“I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow show be seen in the cloud.” – Gen. ix. 13, 14.
A few evenings since, at the close of a refreshing shower, and in the departing rays of the setting sun, as I looked upon this lovely sign in the literal heavens, my mind reverted to the ancient promise made to our fathers in days of old. From the figure my mind was rapidly carried to its antitype in the gospel heavens, and I thought that I could see it shine in heavenly brilliancy there, and that I could trace its wondrous beauty in holy lines of gospel light written in the experience of the sons of God. Our thoughts turn backward through the shadows of accumulated years, and in the steady light of inspiration from on high we look upon the sacred scenes of primitive days, and we are borne from them in the pathway of light and truth to their fulfillment in the experience of the saints to-day. The connections of the quoted words paint before us the holy and awe-inspiring picture of the deluge. “The fountains of the great deep” are broken up, “the windows of heaven” are opened, and in ceaseless torrents the angry flood falls upon a guilty and sin-stricken world, until “all the high hills” that are “under the whole heaven” are covered.
“God speaks! and his banner of wrath is unfurled,
For the deluge of waters comes down on the world.
“The wicked, now fleeing, no refuge can find;
They look back in terror! the wave is behind!
While onward and onward in anguish they flee,
Still darkly pursued by the billowy sea.
“They trust not the valleys – hope perishes there,
But they rush to the hills with the strength of despair.
The palm trees are bended by myriads of forms,
As the forests are bowed by the spirit of storms.
“There’s a hush of the weak, and a cry from the strong,
As the deep-rolling waves sweep the wretched along;
But the waters soon close in a midnight of gloom,
And sullenly roll o’er a world-peopled tomb.”
But in the loudest thundering and overflowing flood of this mighty storm the ark rises upon “the face of the waters,” bearing the appointed family of Noah in safety. No harm can befall them. The all-seeing eye of him who holds the storms and tempests in his hands is upon them. The mighty shield of his presence is around them, to ward from them the loudest blast of the terrific tempest. “God is our refuge and strength,” says the psalmist, “a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” Securely the ark rises upon the face of the deep, until the waters cover the top of the highest mountains, and are restrained. In security its blessed inmates remain within the sacred inclosure until the waters are abated, and Noah and his family go forth upon the dry land, where he builds an altar unto the Lord, and receives the holy covenant from the eternal throne.
“Lo! ‘tis morn on the wave: like a bird on its breast
Floats the ark of the godly – a haven of rest;
And a sign and a pledge to the wanderers are given,
In the rainbow that arches the blue vaults of heaven.”
“I do not set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.” Centuries have rolled away into the ocean of time, generations have lived and are forgotten, but there has been no age or generation since this decree was given that has failed to witness its fulfillment.
But let us leave the shadow, and trace its substance in the gospel heavens. We must come to the dark and trying scenes that cluster in midnight gloom around the suffering Savior in Gethsemane and upon Golgotha. We hear his voice in the darkness of that Jewish night, “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy water-spouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.” “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever.” “Yet the Lord will command his loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.” The slumbering sword of divine justice is about to awake “against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts.” Clouds of legal justice, filled with the righteous wrath of a violated law, pour their fiery torrents upon a guilty nation, and fall with terrific weight upon the Redeemer’s head. The unfathomable mines of the deep, mysterious purposes of God are opened. Truly the “fountains of the great deep” are broken up, and “deep calleth unto deep.”
“Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.”
Let the gathered annals of the ages of time be unveiled to our sight, is there another such a scene upon record as this? Well may the prophet declare, “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand. A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.” But amidst the falling storm of divine wrath the chosen family are secure in Christ, the ark of grace. The Savior of sinners bears them all safely through its fiery darts and terrific thundering. As it is said in Zechariah, “I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried.” The legal heavens are rolled away, the storm has exhausted its fury, and let us now look in the world of gospel grace for the rainbow of eternal promise. Contemplate for a moment the strong foundation upon which the church is built, and then read in the archway of heaven, in lines of living light, the eternal promise of God, “For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. For 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 hill be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” – Isa. liv. 5-10. Here then is the “bow in the cloud,” set there by the omnipotent hand. In the dark background of dense gloom and deep sorrow are written the lines of glory of the Lord’s great name. The gospel heavens, filled with the radiant light of the eternal Sun of Righteousness, break upon the enraptured sight of the redeemed of God. In vital union with Christ her living head, the church rises triumphant over the law, and passes through the gates into the gospel city. The chosen family are borne in the arms of the everlasting covenant from under the law and its curse, and in the new world of gospel joy fall in the humble adoration before the throne of the King of kings. How bright is the light of the gospel morning! how wonderful and glorious the beauty of the gospel heavens! Truly, “The glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” But are there no clouds to dim the beautiful sky? Is it sunlight and joy unceasingly in the mortal pathway of the tempted saint? Is he ever looking at the glory of the eternal Sun of Righteousness? We know that the light of the sun in the temporal heavens is frequently obscured by the clouds that arise from earth. So the bright rays of the Sun of Righteousness are sometimes obscured by the clouds and mists and fogs that arise from our earthly nature. But do these things come by chance? Has not the omnipotent hand traced all the changes that can possibly transpire in the literal heavens? Has a cloud ever arisen there unbidden by the will of him who rideth upon the heaven in his help, “and in his excellency on the sky?” Most certainly not. The various changes of nature are traced by the finger of God. “And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth.” No doubt is left in regard to the source from whence it comes. The Lord brings it. This is undoubtedly true in regard to all the clouds that darken the pathway of the child of grace. The Lord has a purpose in them all. “Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.”
“Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.”
But it is said, “the bow shall be seen in the cloud.” It is not at the approach nor during the prevalence of the storm that we behold the bow; but when the cloud has spent its force, in the beauty of returning light we behold this lovely token of the promise of God. So in the experience of the saints. There are times when not a ray of light seems to penetrate the darkness of their way. Deep sorrows, sore bereavements and mighty conflicts are round about them. But when the dark clouds have been wafted away by the power of returning light, they behold again, glittering in the sunshine of his presence, this lovely sign of the promise in the covenant of God. The bow is seen through a rift in the cloud, and the bitter bud bears sweet and precious fruit in the opening flower. “And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it,” was the declaration made to Noah. We trace this figure to its application in gospel days in the promise of our God, that he will look upon his people in the person of his Son, and their sins and iniquities he will remember no more forever. Exclaims the psalmist, “Behold, O God, our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.” This is the fervent cry of the child of grace. He desires not that the Lord should look upon him only in the person of his Son. Says John, in Revelation, “And, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.” – Rev. iv. 2, 3. The rainbow was ever exposed to the sight of him who sat upon the throne. It was drawn around the throne, and therefore must ever be seen from the throne, and by those who approach before it. This seems to be a beautiful figure of the Days-man between Israel and Israel’s God.
“But since my Savior stands between,
In garments dyed in blood,
‘Tis he, instead of me, is seen
When I approach to God.”
It was, John informs us, “in sight like unto an emerald.” This may represent the unfading nature of the new covenant. Ezekiel, in describing the glorious appearance of the great throne above the firmament that was over the heads of the living creatures that he saw, says, “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.” These declarations of scripture represent to us the “glorious appearing of the Great God” in the face of Jesus Christ. They represent the durability of the everlasting covenant, “ordered in all things, and sure.” Ages roll on, generation, empires, governments and nations rise and sink again in the oblivion of time, but the rainbow of eternal promise shines forever in the gospel heavens, securing everlasting bliss to all the chosen family. In the darkness or in the light it is ever the same. “Show me a token for good,” says the psalmist; and the believer of to-day re-echoes the cry. “Let me,” he cries, “see some evidence of divine acceptance,” “some token of peace and bliss in the gospel sky.” In the bright promises that shine from the rainbow of peace we read the signs of hope and triumph high. They trace before us the pathway of truth to a world of perfect bliss. No clouds darken the radiant light of that eternal world. Sin, sorrow, sickness and death cannot enter there. The gathered host from every age and nation bask forever in the brilliant glory that shines from the throne, and the everlasting song of love fills the eternal heavens with the never-ending notes of praise.
I did not expect to write so much, but in the following the leadings of the subject I have written to a considerable length. How full of right beauty is the truth of our God! What an inexhaustible fountain is presented to our views! In the unfolding of his great purpose of salvation we read the brightest displays of his wisdom and power. How rich is the blessing bestowed upon polluted worms of the earth. How great is the grace displayed in gathering these “clods of the valley,” and causing them to shine in the glorious image of the King of kings!
With a deep sense of my unworthiness of the least of his mercies, I remain, as ever, yours in gospel fellowship,
WM. M. SMOOT.
P.S. – I have read with deep interest and cordial approbation the editorial in the SIGNS of October first upon “Predestination.” The absolute predestination and government of God, extending over all worlds, creatures and things, of every form and name, I regard as a cardinal point of gospel truth.
W. M. S.
Occoquan, Va., Oct. 15, 1880.
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 21
November 1, 1880