The Rain-Bow Connection

Genesis 6-9

Today we are looking at a well known story. It’s one of the big 5 or so stories we teach about in Sunday school. Chances are that if you’ve ever found yourself in a church nursery before, images of this story would fill your eyes. Painted on the walls, themed on a bulletin board, made into a Little Golden Book, or even a playset with pairs of animals. That’s right, we’re looking at the story found in Genesis chapters 6-9 and it is the story of Noah’s Ark.

If you would do something with me today, I’d appreciate it. You may be intimately familiar with this story. You may know it backwards and forwards. You may understand the deep meaning behind certain pieces of this story and the vastness of the topics we could cover today. 

But right now, I need you and I to turn our attention to God’s Mercy and Grace as it is showcased in the story of Noah’s Ark.

“Grace and Mercy?” You might ask. “We’re talking about worldwide decimation. The death of many humans, animals and creatures all along the land! How can this be about Mercy or Grace?

Great question. I’m glad you asked it. Over the next few moments we have together, I hope we can see these very important attributes of God. Moreover it’s my hope for you and I that we not only see it, but are changed by it. Perhaps, we might change something about our life today because of it.

[If you’d like to listen to the Audio Recording of this message, please click the Spotify player at the bottom of this blog post. You can also find us on itunes podcasts. (Search: Viroqua Nazarene)


God’s Mercy 

Mankind deserved punishment and God did not immediately do that.

When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

Genesis 6:1-3 NIV

Gen 6:1-3, God takes notice of the amount of humans and how they were coming about. 

The phrase “Sons of God” in verse 2 “bene ha’elohim” is used in the Old Testament to refer to heavenly beings. 

This passage is an uncomfortable one because it might challenge what people think they know about angels (fallen or otherwise). We know from other scripture that they have free agency…the ability to make choices. If they did not, there would be no fallen angels. So as this passage unfolds, God looks on and makes a choice.  He could have taken this time to get the dry eraser out and wipe humanity off the map. But instead…

He showed his mercy. He would just set their max life span.

Now apparently some people, like Noah were literally grandfathered in – as he was 500 years old when he became a father. 

Eventually God did get out the eraser, ready to wipe out the great wickedness on the earth…but God was merciful and in Gen 6:8 it says, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” We discover in just a few verses that God tells Noah of his plan to destroy the world because it is full of violence.

That’s an interesting idea, right? End of violence? End of hate? The way to cleanse the world of violence is to remove the violent people. His plan is to do so using a flood.

WAIT! How’s that about God’s mercy and grace? 

Answer: It’s about his mercy and grace because he saw a righteous man, Noah. 6:9b 

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God.”

  • He did WHAT? There hasn’t been anyone walking with God in the bible since Adam and Eve did in the cool of the evening in the garden. What a blessing to be able to say you’ve faithfully walked with God. Noah could have said that himself… but he was going to be too busy building an ark!

So if Mercy is withholding deserved punishment, what is Grace?

God is Gracious 

If you look up the word “Grace,” its definition is “unearned, unmerited favor.” We would say the “unmerited favor of God.” 

God’s Grace can’t be earned. 

Noah didn’t work hard at being righteous, expecting God’s favor in return, like some paycheck.    He just was righteous. He lived a life that was in right relationship with God.   And so, God chose Noah.

He chooses who he uses. It’s his decision whom to bless.

It’s interesting to me that we hear very little about Noah’s family before they leave the ark. Have you ever noticed that? Nothing about Mrs. Noah, or the sons and their wives. God gives Noah the directions to build the ark. Nothing about the timeline or deadline. Nothing about his sons. (“Make sure that deadbeat Ham drags in some gopher wood to help build the Ark.”

No chores for anyone but Noah. In fact we only hear about Noah’s family a couple times. Gen 6:10 when his sons are introduced, Gen 6:18 when God talks about who’s going into the ark with Noah, “You, your wife, your sons and their wives.” God again mentions the Noah family in Gen 7:15 when he tells them they can all come out of the ark. And again it’s recorded that the family did just that in Gen 7:18. The start of Genesis chapter 9, he blesses Noah and his sons saying, “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” By proxy this command or blessing included the respective wives, even though they aren’t mentioned in this passage. God says a similar word about the animals, though not so much like a command as with the humans. 

