The Rainbow of God
In the way of life after the storm becomes the calm, comes the fullness of life. It is by contrasting the uncertainty and at times hopelessness in the storm with the joy of life following it that the true appreciation of life can be made.
It happens on the grand scale such as in time of war when one longs for the hostilities to cease and the building of a lasting peace, or in time of an epidemic when the unseen virus cuts down those far and near and one longs for the days of health without fear, or in the true storm of the elements when one longs for it to cease and the sunshine to appear and birds to sing again. Then it is good to be alive. There are the small‑scale events too when a family member is unwell with its anxiety and concern, or friends or neighbours become antagonised and fall out or husband and wife become estranged. How good it is for all such when the family member regains health, the antagonisms depart, understanding returns, the offended pair look at one another again and see not the problem but themselves which matters. The peace treaty, the bill of health, the bunch of flowers; in these there is a promise of better conditions, better relations –there is hope for the future.
So it has been with God and man. It began with a relationship of communion followed by estrangement but there is a promise of reconciliation with peace and life to follow. Meanwhile pain and suffering continue as the spirit of disobedience in man fostered and encouraged by Satan, works to bring about the destruction of society through corruption which will be found to exist at the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus likened that day to the time of Noah. There is today development towards corruption in which, amongst others, the mass media of communication plays its part for commercial gain. With this development there has come a decline in Christian interest and activity which has led to a sense of despair and a seeking after not reality but the unreal.
Time of Noah
So it was in Noah’s day; the society was corrupt and violence was general. God looked and saw man’s condition, He who had created with such care a good environment for mankind, a paradise no less, was now grieved in heart. "It repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth." (Gen.6:6) Of all scripture this is the most pathetic to read. In consequence God determined to end the society including beast and fowl. The flood of unprecedented magnitude overwhelmed the Earth and its inhabitants. What a storm it was 40 days and 40 nights. When it stopped how peaceful it must have been.
Genesis 1:6‑7 refers to a firmament or expanse as the Hebrew word raqia implies. It divided or separated two water zones, one that covered the Earth in liquid form and one that was above the Earth in vapour form. This firmament was most likely the airspace as Gen.1:20 indicates for the birds flew in it. The waters above the firmament are referred to in Gen.7:11 as the great deep. A deep cloud covering would have given uniform temperature patterns throughout the world to give abundant green growth. Gen.2:6 refers to a ground mist watering system which existed. At the breakup of the deep cloud cover the deluge followed.
It is only after the flood when new climatic conditions must have developed that reference is first made to cold and heat, summer and winter. (Gen.8:22) Also to "the cloud" and "a cloud" in Gen.9, as distinct from what was before, a great deep vapour cover. If this was so then Noah and his family would see new sights, clouds and sky. But there was also to be seen another sight, the rainbow. A great arc of concentric colours of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet set up against a cloud by light scattered from the sun.
Gen.9:13 "I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token (sign) of a covenant (agreement) between me and the earth." God would never again destroy all flesh by means of a total flood for by breaking up the waters above the firmament or great deep He had destroyed the very means whereby it was possible to do so.
"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." (Gen.9:16)
This is important for us and all mankind because:
We too when we see a rainbow should remember its appearance followed the destruction of a society or civilisation that became corrupt and violent and is a sign of hope and promise for all mankind.
Time of Ezekiel a prophet of Israel
Ezekiel was a priest and amongst those who were taken into captivity in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar between the first deportation at the time of King Jehoiachin and King Zedekiah. The captives were probably in an encampment beside the banks of the river named Chebar (Ezekiel 1:1), in the land of the Chaldeans just south of Babylon. It was here that Ezekiel had visions of God through the Holy Spirit. These visions were very wonderful.
