(Please note: I’m writing this post in response to the Daily Prompt, but I’d like to add that I definitely don’t know more about this than most people – only more than some people.)
All summer evenings are beautiful, but this is one of the loveliest this season. It’s about six o’ clock and the sun’s final rays stretch across the sky like golden bars. Patterned by clouds, the sky is in silent confusion; to the south and west, thunderclouds rule, lightning underlining the slence; to the north the glorious, free blue sweeps on untouched by clouds. In the east, a blue-grey mist over the sun-kissed trees sings softly of the gentle rain that soaks deep.
I am a tiny speck of dust in the midst of all this beauty, but I have eyes to see and a heart to be glad, and I’m using them. I stand beside my horses as they champ contentedly at their feed and marvel at the greatness of all this. And in the east, as suddenly as a unicorn, a rainbow steps out of the cloud and throws a glowing arm into the stormy sky.
I like chemistry and lately I was studying a short piece about light and the visual spectrum; I learnt about rainbows and why their colours were always ordered the way they are. But looking at the magnificent arch of splendour, I had nothing about wavelength in my head; all I could think was, “What a promise.”
To get to the story of why rainbows are promises, I have to start with the story of the world. You see, our world was made by a Person called God. He’s not a man, exactly, although they do say He’s a little like us. He’s a mighty King, mightier than you could ever imagine; the Earth that seems so big to us is just a little spinning atom in the universe, and the universe is just a speck in the face of all the things God made, and God holds all the things He made in the palm of His hand.
Thousands of years ago, this wonderful Person called God made the world. He made the sky and the sea and the earth and everything else; He made all the stars, planets and galaxies. He put herbs and grass and trees on the earth, and He made birds for the sky, fish for the sea, and animals for the earth.
Think of all the millions of different types of animals there are: all the bright birds and the noble beasts, the whirring insects, the flashing fish. Everything you can think of, from an elephant to a bacteria. And more than that! Mountains and forests and hills, valleys, ravines, underwater canyons deeper than Mount Everest is high! And even more than that! Stars and planets all dancing in their graceful orbits; galaxy upon galaxy, possibilities stretching on into infinity. God made all those things, and guess how long it took Him to do it? Five days. Yes, just five. That’s how amazing He is! And you haven’t even heard the half of it yet.
On the sixth day, God decided that the earth wasn’t quite finished yet; there was something missing. What was missing? Us. For reasons only God knows (for on bad days I sure don’t know, and I think you have those days, too) He said, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over all the animals.” So He took a handful of dust and blew His breath over it, and He made Man.
We are all descendants from that first Man, whose name was Adam. God gave him a wife too, and her name was Eve. The two of them are the mother and father of all the people who are and were and are to come, and they had all sorts of adventures together. One adventure was the worst sort of adventure, because in that adventure, Adam and Eve broke the world.
It happened like this. God has a terrible enemy, as all the heroes do, and this enemy’s name is Satan, or the Devil. Unfortunately, Satan is, like God, real. Fortunately, he’s not quite as real as God, or we’d all be dead. But he’s real nonetheless, and in the very early days he turned himself into a snake and went into the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve lived.
God had told Adam and Eve that there were only two trees that they weren’t allowed to touch or eat the fruit of, because it would be dangerous for them. Satan, however, had other ideas. He slithered up to Eve one day and told her to eat the fruit of one of the trees.
Eve knew better. “God told us never to eat this fruit, because we will die if we eat it.”
Of course Satan knew that Eve would die if she ate the fruit; that’s exactly what Satan wanted, and what he still wants, for everybody. Satan is completely evil, and all he wants is to kill everyone. Once people are dead, he can get hold of them, and then he’ll torture them – for ever.
“You won’t die,” he told Eve. “God knows that if you eat this fruit, you’ll know what is good and what is evil. Then, you’ll be like Him, and He doesn’t want that.”
