful world and started it again with the survivors on the ark. He saved the world through righteous Noah and his family. God’s covenant contains a story of deliverance and of relationship with God. (9:17)
God directed Noah, the only one who found favour with the Lord, to build an ark so that he and his family and some of the animals might escape the punishing flood.
Noah continually obeyed God and waited for building the ark for about one hundred years (Bible does not say the exact years), arriving of the floodwaters for seven days, raining for forty days and forty nights, rising water for one hundred fifty days, decreasing waters from the Ararat Mountain for about three months, waiting to be dried up over the earth for forty days, sending out dove three times for seven days and seven more days, removing the ark’s hatch and walking down from the ark for another waiting time.
In the meantime, Noah’s long-time faithful obedience have been done just as God commanded Noah. We know obedience should be persistent, not one-off. I hope faithful obedience in accordance with God’s words will be shown in the rest of our lives.
God is gracious, merciful, and slow to anger as Scripture often attests. God designed mankind and the animals to live on the dry land of the earth, so once again He provided new environment for people.
We are in between God’s love and righteousness. God alone has the right to judge and destroy with His righteousness, and He surrenders the divine privilege for people’s salvation with His love in His covenant. The covenant was made with “righteous” Noah and would continue with his descendants and every living creature on earth. (16) This was multi-generational, and the ark of Noah was God’s tool of salvation.
The sign of the covenant was the rainbow that forms in the clouds, especially after a rain. It would be a sign that would bring remembrance of God’s covenant. The covenant was what God promised to do and the promise was that God would not flood the earth again. (9:12-17)
In the light of God’s rainbow promise, new start and reconciliation may blossom and bear fruits, if we can reflect the meaning of rainbow in our lives and our faith communities.
This passage invites us to reconsider our relationships with each other and all creation. Our new journey begins in Lent, passes through the passion and the cross, and ends up on the resurrection.
In Mark 1, something new has begun from the loneliness of God’s servant in wilderness. After his baptism Jesus at once went into the wilderness. Mark says the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness. Mark used the word “sent” while Matthew used the term “led”. Probably servants are “sent” or “commanded to go” rather than “led”.
The sacrificial servant is tested by Satan in his final preparation for fulfilling his mission. Mark uses the term Satan as an adversary when the other Gospel writers use the word Devil as an accuser.
Mark does not present the testing of Jesus in detail as the other Gospel writers do. The description about the testing from Mark is brief, and there is no mention about the victory over Satan. This seems to indicate that being tested by Satan is not limited to this one experience in the desert, it looks to imply that it will be continued on Jesus’ entire journey and ministry. (12,13) It is better to translate “being tested” rather than “being tempted” here. His testing may have served as preparation and empowerment for ministry.
Mark is telling about the mighty works of the sacrificial servant, and it simply informs us that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days which are symbolic. They recall the experiences of Moses (Exod. 24) and Elijah (1 Kgs.19) in the desert. They also remind us of the forty years of wandering Israel in the wilderness. Only Mark mentions the wild animals and angels. It demonstrates Jesus’ wilderness experience and God’s protection from dangerous animals.
Jesus might have been in the sense of danger, isolation, and distance from normal environment that surrounds him in the wilderness. The son of God might be in a highly dangerous situation, and He was exposed to demonic power too. But there were divine care and angelic protection in the wilderness.
Mark 1 can be related to Isaiah 35, which promises a highway or a holy way for God’s people to travel.
“And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness.” (Isaiah 35:8) & “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (10)
We can imagine the picture of the kingdom of God through the verse “The wolf shall live with the lamb…” in Isaiah 11. God makes our way safe, for no dangerous animals are there and here. We can lie down in safety and experience peace in God’s hands even in our tough times.
Isaiah provides many references for Mark 1. Jesus is the servant sent by God as promised, and the prophecy shows a deeper sense of what God’s kingdom may be. Isaiah also connects the one who brings good news with the proclamation about “God’s reign”
Jesus began his public ministry in Galilee which is the northern province by proclaiming the good news of God, and Mark concentrated on the work of the servant. This good news is the gospel that brings forgiveness, restoration, and salvation. Now they not only hear the good news but also encounter Jesus who is able to deliver it. The purposes of God’s action were bringing redemption and restoration to His people through his servant, Jesus.
What is our urgency? What is our priority? Jesus’ first message was that the kingdom of God is near, and the only way into that kingdom of God is to repent and believe. We can enter the kingdom of God through the “repentance” from our sinfulness and “faith” in the good news. Jesus announced that the time has been made full, and God’s rule has come near. He was presenting an urgency about the nearness of God’s kingdom. (15)
Jesus started His ministry of sacrifice for salvation by preaching, teaching, and healing. We can trust in Good News because God is always faithful to do what He has promised. We need to consistently repent and confess our sins so that God can work in and through us. We can also declare that we believe in Jesus in every day of our lives, and we can appreciate that Jesus is with us when we are in our wilderness. Our desert of life would be a place of being tested as Jesus was tested in the wilderness, but God will protect, preserve, and provide for us during our “desert times”. I hope we can rejoice that God will continually use all our experiences to prepare us to be more like Jesus.
We are in Lent, we will win over the powers of chaos and destruction because of the victories, and harmony will come to earth through Jesus. Where are we? I believe that we are sent by God into a peaceful highway and a holy land, and I hope everlasting joy will be upon us. We can respond to God by repentance and faith even though we are still in the dangerous environment because God protects and makes us safe.
Thankfully, we are living in the reign of God, but we are sometimes in a risky life and ministry. We sometimes feel life is tough and we are weak, but God will give us strength for the reign of God and use us for spreading Good News.
God’s salvation and promise are for all those who repent and follow Jesus into God’s rule. During Lent, we can focus our own attention on the kingdom of God that Jesus bears among us. Jesus challenges us “Let anyone with ears to listen to God’s words obediently until the very end.”, and Jesus invites us “Let anyone with eyes to look at Jesus all the time even when we have difficulties.” I hope and pray we can glorify God together in God’s covenant and Good news by sincere appreciation and faithful obedience.
Thanks be to God! Amen!
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)