<< Genesis 9: The Rainbow >>
12 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: 13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15 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. 16 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. 17 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth. GENESIS IX
The rainbow is a beautiful object. As the glorious arch spans the sky, and glows in its magnificent colours, it awakens admiration in every beholder, and in the reverent soul, confidence, trust, and love. It speaks of hope and heaven. It is the bright symbol of a brighter reality; of such a reception and radiance of the Holy Spirit of the Saviour in the soul as to constitute a RAINBOW in the mind; a promise of salvation and happiness. Earth is not the only land of rainbows, there are rainbows in heaven. Ezekiel saw a wonderful appearance in the land of the blessed, which he thus describes : " As the appearance of the BOW THAT IS IN THE CLOUD IN THE DAY OF RAIN, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake." — Ezek. i. 28. John records a similar sight: "And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald." — Rev. iv. 2, 3. There was a similar appearance beheld by John round the head of the glorious person whom he saw with a little book open in his hand : "And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire." — Chap. x. 1. These rainbows make it evident that they are known in a land where they are more beautiful, and so evanescent as those which come to us like flashes of heavenly beauty, and then speedily fade away.
Indeed, it is of spiritual rainbows, and not of those of earth, of which the text speaks, as we shall find on close examination, and thus it has its deepest significance. We say, on close examination, for it will be found that much that is attributed to rainbows in the text, and in the general impressions of Christians, will not abide the strict investigations of science and reason if applied to the rainbows of our atmosphere; only when we look more interiorly do we discover the full importance of the lesson which the Holy Word was intended to disclose.
One of these general impressions is, that the atmospheric rainbow was displayed for the first time after the deluge. Yet, if the laws of light were the same from the beginning of the world as now, and rain followed a certain amount of evaporation from the sea from the earliest time, as we know it to have done, there must have been rainbows. These glorious objects diversified the scenery of the sky doubtless millions of years before man existed. The light would be refracted by the little globules of rain whenever the sun was shining, as we see it in the spray of the fountains of the Crystal Palace, as we see it in the haze over a waterfall, as we see it in every globe of glass when held in the right direction, and in every crystal prism; and wherever light is refracted there will be exhibited to the eye, present to observe, all the brilliant hues of the rainbow. As the refractions of light which produce the rainbow could not be evidences before the literal flood if it occurred, that there never would be a flood to destroy mankind, so it is difficult to conceive how the very same appearances now can have such a lesson to teach. Besides, as each single person may fall a victim to a partial flood, or otherwise,to drowning, it is difficult to see the use there would be in working a miracle to assure him that he need not to fear destruction by a flood precisely like that of Noah.
Another of these general impressions is, that the rainbow is given expressly to assure the world that we shall never be destroyed by water any more. But rainbows appear on the wide ocean, where there are often none but fishes to observe; on the Wild desert, where the rude Indian can gather from it no such lesson. Indeed, it could only be a token of such a promise to those who were instructed in such a meaning from the literal sense of our Scriptures, and these, as compared to the human race, are few. To get at a rainbow, then, which complies with the strict conditions of the text in the fullest extent, we must look inward and upward, and here, as elsewhere, we shall find “It is the spirit that giveth life."
We have noticed, that it would be small comfort to any one to know that he would not be destroyed by a general flood, while he remained exposed to the danger of being drowned by a partial one. Now, if we consider the lesson afforded by a spiritual rainbow, we shall find that it assures the observer of it, in his own soul, that he will not fall a victim to any flood at all. But what is a spiritual rainbow? It is the manifestation, on the soul, of the light of the sun of heaven, so as to show its threefold splendour. Let us consider the constituents of an outward rainbow, and then apply their correspondences to the mind, and we shall clearly see the meaning of an inward one.
There must be the sun, with its light and heat, the atmosphere, and falling rain. In such circumstances, when the spectator has his back to the shining sun, and sees rain in the opposite quarter, there will also be seen the rainbow.
Now, there is a sun of the soul, with its light and heat, as well as there is a sun of nature. There is rain for the soul as well as for the earth. And, certainly, the soul has its atmosphere, in which it lives and breathes, and in which its phenomena are presented as vividly and really as those which appear in the air.
We have said, there is a sun for the soul, which has its light and heat. And can we doubt that, when we find the recognition of it pervades our whole thought and language? When we have obtained a clearer insight into some subjects, we say we have got more light upon it: the diffusion of truth is called the spread of light. We speak of being warmed when God's love glows upon our hearts, and to burn with a desire for blessing our fellow men. And can we hesitate to say, that the warmth and light thus admitted, come from a centre, a sun. Analogy, which poet truly calls, "Man's surest guide below," will settle the question. As natural light comes from a natural sun, so spiritual light must come from a spiritual sun. That spiritual sun can be no other than the glorious Being who is Love itself, and Light itself. Hence, the Scriptures call the Lord a Sun. ''Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended." — Isa. lx. 20. "But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings." — Mai. iv. 2.
