On a flight out of West Palm Beach, Florida, we had just become airborne over the ocean when a boy sitting next to the window grabbed my arm. "Look out there!" he said urgently. "Look!" What I saw was one of the most magnificent sights of my life. Reaching down to the surface of the ocean and rising overhead as far as I could see was the full, unbroken circle of a rainbow. The color was indescribably brilliant with the lower part of the ring seeming to float on the surface of the water. There was no gap in it-just the breathtaking color of God's beautiful sign of covenant. Genesis 9:13.
I had learned a short time before that the complete rainbow, like the wedding band, is a continuous ring. It is much, much more than the mere half circle we see from ground level. At best, our earth-bound view reveals only part. To behold the bow's full circumference it is necessary to be above the earth looking down. The spiritual application of that truth is obvious: In this present life, we grasp only a fragment of the wisdom and strategy of God. Not until we are in heaven looking back at history will we be able to understand the full scope of His plan and purpose in our lives. But there on the plane, in an astonishing way, I realized the rainbow message also involves the operation of spiritual gifts. When you too grasp this holy truth, seeing yourself wearing an engagement ring from Christ, already seated with Him "in heavenly places,” it will release faith powerfully within you (Ephesians 1:3,20).
This truth is seldom seen but will be absolutely magnificent once you grasp it. The foundation is laid in the story of Isaac’s bride. Abraham sent his servant to get a bride for his son Isaac. The young woman chosen for this honor was Rebekah. In scriptural typology, Abraham represents God the Father; the unnamed servant represents the Holy Spirit; Isaac represents Jesus the Son. Rebekah symbolizes the bride of Christ-the church. Rebekah's name means "circles" or "loops of a rope." The imagery of the rope suggests her being "inside the circle" of God's providence and grace. This is a true concept of covenant. And in keeping with the covenant tradition, as soon as the servant identified Rebekah as God's chosen one, he presented her with golden "rings." Genesis 24:22. The shape of these gifts-circles- conveyed an important message which Rebekah understood. They were the rope loops that encircled her engagement to Isaac.
And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold (Genesis 24:22).
It is important that you understand that these bracelets and rings were not wedding gifts. They were engagement gifts. Even today brides frequently receive two rings: one before the wedding, the other at the wedding. So it was with Rebekah. First came the engagement gift; these were followed with wedding gifts. In a similar way, Jesus is now offering you engagement gifts; you are part of His Bride. These gifts, brought to you by the Servant, the Holy Spirit, parallel the rings Rebekah received and those given to brides today. They are the "earnest of your inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Ephesians 1:14). Your heavenly wedding gifts, which are beyond human comprehension, will not be given you until the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). But please listen to me carefully about gifts which come in advance of the wedding: The charismatic gifts that the church is now receiving, by which she "tastes the powers of the age to come" are engagement gifts (Acts 1:5,8; Hebrews 6:5; Ephesians 1:21). Through them, the groom is showing His bride the "glories of His Father's house."
This parallel of Rebekah and the church is exact. While Rebekah's gifts spoke of Isaac's love, they also revealed Abraham's great wealth. Just as Rebekah had never met the man to whom she was engaged, so the church has yet to meet her royal bridegroom. The gifts Jesus is now sending through the Holy Spirit correspond to the rings and bracelets given Rebekah by Abraham's servant. I have spoken to numerous churches where members were still opposed to spiritual gifts. They did not understand the miraculous operations of God and drew back from them. I explained that Christians who reject the gifts of the Spirit are actually telling the heavenly servant, "I don't like that bracelet. Put it back in your box! I won't wear it." Rebekah's acting in such ugliness is unthinkable. Not so with modern, self-centered Christians. Many become irate, incensed, at the mere suggestion of their experiencing the Holy Spirit's miraculous gifts. The gift of tongues is the primary offender because it is the only grace-gift deliberately designed to attack ego and pride. Thankfully, many in these congregations have seen the ugliness of rejecting spiritual gifts and have come forward, repentant, saying, "I don't fully understand the Holy Spirit's gifting-but I want whatever bracelet God has for me! Pray that I will receive it!"
There will be times when ministry is discouraging, life seems unfair, disappointing, painful, and you will need reminding that the view from above is very different from the one below. In those moments, you will benefit tremendously from the assurance divine gifts bring to your life. After God miraculously rescued him from a failed suicide attempt nearly three centuries ago, William Cowper wrote a hymn that has since blessed millions. In that famous lyric, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way His Wonders to Perform," Cowper said,
"Cheer up, ye saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds you so much dread
Are rich with mercies and shall break
In blessings on your head ..."
