Most Christians aren’t really aware of the various covenants noted in the Bible. Indeed, many aren’t even aware the term “New Testament” means “New Covenant”. A few understand the Law of Moses was a covenant between God and Israel, but aren’t aware of the full implications. It wasn’t just laws for Israel to follow, but a binding agreement which Israel failed repeatedly. Worse, as time wore on, their compliance worsened. What Jesus confronted in His day was a national leadership who didn’t even really understand the Covenant, because they had thrown away their Hebraic culture, trading it for Hellenist intellectual assumptions, which cannot possibly catch the underlying meaning of Moses. Oddly, in their blindness, they still managed to do a pretty good job of understanding the Covenant of Noah, at least superficially.
If you look up the “Seven Noahide Laws” you’ll likely find the Wikipedia entry near the top of your search results. This represents modern Jewish scholarship on the Bible passage near the end of Genesis 8, and into chapter 9. I would suggest their current major mistake is thinking Noah falls under Moses, whereas Jesus and the Apostles said the Covenant of Moses ended at the Cross, but taught Noah was still in force, as evidenced by the results of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. You’ll probably notice the Apostles didn’t echo all of the Seven Laws because it wasn’t necessary. There were already plenty of laws against murder and theft, and blasphemy was too obvious. However, they did cite three issues because it might be news to Gentile Christians: idolatry, sexual immorality and meat with blood in it (usually strangled).
However, those three do a good job of covering things. I wrote elsewhere:
The first and most obvious requirement is withdrawing completely from pagan idolatry. This is translated variously in English texts of the New Testament, but it was more than just food. Paul makes it clear later it’s not the physical reality but the perception of the watching world. There is one true God, and our loyalty to Him is undivided. Joining in pagan celebrations would compromise the impact of that witness. There were no details listed, but it was left to the conscience of the individual believers in their communities scattered around the world to prayerfully work out in each context what that required.
The issue of sexual purity went back before Noah. We who have seen the thread of revelation know God has consistently condemned sex outside the provision of lifelong commitment to building a family. This is easily tied to the call for civility and social stability, if not the very fundamental threat of compromise in the soul by the flesh. It’s a special case of idolatry deserving special mention. If we have to start arguing about various sexual appetites for something outside the husband-wife pairing, we are already on the wrong ground. God granted only one provision for human sexual appetites, and there is absolutely no fundamental right to sex, much less any particular fallen desires for sex.
Meat with blood is paired with strangling as a single item. This is not a matter of what goes in your mouth, as Jesus noted, but of what comes out of your heart. Blood is a spiritual symbol going back to the Garden of Eden. It symbolizes the gift of life itself, and taking it lightly is the primary symptom of evil. It was the sin of Cain, and of Lamech, and clearly points back to the command we shall love and respect others equally with ourselves. Taking life is very serious business. It is required to keep civilization alive, but remains a heavy burden on government, not a privilege. Those who find it easy to harm others are the greatest danger to all human life. But that’s not enough; a casual disregard of lower forms of life is also dangerous. Noah kept kosher long before it was codified in the Law of Moses, but the Lord said humans could eat anything they found edible. Animals were distinctly lesser beings, but God forbade under Noah anyone eating meat without draining away the blood, because it symbolized our acceptance of this still active Covenant of Noah. Nature itself will rebel against us if we do not obey and adopt the strict respect for life.
I suppose most Christians could accept this much once they are exposed to it. It’s covered pretty nicely when Jesus said the whole Old Testament could be summed up in complete devotion to God and giving others the respect we want for ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). What they may not grasp is just how poorly we keep that seventh item from the rabbinical list of seven: We do not have a just judicial system. That is, by biblical definition, we have a hideously corrupt government, from top to bottom. Our so called “civil culture” would draw vociferous condemnation of those who understood Noah’s covenant best. We might be able to read the translated words, but the ancient biblical concept of justice is utterly foreign to most people born in the West. Need I remind people: That ancient culture is the one Jesus taught as fundamental to understanding what God requires.
You might well understand the penalties God threatened against Israel under the Covenant of Moses. You’ll also note Moses applied to Israel only. However, you may not realize Moses was a particular instance of Noah. The Law of Moses was a specific application of the Laws of Noah in the case of Israel — that people, that land, that time. Noah is a broader, general covenant still in force today. The various blessing to Israel for obedience, and the various curses for defiance, were all one singular package of promises implied by the Covenant of Noah. Do what Noah says and you can expect nature itself to remain pretty orderly — “season upon season” is the phrase. This is symbolic language telling us God will direct Creation to cooperate with our needs in obtaining reasonable prosperity, health, and security. Those are summed up in the meaning of the word shalom.
So here’s the point: If you and I as individuals follow Christ, we pretty much fulfill Noah, but we need Noah as an example of what it means to follow Christ. On a broader level as nations with governments, our failure to observe the Covenant of Noah guarantees we are doomed. Nature itself will fight against us. Our leaders will not be able to make the right choices. So to the degree there is global warming or global cooling, and to the degree either of them threatens us, it is not simply the mechanics of human pollution, nor the random swings of earth cycles, but the holistic reaction of Creation against our sins. Even the very idiocy of tyranny swallowing the Western nations is the result of our failure to observe Noah.
This stuff is not a secret. It’s been there in plain sight for thousands of years. Our intellectual culture conditions us not to see it, but it’s still possible to figure out the minimum necessities. We have refused. We are in serious trouble.