There are a lot of rainbows floating around right now. And since this is supposed to be a blog about eternal stuff; well, I think the rainbow is a pretty tremendous place to land if we want to celebrate something.
So consider this: The truth about the original rainbow story starts on a messy scene of mayhem and madness; and before we get to the end we see a torrent of extremes. The truth about what happened is laced with rebellion, hope, strength, faith, horror, death, life, obedience, justice and promise.
Noah’s ark is practically a household story. A cute story. A story told with songs about animals coming two by two, toddler play things and packaged neatly in infant bedroom themes. But part of me wonders if the key players in that watery story would feel fully understood by the “cute” label they had been cast with.
Because there was horror before hope.
Noah didn’t wake up the way we do. We are troubled by trials and burdened by loss, violence, injustice — and we thrive in community. Noah had likely come to expect hardship rather than harmony as a regular happening. Because the world as he knew it is described as “corrupt and full of violence” (Gen 6:11); and as for men, “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time,” (Gen. 6:5). And if this wasn’t hard enough, Noah knew what was happening outside of the ark he had built as the flood waters rose. I don’t know what he saw; the Bible does not specify what he might have heard. But we know that all of life that was not held in the bosom of that ark was buried in the flood that burst forth. Violence and evil were not ignored, and a horrific justice was unleashed.
We ask for justice in so many cases; but it’s also true that we typically underestimate the grandeur of our offense. Which is why we need to be so grateful that God is not only just — he is compassionate and holy. So 150 days later there was hope.
Noah and his family exited the ark onto dry land. And immediately they acted in obedience by offering a sacrifice — which pleased God tremendously. As he breathed in the aroma of obedience he made a determination; and a beacon of brilliant color burst through the cloudy coffin that had permeated the scene moments before. A covenant promise was offered. And it required nothing of us. It was completely one-sided. A sign that was meant to remind God himself of his promise to mankind. Noah and his family simply observed the grandeur and absorbed the great love and promise of life that was so beautifully represented in the sky along with his words.
“This is a sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring cloud over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds I will remember my covenant between me and you… Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” — Genesis 9:12-16
And that promise has been kept. As all of his promises are. And as Nancy Guthrie pointed out in her study: Jesus in Genesis; all of this pointed to something so much bigger. Because I think we can agree that violence and corruption are a commonality once again. And once again, God’s justice will need to be satisfied. We know that out of his compassion for us he sent a rescuer. Just as Noah was saved through the ark, we have a choice to embrace Jesus for who he is; the way, and the truth and the life. So that on that day when the world stands before a compassionate, holy and just God, we have an answer to the life we claim. We have boarded the ark, and look forward to something so much greater than the rainbow.
So my prayer is that when we witness the glory of a rainbow, we would be reminded of the tremendous original story. That there was a conduit of hope. That there was a loving reminder of life. That there is something eternal all of this points to that we have a choice and a chance to take hold of.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” — 2 Peter 3:9