Sunday, July 3, 2011

Who Really Needs a Reminder?

Husband and I spotted half a rainbow yesterday evening, its predictable array of colors near invisible as it shimmered and faded against already dusky-bright skies of a setting sun. From our standpoint, its arc seemed to end behind the local Wal-mart, a fact that led to much joking about the pot of gold being inside a store we prefer to avoid.

Behind the laughter, though, our hearts are always touched, delighted to see such a sight. We know there is no pot of gold at the end of any rainbow, that the rainbow in itself is God's blessing, a reminder to us of a covenant He made with Noah, the earth, and all generations to come to never destroy the earth through flood again.

But the rainbow, itself, is more than that. While I've always thought it was a visual reminder for me, Scripture surprisingly reveals something a bit different.

After Noah and his family exited the ark, "God said, '...I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. 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.'"(Gen 9:12-16,my italics).

God, Himself, says this sign of covenant is a reminder for Him! A reminder for our God who needs no reminding, who knows all that was, and is, and is to come? While it might make little sense at first, one need not look far into the evils of this world to understand why a God of holiness and justice might need to remind Himself of His covenant.

Matthew Henry's Commentary states that this sign would serve as a "seal" of covenant, which would be a traditional way to indicate covenant between two parties, such as a rock altar, mingling blood through cuts on the arm, a feast, etc.

Here, though, God, the initiator of this covenant, creates anything but a traditional seal to show Himself as a covenant-keeper. By His setting this sign somewhere so prominent for mankind's viewing, I believe He meant it to remind us as well, to comfort those of us who see its colors in the skies, to remind us that, yes, God is capable of judging in wrath but that He is also merciful and faithful to keep His promises.

This rainbow is shown three other places in Scripture, two of which are in relation to God's throne.

First, in Ezekiel's vision when he saw what "resembled a throne, high up...and there was a radiance around Him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance"(Ez.1:26-8).

Ezekiel falls on his face in fear, but our enthroned God's glory shines as a rainbow about Him to serve as a sign of His character as a faithful covenant keeper. Think about what he's asking Ezekiel to do--go warn Israel of impending judgment; yet, first, He shows Ezekiel Himself, enthroned and surrounded in a rainbow, reminding Ezekiel that He keeps His covenants--not just the one made with Noah, but all His covenants made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob--to save His people and bring, through them, Messiah, and eternity with Him.

Something similar happens in Revelation when John is given a vision of the throne room of heaven. John says, "Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance" (Rev. 4:2-3).

Here, again, before John is shown the seven seals opened, before John witnesses terrifying visions of God's wrath and judgment poured out on sinful humanity, he is granted a view of God's holiness, a view which, not coincidentally, shows a rainbow-wrapped throne.

Once again, God is reminding John that even through His judgment, He is faithful and will keep His covenants.

Interestingly enough, the third use of "rainbow" in the New Testament is in reference to the 7th "strong angel" with a "rainbow was upon his head" (Rev. 10:1). This plus several other descriptions have led scholars to conclude this angel is none other than Christ, Himself. I can't even begin to comment on that. But angel or Christ--the symbol's meaning holds true--even in judgment, God is true to His covenants. And a rainbow sealed on His forehead--oh my, the implications that might have (for another week!)

Isn't this beautiful? Comforting to know about the God we serve!?!? To return to the topics we were taught as children and see how they seamlessly fit into God's Word, from alpha to omega?

If you've been hanging around here the past two months, you've probably noticed a pattern in my writings. After finishing a study of Revelation this past May, I've felt a calling back to the book of beginnings, to re-examine the stories of the Tower of Babel; of Moses' mother and Noah's pitch-covered ark; and of God's command to fill the earth.

These are all old-school topics taught more to children than an adults. What a shame! What we adults miss when we don't go back and reexamine our childhood stories that prefigure Christ, delve into histories that foreshadow the New Testatment and even the prophesies in Revelation to come!

My challenge for you this week is to be like a child. Return to one of those Old Testament passages you haven't really explored lately (no: reading it out of your child's Bible story book doesn't really count).

Read with an open mind. You can never exhaust the meaning in even the most-repeated story in God's word.

Photo: Fractal Rainbow Ocean by Thelma 1

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