17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”

Gen 7:17 NIV

God doesn’t even have to make a blessing or a command. Animals will do what they do best. Continuing their species. And they were able to do so because there was one male parent and one female parent of each kind of animal. 

Back to Team Noah and the topic of Grace. Noah is commanded to do all this work, bring in all the animals. God gives him specific instructions on how to build the ark and how many of each kind of animal to bring into the ark. Then as for the catering: 

21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

Gen 6:21 NIV

God says to Noah, “You’re in charge of determining the specifics of how much and what kind of food is for who and where to store it. I don’t have to spell everything out for you.”     Well maybe that’s just what’s in my head as I read this…but here again…It’s Noah’s responsibility. 

Noah, build an ark.

Noah, bring into the ark male and female of every living land creature.

Noah, take care of the food.

Noah, remember to bring extra animals, clean animals…for reasons.

Noah. Noah. Noah.

What about this family of his? Do they get a free ride? Why aren’t they told to do ANYTHING except get in the car…sorry ark, get out of the ark, and fill the earth with humans?

If you’ve ever seen a depiction of this story in film or picture books, artists and directors make the logical leap that his family helped in the construction of the Ark and the care of the animals. This is not surprising to us.

Even though mom and dad help around the church, keeping up the home, chores around the farm… oftentimes this will involve the whole family. Children will learn what it means to swing a hammer, milk a cow, muck a stall, dust a table, run a vacuum or drive a tractor before they can drive a car. 

And just like they are included in the chores around the home or the church, they take part in the blessing associated with their participation. 

So even though it’s “Noah build that, feed those, gather two of them…” this is a calling that is distinctively laid upon Noah…yet he includes his family in the mission because of the Grace and Mercy God has for all of them.   They get to participate in the plan of God! Isn’t that cool! They get to serve God, making the Ark, filling it and yes cleaning up after the animals as well. 

If you are a recipient of the Grace of God, sometimes you get to be an agent for his grace and mercy. That’s what team Noah was. 

Team Noah benefitted from God’s plan and took PART in God’s plan.

God is merciful. He’s not got a short fuse. He’d rather give people time to turn to him than just wipe them off the face of the earth. But eventually judgement comes for all of us. God chooses who he uses and his grace reigns down. God, because he is who he is, he makes promises called “covenants” and they…


Showcase God’s Grace and Mercy

Surprisingly, God’s covenants (quite frequently) are not mutually beneficial.

Question: Have you ever struck a deal with someone? Maybe for the sale of a car or for some work being done for you. Each party wants something and gets something from the arrangement. It’s mutually beneficial.    But this isn’t how God works here in Genesis…

Here with the Rainbow, (and we will read the full passive in a moment) The rainbow is God’s reminder of his promise to never destroy the earth and land-dwelling life by using a flood. It’s for HIM. There’s another story, a little while later in Genesis where God makes a one-side arrangement.

In Gen 15, Abram wonders how God will bring about his promise to him…to make his offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky. God has Abram take certain animals, cut them in half and then set the pieces of the animals apart from each other like the sides of a pathway.

Typically when a covenant was sealed like this between two people, they would walk between the pieces together. The meaning being, “If I go back on my promise, may I be torn to pieces like these animals.” But between Abram and God, God…in the form of a smoking pot and a blazing torch passed between the pieces. Abram didn’t walk down that aisle. 

In these arrangements, arrangements of the Grace of God, God is doling out his favor and he is requiring nothing in return. 

He even takes on all the punishment if either of them  back out on their promise.

This makes me think of how Jesus was Beaten, bruised and crucified for our sins.

Back to Post flood covenant: Why didn’t God ask anything of Noah?      Noah was righteous, blameless. God knew the kind of man he was. He would build the ark and save the animals and his family. He would be part of the plan of grace and mercy.

Now what’s the “Rain-bow Connection?

Perhaps you’ve hear this song by Kermit T. Frog a number of years ago, “The Rainbow Connection”

It’s true, there are so many song about rainbows, but why? What are they made of? What do they stand for?

Rainbows are funny things. 

