12 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: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds.
On this Saint Patrick ’s Day let’s look at two things:
St. Patrick’s Day is correctly associated with Ireland, but St. Patrick himself was not Irish, but British. He might not have even been officially declared a saint. Even so, historians believe he was born around 389 AD near Wales and given the name of Maewyn Succat. Like Daniel and Joseph of the Bible, he was captured and sold into slavery when he was only teenager (16 years old). Life was difficult for slaves. Not only was life difficult, but he was dragged from his home and sent into slavery in another country without his family. Tradition says that as a slave in Ireland he was forced to be a shepherd, herding sheep and pigs. His father had been a church deacon, and his grandfather a clergyman, but by his account Maewyn only turned to religion and prayed out to God when he was in captivity. After six years as a slave he escaped by boat to Britain. He traveled the 200 miles to the ocean and according to some stories either stowed away or booked passage. The boat landed not far from where his parents lived, and one would expect a joyful reunion and for him to remain with his parents. But instead of staying with his family, he traveled to France to study and become a priest. While studying for ministry, he received a vision from God to return to Ireland as a missionary. He only took the name Patrick when he later became a Bishop. It was a great act of forgiveness that he returned to the people who enslaved him in order to share with them the love of Christ. Because of his ministry in Ireland he brought not only Christianity to the whole country, but also an end to slavery. In the same way, through God’s forgiveness and sending of Christ to us we also experience his love and are delivered from our slavery to sin.
If you were captured and put into slavery as a teenager, do you think you might feel called to return to those who enslaved you and work for the salvation of their souls? Is forgiveness easy or difficult? Why is forgiveness an important concept to Christians?
Second, A Pot of Gold at the End of a Rainbow
When you see a rainbow associated with St. Patrick’s Day, it is because there is supposed to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. According to Irish fairy tales the pot of gold is guarded by a Leprechaun – a short little old man, who lived alone and worked as a shoemaker. You could supposedly find him by the sound of his hammer as he made shoes, and if you managed to catch him you could force him to reveal the location of his treasure of Gold. But leprechauns were clever and if he tricked you to take your eyes off him for even a second he vanished.
The rainbow in the Bible doesn’t lead us to a pot of Gold, but was intended to lead us to God. For the Christian, our “Pot of Gold” lies in heaven, in eternity with God because of Jesus. Earthly treasures are fleeting and incomparable to the joy of knowing Christ. (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20; Matthew 6:19-21) We can find the original significance of the rainbow in Genesis 9:12-14 “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: 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 shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.”
St. Patrick was quite successful at evangelism and traveled the length of Ireland setting up schools, churches and monasteries. In response, the Celtic druids apparently managed to stir up enough trouble to get him arrested several times. Each time he escaped, and after 30 years he was quite instrumental in converting much of Ireland to Christianity.
Will you let God use you today?
Dear Lord, we thank You for those who served You faithfully even when things looked bleak. Thanks for their courage. We pray for that same courage today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.