The spiritual atmosphere consists of the congregated spheres of all minds, and each individual mind has its individual sphere, consisting of the surrounding elements of its abiding thoughts and ideas, accumulated during the whole course of life. This composes the inner character. We add to it day by day. It is the book in which we inscribe all we love, think, and do. We read it when we consult our memories, and into it all new impressions are received. Hence, the events and the lessons of life are not received by any means alike by all, but by each according to his previous state, made up of the desirings, thinkings, and doings of all his previous existence.
This sphere around the spirit is often overlooked, but has a most real existence. Hence, there are individuals in whose company, from some unknown cause, others are never happy. There seems a feeling of distrust and discomfort ever with them. Others there are with whom persons feel at home immediately. This sphere round the soul, like the fragrance round the rose, makes the genuinely good welcome, with the like-minded, always. There is a hidden sympathy, an interior agreement, that binds those who love goodness and truth for their own sakes, as members of the same family. In heaven, this congeniality of sphere will be one of the chief components of the bliss of the angels: there will be that perfect harmony of soul, that delightful accordance of character, that each one will feel as if he had known and loved the others, as brothers and sisters, all his life. This sphere of the soul, then, is its atmosphere. It receives all its influences through that, and sees all the objects spiritually presented to it either through the brightness or the gloom of this sphere in which it habitually lives. Every one knows that things never appear alike to two individuals. They see them through different mediums. To one, all is bright and cheerful to another, everything is gloomy and sad. This is not always taken sufficiently into account by others, who blame those who do not see subjects in the same light as they themselves do, not reflecting on the fact, that the mediums through which they see are different. Yet all are conscious, when they consider their own states, that they do not themselves behold things in the same light at all times. To-day they are drooping and sad, and are disposed to notice only the black side of every subject; even the Divine Being, in these states, is regarded as inscrutably severe. To-morrow a livelier condition of spirit exists; the soul bounds forward in hope and joy, and sees the bright side of all things, rejoicing in the acknowledgment that God is Love. The atmosphere of the soul has cleared, and all is sunny. In dealing with our fellow-creatures, or considering their views of God, we should never forget the fact of the spirit's atmosphere. In this atmosphere there occur all the changes of the weather without. There are heavy clouds and light; dark days and bright ones; healthy cheerful breezes and awful storms; pouring rains and refreshing showers. These form the temper in all its varieties; and while we should ever strive to keep our own spiritual weather serene, we ought also to remember that the ability to do this perfectly belongs only to the perfectly regenerate state. No land on earth is quite exempt from storms; it is only in the calm blue depths of the upper sky that lasting peace prevails.
The third fact to be borne in mind, when the production of a rainbow is the object of contemplation, is, that when this phenomenon occurs rain is falling. So is it when a spirit bow is formed. Rain to the spirit is instruction from the Lord. This comes down like a gentle refreshing shower. " My doctrine," said the Israelitish lawgiver, " shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass, because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God." — Gen. xxxii. 2, 3. " Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you." — Hos. x. 12. Now, when such instruction is entering the soul, and there is reverence for the Lord there, the sun is above the horizon of the soul, and in its atmosphere there will be a spiritual beauty and splendour produced which will make a RAINBOW IN THE SOUL. If there be pride, envy, hatred, or lust, as dominant principles in the heart, there will be no rainbow, the clouds will be too dense and dark, and there is great danger of a destructive flood: but if there be innocence, goodness, piety, and mercy there, God will see the rainbow, and it will be a token of a covenant between Him and that soul. No destructive flood can overwhelm where that rainbow is seen.
The colours of the rainbow are extremely beautiful, and very instructive to contemplate. They are seven, as observed by the eye, of which the red is the uppermost, and violet the lowest. The seven colours in the order in which they occur are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Some of these, however, are believed to be compounded of the others, and the three which are absolutely original are red, yellow, and blue.
