Sermon #12 Series: Pictures of Grace in Genesis
Title: “A Rainbow Round About The Throne”
Text: Genesis 9:13; Revelation 4:3
Subject: The rainbow - A symbol of the covenant
Date: Tuesday Evening - August 6, 1991
After God destroyed the world with the waters of the flood in his fierce anger, he promised Noah that he would never do so again. He made a covenant with Noah, by which he assured him that he would never again destroy the world with a flood. And as a perpetual reminder of that covenant, God set a rainbow in the sky (Gen. 9:11-16). Ever since the days of Noah, the rainbow has stood as a perpetual reminder of God’s covenant. The rainbow and the covenant are mentioned frequently in the Scriptures. It is always mentioned in connection witht the throne of God, the glory of God, and the promises of the grace of God. He declares, “This is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy upon thee” (Isa. 54:9-10). And when Ezekiel describes his vision of God’s glory, he tells us that he saw a rainbow, the symbol of the covenant, encircling God’s glorious throne. “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” (Ezek. 1:28). And when the apostle John was called up to heaven, to behold the throne of God, he tells us, “There was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.”
As the throne is a symbol of God’s sovereignty, the rainbow round about the throne is a symbol of the covenant of grace.
The rainbow is a reverberation, or a reflection of the beams of the sun upon a thin watery cloud. And the covenant of grace is owing to Jesus Christ, the Sun of righteousness” (John Gill). It is Christ who made the covenant for us with the Father. He fills the covenant with all the blessings of grace. Christ is the Mediator of the covenant, the Surety of the covenant, and the messenger of the covenant. In Revelation 10:1; John draws a picture of Christ as One clothed with a cloud having a rainbow upon his head. The fact is the whole of the covenant of grace is Jesus Christ himself. He is the Surety of the covenant, the Ratifier of the covenant, the Blessing of the covenant, and the Embodiment of the covenant. God the Father said to his Son, “I will preserve thee and give thee for a covenant of the people” (Isa. 49:8).
I am going to show you five things about this rainbow, the symbol of God’s covenant.
1. The rainbow is an emblem of mercy and peace.
2. The rainbow is the security of the world.
3. The rainbow completely encompasses God’s throne.
4. The rainbow is emerald green in color.
5. The rainbow is designed to be a reminder.
I. THE RAINBOW IS AN EMBLEM OF MERCY AND PEACE.
The rainbow is an emblem of the covenant of grace. Its many colors might be expressive of the promises of God in the covenant. The covenant symbolized by the rainbow is the everlasting covenant of grace (Jer. 31:31-34; 32:37-40; Heb. 8:8-13; 10:16-17; Psa. 89:19-37). FIVE FACTS REVEALED ABOUT THE COVENANT:
1. This covenant of grace was made between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit before the world was made.
2. Our Surety and Representative in the covenant was the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 7:22). (Illustration: Gen. 43:8-9).
3. In this everlasting covenant of grace, the salvation of God’s elect was agreed upon, wrought out, and accomplished in the oath and purpose of God (1 Pet. 1:18-20; Rev. 13:8; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; Job 33:24).
4. In time this covenant of grace, made in God’s eternal purpose, was ratified and fulfilled by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ in the place of his people (Heb. 9:15-17).
5. And the blessings and promises of the covenant are sealed to the hearts of God’s elect by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:13-17; Eph. 1:13-14).
As the rainbow is the emblem of mercy, peace, and recondiliation in God toward man, after he had destoryed the world by the flood, so the covenant of grace is a covenant of mercy and peace. It comes from God’s mercy. It is full of God’s mercy. And it provides abundant mercy, peace, and reconciliation for sinners through the blood of Christ.
II. THE RAINBOW IS THE SECURITY OF THE WORLD.
When God set his bow in the sky, he promised that he would never again destroy the world by a flood.
Illustration: The first thunderstorm after the flood.
A. It is God’s covenant that holds back the hand of his justice, and keeps Him from destroying this earth and its inhabitants.
Had it not been for the covenant of grace, God would have destroyed the human race when Adam sinned in the garden. And were it not for that same, inalterable covenant, God would not allow the wicked to live today (2 Pet. 3:9).
Illustration: Lot in Sodom.
B. Above all else, it is the firm and everlasting covenant of grace that secures the eternal salvation of God’s elect (2 Sam. 23:5).
We believe in eternal security, because we believe in the immutability of God’s covenant. God is faithful to his covenant. God will honor his covenant. God will keep his covenant. And God’s faithfulness to his covenant is not in anyway dependent upon the faithfulness of his people (Psa. 89:28, 34; Ezek. 16:60-62).
III. THE RAINBOW COMPLETELY ENCOMPASSES GOD’S THRONE.
The throne, remember, is the emblem of God’s sovereignty, his dominion, and his power. The “rainbow round about the throne” tells us that God’s sovereignty is bound, hedged about, and limited by his covenant. In other words, God cannot and will not do anything contrary to or inconsistent with his covenant (Heb. 6:13-19). God has bound himself to his covenant.
The fact that this rainbow, the covenant of grace, completely encircles the throne of God signifies three things:
A. God is always mindful of his covenant.
The Psalmist said, “He will ever be mindful of his covenant” (Psa. 111:5). No matter which way he turns, the covenant is always before his eyes. He constantly remembers it for the good of his people. He faithfully keeps his covenant. No matter how he comes to his people, he comes to us by way of the covenant. No matter what God does, he is fulfilling his covenant.
B. The fact that this rainbow encircles the throne also suggests that no man can come to God, except through the covenant.
Strip the throne of this rainbow, and there is the august, sparkling majesty of God, a consuming fire, which no man dare approach. But that same throne, encircled with a rainbow, is inviting (Heb. 4:16). Sinners may approach the God of the covenant by a new and living way, by the blood of the everlasting covenant.
1. We cannot draw near to God with our works - (Cain).
2. We cannot draw near to God with the strange fire of our own religious deeds and sacrifices.
3. But we can draw near to God on the basis of the covenant, pleading the merits of Christ’s righteousness and shed blood. We come to God in the covenant name, Jesus Christ. The pass-word to God’s throne is Christ.
· We pray in Christ’s name (John 15:16).
· We worship in Christ’s name (Matt. 18:20).
· We are saved in Christ’s name (Acts 4:12).
C. And the fact that this rainbow encircles the throne of God tells us that God’s government of this world is determined by and in exact agreement with the covenant of grace (Rom. 8:28).
God always has respect to the covenant. He does everything for the fulfilment of the covenant.
1. In all the great events of providence, God is simply fulfilling his covenant.
As you read the Scriptures, you will notice that everything was done to suit God’s purposes for his chosen nation. Egypt comes across the stage, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome. But all these nations are just background settings. Their pomp, granduer, and wealth are just accessories. They rise and fall, they come and go with insignificance. The central figure is Israel, the elect nation, the church of God. The rest of the nations are nothing more than props, scaffolding, and gardeners for the Lord’s vineyard. God has chosen Jacob for his portion. He is only concerned with Jacob. He does everything for Jacob.
I fully agree with C. H. Spurgeon who said, “I believe that when kings and potentates meet in the cabinet chamber and consult together according to their ambition, a Counsellor whom they never see pulls the strings, and they are only his puppets.”
The ultimate end of all the events of providence is the salvation of God ‘s elect, the gathering of his redeemed ones, the calling of his church. God rules this world for his elect, covenant people. By secret, almighty, irresistible force, God works all things together for the good of his elect.
2. As this is true in all the great, momentous events of providence, it is equally true of all the small, minute matters of daily life - The painting of the lilac, the feeding of the sparrow, the hairs of your head.
The promise of the covenant is, “Surely blessing I will bless thee” (Heb. 6:14). And he always does. “Although my house be not so with God, yet” I am blessed of God according to the tenor of the covenant.
· In all my temptations (1 Cor. 10:13).
· In all my afflictions (“Chosen you in the furnace.”
· In all my chastisements (Heb. 12:5; Rev. 3:19).
There is a rainbow round about the throne. Let that throne decree what it may, the decree shall never run contrary to the covenant of love. Even when I am most distressed, and the circumstances of my life are most painful, yet I know of a certainty, and testify gladly, “Truly God is good to Israel” (Psa. 73:1).
IV. THE RAINBOW ROUND ABOUT THE THRONE IS EMERALD GREEN IN COLOR.
The rainbow has many colors. But the dominant, prevailing color is green. This is the color of life, peace, tranquility, and joy. And truly, the most delightful, enlivening, peaceful sight in all the world is the covenant of God’s grace. What is more cheering than to see God as our covenant God, Christ as our covenant Surety, and all the blessings and promises of the covenant made sure to us in him? And the covenant of grace, like the emerald, is ever green. It is always new. Its promises are always fresh. And its blessings shall endure forever.
V. THE RAINBOW IS DESIGNED TO BE A REMINDER.
Though God does not need anything to bring things to his remembrance, yet, he condescends to set the rainbow in the sky so that he might look at it and remember his everlasting covenant. And he allows us to put him in remembrance of his covenant, pleading the promises of the covenant with him in prayer (Isa. 43:25-26).
1. Be sure you understand the covenant, of which the rainbow is an emblem - Grace - Substitution.
2. Have a constant regard to the covenant.
3. Draw comfort from the covenant.
4. Never be so base as to entertain hard thoughts about God’s providence.
5. If you know anything about covenant grace, tell others about it.