“I have set my rainbow in the clouds” (Genesis 9:13)
What does the rainbow, or its colours, symbolize to you? For many today it indicates LGBT ideology or, during the Covid pandemic, it appeared in some way to represent the NHS. Some children’s nurseries also like the rainbow.
But was does it really mean? Scientifically, we know that when sunlight hits rain droplets, an electromagnetic spectrum is formed. This is made up of light with many different wavelengths, and each is reflected at a different angle producing a rainbow. And we call it a rainbow because it is shaped like an archer’s bow.
In Genesis 6:5 we are told that “the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time”. Such total wickedness deserved the utmost judgment of God and so he determined “to put an end to all people” by sending a devastating flood. But in his anger he remembered mercy and chose to save a remnant (Noah and his family) through whom he started afresh with the human race. But more than that, he made a promise and entered a covenant with mankind. “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood” (8:21). He then went on to confirm that covenant with a lasting sign. In v13 he declared: “I have set my rainbow in the clouds”.
God saw the rainbow as symbolizing his promise: “Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life” (9:15). It is a bow! And God has hung up his bow for within his covenant of peace, hostility is over!. When God hung up his bow it was like a foreshadowing of the cross, with Jesus’ cry: “It is finished!” Revelation 4 describes a throne in heaven, encircled by a rainbow and the unceasing worship of the One seated upon it: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come”.
How the devil loves to distort the truth. The rainbow is God’s sign of peace through his grace and mercy to rebellious men and women, if only they would turn back to him. It is emphatically not the symbol of Human Pride but of Divine Redeeming Grace.
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