In that moment, Eve could have saved the world from pain and death. But, like the rest of us, she listened to Satan. The fruits looked so big and juicy and ripe and good hanging there on the branch that she just couldn’t resist. She reached out, picked the soft, sweet fruit, and ate it. It was so good that she gave some to Adam, and he ate it too.
With that fruit, Adam and Eve brought sin into the world. Whenever we do something wrong, that’s a sin, a crime against God Himself. It was a horrifyingly ungrateful thing to do to Someone who had made them and looked after them, but they still did it.
And because they did it, mankind could no longer live forever; they were all doomed to die. God sent them out of the Garden of Eden, because part of what they’d done meant that they couldn’t live with Him anymore. He even put angels – His amazing, powerful servants – in front of the gates with fiery swords in their hands to keep Adam and Eve out.
But God never deserted Adam and Eve. He blessed them all the time, and they learnt how to till the ground and grow crops. They had sons and daughters, and they had sons and daughters, and so the world became full of men.
Now I’m starting to come to the bit about the rainbow, so be patient a little longer. You see, if you think Adam and Eve were bad, wait till you’ve seen the lot that lived in these days. They were evil people, belonging wholly to Satan; they killed, stole, drank, envied and disobeyed their parents – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! In fact, in this whole generation, there was only one good family, and that was the family of Noah. Noah was a wonderful man who loved God very much. He would do anything for God, and that’s a good thing, because of what happened next.
This generation was so evil that God decided to send a flood to destroy them as they had destroyed each other so cruelly. But God didn’t want to destroy Noah or the beautiful animals that lived on the Earth and had been horribly abused by the evil people. So He said to Noah, “I want you to build an ark – a gigantic boat made of wood, so big that you can fit in your family, two each of all the animals in the world, and enough food to last you for months.”
What did Noah do? What would you do? I think I would run away and hide. Can you imagine how big that boat would have to be? But Noah, you see, was a man of God who loved God. So he said what all believers should say: “Okay, Lord, I will!”
So Noah built the enormous ark and he and his sons fetched two of each animal and enough food for them all, and they loaded themselves into the ark. It rained for days and days until the whole earth was just covered in water and all the evil was washed away. It was a storm such as has never been seen before or since, but God blessed Noah and his family and the animals in the ark, and none of them were harmed at all. Eventually, the rain stopped and the ark settled on Mount Ararat. When all the water had dried up, Noah and his family and the animals all went out of the ark and saw the beautiful, clean new earth without evil people to spoil it.
Noah thanked God for the lovely, clean earth as all the animals ran out of the stuffy ark and began to play and graze in the perfect sunshine. He built an altar and made a sacrifice to God. In those days, they had to kill animals (the way we do for food) and burn them to sacrifice to God, because Adam and Eve had broken the world. (Luckily, God had told Noah to bring some extra goats).
God smiled at Noah and at his clean earth, and do you know what happened then? Then God put the first ever rainbow in the sky, and it was the loveliest rainbow in the world. It had all the colours you could ever imagine, and it arched all the way from one side of the horizon to the other. It glowed until all the earth was bathed in different colours that danced and shifted like the best corps de ballet.
God put the rainbow in the sky as a token of the great promise He was about to make. It was a fantastic promise, and it still is. God is so very big that He could squash the entire earth with just the flick of a fingernail, but in that day, He promised never to flood the earth like that ever again. He said,
“And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.”
And God said, “This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.”
This is the promise that Someone as big and wonderful as God made to someone as unimportant, tiny and worthless as you and me, in our broken world. It would be like us making a promise to a speck of dust. Compared to Him, we have about as much love, power and courage as a speck of dust!
So why on Earth would He do that?
The answer is the reason why God is the most amazing thing that was and is and is to come.
GOD LOVES US.
Isn’t that amazing?
To Be Continued…
Questions? Comments? Anything to add? That’s what the comment box is for, people. I’m not a pastor and not an expert, but I have a Bible and a minister and a pair of knees, and I can use them!