The Rainbow

Introduction

When I was younger, I used to sing the kid’s song, I can sing a rainbow. You may remember the words, ‘Red, yellow, pink, and green, purple, and orange and blue. I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too.’

Many of you may have grown up watching The Wizard of Oz where Judy Garland sang, ‘Somewhere over the rainbow.’ Or maybe you watched the kid’s television programme called Rainbow presented by Geoffrey Hayes and his regular guests, Zippy, George and Bungle.

Or maybe you listened to ‘Since you’ve been gone’ by the rock band Rainbow. Irish folklore imagines a pot of gold where a rainbow meets the earth, symbolising luck. The Skittles’ sweets slogan is ‘taste the rainbow.’

It wasn’t that long ago here in the UK that most households had a picture of a rainbow on their windows in support of the NHS workers during Covid-19. Lately, the LGBT community has hijacked the rainbow.

The rainbow we are going to look at in this lesson is the most famous one of all, the one which God placed in the sky after the flood in Noah’s day.

What Is A Rainbow?

SkiJinks says the following.

‘A rainbow is caused by sunlight and atmospheric conditions. Light enters a water droplet, slowing down and bending as it goes from air to denser water. The light reflects off the inside of the droplet, separating into its component wavelengths or colours. When light exits the droplet, it makes a rainbow.

Sunlight is made up of many wavelengths or colours of light. Some of those wavelengths get bent more than others when the light enters the water droplet. Violet (the shortest wavelength of visible light) bends the most, red (the longest wavelength of visible light) bends the least. So, when the light exits the water droplet, it is separated into all its wavelengths. The light reflecting back to you, the observer with the Sunlight coming from behind you, from the water droplets will appear separated into all the colours of the rainbow! Violet will be on the bottom and red on the top.’

The Significance Of The Colours

1000 Logo says the following.

‘In Jewish and then the Christian traditions the rainbow symbolizes the reconciliation of God with life on earth after the Flood as a symbol of prosperity and grace. Christianity also interpreted the three colours of the rainbow: blue represented the Deluge, red the world fire, and green the arrival of peace on earth. So, for Jews and Christians, the rainbow is an exceptionally good sign.

In Islam, the rainbow consists of four colours, red, yellow, green, and blue, corresponding to the four elements.

In China, a rainbow is a heavenly dragon, the union of Heaven and Earth, a sign of the unification of yin and yang. In ancient India, the rainbow is the bow of Indra, the god of thunder; in addition, in Hinduism and Buddhism, the “rainbow body” is the highest yogic state attainable in the realm of samsara.

In iconography, the tricolour rainbow symbolises the Divine Trinity. In Western European art, the rainbow also appears as the heavenly throne on which Christ, the Judge, sits; sometimes it can be found as one of the attributes of the Virgin.’

Answers in Genesis say the following.

‘Can you look at a rainbow and point to where the yellow ends and the green begins? Would any two people indicate the same dividing line? That helps to illustrate the fact that the seven colours we have traditionally assigned are arbitrary. We use the seven colours as a helpful device to talk about the rainbow, but there is nothing in nature or Scripture that would demand a seven-fold division. The claim that “the official rainbow” has seven colours cannot be substantiated, a rainbow has an infinite number of colours in a continuous spectrum.’

There are many theories concerning the significance of the colours of the rainbow, some are interesting, whilst others are a little ‘out there’ so to speak. There is always a danger of reading too much into something and making every element or colour of the rainbow mean something.

The Rainbow In The Bible

The first mention of the rainbow is found in Genesis 9:13-17. Up to this point, God explained how Noah’s righteousness spared him from the flood, Genesis 6:9-13 / Genesis 7:1.

God gave specific instructions for the ark project, which Noah followed, Genesis 6:14-21. God returned Noah and his family to dry land on Mount Ararat, Genesis 8:1-5. God’s covenant after the flood was sealed by the sign of a rainbow in the sky.

When we read the account, we read that over and over God just repeats Himself, ‘Never again, I’m going to establish, I’m going to remember, never again, I’m going to promise.’ I don’t think God is repeating Himself for His benefit, I think it is for Noah’s benefit.

Imagine what Noah has been through, sometimes by the time we get to read the story about Noah and the flood, we make it sound like it was a nice little sail with a bunch of cute cuddly little animals.

This has been the worst year of Noah’s life, he has been through an absolute ordeal, everywhere he looks when he comes out of the ark, he sees signs of death.

What do you think he would do, the next time the earth thundered if he didn’t have this promise?

Even though God knows the world is going to get wicked again, God says, ‘Noah I am never again going to put anybody through what I have just put you through.’ He says to Noah, ‘You can depend on the regular order of nature not being destroyed again on the universal scale.’ Genesis 8:22.

Notice God didn’t demand any pledge of obedience in response to this covenant, the entire initiative is taken by God. ‘I now establish, I am making, I have set, I will remember, I will see it.’

There is only one word to adequately describe a covenant like this, and that is the word grace. Man hasn’t changed, man deserves a flood every year. But God says, ‘no’ and binds Himself to a pledge, and God put the sign for all of life to see, to remember this pledge.

