THE BOW IN THE CLOUD
It is not a simple matter to capture a rainbow in a photograph, partly because they do not occur so frequently and partly because the camera is not always available. Another problem is that rainbows vary so much in their intensity and the brilliantly clear ones are seen only seldom in a lifetime. I shall never forget the brightest I ever saw when driving across the south of Birmingham. It was set against the blackest clouds I ever remember seeing; in fact the sky was awe-inspiring in its intense darkness. The rather faint rainbow in the frontispiece at least begins to show the same fact; it shines the brighter as the background gets darker.
The flood of Noah’s day was the climax to the darkest period of human history up to that time. The holy indignation of God had brought devastating and worldwide destruction upon a creation which originally had been ‘very good’ in God’s own estimation. The sin of humanity was all but universal and intensely evil. The powers of hell were let loose and judgment was inevitable. Only Noah and his family found a place of safety and only by the amazing grace of God they had come through the indescribably terrible experience of that flood.
To Noah and his family God gave a special sign. He set His bow in the cloud. Against the darkest clouds which had ever threatened the world He set this glorious sign of the wonderful covenant established with Noah and all succeeding generations to the end of human history. Here was to be a repeated reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness and His great goodness. Here is a lesson which teaches us of the divine character. Not only do we trust in a faithful God but in a God who is willing to give constant reminders of that faithfulness. Here in the dawn of human history the great lesson of a covenant-making and a covenant-keeping God is taught and the same lesson is reiterated whenever the rainbow makes its gentle appearance after the darkness of the storm.
This covenant and its associated sign is but one of a number which follow in Bible history. Abraham was blessed with covenant blessings and promises, with the sign of circumcision to remind his posterity of the promise yet to be partially fulfilled in the Land of Promise but most fully in the heavenly land above; and all these blessings pointing to the greatest blessing of all, the Seed, which is Christ, through whom all nations of the world are to be blessed.
The great Covenant of Grace, sealed in the precious blood of the Son of Man, is the covenant to which the believer always has to look for strength and comfort, pardon and peace. How often in the dark storm of condemnation, guilt, and threatening judgment has a sinner found peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. How often, in later days, has the same pardoned sinner needed the same covenant mercy which he first enjoyed in his new birth. How often does the same fearing soul need reassurance and confirmation as the storms of life beat upon it. The beautiful rainbow is, to him, not only a sign that he will not be drowned in a world-wide flood, but a reminder that the Lord who saved him, saved him from eternity; a reminder that the God he first trusted is ever faithful to His covenant.
It is the light of a spiritual rainbow which lightens the dark clouds which so often gather round the believer’s soul and the light of the actual rainbow is God’s way of reminding us of His words, ‘I will never fail thee nor forsake thee’. It is the reminder we so much need when events are so threatening and especially as we see a civilization crumbling and rushing down to destruction all around us. Our days are so distressingly similar to those of Noah. Sadly it has to be said that the imagination of so many people’s hearts is only evil continually. The corruption of society and its impact on all of our lives is painful to bear and for many, in cities and towns especially, exceedingly dangerous.
In times as threatening as these it must surely be in the light of God’s covenant promises and purposes that we go on proclaiming the gospel of salvation. The rainbow light of gospel truth must shine against this dark background. Noah was a preacher of righteousness in his day and every believer in these threatening days must proclaim, by lip and life, the only way of salvation. Sinners must still be called to repentance and pointed to the only way of safety in our Lord Jesus Christ. Few went with Noah into the ark and it may be that few will come with us to Christ but as God is faithful to His covenant promises so must we be faithful to our covenant obligations.
‘Love so amazing so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.’