Genesis 8:11 When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.
It has become a universal symbol of peace throughout the world. Images of a dove with an olive branch in its mouth are still used by the United Nations and other international peace organizations. Most people know that it represents a human yearning for peace throughout the world, but some folks forget that it was first described in the Noah story from Genesis. In other words, it’s not just a universal symbol for peace, it’s a God-given sign of restoration.
As the waters from the Great Flood receded, Noah needed to know that dry land was emerging, so that he could safely take his family ashore. The immense rains had fallen for forty days and it would take 110 more days before the Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat. This means that Noah, his family, and most of the animals spent almost half a year on the Ark before they could return to the land. The storms were over, but the long wait for the flood to recede must have seemed like an eternity to each living being on board.
When the dove came back to Noah with an olive branch, he knew in his heart that God’s wrath was over and that peace between God and man was now possible. From that biblical moment in time, the dove has represented God’s presence and the olive branch is a peace offering. Today, on the United Nations flag, our planetary globe is cupped in a half circle of olive leaves, symbolizing the future hope that one day we will live in peace.
Points to ponder
Where do we currently need peace in the world? How often am I willing to pray for peace?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Prince of Peace, so we earnestly ask You to send forth Your Holy Spirit to those parts of our world where war and violence are sadly taking place. Allow Your Church to act as peacemaker throughout the nations and give us the ability to embrace peace in our homes, communities, and nation. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
Today’s image is one of John’s Celtic Cross drawing called Siochain – the Gaelic word for peace. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Cross.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The church website can be viewed here: www.erinpresbyterian.org.