Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chasing Rainbows After Dark

"Why are there so many songs about rainbows
"And what's on the other side?
"Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
"And rainbows have nothing to hide.
"So we've been told and some choose to believe it.
"I know they're wrong, wait and see.
"Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
"The lovers, the dreamers and me."
"Somewhere over the rainbow
"Way up high,
"There's a land that I heard of
"Once in a lullaby."

We are a people fascinated with rainbows. To Kermit the Frog they were an inspiration. To Dorothy Gale they represented the gateway to a better life. But, scientifically, they are nothing more than the result of rain splitting white sunlight into its many colors--a natural prism.

I realize now that I have thought about rainbows quite frequently lately. They seem to be everywhere, in the songs that populate my playlist, in the passages we are reading at Bible study, and even in the sky, something very rare and precious for a native Southern Californian. It was not until earlier this month that I saw both ends of a rainbow for the first time. What an experience that was, to see it stretched from one end of the sky to the other in all of its radiant splendor, like a triumphal arch.

What is a rainbow really? It is so much more than an inspiration or the wish for something more. It is not merely the result of a prism, though even if it were no more, it would still be beautiful.

Genesis 9:13-16 says, "I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will 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 never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."

It is a symbol of promise. God judged mankind once by rain and flood. He wrought destruction and death, the terror of which was matched only by the horror of man's sin, but He promised that He would never do so again. And in promising He set His bow, a weapon of war, in the sky as if on a shelf, never to be taken down again. Thousands of years later that promise still stands. We await a judgment by fire, but the days of judgment by water are over.

And what of my title? If I were to ask you to find a rainbow after dark, I would be sending you on a fool's errand. You could search all night long, and even if every atmospheric condition were perfect, there would be no rainbow without sunlight.

Yet, in spite of this, I was reminded of something while reading the story of Noah one morning. It was not raining at the time. There was no rainbow outside. There certainly hadn't been one all night. Did that mean that God's promise was invalid or could be called into question? As the Apostle Paul was so fond of saying, may it never be! It struck me that there is always raining somewhere on this earth, so there is always a rainbow somewhere. When God set His bow in the sky, He did so permanently, even if we cannot see it.  

And it strikes me now, that every rainbow has only ever shone after dark. Think about it. Why did God institute the rainbow? He had just destroyed the entire earth with a flood, because of man's sin. The world was a dark and heartless place. When Adam and Eve lived undefiled in the Garden, there was no need to promise to never again to destroy the earth. There was no need to destroy the earth in the first place. But sin entered in, man fell and even after the flood, the world was just as dark a place as it had been beforehand. Mere verses after the promise of the rainbow, Noah gets drunk and Ham is cursed for ridiculing him. Man constructs the tower of Babel in direct defiance to God, idolatry, slavery, homosexuality and all sorts of wickedness flourishes, and the flood becomes a faint memory, distorted by every culture.

It is the same today. We live in a dark world, where even God's symbol of promise is claimed by the LGBT movement as their own. Where men would rather chase Leprechauns and their pots of gold than seek God. Still, the bow stays in the sky, where God left it so many thousands of years ago. He will not bring judgment on our world, not yet. Nor will He bring judgment on us, who deserve it just as much as anyone else. God promised never to destroy the earth by water again, because He was not finished with humanity. It is this truth we run hard after in a dark world. There was an even greater promise yet to be fulfilled. The seed of the woman had yet to come.

Now, He has come. We have only just celebrated His birth. In a few months we will celebrate His death and resurrection. Some day in the future we will celebrate His return, when He will come not with a bow but with a sword, and not only with a sword but also with open arms to welcome His own. For this reason we eagerly wait. For this reason we chase rainbows after dark.