The Sign of the Rainbow

 If you are like me, it is easy to take signs of God’s love found in nature for granted. The other day, when I was out walking, a ginormous natural sign hit my eyesight—a rainbow. I’ve seen rainbows many times, but on that day the Spirit stirred my heart, “Remember the rainbow!”



I think there is more to the rainbow than what we make of it, biblically speaking. In today’s world the rainbow is used to represent everything from Autism awareness, to worldly views of human sexuality and gender, to a happy (and inaccurate) representation of the Great Flood that adorns the signage of Christian preschools.

What does the Bible say about the rainbow? When the rainbow enters our gaze, what thoughts should come to mind? The promise of the rainbow has meaning for God, Humanity and Animal kind: 

God 

After Noah and representatives of all kinds of animals disembarked the ark after the Great Flood, God made a covenant with them all, setting a rainbow in the sky:

“This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant.” - Genesis 9: 12 ESV

The rainbow is a sign for humanity, but really it is a “sign” for God to “remember”. The fulfilment of the covenant between Yahweh and all living creatures rests solely in his hands. Now, God does not need to “remember” his covenant in the sense we do—it is personification to say that God will be faithful to keep the covenant. When we see the rainbow, we can trust that God is keeping his covenant promise.

Now then, what is the covenant promise that God made?

“I will never again curse the ground because of man, [even though] the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” 8:21-22

 And,

“I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 9:11

God’s promise is that he would never flood the earth again, but he did not promise that the earth would never be destroyed (see also Isa 54:9, Psa 104:9). Peter understood this,

“the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.  But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. “- 2 Peter 3:6-7

Here, Peter was specifically talking about those who didn’t believe God’s judgement was coming, and is reminding his readers that God destroyed the world once with water and he would do it again with fire. God’s promise to never flood the Earth again is merciful, but he cannot let the wicked go unpunished. 

By reminding us he will never flood the entire world again, the rainbow points us to God’s coming judgement with fire.

Humanity

God is the benefactor of the covenant, providing the benefits to humanity regardless of them keeping any conditions. The very reason God decided not to flood the whole world again was because of his love for humanity,

“I will never again curse the ground because of man, [even though] the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”- 8:21 

He does it for the sake of mankind, despite the fact that people’s evil was the reason he brought the Flood in the first place,

“The earth was corrupt in God’s sight….[and he said], I have determined to make an end of all flesh…. I will destroy them with the earth…. But I will establish my covenant with you….”- 6:12-13, 18” 

Having satisfied his judgement, God decided not to destroy the world again and would allow life to continue even though people’s activity would provoke his wrath again.

After Noah and his family exited the Ark, the Lord blessed them by telling them to have offspring, the same blessing he gave the first humans—Adam and Eve—giving us a restart. 

Then as part of his covenant, God gave all animals as food, giving people complete authority over animal kind,

“The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea.” - 9:2-3

This is most likely why God placed a bow in the sky—it signified the gift of hunting that people could use to consume animals. However, the bloodshed of another human would declare the slayer’s life forfeit- a promise of protection, from God’s own divine bow

“And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” - 9:6-7

Through the rainbow, God reminds us of his provision for meat as food, the blessing of offspring and the sanctity of human life- which points to humanity’s ultimate satisfaction in Heaven (like in Eden).


Animal kind

Not only did the covenant apply to humanity, but to all of animal kind,


“I establish my covenant with you…. And with every living creature that is with you” 9:10

Looking back at all the promises to never flood the whole earth again, it's clear that God made this promise not only for humanity, but also with every living creature. It’s clear that from before the flood began, God intended for creatures of all kinds to survive the flood (See Genesis 6:19-20, “two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive”). 

Just like he blessed mankind with the blessing of having fruitful offspring, God told the animals, 

“Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 8:17 


While he allowed animal kind to reproduce as they did before the flood, they would now be the food for humankind. Yet, God gave them a promise of dignity and protection,

“You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood”.  9:4

For people to eat animals, they must not have any blood inside of them and they must be dead. 

The rainbow reminds us that God values the animals and gives them dignity as his creation—their death for food must be dignified and they are given similar (but lesser) blessings as mankind. 


So to summarize, when we see the rainbow we can be reminded that:

  1. We can trust that God is keeping his covenant promise.
  2. By reminding us he will never flood the entire world again, it points us to God’s coming judgement with fire.
  3. God reminds us of his provision for meat as food, the blessing of offspring and the sanctity of human life- which points to humanity’s ultimate satisfaction in Heaven
  4. God values the animals and gives them dignity as his creation—their death for food must be dignified and they are given similar (but lesser) blessings as mankind. 







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