The rainbow is God’s sign for one of the first covenants He makes between Himself and mankind, and every living creature. Ten verses of Genesis 9 are devoted to God emphasising this covenant, more than half the chapter. As with all the covenants He makes, God lays out the terms of the covenant clearly. He tells us who it involves, what it involves and gives a sign by which the covenant can be remembered. There are thought to be seven major covenants in the Bible, which you can read more about here: http://www.gotquestions.org/bible-covenants.html.
Adam received purpose and responsibility, a curse for sin, and yet grace from God. The sign of this covenant is in the life of man – both his blessings and his troubles. Noah was reminded of the purpose and blessing God gave to mankind, beginning with Adam. However, he also received a covenant from God that the earth would never again be destroyed by a flood. It is a reminder of God’s right to judge, yet His love for mankind and all the earth. When I read how God describes His covenant with Noah in Genesis, I see Him highlight the following things:
- The covenant is a personal promise and agreement. It is built on relationship. God speaks directly to Noah to tell Him about this covenant. It affects all creation, everything God spoke into being, and made in reflection of His glory.
(v.9-11) – “…And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you…Thus I establish My covenant with you…”
- It is God’s promise of life.
(v.11, 15) – “…Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth… the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh…”
- God makes a sign for the covenant. It reminds us that God remembers His promises, and keeps His covenant.
(v.12-16) – “… This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that it with you, for perpetual generations: I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant… The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature…”
Fast forward to the New Testament, and we can see that God’s covenant still holds. Along the way, we see His covenant with Abraham, and Israel take root and perpetuate through Israel’s misadventures and victories. We see a reminder of the eternal consequence this covenant has through the promises spoken to David, and we see the birth of a New Covenant in Christ. God’s promise in all His covenants remains personal, life-giving, and faithful.
Looking specifically at the covenant God makes with Noah, I see God emphasise His love and faithfulness. While God reiterates man’s purpose and blessing to rule over the earth, He gives assurance of His own character with the words “I will”. Think of the times when God says He will – those words stand and God does not change His mind, or forfeit His promises. In this case, God promises never to destroy the earth with a flood. I immediately think of the destruction mentioned in Revelation. Yet, while great tribulation will come on earth, and justice will be meted out, we know the earth will not be destroyed by a Great Flood again. The same God who revealed His justice in the Flood, will reveal His justice again when Christ returns. Just as Noah found grace in the eyes of God amidst the flood, we too can find grace in His eyes through the righteousness of Christ. In that day, it will be Jesus who delivers us from the wrath delivered unto earth [1 Thessalonians 1:10].
The sign of the Noahic covenant is a rainbow. It makes me think of the descriptions given in Revelation – the rainbow around the throne [Revelation 4:2], and the rainbow on the head of the angel [Revelation 10:1]. These passages in Revelation speak of how God will execute justice on the earth in the last days. Amidst all this, we have yet another reminder of God’s faithful promise, a reminder that He is just, but He is merciful; a giver of life, and a God who loves.
Do you remember the promises God has spoken to you? In the midst of life’s distractions and trials, we can remember that God never forfeits on His word. We have the assurance of a faithful and a good God, one who is personal, just, merciful and loving, full of life and true in word.
“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides.” – [Psalm 119:89-90]