It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in American culture. As one guy on Facebook put it, “My newsfeed looks like the confederate army declared war on a Skittles factory.” We’ve certainly seen a lot of flags and rainbows. And rainbow flags, of course.
Not because you haven’t heard, but for the sake of context, the Supreme Court of the United States did indeed make a history-altering decision on Friday, June 26, 2015, declaring that states could no longer ban same-sex couples from civil marriage.
Then the internet blew up. People were happy. And angry. And confused about whether they should be happy or angry. In the middle of it all, President Barack Obama tweeted using the hashtag #LoveWins and millions followed suit. The White House was lit up with rainbow-colored lights, as were Niagara Falls, Cinderella’s Castle, the Empire State Building, and many, many, maaaany social profile photos.
As leprechauns scurried around in utter confusion and unicorns danced with glee, I couldn’t help but reflect on the ancient history of the rainbow, going all the way back to the story where it made its scriptural debut. Long before the rainbow flag became the symbol of the gay pride movement (1978, to be exact), God used the rainbow to communicate that #LoveWins to a primitive family desperately in need of reassurance.
The historical stage is set with these words in Genesis 6:5, 8 (NLT):
The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil… But Noah found favor (grace) with the Lord.
Noah wasn’t perfect, but he demonstrated his faith in God with obedience to even the craziest of commands – “build a boat” – and trusted that God had his back. Then it rained. And it kept raining for a very, very long time.
Forrest Gump was there to report on the event: “One day it started raining, and it didn’t quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain… and big ol’ fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night…” Or maybe that was Vietnam… anyway…
Some of you who are reading may roll your eyes at the thought that Noah’s flood was actually a worldwide event, but you’d be missing the greater point God was trying to get across. At the end of the flood, when the waters had receded, signs of life became evident again, and Noah’s small family emerged from the ark, God sent them a message.
Before we get to the message, put yourself in Noah’s shoes for a second. God had given you a radical command and you’d obeyed, but having emerged from your ship, you’re now pretty much all alone in a world that was just very, very scary. The thought might just cross your mind, what if that happens again? What if God gets mad at me? What if I can’t live up to his standards and he wants to cleanse the earth one more time?
And your questions would have some validity. After all, the Bible is clear that “all of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.” (Isaiah 53:6 NLT) We’ve all blown it, having disobeyed and rebelled against our Creator. We’ve made up our own rules, having broken his, and this thing called sin is absolutely universal. It’s a disease that has infected every last one of us, and the Almighty has already demonstrated his capacity for wrath toward the sin of mankind.
Will any of us ever be able to find grace from such a holy and awesome God?
So God sent a message. As the clouds that produced the deluge broke apart, Noah saw a rainbow.
Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life.
– Genesis 9:12-15 NLT
I understand the science behind the rainbow. Light has a visible spectrum of colors that our eyes can catch as light bends through a prism or a raindrop. It was quite clever of God to weave this physical principle into creation so that he could later use it as an object lesson to a scared, lonely, primitive family such as Noah’s.
But why? Why a rainbow? Certainly rainbows are magnificent sights to behold. When we see one, we’re quick to alert others. But I think, for Noah, the rainbow represented something we probably miss. The “bow” is an ancient weapon. In Noah’s era, the invention of rifles, machine guns, and tanks were several millennia away. The weapons of warfare, which Noah had seen plenty of in the violent days leading up to the flood, included the bow.
The rainbow, even in its colorful beauty, sparked the image of warfare in Noah’s mind. So why then would God use it as the sign of his covenant of grace with humankind? You see, no matter what direction or what angle you’re looking, when you see a rainbow it always, always points upward. To the sky. Toward the heavens.
To a guy who lived long before the cross, the Bible, and the church, God gave the gospel of grace through an image. God was essentially communicating to Noah, “Even though you rebel, make up your own rules, and ignore my standards… even though you deserve my wrath and eternal separation from me for your sin… I’m turning the weapon of my wrath upon myself.”
Many generations down the line from Noah, God will again behold the evil, violent, wickedness of mankind in the nailing of Jesus, his Son, to a cross to be crucified as an innocent man. And in that moment, on that cross, God will fulfill the covenant he signified to Noah long ago by turning his wrath toward our sin upon himself, visiting it instead upon Jesus. As Isaiah’s ancient prophecy states:
He was despised and rejected –
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins.
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so that we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
And lest you think the suffering of the Lamb of God was in vain, Isaiah continues,
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
– Isaiah 53:3-5, 11 NLT
You may believe all of this as fact. You may reject it as myth. But deep down, you wonder about what God must think of you and your sin. And that sense of wonder was placed in you by the One who wants you to know that for your sake, for your guilt, he was willing to turn his wrath back toward himself.
Jesus stepped in the way and took sin’s punishment for anyone and everyone who will ever hear and heed the good news of God’s grace.
Yes, #LoveWins. Yes, grace now reigns!
Even as we choose, still, to go our own way, rejecting the Creator’s prescription for a holy, healthy, happy life and instead inventing our own ethic, our own sexual standards, our own devices… even now, he is willing to save me and you from his own wrath by absorbing it himself in the death of Jesus.
That’s good news. That’s the gospel. And it was God’s idea. That love wins, that sin can be forgiven, that his wrath could be turned aside, was birthed in the intention and initiative of a God who absolutely loves his creatures more than we will ever recognize.
Here’s the one catch. God is a gentleman. He forces no one to believe him and coerces no one to follow him. He’s made it clear that for any who will repent of our sin and rebellion, who will turn to him by faith in his Son, believing that he was punished on our behalf and that he rose again as our eternal King, he offers full, complete forgiveness and freedom.
I never again have to worry that God will destroy me in anger. I’ve understood and trusted the one who turned the weapon of his own wrath upon himself in Jesus. I’ve been born again. I’ve entered a relationship with him that no power on earth or in heaven or hell can break. And every time I see a rainbow, whether in the clouds, at a parade, or on a box of Lucky Charms, I can be reminded of his deep love and inexhaustible grace toward me.
Today, no matter your story, whatever your background, he loves you. Gay, straight, or otherwise, He wants to save you. He wants you to walk in the peace and freedom of absolute and complete forgiveness! But you must turn to him and trust him. Having repudiated your sin and agreed with God’s righteousness, you can look to Jesus as the crucified and risen Savior and King and be saved, once and for all. Have questions? Need help with this decision? Have doubts and concerns? Email me.
Thank God. Love wins.