What are some of the naturally occurring things that you found just amazing as a child?
For the ancient world, one thing that sat near the top of most lists was the rainbow. Such a beautiful sight; its colors arching across the sky. Across the ancient world the rainbow took on all sorts of meanings.
- In Greek mythology, the rainbow was considered to be a path made by the messenger, Iris, between Earth and Heaven.
- In Chinese mythology, the rainbow was a slit in the sky sealed by Goddess Nüwa using stones of five different colors.
- In Hindu mythology, the rainbow is called "Indradhanush", meaning the bow of Indra, the God of lightning, thunder and rain.
- In Norse Mythology, a rainbow called the Bifröst Bridge connects the realms of Ásgard and Midgard, homes of the gods and humans, respectively.
- The Irish leprechaun's secret hiding place for his pot of gold is usually said to be at the end of the rainbow.
We even have some modern day thoughts about the rainbow.
But for the precursors of our faith, the rainbow was, and is, something very unique. It is a reminder FOR GOD of a promise he has made. Let me repeat that - a reminder FOR GOD. It isn't set in the clouds to remind us to follow the God who makes all things possible, it is a reminder FOR GOD that he promised to never again destroy the earth with a flood.
Can you imagine hearing that for the first time? Imagine for a moment being Noah and his sons. You have just recently stepped on dry ground for the first time in more than a year when God decides to make a pact, ""As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."
Can you hear those two crickets chirping and Noah and his sons tried desperately to understand the words they are hearing?
So God continues, "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: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 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. 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."
God is hanging up his bow, the battle between him and his creation is over, but just in case he gets angry again, he's keeping it there to remind him.
Can you imagine?
To our 21st century ears this kind of covenant between God and humankind makes no sense. Our God, we think, is one of grace and peace and love. That's somebody else's God in Genesis chapters six through nine.
But what if we began to look at the rainbow the way our ancestors did? Instead of seeing it as light refracting through millions of water droplets, instead of getting upset with a God who got angry, what if we looked up and saw the promise of God that he would forgive forever? What if we saw in the rainbow the grace of God that he promised all those many years ago?
It would lead us, I think, to rejoicing. It would recall for us that God fulfilled his promise and that the kingdom of God has come so that even in our various weaknesses, God forgives. What if we saw forgiveness in rainbows? What if?