8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenantbetween me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
17 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”
Can you imagine living on an ark with horses, pigs, lions and tigers and bears?...oh my! This doesn't sound like a place of refuge from a storm. It sounds like a harsh form of punishment! Yet, just such an ark was security for Noah and his family. An ark, filled with smelly animals, was protection from a fierce storm that was raging right outside his boat. Had it not been for the protection of those wooden walls, Noah and his family would have perished just like the rest of humanity who faced the storm head on, without a boat to run to for shelter.
When Noah emerged from the boat he was faced with a much different world. Maybe it was distinctly quieter then it had been before. The Bible doesn't tell us what exactly Noah experienced. But it does tell us what Noah did. He built an altar and made sacrifices to God. He was facing a world that had been ravaged by a flood, yet he immediately turned to an act of worship.
In response to his offering, God made a covenant with Noah, promising to never again destroy the earth with a flood. He then went on to bless Noah and his family. And last, but not least, he told him of the sign that would be a reminder of the covenant God had made with all the life on earth. God used a rainbow as his picture of the promise. This rainbow wasn't necessarily for the benefit of Noah. God didn't tell Noah to rely on the rainbow or to only trust God was really living up to his promise if the rainbow was visible. No, God's covenant was good no matter what was seen in the clouds: rainbow or no rainbow. Still, he would use the rainbow as a reminder that the promise was true and enduring. God would be true to his word.
The rainbow must have been a source of reassurance for Noah as well. If you knew God had made a visible sign to accompany his promises wouldn't you be reminded of those promises every time you came across the sign? That rainbow would hang in the sky as a wink from God, once again smiling down promises and security for his people and all the creatures of the earth.
I can't help but believe that God still has signs that stand to represent promises that his children have today. God's promises are still as true today as they were when they were written in the Bible. So can't God still work in the same way? Can't he still hang a rainbow in the sky to represent a covenant with his people?
On my walks I often go into deep thinking, allowing God to overtake my thoughts. Today I didn't even have to invite him in, he seemed to just appear. Once again he came in the form of a deer. This is only the second deer that I've seen in Chagrin Falls. Both times I've had a deer encounter it came on a day when I was feeling extreme pangs of loneliness.
This deer encounter came in the early afternoon, in a neighborhood lined with homes. I saw the deer a block up ahead run across the street and into a yard that backed up to a wall of trees. I figured that by the time I passed that particular house the deer would be long gone, back into the security and protection of nature's foliage. But when I passed the house I was surprised to find that the deer was still in the side yard, just standing stalk still, staring right at me. I didn't stop, I just kept walking but I kept my eyes glued to that deer. She kept her eyes glued on me. She never ran; I don't even think she blinked. I continued on my walk, in a state of disbelief... another deer that didn't run, on a day when I was suffering from the feelings of being utterly alone in the world. Could a deer be the sign God has given me? Is this a reminder of God's promise to me: I will never forsake you, I will never leave you.
Right now I am not in the ideal circumstances - my body is severely underweight and the physical implications are uncomfortable and at times painful. In a way, you could say I'm in my own personal ark. Noah had smelly animals; I have a weak and ravaged body. Both of us were stuck for a time. God allowed Noah to be held up in that ark so he could escape the deadly storm that was destroying the world outside. He kept him there for as long as it took for the ground outside to become dry, ready for Noah's return. I am stuck in my body for now and God has a selected time for me to emerge healthy, new and whole. He hasn't let me in on how long it will take. Then again, did he tell Noah how long he would be in the ark? He just wanted Noah to trust him. And Noah did.
God is asking me to trust him with my body, believing that this is a season of life that is necessary for my ultimate security and protection. He has promised to never leave me and never forsake me. In Jeremiah he told me that he has a plan for me to prosper. In his time I will see the reality of all these promises. For now, I can look to the deer and see that God is remembering his promises. He hasn't forgotten me. He is right here, in the midst of my suffering, just waiting for the right time to open the door to the ark and let me back into the light.
In the meantime I can give God my worship. Even without the fulfilling of the promise I can praise God with complete faith in what is to come because his promises are true and enduring. They don't expire and they aren't for a limited time only. They come in his perfect, divine timing.