And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you…
The covenant is that there shall not be any more a flood to destroy the earth, and the token of the covenant is bow in the cloud. But was there not a rainbow before there was a flood? Of course there was. You do not suppose that the rainbow was made on purpose? There were rainbows, it may be, thousands of ages before man was created, certainly from the time that the sun and the rain first knew each other. But old forms may be put to new uses. Physical objects may be clothed with moral meanings. The stars in heaven and the sand by the seashore may come to be unto Abraham as a family register. One day common bread may be turned into sacramental food, and ordinary wine may become as the blood of atonement! The rainbow which was once nothing but a thing of evanescent beauty, created by the sun and the rain, henceforward became the token of a covenant and was sacred as a revelation from heaven. When you lived in a rich English county the song of the lark was nothing to you, it was so familiar; you had heard the dinning trill of a hundred larks in the morning air: but when you went out to the far-away colony, and for years did not hear the voice of a single home bird, you suddenly caught the note of a lark just brought, to the land, and the tears of boyhood streamed down your cheeks as you listened to the little messenger from home. To hear it was like hearing a gospel. From that day the lark was to you as the token of a covenant! In speaking to Noah, God did not then create the bow; He turned it into the sign of a holy bond. The fear is that we may have the bond and not the oath. We may see physical causes producing physical effects, and yet may see no moral significations passing through the common scenery of earth and sky. Cultivate the spirit of moral interpretation if you would be wise and restful: then the rainhow will keep away the flood; the fowls of the air will save you from anxiety; and the lilies of the field will give you an assurance of tender care. Why, everything is yours! The daisy you trod upon just now was telling you that if God so clothe the grass of the field, He will much more clothe the child that bears His own image. Very beautiful is this idea of God giving us something to look at, in order to keep our faith steady. He knows that we need pictures, and rests, and voices, and signs, and these He has well supplied. We might have forgotten the word, but we cannot fail to see the bow; every child sees it, and exclaims at the sight with glad surprise. If anyone would tell the child the sweet meaning of the bow, it might move his soul to a still higher ecstasy! And so with all other things God has given us as signs and tokens: the sacred Book, the water of baptism, the bread and wine, the quiet Sabbath, the house of prayer; all these have deeper meanings than are written in their names; search for those meanings, keep them, and you will be rich.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: