Some of you may have noticed the rainbow on Wednesday night. Beth noticed it and we all ran out to see it and I even snapped a few pictures. But I was on the wrong side of the church building. Russell Brown took his pictures from the gym side of the church property. Here's one of them:
Now for a little biblical theology of rainbows... The Hebrew word for "bow" is used about 75x in the Old Testament. About 70 of those times it refers to an archer's bow. Only in Gen. 9:13, 14, 16 and Ezek. 1:28 does it refer to a rainbow. You might say, "Okay, so what?"
A bow is a weapon. It can be used an instrument of wrath and judgment from one opponent on another. Look at Russell's picture again. Which direction is the bow facing in the sky? In other words, who is the "arrow" aimed at?
God gave Noah (and all creation) the covenant sign (Gen. 9:8-17) of the rainbow as a promise that he would never again destroy the earth by flood. When two parties made a covenant in the Ancient Near East, they would often take vows and seal those vows with the cutting of an animal (see Gen. 15:8-21). Both parties would walk through the pieces saying in effect, "May we be cut apart if we fail to uphold our vows in this covenant." So, God made a covenant with Noah and all creation and turned the bow toward himself in effect saying, "Woe to me if I do not keep this covenant!"
One more thing: if you looked at the Gen. 15:8-21 text, did you notice that there was only one party that passed through the pieces in that covenant? It was God (symbolized by the smoking pot)!
What does it mean that God alone passed through the pieces? It means that this covenant was a covenant of promise. It was a covenant of sheer sovereign grace. And that's really important, because the New Covenant is the same way for us. The Gospel is not, "God helps those who help themselves." The Gospel is, "You can't help yourselves! The only thing you bring to this transaction is your sin. All you deserve is judgment. I will do it all. I will send my Son and he will take your place. I will send my Spirit and take out your heart of stone and replace it with a soft heart that beats after me." Unilateral, monergistic (One worker!), sheer, sovereign, covenant-promise grace! That is our God! Whether you see it in the sky or see it in the Supper, this is the from-Him-and-through-Him-and-to-Him-are-all-things God that we worship!
And with that in mind, the next time you see the bow in the sky, maybe the heavens will speak even louder of the glory of our covenant-making, covenant-keeping God!