While still drinking deeply of the freshness that lingers in the air after a spring rain, millions of parents throughout the ages have asked their children, “Do you see the rainbow?”
These inquiries are typically followed by a chorus of “ooh’s” and “awe’s”. Very young children might even ask, “Mommy, what makes a rainbow work?”
These misty masterpieces—rainbows in the sky—give parents great opportunities to teach their children some important life-lessons. This is part of God’s plan. For, the rainbow is a “sign” or “token” of God’s covenant, a covenant for all generations to come! Generation after generation has been reminded by God of this covenant through rainbows in the sky. Likewise, generation after generation has been taught to see much more in the sky than refracted light and reflections. They have been taught to see the greater significance of the rainbow.
The dictionary defines a rainbow as: “a bow or arc of prismatic colors appearing in the heavens opposite the sun and caused by the refraction and reflection of the sun’s rays in drops of rain.” We don’t dispute this technical definition; but, we all know that rainbows are much more than this. While beautiful to behold, the appearance of a rainbow in the sky holds great significance. They are, in fact, a continuing testimony from God painted across the sky to signify His promise that flood waters will never again destroy all life. Listen to what God said about rainbows in Genesis 9:12-16…
And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." (NIV)
And so it is with many ordinances given by God. The observance of Passover was given to Israel to as a permanent ordinance for generations to come. (Exodus 12:14) God knew the children would ask, “Why are we doing this?” So, He established this memorial for generations to come. It is a means by which one generation passed to the next the important story of how God delivered Israel from bondage is Egypt. The entire sacrificial system functions in this manner. For example, Israelite children grew up knowing that God was their Provider. They were surely taught this in many ways. Still, they would be reminded of this fact repeatedly in the Festival of First-fruits. Each year the first-fruits of the harvest were offered to God to acknowledge His bountiful blessings and request that He continue to bestow His blessings on them.
Clearly, God places great emphasis on this generation-to-generation communication concerning who He is, what He has done, and what He expects of each of us. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Deuteronomy 6:4-7. Listen as we read these verses:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (NIV)
Examples abound in the Scriptures of those who took this seriously. The Psalmist said, “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” (Psalm 71:17-18, NIV) Also, In Psalm 78:4-7 we read the following:
We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. (NIV)
Furthermore, we are told that Timothy’s sincere faith first lived in his grandmother Lois and in his mother Eunice and, then came to live in him also. (2 Timothy 1:5) In fact, the spiritual mentoring of Timothy by the Apostle Paul gave rise to a unique relationship between them. Timothy was Paul’s true son in the faith. (1 Timothy 1:2). It was the Apostle Paul through whom the Holy Spirit charges all parents to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord. (cf. Ephesians 6:4)
When we consider these principles and realize what God has called us to do, it is staggering. Parents and grandparents are God’s servants on behalf of generations to come, leading them into a relationship with God that is based on a genuine knowledge of His holy nature and awesome power. This is the ultimate mentoring ministry.
Children, on the other hand, are to see in their spiritual mentors an effort to emulate God’s holy nature and teach them about His wondrous works and ways. Each generation has responsibilities before God. Each generation, at the proper time, is both student and teacher. Each generation, at the appointed season, is giver and receiver, servant and served. As surely as we see the rainbow in the sky following an afternoon thunderstorm, we can and should see the mighty hand of God working through these intergenerational relationships to bring each of us into a relationship with Him.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, each one of us is living our legacy. The choices we make from day-to-day, the things we say and do are the sum and substance of our lives. Each one of us is somewhere along this intergenerational link to God. Each of us, especially those who are older, should carefully consider whether our lives conform to God’s expectations, whether we are adequately prepared to lead generations to come into a relationship with God.
Indeed, we all need to be learning the will and ways of God from the generations that have gone before us in order that we may teach them to generations that will come after us. And, perhaps as never before, we need to realize that there are many links in the chain that are broken or missing altogether. Thus, in these days of trouble and sorrow for many generations whose family link to God is missing or broken, the family of God, the faith-community of Christ, can and should step up to the mark and fill in these gaps. People of all generations need to know what it is like to live in a relationship with God. We need to look around us with compassion filled hearts to see the sheep that are scattered and determine to help to fill in the gaps where we can. If we will do so, it will make a great difference for generations to come.
While we may not realize it fully, the lives of others for generations to come are being shaped by our choices, by our character and conduct. With respect to the generations to come, how are we doing? Are we “learning”, as we should? Are we “teaching”, as we should? Are we reaching out and “filling in the gaps”, as we should? We can all have confidence that, as we do these things, God’s love and light shines brightly for all to see. How are we doing in this regard?
Remember, there are no rainbows in the sky without bright sunlight. Neither will people in our world see the light of God’s love or come to understand His power and promises unless we reflect the glory of Christ in the world today. My prayer—my heart’s earnest desire—is that the light of God’s love will shine brightly through each one of us. I imagine this is something of what Graham Kendrick had in mind when he composed the following song:
Shine, Jesus, Shine
Shine Jesus Shine
Fill this land with the Father's glory
Blaze Spirit Blaze
Set our hearts on fire
Flow river flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth Your Word Lord
And let there be light
Lord the light of Your love is shining
In the midst of the darkness shining
Jesus light of the world shine upon us
Set us free by the truth You now bring us
Shine on me
Lord I come to Your awesome presence
From the shadows into Your radiance
By the blood I may enter Your brightness
Search me try me consume all my darkness
Shine on me
As we gaze on Your kingly brightness
So our faces display Your likeness
Ever changing from glory to glory
Mirrored here may our lives tell Your story
Shine on me
May God help us to shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the word of life this day! (cf. Philippians 2:15-16)
© Bill Williams
June 17, 2006