A Colourful Rainbow
Read Genesis 9:1-17. If time permits, read Genesis 6:1 – 9:17.
The rainbow in many Western countries has come to mean support for LGBT issues. If we spot a church with a rainbow flag hanging out at the front, it is a sign saying that that church at the very least supports same-sex marriage. However, before the rainbow came to mean that, it had a very different meaning and symbol. The history of the meaning of the rainbow goes back a few thousands of years, back to our passage today.
The whole situation arose from the introduction of sin that we looked at yesterday. From there the consequences of sin spread and spread, until we read in Genesis 6:5 that “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” Sin was so serious that the Lord chose to “restart” creation by sending a great flood. However, just like in Genesis 3, God preserved a remnant – Noah and his family – through his judgement.
When we arrive at our passage today, the flood has receded, and we see the beginning of new life on earth. The Lord blesses Noah and his sons and asks them to “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth”, echoing his own words at the beginning of creation. He reiterates the rule of mankind over the rest of creation (v2-4). God then establishes a covenant with Noah and all his descendants, together with all the living creatures with them. God promises that “never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (v11)
What is the sign of this covenant? God will “set [his] rainbow in the clouds” (v13), and whenever the rainbow appears in the sky, God will remember this promise of his. This is not to say that God forgets his promises if no rainbow appears (as if God forgets anything!), but rather it is the language of covenantal promise of God’s active love towards his people. The rainbow also serves as a sign to us that should remind us of God’s mercy and grace – that he will no longer wipe out the earth despite our sinfulness and rebellion.
The festivities around our Christmas celebrations can sometimes distract us from the fact that mankind is sinful and rebellious towards God. God will be completely just even if he decides to wipe us all out from existence. However, in his mercy and love, God doesn’t do that and ultimately promises never to do that again. What is more, he made sure that this is the case by sending Christ to earth in a lowly manger, to come and take the punishment that we deserve. That is a cause for celebration, and that explains the joyful festivities around Christmas.
Many have forgotten that. For them, Christmas is just another reason for holidays and parties. As followers of the God of the Bible, let us remember God. So this Christmas, be reminded of God’s mercy and goodness in his love towards us, displayed to us in the coming of Jesus Christ. If you happen to see a rainbow, remember God’s covenantal promises to Noah, and praise him.
- Pray that we will have a chance to explain the true meaning of Christmas to those around us.
- Pray that we ourselves will not be distracted by the festivities and focus on the amazing grace of God through Jesus Christ.