Colours have their significance in spiritual things. These have their beauteous seemings to the mind, as natural objects have to the eye. Red, the colour of fire, is representative of the glow of love in the soul. Blue, the colour of the deep calm sky, represents the peaceful lessons of inward truth and yellow is the symbol of outward goodness. The ardour of the Divine Love is expressed by the prophet, when he said of the representation of the Lord : " I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of His loins even upward, and from the appearance of His loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about." — Ezek. i. 27. The energy of the Divine desire to bless, as pervading all His attributes, and all the heavens, is expressed by the colour of fire, upwards and downwards. Blue, with its deep, serene, thoughtful aspect, is the colour of the ribband which the divine command ordered to be upon every Israelite's dress, and which prevailed in the veil of the temple, because it fitly represented to the mind the purity and beauty of truth. Yellow, the colour of brass, is the symbol of the good which relates to the neighbour, and is comparatively external. The Lord's feet are said, in the book of Revelation, to be " like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace." — Chap. i. 15. These three essential colours, then, represent love to the Lord, love to the neighbour, and the spiritual truth which is in harmony with both. When the mind is receiving instruction then; when there is spiritual rain, and because love and charity are within, and accompanied by a reverent regard for the truth, these appear like a heavenly rainbow in the soul; and when these appear it is evident there is a covenant between the Lord and that soul. There is no danger of flood there. It is a token of an everlasting covenant between the Lord, and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. None but those who are living can exhibit this beautiful rainbow. And in proportion to the spiritual life, or in other words, the heavenly love of those who display it, will its colours be brilliant or otherwise. Innocence of heart, which entirely disclaims all idea of merit, or of any claim to anything but the divine mercy of the Lord, gives great vividness to the internal rainbow. It is beautiful to behold, and a token, a sure token of the everlasting covenant between God and man.
The red, we have noticed, is the uppermost colour in the rainbow, as a token of the supremacy of love represented by the red. This is the soul, the essence, and the crown of all virtues. “Above all things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." The violet is the lowest colour of the bow, and it is the red and blue united. In good works and words, which form the lowest or most external quality of the Christian character, love and truth are both combined, and produce that soft and beautiful quality which is a violet to the mind. This bow is a token of the covenant between God and the soul. It is not the covenant itself, but a token of the covenant. The covenant itself is the conjunction of the soul and the Lord by interior love. Nothing but love conjoins.
It is interesting to notice how expressive the word covenant is of the thing it signifies. It is made of two words, which signify coming together. From venant, coming, and con with n omitted. Now, in a covenant, God and man come together. The idea of a covenant involves two, and a free approach on each side. Thus, it involves God's operation and invitation, and man's co-operation and reception.
The Lord loves us, and draws nigh to us; if we respond in love a covenant is effected. "He abides in us, and we in Him." "Jesus answered, and said unto him. If a man love Me he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." — John xiv. 23. But will God, in very deed, dwell with us? Can we conceive that the King of kings, the Eternal Love which sustains all worlds, will deign to make a covenant with, and abide with us ?
Oh, yes, it is indeed true. It is for that end He made us, and all the operations of His Providence exist. He has formed man to be the image of all His Divine Perfections, that He may receive them all, and be blessed. Man is an assemblage, an embodiment of wants, internal and external, that Divine Benevolence may fill him with blessing by their supply. He has affections for good of every kind, that good may be given him. He has desires for truth of every kind, that truths may be given him. He has sensational desires and corporeal desires, that nature in all her kingdoms may enrich him through all his senses. How grand is the covenant, then, that Infinite Love desires to make with man; to fill him interiorly with its blessings, and exteriorly with its abundance; to make a covenant with him in every department of his being. He invites him to this covenant: He woos him to it. Its attractions are the bands of love, the cords of true manhood. Nothing opposes or prevents it but man's miserable self-hood. That dark and horrid compound it is which is preferred by every sinner to his adorable, All-good, and All-beautiful Creator and Saviour. But, surely, it shall not be so with us. We will do our part of the gracious covenant of mercy, love, and light, to which we are invited. We will adopt the terms, and say from our inmost hearts, '' Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name." Well, then, let red, the blue, and the yellow appear, token of the covenant which you desire, and your heavenly Father is making with you.
The Lord sets His how in the cloud. The time of cloud is the time of serious thought in the giddy outflow of the natural spirits all seems sunshine and joy. The heedless mind sees no unpleasant consequences, and gaiety enlivens every scene. But that will not last for ever. Seasons of reflection will come. The aching sensation that all is not right with the highest interests of the soul will force itself upon us, and happy it is when this takes place early. In the quiet of our chamber, in the loneliness of a walk of meditation, by the sick bed of a beloved friend or relative, by the bedside of death, it may be the cloud of earnest thought comes over the soul, and everything is hidden from the spirit's observation for the time but the divine whisper. What doest thou here ? A glance over our past and present life reveals its empty, aimless, and hollow, it may be its vile, character. A crowd of considerations come over us: the teachings of infancy, the stored up lessons of the Word, the sweet influences of angels press upon us, inviting us to a better life: then come doubts of our acceptance, depressions, self-accusations, condemnations, fears, sorrows, the cloud deepens, but at last hope helps us to look up, heaven is opened to us, and we see the glorious rainbow which the Divine Spirit makes upon the soul. It seems to say, All who revere love, truth, and virtue, I will receive and bless. The soul responds. Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief. We are enabled to lay hold of the glorious promise, and to rejoice that there is a covenant between us and our God. We realize the sacred words: "I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land; and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing." — Ezek. xxxiv. 25, 26.
