“When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth” Genesis 9:16
Today I have been thinking about the story of Noah and his famous ark! It is one of those Bible stories that is all known by so many people, regardless of whether they consider themselves religious or not. When I was a child a popular song at school was “The Animals Went In Two by Two” and more recently I was taught “Noah had an arky, arky” by the children from the church school where I was a curate. There have been films made about Noah and his incredible floating construction and it remains embedded in our culture.
There are, however, some aspects of the story that trouble me. God is portrayed as an angry and vindictive deity who uses his power to punish the human race that He so lovingly created earlier in the book of Genesis.
There are also verses that tear at my heart “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and He saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry He had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke His heart” (Ch.6 vv5-6)
I am aware that there are some who would say that the current pandemic is a a sign of God’s anger towards the world but I don’t believe that because if we press deeper into Genesis we read of God’s eternal promise that never again would He kill all living creatures or destroy the world.
I wonder how Noah and his family felt when they emerged from the ark where they had experienced their own distinct form of lockdown. They would no doubt have mourned the loss of those they knew who had perished in the flood waters. After nearly 200 hundred days they set foot on dry land and must have wondered what the future held for them. They must have puzzled over how the world would be restored and more importantly how the world would be reconciled to their Creator God. And it is in the words of Genesis 9:16 that we see the message of hope that God provides. Through the symbol of a rainbow God promises that He will never forget the covenant that He has made with all creation.
Rainbows have long been used as a sign of hope. I am sure that all of us have had that sense of awe and wonder as we have seen the colours shine in the sky following rain. The legend is that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and nice as that might be, I would interpret that as not the gold of the monetary type but rather the golden assurance that God is protecting us and loving us throughout our lives and that is treasure beyond all other.
The LGBTI movement have used the rainbow to indicate that same hope of love and inclusivity of all regardless of gender or sexuality. More recently the Black Lives Matter movement has added brown and black stripes to those already there. And of course the rainbow has become a universal sign of hope and thankfulness for all those who have cared for others during this pandemic.
Just like Noah and his family, we too are taking tentative steps into a world that has changed over the last three months. We are rediscovering those aspects of life that we once took for granted and that now we need to cherish and protect. We are mourning those we have lost. We are looking towards a future that looks very different to the one we may have envisaged at the beginning of the year.
And we do so with hope in our hearts, in the knowledge that God not only stays true to the covenant He made in Genesis with Noah and all creation but that He renewed and strengthened that covenant through the incarnation, death and resurrection of His precious Son, our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ.