And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall 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 the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth" (Genesis 9:8-17).
When you see a rainbow, do you think of the covenant of God’s mercy? Because that is why it is there. There are rainbows because God is merciful to sinners. The bow is a token of the covenant that God made saying He would not ever again flood the earth and destroy all flesh. And this bow is a token, as all things in God’s word, of the everlasting covenant of grace in Christ.
Now you put yourself in Noah’s shoes for a minute. He has just witnessed the destruction of all flesh. They were spared much of the horror of coming out amidst bloated corpses and rotting flesh because of the amount of time it took for the waters to fully recede, but I imagine there was still much evidence of the devastation of this display of God’s wrath, and as Noah stands on what once was the place of judgment and wrath and knows in His heart that he deserved the wrath of God just as much as those who suffered it, he finds himself exactly where we are.
We know that multiplied millions have died and gone to Hell who went there because they were like us, sinners, and every time we examine ourselves, every time the stench of our own sin rises up into our own nostrils, we seek assurance, comfort, we wonder, will God cast me off after all? Noah, I’m sure, knowing that God had destroyed all these people because of wickedness, when he saw his own wickedness, which we have example of in the very context of this, he would be wanting to know, will God send another flood and wash me away? I deserve it every moment. What is your assurance that God will not condemn and destroy you this very day? The Gospel. And this rainbow is a picture of that Gospel, which is Christ Himself (Christ is the Messenger of the covenant, the blessings of the covenant, His blood is the blood of the everlasting covenant). I am comforted, despite my sin, when I look away from my sin and look to Christ Jesus. And God says, when you are wondering whether or not I will ever again get my fill of this wicked world (the world was no less wicked after the flood than before) don’t think about how wicked you are, not as a way to determine this question. Look up in the sky . . .
This rainbow is a picture of Christ and His Gospel. This covenant was an unconditional one. God didn’t say, if you straighten up and as long as you do not act like those pre-flood folks acted, I won’t destroy you. He just said, I’m going to be merciful, and my bow is a token of the fact. It is sure, comforting testimony of the fact that there is therefore now, no condemnation. I will not destroy you. You’re going to deserve it just like they did, but I will never again destroy. What a contrast. In Genesis 6:7 God said “I will destroy man.” In Genesis 9 in our text we find God saying, “No more.” This is the difference Christ makes. Ephesians 2:1-4. This is the one difference mentioned between the old covenant and the new. No conditions. Heb 8:7-13. The problem with the old covenant was that the people could not honor it. The promise of the new is that Christ did honor the old, and so the sinner is blessed unconditionally in Christ.
Psalm 19:1 says “The heavens declare the glory of God.” And nothing in the heavens do this so much as the rainbow. And I’ll tell you where God’s people see God’s glory like nowhere else. In the face of Jesus Christ. God gives the light of the knowledge of His glory in His Son’s face and this light is pictured by the rainbow, because when you see the rainbow, what is it you are looking at exactly?
The colors are the refracted rays of light, they are components of the spectrum of God’s light, of which there are three primary colors. Red, blue and yellow. All other colors come from these three. And all of the glory of God is seen as emanating from His triunity of Persons. The three Persons of the Godhead are at work and the glories of the triune God are on display in this covenant of grace.
The bow has been compared to a bridge. If it is a bridge, it is the bridge that spans that great gulf that is fixed between the natural man and the Holy God. When the rich man said “send Lazarus,” Abraham said, “there is a great gulf fixed between us and thee (Luke 16:26).” There is a bridge that spans that gulf.
The bow has been compared to a warrior’s bow. If it is, it is an empty bow and one which points not at man but at God Himself. It is pointed away from you because God is merciful and it is empty because the arrow was spent and pierced the very soul of God’s Son. What an appropriate and beautiful picture this is. The original word for “bow” in Genesis 9 is the word for a weapon. It speaks of the fact that there was judgment. But it tells of judgment spent, it tells of justice satisfied, and it tells how that there is no threat in an empty bow. Turn to Isaiah 54:4-14.
There is a reason why the rainbow is set in the sky for everyone to see. Is ANYONE interested in mercy? Come. We don’t preach like we’re scared one of the non-elect is going to be saved. John 10:9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
Do you see God’s bow in the sky? Are you fearful ever, when the clouds begin to form? The sun is gone for awhile? The thunder is deafening and startling, do you want to run and hide? If you are in Christ, you are already hidden. You don’t need to seek shelter, you already have it. You have the promise of God. God graciously reminds us of His covenant, that justice is spent and there is no more condemnation. The deluge fell upon the ark and there won’t be another one.
Remember in our text, God said in Gen. 9:15, “I will remember my covenant.” His very throne is surrounded by a beautiful rainbow. Revelation 4:1-3 God so loves the world of His elect because He cannot see them apart from the covenant of grace wherein Christ hath made them accepted in Him. It would be good if you remember His covenant too. You will enjoy life a lot more, believer, if you always remember, but it’s even better for God to remember it. Be comforted and rest in the glorious truth, that even if we forget, He will not, He cannot. And because He does not, "there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1)."
Chris Cunningham is Pastor of College Grove Grace Church, 6490 Arno College Grove Road, College Grove, TN 37046-9127. You may contact him by phone at...