The Rainbow: A Promise & A Warning

The account of Noah in Genesis 6-10 is one of the many stories in the Bible that require faith to believe because it describes something we’ve never experienced. While we’ve seen the destruction that floods and hurricanes can cause to one particular area, the idea that the whole earth was deluged by a world-wide flood is quite fantastical, unless you believe that scripture is true. I’m no geologist, but I know without a doubt the earth bears evidence of this flood. The issue is how we interpret what could only be massive changes from such an event.

At any rate, by the time Noah lived, the world was a very wicked place. In fact, God says that every intent of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). God was grieved in His heart to see what had become of the beautiful place He had created, and how sin had corrupted His highest creation, humans, so much so that He was sorry He had made man on the earth! Once Adam and Eve sinned, there was no holding back the natural progression of our broken human nature.

You know the story. God instructed Noah, the one man on earth who “found favor in the eyes of the Lord” because he was righteous, blameless, and walked with God, to build an ark. Noah wasn’t perfect, but he loved God faithfully, and his faith stood out in stark contrast to the rest of his culture. Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives were shut up safely in the ark and spent a year riding out the flood as they cared for all the animals God had told him to preserve. When the doors finally opened and they spilled out into a world washed clean, Noah’s first action was to offer a sacrifice in gratitude to God.

In response, God made a covenant between Himself and the earth and promised two things. First, He would never again curse the ground on account of man, knowing that man’s heart, left to himself, would always revert back to evil. It was as if God decided the earth would not be punished for man’s sins anymore. As long as the earth continues to exist, we can be assured that the cycles of nature (seedtime, harvest, cold, heat, winter, summer, day, and night) will continue. Second, God promised specifically that there would never again be a world-wide flood to destroy all flesh (Genesis 8:21-22,9:15).

The sign of the covenant was the rainbow – God’s bow – that He would cause to be seen in the clouds. The rainbow was not just a reminder to us of God’s promise … God put the rainbow in the sky as a reminder to Himself. He said, “I will remember My covenant…when the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:15-16)

One reason I know that Noah’s story is true is that Jesus affirmed it when He said history would repeat itself right before His return. The world will once again be filled with wickedness, violence, and corruption, so much so that it grieves God’s heart. Truly, truly, this describes our world today.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:35-39)

The next time you see God’s rainbow in the clouds, consider that God sees it too, and is reminding Himself of His promise to be merciful and gracious to a wicked world. It is a tangible expression of His patience, giving time for repentance. But it also should be a warning that God’s prophetic clock is winding down as we have returned to the “days of Noah.” The ark of safety is the cross of Christ, and those who are wise will board now.

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