Today's Bible reading: Genesis 9; Matthew 9.
And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth." (Gen 9:12-13 ESV)
Covenant. This is a big theme in biblical history, that God commits himself to people and makes vows, or promises, to be faithful to them and he looks for for faithfulness (or, accountability) in return. This covenant, usually called the Noahic covenant, is the first specifically mentioned in the Bible as a covenant. Other covenants to note: with Adam (Hos 6:7), with Abraham (Gen 15), with Moses and Israel (Ex 19-20), with Israel entering the land (Deut 28-29), with King David (2 Sam 7), and the New Covenant (Jer 31-32) through Christ (all of NT).
In making covenants God calls people, makes vows (words of promise) to them, states his expectations to them, and gives them a sign of the covenant to see and remember the committed relationship they have with God. It is often sealed by a sacrifice. The various signs, or seals, given to confirm that covenant included: here, the rainbow (the real meaning of the rainbow!), circumcision, the Sabbath, baptism, and the Lord's supper. Our relationship to God is like the covenant bond of marriage. (See Ezek 16; Eph 5; Rev 19.)
This covenant is unconditional. It's a good thing that this Noahic covenant is unilateral (that is, unconditional)! Noah's drunken behavior that follows (9:21), and that of his son Ham (9:22), did not annul God's covenant to preserve the world. Ham's sin was in dishonoring his father, perhaps even taking some perverted delight in it, showing that even the righteous and their children can behave like the wicked just destroyed by the flood. Noah places a curse on Ham's lineage. But note, this curse upon Ham's son Canaan is is not a racial curse, or have anything to do with Africa, as some have mistakenly interpreted. It came to fulfillment when the Israelites drove the Canaanites out of the promised land as chronicled in the book of Joshua.
"And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (9:35-36)
How wonderful to read of these gospel accounts and to see Jesus in action, teaching and healing and caring! How wide open are his arms to receive those in need. (Like you and me!)
Jesus heals another paralytic, a woman with chronic bleeding, two blind men, and raised a child who had died. But he receives sinners, and he pronounces God's forgiveness to sinners, and so he offends the religious leaders. From this point on there will be increasing opposition to Jesus because he associates with sinners and speaks with authority in forgiving them.
Again, see how he delights in faith: "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." (9:22) And, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord." Then he touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith be it done to you." (9:28-29)
Image above is of a stunning Taipei rainbow that lasted for almost 9 hours, the longest appearing rainbow as confirmed in Guinness World Records.