Dear Grace Family,
It is strange to consider how much our annual rituals help us to keep track of the time and how thrown off we can feel when those rituals are suspended. Left to ourselves, this would be a depressing and discouraging thought, but thankfully we are not left to ourselves. Our Lord is ever present with us and is still upholding the universe by the word of his power (Ps. 130, Heb. 1:3). In times like these it can be a great comfort to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.
I experienced that recently; we had several days of rain and, while I was walking our dog after one of the rainstorms, I noticed a double rainbow in the sky. At first, I was simply thinking of how cool it looked and how vibrant the colors were on one of the rainbows. But then I was reminded of the significance of the rainbow: it is a sign and seal of God’s covenant promises. We learn this in Genesis 8-9. After the flood has subsided and Noah and his family are able to leave the ark, God re-commissions him to fulfill the cultural mandate given to Adam and Eve: to be fruitful and multiply, filling the earth and subduing it. And God promises that the rhythms of creation will continue and the flood will not be repeated:
And…the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” – Gn. 8:21-22
God goes on to make this intention known to Noah through a covenant promise:
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 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. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” – Gn. 9:8-17
Notice, the rainbow is a sign and a guarantee (seal) that God will keep his promise. When the bow is seen in the clouds, God honors and keeps his promise. Just like the water of baptism and the bread and wine of the Lord’s supper – the rainbow is a picture and a guarantee that God will keep his promises.
Imagine how Noah must have felt the first time it rained after getting off the ark. With those first few drops of rain, it must have been a real test of his faith! I would imagine that he had some anxiety as he remembered those long months on the ark and prayed that God would keep his promise. What a great comfort it must have been as the rain stopped and he looked up to see the rainbow in the clouds! It must have been so reassuring to him to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.
What a wonderful comfort this is for us as well during these times of uncertainty! Life might still feel like it has been turned upside down, but God has promised that the creation order still continues – day and night, seedtime and harvest, summer and winter. And more than that, he has promised that he will never again destroy the world with a flood intended to strike down every living creature. One day heaven and earth will pass away and give way to the new heavens and the new earth. And in the meantime there will still be natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and global pandemics. But God will not default on his promises and nothing in all creation can separate us from his love for us in Christ.
In spite of how it might feel sometimes, the world is not spinning out of control. In fact, it is heading somewhere beautiful – all creation is groaning, waiting for the revealing of the sons of God, the return of Christ, and the removal of sin’s curse. Friends, that day is coming. Until then, trust in God’s covenant promises and his steadfast love. And keep an eye out for the rainbows.