We must notice, that first this covenant is between the Lord and the earth, ver. 13 ; and next, "between every living creature of all flesh." — Ver. 15. The earth represents the natural man, and the covenant the Lord makes with the earth is dependent for being unbroken upon the natural man being made obedient to the divine commandments. Its evils must be resisted by power from the Lord. " Know, therefore, that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep commandments in the Saviour's strength will be sure to succeed. No evil is too strong for Him. No flood can do harm when this spirit is there. " Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and DOETH them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock." — Matt. vii. 24, 25. The earth, or external mind, is in all of us the seat of innumerable evils. By obedience only can these evils be subdued and extirpated. The Lord, however, will do this, if we keep His sayings. "He is a faithful God, keeping the covenant of mercy and truth with them that love Him and keep His commandments." Too many overlook this covenant with the earth. They suppose the Lord has only a covenant with the heavens, the interiors of the mind. But, no, it is quite otherwise. The earth is wrong, and therefore heaven is shut up. Earth is the battle-field. There the victory or the defeat of every soul is accomplished. And one of the subtlest of errors is that which would persuade us that there is no need to trouble about the earth; God is not concerned about it. It is there where Satan's seat is. Thence must he be cast out, if the kingdom of God must come, and His will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. Behold then the hallowed arch as a divine promise that all help will be given by the Divine Saviour until your whole life will be spanned by an EVERLASTING RAINBOW.
The covenant is next said to be with every living thing of all flesh. Every living thing is every regenerated affection. From the lowest appetite, signified by the creeping things of the earth, through the thoughts — the birds, to the nobler affections, signified by the useful animals — the oxen, sheep, and lambs, all should be filled with heavenly love. " Whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we should do it all for the glory of God." And, then, there is a covenant with every living thing of all flesh: an eternal excellency runs through them, a joy of many generations.
"The rainbow bending in the sky
Bedecked with sundry hues.
Is like the seat of God on high,
And seems to tell these news."
When we look around at the world, and remember that we are in the nineteenth century of the Christian era, the reflection is but a gloomy one. We see war making its awful ravages yet, as if the Great Saviour had not said, " Love one another.” The slave-trade even pursued by men called Christians, and murdering its thousands to bind its hundreds to hopeless ill-requited toil. The great Christian communities armed to the teeth, lest each should plunge upon the other like banditti, and gorge their lust of power with pillage and massacre. The internal condition of the Christian kingdoms is equally unsatisfactory, crime rather upon the increase than otherwise. Ignorance not vigorously combated, but those who should be drying up all its marshes, and rooting out all its weeds, quarrelling about the mode of its being done, and content rather to leave the mind a waste than run the risk of not having it all done by their sect. In the great trading operations of the world how alarming are the instances of fraud! Here and there sad discoveries appall mankind, and these are but symptoms which reveal the workings of the diseases of avarice, profligacy, and injustice underneath. Superstition still blinds its millions. Talented thousands are still content to fatten by dealing out ancient folly, as if they believed it. The faithful few, who yearn for better things, cry out, Lord, how long? The dreary prospect saddens them. The cloud comes over them, and they would be ready to fold their arms in finished despair, but they look up and see the the RAINBOW. A new dispensation of religion has been revealed, which unfolds not faith alone for men to fight about, but love, truth, and virtue; like the three colours of the rainbow, to disclose new beauty and blessing for the world, and red, the colour of love, the brightest.
The ark, again, is given for human safety; but not the ark only, the rainbow appears. Principles are given and are being received here and there by minds which will introduce order for confusion, light for darkness, justice for selfishness, beauty for ashes, joy for sorrow, heaven for hell. These principles form the triple loveliness of a Divine arch, that will in time span over all the nations of the earth, and encircle them in a glorious bond of brotherhood. These principles are the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven. What relation, my beloved hearer, do you bear to them? In the rainbow every drop bears its part, and is a little crystal sphere, which is a rainbow in itself, while it contributes its share to the effect of the grand arch. You are a drop,— do your part. Let love, let truth, let virtue govern you. Carry out your salvation from evil and falsehood as if the redemption of the world depended upon it. Shine by the beauty of divine principles in the circle you fill, and you will leave the world better than you found it. And you will some day look down from a higher sphere, and join your hymn with myriads more over a fully redeemed earth, while they cry with great voices filled with love, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign for over and ever."
"Rise, crowned with light, imperial Salem rise!
Exalt thy towery head, and lift thine eyes;
See, a long race thy spacious courts adorn,
See future sons and daughters yet unborn,
In crowding ranks on every side arise,
Demanding life, impatient for the skies.”
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From The Divine Word Opened (1887)