The Rainbow of Redemption

One of nature’s most beautiful scenes is the rainbow. Recently I was in a thunder storm that was followed by a brilliant rainbow. It should remind us of God judgment that sent the Flood on a totally corrupted world, and His promise to never again destroy the world by water. As God promised Noah, “The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth” (Gen. 9:13-16).

Why is a rainbow so beautiful? The spectrum of colors are radiant as the sun penetrates the sky. Yet, the beams of light only show their full splendor when they contrast the dark clouds of the receding storm. Similarly, the glory of God’s grace is most evident when it is contrasted with His justice. If we minimize His holy zeal against sin, then we trivialize His grace in salvation.

Many in our day have a diminished view of God’s sovereignty and justice. Western society rejects moral absolutes and resists expressions of authority. The symptoms of this moral decline are evident everywhere. A couple of generations ago, school teachers worried about students chewing gum in class; now they fear lethal weapons!

Proverbs 16:14,15 expresses the balancing principles of justice and grace:

“As messengers of death is the king’s wrath,
But a wise man will appease it.
In the light of the king’s face is life,
And his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain.”

Let’s consider the justice of God as the “dark background” for the brilliance of His grace.

The dark clouds of divine justice

In setting forth God’s plan of redemption, the letter to the Romans first establishes the fact of God’s justice. The depravity of the human race demonstrates the “bad news” of condemnation:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man–and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Rom 1:18-23).

Although God loves the world, His justice must be upheld; each of His attributes are perfect.

Mankind is without excuse because of the external witness of creation (Rom. 1:18; Psalm 19:1) and the internal witness of conscience (Rom 2:15). So the conclusion is that: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and, “the wages of sin is death …” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). The writer of Hebrews doesn’t mince words about this: “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The LORD will judge His people’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:30,31). Such truths are rejected by our society (and some segments of the church) as unpalatable, yet it is foolish to disregard “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

In light of God’s sovereignty, the wise person will avert His judicial wrath by seeking the only place of refuge—redemption through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 5:24). There is no excuse to delay, “For He [God] says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

The radiant light of divine grace

When we accept the “bad news” of our condemnation in Adam (Rom. 5:12), and repent, then we are candidates for the “good news” of God’s marvelous grace. The apostle Paul testified to the believers in Ephesus,

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan] … and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:1-2,4-7).

This is truly amazing grace!

Proverbs says “the light of the king’s face is life” (Prov. 16:15), i.e., His glad countenance is an expression of favor and pardon. Thankfully, the King of the universe is now smiling at each of His children! (Zeph. 3:17; 2 Cor. 3:18).

Only as we recognize God’s awesome justice will we fully appreciate the vistas of His grace. This lesson was taught through the episode of the immoral woman who was forgiven freely by Christ. She wept tears of gratitude as she washed His feet with fragrant oil. However, the self-righteous men in the room were indignant at this display. So the Lord Jesus gave this parable to his host, Simon the pharisee:

“‘There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’ And He said to him, ‘You have rightly judged'” (Luke 7:41-43). [1]

Do we fully appreciate the extent of our pardon? Do we truly value the infinite price Christ paid for us on the cross? (1 Pet. 1:18,19).

As Proverbs puts it, His favor [grace] “is like a cloud of the latter rain” (Prov. 16:15). In Israel, the early rains (October-February) were necessary for the crops to begin to grow; the latter rains (March-April) were vital to provide for further growth to maturity (Amos 4:7). Likewise, if we as believers are to grow toward maturity we need to deeply appreciate the manifold grace of God (1 Pet. 4:10).

God’s unmerited kindness toward us through Christ provides salvation from sin’s penalty, from sin’s power, and eventually from sin’s presence (Eph. 2:8,9; Rom. 6:14; 1 Pet. 1:13).

Divine grace is also crucial to overcome life’s challenges. God provides His people grace for daily living (2 Cor. 12:9). This grace is God’s merciful endowment that inclines our hearts toward Him and equips us to do His will. Daily grace comes from the indwelling life of Christ! (Gal. 2:20).

This grace is adequate for life’s big challenges and little annoyances. Annie Johnson Flint testified of this in “Great Grace”:

“His grace is great enough to meet the great things,
The crashing waves that overwhelm the soul,
The roaring winds that leave us stunned and breathless,
The sudden storms beyond our life’s control.

His grace is great enough to meet the small things,
The little pin-prick troubles that annoy,
The insect worries, buzzing and persistent,
The squeaking wheels that grate upon our joy.”[2]

How blessed we are in Christ—delivered from God’s wrath, accepted in the Beloved, and indwelt by the Spirit of our living Savior!  We stand in awe of God’s justice and mercy by reclaiming the original meaning of the rainbow.


Original title: Spring Showers

[1] This anointing episode is different than the anointing of Jesus by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 12:1-8).

[2] Annie Johnson Flint (1866 – 1932)

Copyright 2000 by John Woodward. Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible: New King James Version (copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson). Any italicized words in biblical quotes are for added emphasis.

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