Something is going on here that we miss in English, but the Hebrews would have noticed. The word here for ‘rainbow’ is the same word for ‘bow’, the bow that the hunter uses, the bow that the warrior uses.

What God is saying is, ‘As a sign of my offer of grace and peace to you, I’m going to hang my bow up. I’m going to hang my bow up as a visible sign that, I don’t want judgement, I want relationships.’

The next time the word rainbow appears in the Bible is in Ezekiel 1:25-28. Here we read in the midst of all the fire and lightning, noise and brightness, there is the rainbow, the one element speaking of mercy, the bow of promise which even today speaks of a merciful and covenant-keeping God. The prophet Ezekiel compares the brilliance of his vision of God’s glory to a rainbow.

The bow shows that the God of all majesty and power is also the God of promise and grace who is ever mindful of and faithful to His covenant regarding the earth. Ezekiel makes it clear that the vision concerns the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

In Revelation 4:3, John uses a similar description in his vision of the throne of God. Here again, we see that God has chosen the rainbow as a symbol of His promise and a reflection of His glory.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The appearance of the rainbow, therefore, around the throne, was a beautiful emblem of the mercy of God, and of the peace that was to pervade the world as the result of the events that were to be disclosed to the vision of John. True, there were lightnings and thunderings and voices, but there the bow abode calmly above them all, assuring him that there was to be mercy and peace.’

McGuiggan, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the rainbow.

‘The symbol of a merciful God. The symbol of a covenant-keeping God. In the vision of Ezekiel 1, we have the terrifying picture of the Almighty advancing on his chariot to judge. The only mitigating element in the whole picture is the ‘bow’. Thank God for the mercy. Thank God for the faithfulness which continues to extend mercy even though we don’t deserve it.’

In Revelation 10:1, John in his visions sees a mighty angel robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head. The rainbow once again symbolises God’s everlasting covenant.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘In Revelation 4:3 the throne in heaven is represented as encircled by a rainbow. The rainbow is properly an emblem of peace. Here the symbol would mean that the angel came not for wrath, but for purposes of peace; that he looked with a benign aspect upon people, and that the effect of his coming would be like that of sunshine after a storm.’

Barclay, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The rainbow is caused by the light of the angel’s face shining through the cloud. His face is as the sun which is the description of the face of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, Matthew 17:2’.

The Rainbow And The Coming Judgement

We don’t always see the rainbow when the storm comes but God does, He always sees it, He always remembers. Why hasn’t there been another flood? Why hasn’t there been another universal judgment?

Somebody asked Peter that question one time and he said, ‘God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ 2 Peter 3:9.

That is Peter’s only explanation for why the world is still turning. Every time you see that bow up in the sky still hanging there, you need to hear the sermon ‘God is gracious’.

And we need to hear the same message every time we see the cross because like the bow, the cross is a symbol of judgement but it’s also an offer of peace.

We need to see the foreshadowing of universal judgment. God said, ‘Never again by water.’ So, all the way back in Genesis 9 the next judgement is foreshadowed. And judgement is going to come because man is not going to change, 2 Peter 3:10-11.

Peter likes to call us, ‘aliens and strangers in the world,’ and over and over the Scripture tells us that we are living on an orbiting graveyard.

Nobody likes to be stuck in a cemetery, but everybody is, but the word of the Scripture is, don’t get too comfortable, don’t get too complacent, don’t get too at home in this place, 2 Peter 3:12-14.

Are you looking forward to that absolute destruction of the earth? Are you looking forward to the day when God sets this cemetery on fire?

Well, I can tell if you are because if you are, you will ‘make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.’ 2 Peter 3:14.

You can be at peace with God, the bow is still on the wall of the heavens, and there’s still time to make peace with God. The message of the Bible is this, we are living on an orbiting graveyard, God has hung up the bow for now and He has offered us peace.

But you’ve got to wash the death off and keep it off, that’s why we confess our sins, we don’t want the death to cling to us. We got washed in Christ, we got baptised in Christ and we put on new clothes, Galatians 3:27, we don’t want to put those old clothes back on.

We confess our sins so that the blood can just keep washing the death off, 1 John 1:9. We want to be holy and spotless on the day when this world burns up.

Conclusion

I remember driving up to Scotland with my family one time when the heavens opened, and the rain just poured down. And when it was over, there was this amazing rainbow going from one side of a field to another and in between, there were some cows and sheep in the field, and I thought to myself, God’s art is so much better than man’s and thank God for the constant reminder of His mercy.

Imagine the awe that Noah and his family must have felt as they gazed upon the rainbow! Imagine Noah pondering on its meaning! What do you think about when you see God’s rainbow in the sky?

The rainbow continues to be a symbol of God’s faithfulness and mercy, it symbolises hope and trust in God. It represents the beautiful and awesome chance God continually gives us to start anew after a storm.

The rainbow is a sign of God’s covenant to show mercy, that He will not send another worldwide flood. The true gold at the end of the rainbow is the hope we find in Jesus and the promise of life eternal in heaven.

MENU