After the floodwaters, God, in Genesis 9:8-17, made a covenant with Noah. “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” (v.11). The rainbow is the sign. The covenant, made with the entire race, shows God’s desire to save rather than to destroy. The Bible reveals eight more covenants: Genesis 17:1-14 on Circumcision; Exodus 32:12-18 on Sabbath Observance; Ezekiel 37:14-28 on Spirit Filled Heart; Genesis 15:1-6, 17-21 Covenant with Abram; Exodus 20:16-25 Covenant with Israel; Exodus 20:18-26 God’s Written Covenant; 2 Samuel 7:1-16 Covenant with David; Nehemiah 9:32-39 Returning Exiles Covenant; Numbers 25:10-18 Conditional Covenant; Jeremiah 31:27-84 A New Covenant; Hebrews 12:18-29 Highest Priest of the New Covenant; and 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 God’s True Covenant people.

The idea of our covenant relationship with God is a major motif in the Scriptures. Noah lived in an evil time that brought divine judgment on the human race. The forty-day flood was sent to punish evil and destroy all flesh. Noah and his family found favor with the Lord and were spared by building the ark. In this passage, God takes the divine initiative to establish a covenant with Noah, his descendants “and with every living creature” (v. 10).

God promised Noah that “never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (v. 11). God initiates our salvation and covenant relationship with him. We do not find God; he finds, calls and saves us. We are saved by divine grace, not by our human initiative. All we have to do is say yes to God’s gift of salvation.

Ancient people thought the rainbow was God’s weapon from which his lightning arrows were shot (Psalms 7:12-13). The rainbow in the sky after a storm was a fearful sight, a symbol of fiery destruction.

God made the rainbow a symbol not of destruction but of deliverance. It was to be a reminder of his gracious covenant with Noah and with us. The rainbow reminds us of divine mercy. “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” (v. 16).

The rescue of Noah’s family and the ark became a symbol of divine mercy and salvation. The early church did not initially use the cross as a symbol of their faith. The humiliation of Jesus’ public execution was too fresh in their memories. Instead, early Christian art often depicted the ark. It stood for the church and salvation for those within it, by faith. By the ark God gave the human race a second chance, even as the gospel gives us the opportunity for redemption.

Let the rainbow of Noah’s ark symbolize our gracious God and his covenant promises. Allow the covenant of Jesus Christ dying on the cross for the sins of the world be a part of your life. Surrender yourself to the covenant with Jesus Christ.

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J.B. Morris leads the St. Andrews United Methodist Church.