Not a rain-arc. Not a rain-wheel. Not a rain-dome. A rain-bow. Why rain bow?
Here’s what God says after the flood-waters abate:
“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: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, 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 the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 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.” (Genesis 9:12-16)
Later we’ll discuss the meaning of “covenant”. For now let’s just call it a promise – a promise grounded in committed, faithful love.
So God promises never to flood the whole world again. And to this promise He attaches a sign (He likes doing this). The sign will be a bow in the clouds.
Notice two things about this.
First notice who the bow is reminding. It’s reminding us, yes. But explicitly God says He sets it in the cloud “that I may remember.”
When we remember God’s promise of life, that’s reassuring. But to know that God remembers His covenant – that is true assurance.
Secondly, let’s think about this sign. A bow.
This is not a bow to put in your hair. It’s not a bow you tie around a present. This is a war-bow. This is a “bow and arrow” bow. This bow is death-dealing.
You might think – that’s a funny sign to attach to a promise of life! Well it would be if the bow was pointed at us. If the bow was pointed at us it would be a divine threat. But it’s not. It’s pointed at heaven.
You see, the world is no better since the flood. Human hearts are still bent on evil. The earth is still filled with violence. And God is still angry with sin. He will let fly with an arrow of judgement. Evil matters to the good God. But His arrow won’t pierce our hearts. It’s aimed at the Man of Heaven.
This is the way God upholds His promise of life. He doesn’t put away the bow. He doesn’t smile at wickedness and pretend it’s nothing. He is still at war with sin. But He won’t fire the judgement at us. On the cross, Christ will absorb heaven’s blow for us.
Next time you see a rainbow, don’t just admire the colours. Be astonished at the love.