Gen. viii. 15-22, ix. 1-17.
The Bow In The Cloud.
THE lessons to be learned from the deluge are various and important; but there is one that lies upon the surface, and easily learned, viz., that the deliverance of Noah and his family through the flood is an illustration of a soul passing through death into life. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. To the believer, judgment is past. Just as God called Noah and his household into the ark and they obeyed, even so after the ark had passed through the flood, He called Noah forth from the ark to a renovated earth. When Noah stepped out of the ark, he showed his gratitude to God by building an altar and offering burnt offerings thereon. God smelled a savour of rest in these sacrifices. They foreshadowed Christ, the One who has been wholly offered to God on behalf of His people. And now God rests in Christ, and we, too, rest in Him.
Then God establishes His covenant with Noah, and his seed after him. It was summed up in this: "I shall set My bow in the cloud . . . and shall remember My covenant between Me and you and every living creature. . . . And the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be "in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between Me and every living creature." Thus God pledged His Word and gave the token that judgment will never, in this manner, come upon the earth, however threatening circumstances and appearances might be. While we are a saved, redeemed, blessed, and cared-for people, and grace is assured us for every step of the way, we are not exempt from trial; our path through this world is to be characterized by trials, sorrows, and difficulties. But we are also assured of the presence of the Lord with us in them all.
The cloud betokens the presence of God with His people. That is brought out in Israel's experience in the wilderness. In other places, it is emblematical and typical of difficulties, sorrows, and trials. Though we are saved and in the enjoyment of God's favour, notwithstanding clouds gather around us; and if we get occupied with the clouds instead of a loving, gracious God, in His fatherly dealings with us, we will become discouraged, and fret and complain against God.
Ezek. i. 28: "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 God." That confirms what I have said. God is glorified in our salvation, but we seem little to apprehend that He is as much glorified in our keeping and deliverance in the midst of the trials and difficulties of the way as He is in our salvation from hell. Sorrow and trial is common to all men. We are "born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards." Sorrow comes from the most unexpected quarters and in the most unexpected ways. The cloud is what we least expect. Trials may be known only to God and the one who is passing through them. They may come upon us in the domestic circle or in church relationship, but they must and will come.
"When I bring the cloud." We often bring troubles upon ourselves. Israel again and again brought the hand of the Lord upon them because of their murmurings and rebellion.
Clouds are not a blemish in nature, neither are adverse circumstances and events a blemish in the workings of God's grace. I have seen a morning cloudy and portentous, but by-and-by the sun broke through and dispelled the clouds; and those very clouds, so dark and threatening in their appearance, were filled with beauty, reflecting brightness and glory of the sun.
There are two words in common use among men—viz., Optimism and Pessimism. The optimist is a man who sees the rosy side of everything—clouds never appear on his horizon. The pessimist is a man who sees the dark side of everything. The Christian ought to be neither the one nor the other. Clouds must come; they serve a gracious purpose in the economy of God's grace. If there is a cloud, there is also the bow in the cloud. The cloud, with all its forebodings of trial and sorrow, is intended, in God's wisdom and love, to lead us nearer to Himself, and to make us more Christ-like. You may have observed a smooth, even green lawn, so beautiful to look upon. What brought it to that state of perfection? The more it was rolled and pressed, the more beautiful did it become. All the pressure of trials, all God's discipline, is intended to beautify our Christian character, to develop His grace in us. When we reach the glory, we shall know all the mystery of sorrow. Meanwhile, the discipline should yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness if we are exercised thereby. In all our afflictions, our God manifests Himself to us as the God of comfort and consolation. If the waters must be passed through, then He is with us as we pass through them. The bow is always in the cloud. We are not to think it strange when the fiery trial comes upon us. It may come with heartbreaking force, it may come from unexpected quarters, but it is not strange or unexpected to Him. He says, "When I bring the cloud."
In Ex. xviii. we get an object lesson: "Moses told his father-in-law (Jethro), all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lord delivered them" (v. 8). There is the cloud and the bow. There was a people redeemed from Egyptian bondage by blood and power, and the whole sum of their experience is told by Moses to Jethro—(1) deliverance from Egypt, (2) all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and (3) God's delivering grace. The presence of Jesus with His disciples in the ship did not prevent the storm coming upon them. Although we have the Lord with us, in the consciousness of His presence the storm will come. Don't let us faint; let us strengthen each other's hands in God, because, if the cloud comes, the bow is in the cloud. And if travail comes upon us by the way, it is that we might learn and experience the sustaining and delivering grace of our God. He was glorified in our salvation at the beginning of our Christian experience, and He is also glorified in saving His people all the way through. Meantime, He sits before them as an incentive to earnest, patient endurance. His coming again. Then we shall be perfectly glorified, and fully conformed to His glorious image. What a meaning is in these words: "How the Lord delivered them." At the very moment and in the very circumstances when it may be that darkness lies heaviest upon us, we have the promise that the dawn is at hand—the morning star is about to appear. God's deliverances are most timely. It was when the feet of the priests touched the waters of Jordan that the waters parted and opened up a way for all Israel to pass over on dry ground. Just when the three Hebrew children are cast into the fiery furnace, the Son of God is seen along with them in the furnace. That is what we shall prove in all our trials if our faith lays hold upon a living, faithful God.
"Moses told of the travail by the way." It was only by the way. Clouds would be out of place in Heaven. John the apostle, when in Patmos, as in vision, he got a view of Heaven, saw a rainbow surround the throne of God; but we do not read of any cloud being there. There will be no clouds in Heaven. "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away" (Rev. xxi. 4). But while we journey here, we will have to prove the travail of the way, and His timely gracious deliverances in every time of need.
"The Witness" 1893