Friday evening my wife and I were running some errands. On our way home we were discussing some things that were, well, not exactly the most uplifting topics we could have been on. She said, “Let’s change the subject and not talk about this anymore the rest of the weekend”, a welcome idea to me. It was merely a few seconds later when I saw a rainbow, almost appear, as if it were just for me. In an instant my mood went from glum to happy and thankful, as I remember what God’s Word said about the rainbow and the promise that is associated with it.
And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. (12) 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: (13) I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. (14) And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: (15) 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. (16) And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. (17) And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.
I think it is worth noting that the word rendered as “bow” in this passage most assuredly is “rainbow”. In the original Hebrew it is the word qesheth (Strong’s number H7198) and the exact same word used here
As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.
I can scarcely imagine what Noah might have been feeling at this time. Think of all that he had seen and endured both before and after the rains began. Imagine that sheer joy he must have had at knowing that the Flood was over and he and his family would be upon dry land again. And then imagine seeing this wondrous sight, this bright, iridescent prism of brilliant colors we call a rainbow arcing across the sky. Now, add in hearing this beautiful promise from God Himself being proclaimed to him. Noah must have been awestruck.
Among the many great truths taught to us in the book of Genesis, perhaps no lesson is more easily seen and understood than the correlation between man’s sin and the resultant disorder and the cure ordained by God in his wisdom and mercy. Think not only of the Fall in the Garden and the chaos that spun out from it but also of the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the account of the Flood, which are speaking of here, among others, all sin-filled situations than mankind caused, all remedied by our holy God.
The rainbow is given here as a sign of the covenant of God and mankind, Noah directly and then on through his descendants, and is a uniquely perfect symbol I think. The rainbow is equally dependent upon the clouds and the sun; it cannot exist without both the grey storm and the warming rays of sunshine. Our sins represented by the storms and the free gift of unmerited grace offered by God represented by the sunlight gives us the rainbow of hope that would otherwise be nonexistent. This makes the rainbow the perfect type or shadow of what was to come through and by the Gospel of Christ Jesus.
Romans 5:19-20 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
Not only is the rainbow a fitting symbol of the covenant of grace, being the product equally of storm and sunshine, it is also type of that equally distinctive peculiarity of Christ’s Gospel that sorrow and suffering do have their place and purpose in this life, both corporately and individually. If you look around the world today you will see many false religions. But you’ll also see many false gospels that wrongly teach everyone should be healthy, wealthy, and have all their hearts desire. God’s Word teaches nothing of the sort, and warns us against these false doctrines.
Galatians 1:8-9 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Read Isaiah chapter 53, where the prophet writes about Who we know today as The Suffering Servant. Read in Matthew 8:20 and Luke 9:58 where Jesus says He doesn’t even have a place to lay His head. No, there most assuredly will be suffering and sorrows in this world. It is the true Gospel of Christ Jesus alone which converts sorrow and suffering into instruments for the attainment of higher and more enduring blessings, eternal ones. In all God’s dealings with His people, when He brings a cloud upon the earth, He sets His bow in that cloud, insomuch that they cease to fear when they enter into it by reason of the presence of Him whose glory inhabits it.
Isaiah 54:9-10 For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. 10 For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.
To fully understand the rainbow we must turn to the New Testament, where the types and shadows, the mysteries and allusions are opened and the full truth of the Gospel is illuminated for us.
In the book of Revelation we read of the One upon the throne with a rainbow around the throne
Revelation 4:3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
And again, a few chapters later, the writer tells us of Him having a rainbow upon His head.
Revelation 10:1 And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:
We know that the apostle John was writing of Jesus in these passages and throughout the book of Revelation. It is here, in the New Testament we find the close and inseparable explanation of the link between the cloud and the rainbow, between judgment and mercy, between the darkness of the one and the brightness of the other. It is in the person and work of Jesus Christ do we find the culmination of judgment and mercy, the entire basis of grace. Just as the rainbow spans the arch of the sky and becomes a link between earth and heaven, so, in the person and work of Christ, is beheld the unchangeableness and endlessness of that covenant of grace which, like Jacob’s ladder, maintains the communication between earth and heaven, and thus, by bringing God very near to man, affords man the opportunity to be back in right fellowship with God.
Here on Earth the continued appearance of the rainbow depends, as it always has, upon both the cloud and sunshine. For the remaining time the earth has left, in heaven, the rainbow will always point backward to man’s fall, and onward to the permanency of a covenant which is “ordered in all things and sure.” (2 Samuel 23:5). But someday the work of judgment will be accomplished, and the door of grace will be forever closed, and final judgment will be passed. It is will be then that the cloud will have no more place in heaven.
So, the next time you see a rainbow, I hope that it stirs within your heart thoughts of judgment, mercy, and grace. I hope it brightens your day knowing how much God loves you, and how much Christ Jesus wants to be your Advocate (1 John 2:1) and Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). And most of all I hope that you accept His Gospel and His offer to be those things to you.