Early evening brought a thunderstorm to our neck of the woods, and afterwards my daughter and I saw a rainbow as we drove to the store. I took the opportunity to explain the theological significance of the rainbow. I'm sure it went in one three-year-old ear and out the other, but I didn't give her the typical Sunday School explanation, because that tells only half the story.
Most readers of this blog know that God judged the world for the sin of mankind with a worldwide flood that destroyed most living creatures, except for those saved by Noah's ark. When the flood ended, God set the rainbow in the sky as a sign of His promise to never again destroy the earth with a flood. That's all true, and that's where the Sunday School lesson stops.
There's more to the story. The rainbow marks a transfer of judicial responsibility. God's judgments in this life tend to be general, affecting a whole group of people, not just the guilty party, so God doesn't like to operate that way. (See the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13.)
God promised not to judge the world in that manner ever again, but He passed the responsibility for punishing evil to mankind. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." With that simple commandment, God established the first and most basic law of civil government. If man will punish evil in this world, God won't have to step in with Divine judgment. So the two sides of the covenant--God's promise not to destroy the earth in this manner, and man's responsibility to execute murderers--are closely connected.
Sometimes I read discussions online (especially on pro-life websites) about noted heinous criminals, and I am appalled at the number of Christians who are against the state killing a convicted mass murderer. I'm not advocating individuals taking that responsibility on themselves, but civil government has that role, and both Paul and Jesus endorsed the exercise of that authority. (See Matthew 15:4 and Romans 13:4.)
For Christians who think that Jesus did away with all that Noahic covenant stuff, I have one question. Have you seen a rainbow lately?
I saw a rainbow today, so I know the covenant responsibility is still there. Even if I didn't see the rainbow, God made this covenant an "everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth." Notice, it's not just with all mankind forever. It includes all the animals forever, too. In other words, God's mandate to do justice is here to stay.
Yes, the rainbow is a sign of God's promise. It's also a sign of our responsibility to seek justice.
Wesley Wilson is the President of Let Me Live, a nonprofit dedicated to saving babies by showing the beauty and value of life to women considering abortion. Please learn more about the Let Me Live pro-life billboard campaign. Donations are tax deductible.
Labels: justice, Noah's flood, rainbow