The words of Cowper's song and the incredible beauty of God's covenant-sign were still going through my mind as our plane left the rainbow behind. Leaning back in a state of awe, a series of revelations began flooding me. First was the amazing, spiritual beauty of the bow; its colors were ethereal, unreal. Second, its endless circle, representing the complete cycle of God's loving, sovereign perfection in creation, was overwhelming. Nothing was omitted from its meaning. The smallest, microscopic sea life in the ocean below me to the largest galaxy in space were all contained in the scope of His unified plan. What I glimpsed in that fleeting moment was the glory of the kingdom of God. Wonderfully, the apex of that revelation was heaven's grace to man: Man who was destined to rule and reign in that ever-expanding, unending kingdom. For a moment, I was overwhelmed with the two-fold manifestation of grace:
1. Through saving-grace, man is prepared for divine life in Heaven.
2. Through gifting-grace, man is prepared for miraculous life on earth.
In that flashing moment I understood more about the grace of God than ever before. This fact seized me: God intended that the ordinary Christian life be a miraculous life. Once grace touches us, we are transformed both for eternity and for now. My mind was overwhelmed with what seemed to be giant ripples of scientific and theological fact, coming toward me from every direction. Each ripple brought a unique message about God's covenant plan. This I suddenly knew: All truth, regardless of its rising from the Old Testament or the New, whether it comes from Scripture or true scientific discovery, points toward ultimate reality: God is one; God is love; God is power. Creation pulsates with that oneness. Jesus is the one by whom the "worlds were framed," Hebrews 11:3, John 1:1, and is the incarnation of all three. His resurrection, as an explosion of that truth, defeated every opposing principle of disunity, hatefulness, and weakness in existence.
Wonderfully, the Holy Spirit showed me the relationship between the rainbow and another biblical, covenant sign: circumcision. It too is circular. The revelation that took place that day went light years beyond everything I had understood about circumcision before. Circumcision means "circular cutting." Beginning with Abraham, every Hebrew male bore in his body this physical sign of God's covenant. Suddenly I realized that the miles-wide rainbow and the few inches of circumcision were identical. Each contained all the glory, beauty, majesty of the other.
With that realization, came an important question: "Why did God place the covenant sign on the male genitals?" The answer was awesome: God willed that the conception of every Hebrew child take place in the presence of his father's covenant-sign. Not only so, but the father's genes for every future generation passed through his covenant ring. The creative act of conception, in which those made "in His image" and "in His likeness," Genesis 1:26, takes place within the "circle of the covenant." Acts 2:39.
By a painful cutting away and shedding of blood, circumcision is the uncovering of maleness. In scriptural typology, it is the exposing of man to His God. If you study the covering-and uncovering-of tabernacle furnishings in the Old Testament, all of which came under covenant instruction, you will understand more of the parabolic teaching present here. Exodus 35:12, etc. When miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit begin operating in us it is an evidence that we have experienced additional uncovering; that is, we have removed more of the insulation separating us and God. Grace, in an ongoing, deepening revelation, is taking place.
On the plane, my understanding about the covenant sign (that is, the circle) continued widening. I thought about how it applied to the marriage act. The groom penetrates the bride's temple body, and her blood is shed as the hymen is opened. The opening of her temple veil is done precisely where his own covenant blood had earlier been shed. In the process of their being united into one, each meets the covenant requirement of having given blood on behalf of the other: The man gave his blood for her; she gave her blood to him. This parallels Jesus and His bride, the church. Jesus shed His blood for the bride in order to redeem her (Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 13:20,21). His bride, the church, gives her blood back to Him when she shows her love through martyrdom (Revelation 12:11).
The New Testament makes the covenant meaning of Old Testament circumcision more beautiful than that which Israel understood. The death and resurrection of Jesus transformed circumcision into an experience of the heart. It is no longer limited to the outer body.
1. “He is a not Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God” (Romans 2:28-29).
2. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Galatians 5:6, 6:15).
Being far more than a physical cutting of the outer flesh, it is now man's inner being, his heart, that bears the sign of covenant. No longer an earthly symbol, circumcision is now a heavenly reality, bringing ultimate relationship with the Creator-Father.
On this subject of rings, I wish to comment on the covenant meaning of the golden bells and pomegranates decorating the garment of Israel's high priest. Exodus 28:33,34. The fruit and bells on the hem of his robe undoubtedly symbolize the fruit and gifts of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 5:9. As High Priest, Jesus is prophetically portrayed in ancient tabernacle worship and bears both fruit and gifts. Hebrews 3:1. To be like Him, we must bear the same. Christians who reject spiritual gifts are ripping them off the garment of Jesus. Don't do it. When viewed from the bottom, the bell is usually a round ring. In scriptural typology, that golden ring may be as wide as the rainbow or as small as the scar on a man's body. In either case, it speaks of covenant.
The next time you look at your wedding ring, a rainbow, or read in Scripture of Abraham’s covenant of circumcision, think about the awesome love it represents and your gratitude to God for the miraculous gifts of the Spirit He has made available to you.