In the first visions he saw a whirlwind from the north and a great cloud and a fire enveloped it from which came four living creatures or beings described as having the likeness of a man. They must have been a little fearful to behold. Above or over their heads was a firmament or expanse even as there is over mankind, and in it was a sapphire throne and on the throne was one who appeared in form as a man whose appearance was as of amber fire and there was a brilliance of light about him which resembled the rainbow; concentric, blending colours of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. The revealed whole spectrum of the Eternal Light. "This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD." (Ezek.1:28) A voice spoke "Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you." And the spirit entered him. (Ezek.2:1 NIV)
Time of our Lord Jesus Christ
The occasion of significance followed after Jesus had been talking to the Jews in Jerusalem and his words had so incensed them that they took up stones to stone him because they said that he being a man made himself out to be God. But Jesus escaped with his disciples across the Jordan to Bethabara where the people were more well disposed towards him, they believed in him. There too, he could remind himself of when his Father had baptised him with the Holy Spirit as he stood up out from the river Jordan and received power from on high. His was the privilege to exercise that power as it pleased him within the desire of God to bring glory and honour to his Father.
Together with his disciples he stayed inactive, waiting as it were. There were times such as this to calm down, to meditate and wait for the Spirit’s leading before acting. Where better than where one was baptised to renew again, after the heat of the encounters with the opposition, the heart conviction that had turned one permanently to God. Have you ever thought of the place where you were baptised and openly professed your belief and faith? It is strange what strength comes in so doing.
Then came news that Lazarus, a friend of his, was very ill with a request from his two sisters, Mary and Martha, that he should go quickly to see him. Our Lord’s reaction was odd in that he seemed reluctant to respond to the invitation. John 11:4 "This sickness is not unto death." What were the disciples and those who came on behalf of Martha and Mary to make of these words? Did they not imply that Lazarus would recover? So when Jesus "abode two days" in the same place it would not have alarmed them that were with him. But Jesus did add after, this "sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." Jesus knew then of the condition of Lazarus before the invitation came and further he knew that God would use him to perform an act of mercy. But the time was not yet and in accordance with God’s will he waited two days rather than go straightaway.
After two days Jesus announced, "Let us go into Judea again." (John 11:7) The disciples were not at all anxious to go. Our Lord replied. "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world." (vv.9 AKJ) What did Jesus mean? It was his way of saying that one can only work effectively when the conditions and opportunities are right. They were right now so they went. "We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work." (John 9:4 RSV) Jesus let them know what it was he was to do. "Our friend Lazarus is sleeping, but I will go and wake him." (John 11:11 Weymouth) In one sense it was a relief to the disciples; at least they would not be going to Jerusalem but to Bethany, just two miles east of the city walls. Even so a bit close for comfort. The disciples replied to Jesus it was good for him to sleep, presumably to help him recover. They had misinterpreted our Lord’s words. But it was a gentle way to prepare them for the worst, for our Lord told them plainly and simply "Lazarus is dead" or more exactly has died and is dead. "I am glad…I was not there" he said, it will help you to believe and trust and rely on me "let us go unto him." Whether they all understood it is clear Thomas did have the general fear which the disciples had of the Jews "let us also go, that we may die with him" he said. (vv.15‑16)
At last approaching Bethany the news reached them Lazarus had already lain in a tomb four days. Friends of Martha and Mary the bereaved sisters had come from Jerusalem to comfort them as their brother Lazarus was the one who provided for them so it was an added loss which touched their friends so. Martha, who as the Lord had said of her was careful and troubled about many things, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming was off to meet him. Mary on the other hand seemed to be a completely different character sat still in the house. Martha met Jesus outside the village and immediately opened her mind and thoughts to him "if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Almost an accusation by her of the thoughtlessness on the part of Jesus. And yet with that came a half‑hearted thought on Martha’s part "but I know, that even now, whatever you will ask of God, God will give it you." (v.22 AKJ) In itself this sounds a declaration of faith but as we shall see Jesus would test her faith to the full.
Martha was obviously agitated and probably annoyed in her feelings of grief over Jesus’ behaviour. So maybe in an endeavour to pacify Martha Jesus said to her "your brother shall rise again." Martha must have felt at this a certain resignation to the truth of a future resurrection of the dead. "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." This affirmation "I know" how like that of Job’s "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth…Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another." (Job 19:25,27) Then Jesus revealed to her the truth concerning himself, one of his seven colours we might say to wonder at; "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Believe you this?" he asked Martha. (John 11:25‑26 AKJ)
Some in explaining these words of our Lord have in mind the spiritual condition of the unbeliever who is dead in sin through Adam and who as a believer is made alive in Christ and comes to eternal life. This is in itself true, but it is suggested here Jesus has something else in mind which the apostle Paul was later to state in different words. Jesus gave his disciples to understand he would be returning to his Father in heaven. He also indicated the manner of his coming again not only to them but also in answer to the high priest at his trial. The subject Jesus here has to explain is the resurrection at the last day which Martha had raised. The last day is when our Lord returns, though Martha was not to know that then. Our Lord revealed himself to be the resurrection and the life and that those that believe in him are certain of either a resurrection from the dead and hence to life with him or if they are alive, that is at his return, will never die but be with him as he later promised "that where I am there you may be also." (John 14:3 RSV)
Paul was to write on another occasion for purposes of comfort in 1 Thessalonians 4:16‑17 "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout…and the dead in Christ shall rise first...so shall we ever be with the Lord."
Do you believe this? Jesus asked Martha. Perhaps it was too much to expect of her in a state of worry and grief to understand then but whether or not she understood there is an object lesson in her answer for us of complete trust and faith whether or not we comprehend our Lord and his word. "Yes, Lord: I believe, (not what you just said but what you are) that you are the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world." (John 11:27 AKJ) Remember Martha for that. John wrote "these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through his name." (John 20:31)
After this Jesus asked to see Mary and she fell down at his feet "Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died," (John 11:32 RSV) and wept loudly such was the loss, the tragedy. And the sight and hearing of her and the others also weeping moved our Lord deeply as would any man of like compassion. "Where have you laid him?" "Come and see" they answered. At which Jesus could contain himself no longer and wept also, not audibly as the others but with tears; so the Greek word ‘edakrysen’ indicates. Jesus came to the grave; a cave with a stone laid against the entrance. One wonders what may have passed through our Lord’s mind at the sight of the stone at that moment? Whatever it was he commanded "Take away the stone." (v.39 RSV)
It was at this point that Martha’s faith was put to the test. She pleaded for the stone to be left alone for it was four days since Lazarus had died. Jesus reminded her what he had told her "if you would believe, you should see the glory of God." (v.40 AKJ) Martha fell silent and the men moved the stone away. Whereupon Jesus looked up heavenward to his Father and with thanks said "I know that you hear me always." How Martha’s heart must have leaped at this, thinking of her reply to the Lord "I know that even now whatsoever you will ask of God, God will give it to you." Here now was the opportunity to vindicate his claim, demonstrate to all, that death even after corruption has set in is no barrier to the power of God to bring into being yet once more those who were once alive. Jesus called out in a loud voice "Lazarus, come forth." To the amazement and wonder of all Lazarus still wrapped in graveclothes walked out of the cave "unbind him" said Jesus "let him go." The joy that followed!
Lazarus means in the Greek ‘without help.’ In the Hebrew ‘whom God helps.’ Lazarus certainly was without help; no one could save him from an illness which ended in death. But there was one who was able to and not only heal the sick but also raise the dead to life. Likewise who is there to help mankind subject to the illness of sin which ends in death? But "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." And as Jesus delayed his coming to Lazarus for two days so he has delayed his coming for 2,000 years to finally help mankind when "all who are in their graves will hear his voice, and come out."
Meanwhile the Marthas, Marys and their friends of this world will come to believe and to be tried. In fact now we marvel at the glory of God even Jesus in his revealed colours as it were seven in all, which blend together; I am the bread of life, the light of the world, the door of the sheep, the good shepherd, the way the truth the life, the resurrection and the true vine. Noah came out of the Ark and saw the wonder of God’s bow, a token and a sign which God looks on and remembers. Ezekiel saw it surrounding God in His glory. Lazarus came out of the cave and saw Jesus his friend, the rainbow of God. Soon we too will see him in the clouds as we look to his promised return having believed the miracles, the signs he demonstrated and manifested he is the Christ, the way to the fullness of life.