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The Gospel's Rainbow
By Jon W. Quinn
It is an old covenant. It is much older than the covenant of Jesus Christ. It is a covenant made between God and humanity as well as with every other creature on earth, and we are still partakers in it. It has never been done away with.
It was following the flood that the Lord made this covenant with Noah and all future generations. Jehovah said, “I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. And it shall come about, 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 never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth. And God said to Noah, 'This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.'"(Genesis 9:13-17).
The Rainbow Itself
Rainbows are natural phenomenon. There is no indication that this was the first rainbow. When rays of sunlight shine through tiny water droplets, a colorful prism is seen. When the Lord says, “I have set My bow in the clouds,” the Hebrew word translated “set” (nathan) does not mean to “create” but to “appoint” or “designate.” The rainbow was not a new creation of God at the flood, but rather at that time it was appointed to be a symbol of His promise.
Interestingly enough, twice in John's vision of heaven he mentions seeing a rainbow (Revelation 4:3; 10:1). Rainbows are beautiful sights to behold, and perhaps our earthly rainbows offer us a dim picture of heaven's beauty.
The Uses of the Rainbow
The rainbow serves several designated purposes in addition to its ascetic value. It is interesting that the Lord said, “...that the bow shall be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant...” . It sounds as if He might forget without this reminder. Well, I suppose tying a bow around one's finger is a way to remember something that might otherwise be forgotten, and it is fitting that the bow God would use would be something as beautiful as a rainbow, but that's not the meaning of the phrase. God does not forget.
Rather, it is a witness or testament of His promise given to Himself. It is an acknowledgment. The word “remember” is used in the same way as we might use it saying, “Remember me to Uncle Sid when you see him.” This does not mean you're afraid Uncle Sid has forgotten you, but rather you merely want to be acknowledged to him.
The rainbow also functions as a reminder to us. Certainly Noah and his family would never forget the flood, or its causes. But humanity in general would. It would fade to the back of the human consciousness and humanity would gradually slip back into its old, destructive, wicked ways. But any of us, who are so minded, when looking at the rainbow, can be reminded of the consequences of sin, the next and final judgment to come, salvation by grace and the promise of eternal life in God's Son.
The Rainbow and the Gospel
Though the covenant of the rainbow was given many centuries ago, we still enjoy its blessings. This world has never been washed away again, though it certainly has deserved it. The rainbow testifies of God's faithfulness and care for us, and His care goes far beyond the “no more flood” promise. Our God is trustworthy! “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
But rainbows are never produced without clouds and rain. Sunshine alone can never produce a rainbow. We undergo dark clouds of sorrow and turmoil, but with these bad experiences there are rainbows.
No clouds darken our lives today more than sin, guilt and the consequences of them. Some of these sins might be our own, other sins were the product of those around us, but we were adversely effected by them anyway (Romans 3:10,23; 7:24). But there is a rainbow that appears in the midst of all this. God's love for us is that rainbow (John 3:16). Because of His love, He has prepared for us a way to be saved (Romans 6:23; 16-18; 3-4).
Then there are the sorrows, grief and disappointments we deal with. But these storm clouds are not without rainbows either. Many grievous things happened to Jesus, but they all worked together for good to them that love God (Romans 8:28). There are beautiful, praiseworthy and excellent things we can allow our minds to dwell upon in “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension.” (Philippians 4:7,8).
There is the dark cloud of temptation. There is also the rainbow of the promise that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to endure, and He will ensure that there will always be a way to escape temptation unharmed, and stronger for having endured it (1 Corinthians 10:13). We also understand that Jesus is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, having been “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).
The dark cloud of death is a storm we must all eventually weather. But for those in Jesus, death loses its sting (1 Thessalonians 4:13,14; 1 Corinthians 15:55-58). Perhaps no storm is more violent than this one, but certainly there is not a more beautiful and brighter rainbow associated with this storm either (Philippians 1:21-23).
Finally there is the dark cloud of impending judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10). But the judgment is not feared by those who love God, because fear involves punishment, but perfect love casts out fear, and “the love of God is keeping His commandments” (1 John 4:17-18; 5:3).
Next time you see a rainbow, take the time not only to admire its beauty, but also the spiritual promises of God based on His love, care and providence in Christ Jesus, and praise the Creator.
Reprinted From the Bradley Banner Bradley Church of Christ Bradley, Illinois May 2,1999