As Hurricane Irma approached, someone snapped a beautiful picture of a complete rainbow. It may have been the best I’ve seen, given its completeness and symmetry. What does it mean?
Media images from Florida indicate numerous local floods in the last week. Archives of videos of local floods over just the last several decades indicate that flooding on the local level is a repeating and often extremely destructive and deadly force. And yet the rainbow regularly appears as God’s promise that He will never again destroy the earth with a flood. Until the 19th century most Christians assumed that the straightforward meaning of the flood in Genesis was that it was worldwide. Now the more enlightened are telling us that Genesis gave an account of just a local flood.
If Genesis spoke of a local flood then what does the rainbow mean? Every time it graces the sky it is basically a meaningless lie since local floods continue. If its promise only covered a local flood, then the sky mocks God continually. But “the heavens declare the glory of God .” So who to believe?
Genesis 7 has some straightforward words. “And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth.” “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.” “And all flesh died that moved upon the earth.” “And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.”
These words do not even hint of a local flood. If words mean anything then Genesis describes a worldwide flood. Jesus repeated the idea in his teaching. “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:38, 39).
The Apostle Peter indicated a worldwide flood. “And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly…Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 2:5, 3:6).
Now we are being told by groups like Bio-Logos and even some who consider themselves conservative believers that the flood was only local. Why, then, was there a need for an ark? Do words mean whatever we want them to say? If we can turn the words about the flood that speak about a cataclysmic worldwide event into a description of a local flood, then I agree with the commentator who said that if we do that with words then hermeneutics is hopeless.
Sadly, hermeneutics has become hopeless in too many cases. When Biblical interpretation is driven not by the text but by external considerations we have no certain truth. It is this kind of playing fast and loose with scripture that has brought us gay clergy, a doctrine that everybody will be saved, that hell is not real, and that Jesus made mistakes. When one decides a-priori that there was no worldwide flood they must deal with the scriptures that clearly teach it. But man “has sought out many inventions.” When one area of scripture can be disfigured, any other area can and will.
As has the rainbow. Now it is a symbol not of God’s promise but of Satan’s confusion. It evokes not feelings of gratitude to God for His protection but a sense of license for those who wish to indulge the flesh. It’s remarkable how the natural reminder of God’s judgment on sin and His offer of mercy, the rainbow, has become the flag for those who are described in the Scriptures as “evil men and seducers” who will “wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2Tim. 3:13)
Even more remarkable is how those who claim to be followers of Jesus and hold these made-over concepts are on an open crusade to convert those who hold to the traditional view of scripture. Often they are blatantly open in their efforts and carry what seems to be an arrogant attitude, as though believers who accept the worldwide flood are on the level of those who believe the earth is flat.
But we still have the rainbow. And we still have devastating local floods. Instead of trying to fit the Bible to the current assumptions that there was no worldwide flood, why not take it for what it says? That leaves us with good comfort about God’s promises. He has given us a path to safety. Our Lord Jesus told the truth about the flood and He told us the truth about salvation. We can trust Him about earthly things and we can trust Him about heavenly things.
The weather-related events of the last weeks have again shown us the might and power of our God who “hath gathered the wind in his fists” and “hath gathered the waters in a garment” (Pr. 30:4). If we come away from such happenings without more of a sense of awe before our Creator, we miss an opportunity to see some of the glory of God. Our helplessness in the face of hurricanes and tornadoes highlights our dependence on God. That He has given the rainbow as a sign that He will not flood the entire earth again is meant as a comfort to us. We can trust His promises that are given so that “we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:18b).
What a refuge we have in our Lord Jesus who died for us and rose again. And what a reminder of God’s faithfulness when we see the beautiful bow He has set in the clouds. Thank God for the rainbow!