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The Bow in the Cloud
In the midst of wrath God remembered mercy. Upon the subsidence of the Flood and the restoration of the family of Noah to their accustomed avocations, the great Ruler and Lord graciously renewed to the human race the expression of His favour.
I. The Covenant was established between, on the one hand, the Lord Himself; on the other hand, the sons of men, represented in the person of Noah.
( a ) Its occasion. It was after the vindication of Divine justice and authority by the deluge of waters; it was upon the restoration of the order of nature as before; it was when the family of Noah commenced anew the offices of human life and toil. A new beginning of human history seemed an appropriate time for the establishment of a new covenant between a reconciled God and the subjects of His kingdom.
( b ) Its purport. It was an undertaking that never again should the waters return in fury so destructive and disastrous.
( c ) Its nature. In an ordinary covenant, the parties mutually agree to a certain course of conduct, and bind themselves thereto. Now, in any agreement between God and man, it must be borne in mind that the promise which God makes is absolutely free; He enters into an engagement of His own accord, and aware that man can offer Him no equivalent for what He engages His honour to do.
( d ) Its sign. The bow in the cloud was probably as old as the Creation, but from this time forth it became a sign of Divine mercy and a pledge of Divine faithfulness. Something frequent, something beautiful, something heavenly how fitted to tell us of the love and fidelity of our Divine Father!
II. God is to all a Covenant God. He has given offers of mercy, assurances of compassion, promise of life to all mankind. His covenant has been ratified with the blood of Christ. To those who enter into its privileges He says, 'This is as the waters of Noah,' etc. (Isaiah 54:9 ).
References. IX. 11. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons, vol. i. p. 198. Bishop Armstrong, Parochial Sermons, p. 163. IX. 12, 13. R. Winterbotham, Sermons, p. 84.
The Rainbow the Type of the Covenant
God was pleased to impart to Noah the gracious assurance that He would 'establish His covenant,' to appoint an outward and visible sign which would serve at once to confirm men in their faith and to dispel their fears.
I. The rainbow is equally dependent for its existence upon storm and upon sunshine. Marvellously adapted, therefore, to serve as a type of mercy following upon judgment as a sign of connexion between man's sin and God's free and unmerited grace, connecting gloomy recollections of past with bright expectations of future.
II. It is also a type of that equally distinctive peculiarity of Christ's Gospel, that sorrow and suffering have their appointed sphere of exercise both generally in the providential administration of the world, and individually in the growth and development of personal holiness. It is the Gospel of Christ Jesus alone which converts sorrow and suffering into instruments for the attainment of higher and more enduring blessings.
III. As the rainbow spans the vault of the sky and becomes a link between earth and heaven, so, in the person and work of Christ, is beheld the unchangeableness and perpetuity of that covenant of grace which like Jacob's ladder maintains the communication between earth and heaven, and thus by bringing God very near to man, ushers man into the presence-chamber of God.
IV. In nature the continued appearance of rainbow is dependent on the continued existence of cloud. In heaven, the rainbow will ever continue to point backward to man's fall and onward to the perpetuity of a covenant which is 'ordered in all things and sure'. But work of judgment will then be accomplished, and therefore the cloud inseparable from the condition of the redeemed in earth will have no more place in heaven
Canon Elliott, The Contemporary Pulpit, vol. v. p. 151.
The Message of the Rainbow
When a man has passed through the deep waters as Noah passed, there is a new depth in the familiar Bible, there is a new meaning in the familiar bow.
I. What we most dread God can illuminate. If there was one thing full of terror to Noah, it was the cloud. How Noah with the fearful memories of the Flood, would tremble at the rain-cloud in the sky! yet it was there that the Almighty set his bow. It was that very terror He illuminated. And a kind God is always doing that. What we most dread, He can illuminate. Was there ever anything more dreaded than the Cross, that symbol of disgrace in an old world, that foulest punishment, that last indignity that could be cast on a slave? And Christ has so illuminated that thing of terror, that the one hope today for sinful men, and the one type and model of the holiest life, is nothing else than that.
II. There is unchanging purpose in the most changeful things. In the whole of nature there is scarce anything so changeful as the clouds. But God, living and full of power, would have His name and covenant upon the cloud. And if that means anything surely it is this: that through all change, and movement, and recasting, run the eternal purposes of God.
III. There is meaning in the mystery of life. Clouds are the symbol, clouds are the spring of mystery. And so when God sets His bow upon the cloud, I believe that there is meaning in life's mystery. I am like a man travelling among the hills and there is a precipice and I know it not, and yonder is a chasm where many a man has perished, and I cannot see it. But on the clouds that hide God lights His rainbow; and the ends of it are here on earth, and the crown of it is lifted up to heaven. And I feel that God is with me in the gloom, and there is meaning in life's mystery for me.
IV. But there is another message of the bow. It tells me that the background of joy is sorrow. God has painted His rainbow on the cloud, and back of its glories yonder is the mist. And underneath life's gladness is an unrest, and a pain that we cannot well interpret, and a sorrow that is born we know not how. Will the Cross of Calvary interpret life if the deepest secret of life is merriment? Impossible! I cannot look at the rainbow on the cloud, I cannot see the Saviour on the Cross, but I feel that back of gladness there is agony, and that the richest joy is born of sorrow.
G. H. Morrison, Flood Tide, p. 170.
References. IX. 13. J. Parker, Adam, Noah, and Abraham, p. 54. IX. 14. C. Perren, Revival Sermons, p. 292. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. ii. p. 28. IX. 15. J. Monro Gibson, The Ages before Moses, p. 138. IX. 16. H. N. Powers, American Pulpit of Today, vol. iii. p. 414. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 517. IX. 18-29. R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i. p. 157. X. 1-5. J. Parker, Adam, Noah, and Abraham, p. 64. X. 32. S. Wilberforce, Sermons, p. 64. XI. 1. J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (10th Series), p. 103. XI. 4-9. S. Leathes, Studies in Genesis, p. 81. XI. 9. F. E. Paget, Village Sermons, p. 223. XI. 27. R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i. p. 181. J. Monro Gibson, The Ages before Moses, p. 159. XI. 31. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2011.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Genesis 9". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension