As I was reading through and reflecting on the powerful scene of Genesis 6-9, God’s establishment of the rainbow and what it represents overwhelmed me. Here is the text that captivated me:
“God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.” (Gen 9:12-13)
God, the Mighty Warrior, has set His war bow in the clouds (put it away, as it were). Every time it rains, His bow is made visible to us as a reminder.
But think about what it serves to remind us.
It reminds us, first, of the awesome power of God. What did the ‘war bow’ do? It “blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark” (Gen. 7:23). That is power: overwhelming and fearful power. Since that moment in history, mighty men and great armies and technology and the forces of darkness have tried to accomplish something similar, but no one has ever come close to re-creating such a display of strength. And it was not just power to destroy; it was power to cleanse the earth. Noah and his family emerged to a world washed clean.
Which brings me to the second thing this retired ‘war bow’ reminds us: it reminds us of God’s attitude towards sin. We think too little of sin. Oh, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying; we think about sin often- how to do it and how much pleasure this or that might bring us, but when we think about those things we end up thinking “sin isn’t so bad.” We think it is a “little” thing. But read through Genesis 6-8 again. Read through Genesis 3. Read Isaiah 53:3-6 or Mark 15:34. That is the cost of sin and it is no “little” thing. Our God hates sin. Every time we see a rainbow, it should remind us of a great battle by a Holy Warrior against a sinful world.
However, that ‘war bow’ is now hung up. Here is a third truth: God, the Strong Warrior, is also full of mercy. He is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7a). And the rainbow reveals this to us. That day, when Noah emerged from the Ark, God made a covenant with all creation. It was a covenant of grace, a covenant of mercy. To remind us (and Himself) of this great covenant, He hung His bow in the clouds. It is on display for all to see. The Warrior is also the Fount of Mercy and each time the instruments of that one time global destruction fall from the clouds to the earth, all we need to do is look up, for He has left this glorious reminder of His tender mercy.
And, finally, this bow doesn’t just point to a covenant of mercy made that day in the presence of Noah; it reminds us that there was a family standing there with which God could make this covenant. In the midst of judgment, Genesis 6-9 is a story of salvation. God saved Noah. God graciously enclosed Noah in the Ark and safeguarded the Ark through 150 days of global devastation. The Might Warrior is also a Powerful Savior who knows how to deliver His people and the rainbow stands as a beautiful testimony to God our Savior.
And as I reflected upon this glorious symbol and all that it points to, here is where my heart broke…
What is the rainbow commonly associated with in our 21st century culture?
This rich symbol of God’s grace and power and majesty and salvation and holiness has become the banner under which sin is paraded. How many children will grow up seeing those colors as a proclamation of gay pride instead of a reminder of the mercy of the Holy Warrior of Heaven? How many of us now shy away from this symbol because of its connotation in our culture? How many men and women will display a rainbow on their car bumper or t-shirt and yet fail to recognize there is a God who hates sin, but in mercy took all sin upon Himself in order to grant the blessed free gift of Christ’s saving righteousness?
The entire reflection (as well as the writing of this post) has moved me to prayer for the world around us who has shamed the rainbow. May they come to see this glorious heavenly gift for what it truly represents. May we all fall at the feet of the Mighty Warrior and praise Him for His mercy and grace and salvation.