Genesis 9 vs 8 - 17
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 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. 11 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.” 12 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: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 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. 16 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.” 17 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.”
The story of Noah is a well-known story. Most of us I'm sure are well aware of many details of the story. Images of the great and mighty Ark come to mind, or all the animals going into it two by two. Or perhaps is the dove being set forth and returning with an olive branch, dry land had been discovered! However, I think we undervalue the great importance of this story, we often view it as children's story to be taught at Sunday school. We even, I would argue, often overlook the single most important detail of this amazing story. The passage we have just read in Gensis chapter 9 I believe contains the most important part of this wellknown narrative. Here we read of God’s promise to us, his covenant with the whole world. What we learn from this story is that God has promised not to destroy the world again with water, but rather he offers a way of mercy.
The amazing thing about this covenant is that it demands nothing on our part, it is unconditional. We can’t nullify this covenant with our failings, God is the only party who has to keep it. This promise can’t fail, God never lies nor does He ever fail. This promise is not just for human beings but with nature itself, he makes a promise to animals the and the earth itself! God cares for all of his creation and in his grace he offers an image to confirm this love, the rainbow. Rainbows are most often appreciated for their beauty and colours, and that is true. Who doesn’t appreciate the breaking of a rainbow as the sun gleams through the clouds enlightening the sky? Well, what if I were to tell that same bow of colours is also the sign of a weapon and judgement? You may seem confused but let's look at verse 13, “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” Bow here is quite literal, it refers to the weapon of an archer which could fire fatal arrows. So, why then is an image of a weapon being used as the symbol in this unconditional covenant of mercy? It may seem rather odd for God to choose this symbolic image but, where is this bow pointing? It is not pointing towards the earth, which is filled with sinful human beings like us but is instead pointed towards the heavens, the place of God.
This image of the rainbow is actually signifying amazing good news! God has forever turned his bow of judgement away from the whole earth. God will forever bestow his mercy upon the earth and not destroy it in righteous anger. This truth is further revealed in the person of Christ and the New Testament. Here we find that God has in fact turned his bow of righteous judgment towards himself, in the person of Christ. God in his covenant of mercy no longer pours out his mercy on the earth but instead Christ deals with it himself. The rainbow promise in Gensis points us to God’s mercy in the cross, God deals with the wrath we deserve ourself. God is a covenant saving God, he makes promises and keeps them. He promises mercy to the world in the Noahic Covenant and in his covenant of grace he saves sinners to salvation with Christ’s victory over sin and death.
This victory does not only bring salvation to those who trust in him but in fact, just like the promise in Genesis 9, it brings salvation to the earth too. Now you may be thinking what in earth am I talking about, the earth needs salvation? Well yes! Ever since the fall in the garden it not just us who has been negatively affected by sin but nature itself. Romans 8:20-23, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” We see here that God’s mercy is not just to redeem us but the whole world. Sin causes much suffering in our lives, we face heartbreak and betrayal. This fallenness extends to earth too, we see the damage of famines and earthquakes across the world. But God has promised us that he will not destroy it, but rather preserve and redeem it. We are reminded of this promise in every rainbow, the unconditional promise of God to the whole world in Gensis 9. And ultimately in the person of Christ, God has dealt with his judgment directly so that we don’t have to. The bow of wrath has been pointed towards Christ on the cross. Through his death and resurrection, we and all the earth will be saved. What good news to have a God who keeps his promises and who does for us that we can’t do for ourselves, this is what the rainbow reminds us of.