You see them in nature, of course. This story tells us where they come from. 

You can produce the effect of the white light splitting into all the colors of the visible light spectrum if you pass it through a prism.

But I wondered why God named it as such. Why not a “Rain arch?” Have you been to St. Louis before? The arch they have there is a very similar shape.   Having daughters, I would try to put a “Bow” in their hair when they were younger. Even today, the occasionally like to do so to their hair. But God did not make a multi-colored shape of two triangles with a roundish part in the middle and place it in the sky.

There is only one other kind of “bow” you might be familiar with. That is the kind that has to do with archery. 

Bow and Arrow

“12 And God said, “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: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 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. 16 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.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Gen 9:12–17 ESV

The Hebrew word used in this passage, qesheth, frequently refers to an archer’s bow. The imagery here is that God is hanging up his weapon and won’t destroy the whole earth using a flood again. You also might be able to insinuate that the bow of God’s wrath is pointing upward. The idea being that it’s aimed at the one to incur punishment if the covenant is not kept. Oh, who’s it pointing to? (God).

So God makes this grand promise and what does mankind have to do in return? Promise to be “good”? “Try harder next time to be less violent?” Nope. Not one requirement. God is putting his Grace and Mercy out there for all to see. 

“Any time this natural phenomena occurs, I will remember…not to smite you with flood waters.” 

Covenants can be a little like marriage ceremonies. Serious promises get made in covenants. But there is usually a sign to help the husband and wife to remember their promise. A Wedding ring helps us to remember. We wear it as a sign of love and unending fidelity. It doesn’t MAKE us married, but it reminds us that we are. It also tells other people “Taken! Look elsewhere. Keep it moving, keep it moving.”

For God, his wedding ring was a rainbow. His Covenant was between Himself and the earth and the only vows taken were his own “I will never again destroy you with a flood.” 

Conclusion

If we desire to be more like God, as he wants us to be…then we must be merciful and gracious, even when we get nothing in return.

And the Rainbow can be a reminder for mankind. 

When you see it, Pray:

  • For the Mercy of God
  • For the Grace of God

Lots of businesses decided to rebrand for the month of June, incorporating the colors of the Rainbow. I want to encourage you to pray when you see the rainbow. 

Talk to God about his mercy. Ask for it for yourself. For those using rainbow imagery. Pray for mercy, for more time before ultimate judgement so repentance might take place.

Talk to God about his Grace. If you see the areas in life where his grace is prevalent, PRAISE Him for it. 

You can also ask for The Lord to be gracious in the situations around you. Perhaps businesses or individuals utilizing the Rainbow for their own purposes…it’s just one more opportunity to pray yet again for the Grace of God in their lives. 

Pray that God may bless that individual or business in such a way, perhaps a weird way….unique…so the only response, the only possible solution is that it was unmerited favor from God our Father.

I know…we are getting into weird territory, right?

So Pray for mercy, pray for grace. Ask for it to come to the forefront of everyone’s mind. The ultimate goal isn’t to make people “better” or “Live your best life now!” 

The Goal is to recognize and rejoice that God, the one and only, is Merciful and Gracious.

So pray. Pray that the Mercy and Grace of God would rain down upon us today. Upon our neighborhood, where we maybe know a handful of people by their first name…in the Vernon county area where we live, shop, do business. In our state where we may have distant friends and family scattered, but even more people in the state of Wisconsin are without Mercy. They’re without Grace. They don’t see it and we don’t pray for it. Our state government, they lead and guide policy in our state. Do they know how Merciful God is? Do they recognize the grace of God when they see it and give him praise?

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”

Psalm 103:8 NIV

We’ve got to set the example, then we’ve got to get about the business of praying the Holy Spirit influences lives at every place in our community. Adults to children and everyone in between. 

Much like the old adage: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” All we can do is point the way to One True God, who is Gracious and Merciful.


One thought on “The Rain-Bow Connection

  1. Ulterior motives cloud the mind:. “And YeHoVAH saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every IMAGINATION of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The Hebrew word for “imagination” or “intent” is “Yet•sar”, meaning, “form, framing, purpose”. Confessing this core corruption of our innermost being is the final frontier of repentance.

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