There was a time when the world was overwhelmed with wickedness and the evil of man spread across the face of the globe. The wickedness was so great that God determined to wipe out mankind, together with animals, birds and everything that moved on the ground.
His chosen method of judgment then was a catastrophic flood that covered the whole earth.
However, there was one man on earth who still trusted God and strove to be holy, preaching righteousness to an unheeding world. God determined to save him and his family, and in addition representatives of all created kinds of creatures; and he did just that in a massive ship, which Noah built according to God’s instructions.
After the Flood, Noah was faced with a new, different world. Devastated by water but springing to life again, Noah released the creatures, in order to repopulate the world.
However, what guarantee was there a Flood wouldn’t all happen again? God made an extraordinary promise to Noah, and all living things. In fact, he made a covenant with them, which meant that it was an unconditional commitment on God’s part: he would never destroy all life with a Flood again. And he gave a wonderful sign to be a reminder to all men everywhere of his mercy, of his promise: the rainbow.
Some believe that the Bible record infers that rainbows didn’t exist before the Flood. Whether or not that was the case, it remains true that God has invested this beautiful sight with a great and precious meaning: it is a reminder of God’s covenant with mankind, through Noah.
And not just a reminder to us, but a reminder to God. He has said that, whenever he sees the rainbow, he will remember that he has promised never again to use water to destroy every living thing (Genesis 9).
It is a poignant truth that the rainbow is made by the refraction of light through water droplets, that same liquid which was the means of God’s judgment upon man’s wickedness.
Throughout human history the rainbow has been made a symbol of many different things in different cultures. Almost always that symbolism has been of something spiritual, something glorious — a symbol of beauty, of hope. The new South Africa has been called ‘the rainbow nation’, because it aspires to be a union of all races and all colours, working in harmony.
However, recently this symbol has been used by another, increasingly global movement which epitomises that very wickedness that caused the wrath of God to descend on the earth. The rainbow that speaks of God’s mercy is being besmirched in the service of sexual perversion.
It would be difficult to find a symbol of such love and grace, a symbol of God’s gracious promise, which was more inappropriate to use to celebrate homosexuality in all its multitudinous forms. For the Christian, this is tantamount to blasphemy. A black flag would better represent these practices as they are seen by a holy God.
It is deeply distressing to see such a symbol of defiance and of the trampling of God’s wise and pure creation of sex, as the rainbow flag raised above Parliament, above military installations, and in many other public places. It is as if our nation has raised it as a flag of surrender to Satan.
But just maybe there is also a way Christians can use this onslaught to testify of God’s goodness. We can speak to those who vilely misuse this symbol to speak of the true meaning of the rainbow.
We can tell them of how the sins of mankind once brought condemnation and destruction to the world, but that the rainbow was and is a sign of God’s promise that he would stay his hand and never repeat that judgment.
At the same time, we can declare there is a judgment yet to come, but this time not by water, and urge men and women to run from the coming wrath into the arms of the Saviour.
Michael G. Matthews is a retired architect. At one time he edited Origins, the journal of the Biblical Creation Society (now Biblical Creation Trust).