Summary: Fourth in a series exploring the early chapters of Genesis, this three-point expository sermon highlights the rainbow as a symbol of God's patience, God's promises, and God's peace.
A New Beginning (Part 4)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 4/27/14
They say that April showers bring May flower. In other words, something dark and dreary can give rise to something colorful and alive. We’ve had our share of April showers this month. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, when I was driving Sarai home from school, the rain gave rise to another colorful sign of Spring. I looked out the driver-side window of our van and spotted the very first rainbow of the season. Brilliant colors splashed across a grey canvas. It’s a thing of beauty, but fragile too. Just a moment later, as the clouds rolled passed, it slowly faded away. But for that brief moment we were able to witness one of the most inspiring miracles that God has set in nature—and a symbol of new beginnings.
A rainbow, by definition, is “a bow or arc of prismatic colors appearing in the heavens opposite the sun and caused by the refraction and reflection of the sun’s rays in drops of rain” (Websters). Rainbows are caused by the sunlight filtering through the water in the air, each drop becoming a prism to release the colors hidden in the white light of the sun. Of course, I still enjoy the slightly less scientific queries of one of the great philosophers of our age—Kermit the Frog—who sings: “Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?”
This morning, I’d like for us to think beyond the scientific and silly, and consider the spiritual meaning of these arcs “of prismatic colors.” And to do that we have to go the source. In Genesis 9, we discover the spiritual significance of the rainbow.
Then God told Noah and his sons, “I solemnly promise you and your children and the animals you brought with you—all these birds and cattle and wild animals—that I will never again send another flood to destroy the earth. And I seal this promise with this sign: I have placed my rainbow in the clouds as a sign of my promise until the end of time, to you and to all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will be seen in the clouds, and I will remember my promise to you and to every being, that never again will the floods come and destroy all life. For I will see the rainbow in the cloud and remember my eternal promise to every living being on the earth.” (Genesis 9:8-16 TLB)
Now, we’re coming in at the end of a story. But it’s a story that I think we’re all familiar with. God created this perfect world, where everything was very good. But then sin crept into man’s heart and corrupted everything. I mean everything. Adam and Eve defied God’s authority and hid from the God who made them. One their sons, Cain, murdered his own brother in a fit of rage and jealousy. And the corruption spread, worsening with each generation. It got so bad, the Bible says, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled” (Genesis 6:5-6 NIV).
Have you ever meditated on that phrase: “the Lord regretted that he had made human beings”? That’s a powerful statement. God is a being of pure love and grace, but the people he made had become so vile and viciousness that he wished he never created us. But even then, God wouldn’t give up on us. He wanted to give humanity a fresh start, a second change. So he told Noah to build a boat.
When the flood waters receded and Noah and his family stepped out of the arch onto dry land for the first time in a very long time, the first thing God did was create a new covenant and cast his rainbow across the sky. Ever since, the rainbow has become a symbol of how and why God gives us each a new beginning.
First, it’s a symbol of God’s patience.
• GOD’S PATIENCE
There’s an old limerick that claims:
Patience is a virtue, Possess it if you can.
Found seldom in a woman, Never in a man.
I don’t know about never, but patience does seem to be an elusive virtue. Tony Campolo tells the story a father shopping with a fussy two-year-old in his grocery cart. “Be patient, Billy,” he whispers. “You can handle this, Billy. Just be patient.” A nearby woman overheard his reassuring words, and said, “I don’t mean to interrupt your shopping, but I just had to tell you how wonderfully loving and patient you are with little Billy.” The man replied, “Actually, my son’s name is Patrick. My name is Billy.”