The Meaning of the Rainbow
One of the great joys in life is to see the appearance of a rainbow right after a storm. Most of us who see on and stop what we are doing, even if just for a brief second, to admire the magnificence of those vibrant colors stretching across the sky. We take a minute to point it out to our children because that is a sight worth seeing. Of course, we understand that the rainbow occurs because of the sun rays that hit fallen raindrops. But do we really understand the significance and deep meaning behind the rainbow?
Over the years, culture has used the rainbow for their own purposes. For example, in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland sang, “Over the Rainbow.” This song is so popular, most everyone recognizes the classic tune. More recently, the rainbow was adopted as the symbol of the modern LGBTQ movement.
However, when we look at Scripture, we find there is a much deeper message. A message that impacts each of us.
The first mention of the rainbow occurs in Genesis right after the flood that destroyed the entire earth. God set the rainbow in the sky as a sign or a token of God’s covenant with man that He will never destroy the earth again by a flood.
The rainbow is mentioned several more times in scripture.
- Genesis 9:13-16 - after the flood
- Ezekiel 1:28 - as “the bow that appears in the cloud in the day of rain”
- Revelation 4:3, 10:1 - the rainbow appears in reference to the glory of God around the throne
The rainbow is a token or sign of the grace of God. The only two times that the rainbow (actually bow or war bow) is mentioned like this is in Genesis and Ezekiel. The rainbow is associated with the justice and judgment of God. God hates evil and He must punish sin; His glory demands it.
Did you know that the rainbow that we commonly refer to is actually a war bow? I want you to picture an actual bow and arrow – the kind that Robin Hood used to defend the poor. The shape of the bow is an arch just like the rainbow. When God lays the bow in the clouds, He is signaling to us that there is not going to be war, but peace instead.
If you think about the placement of the rainbow, the bow is aimed upward toward heaven, not down toward the earth. The significance of this is God telling us that if I fire an arrow, if I punish sin, I will direct that punishment not toward the earth, but toward heaven.
Charles H. Spurgeon described what it means for the bow to point toward heaven and not down at us. It is as if God is saying, “See, I love you, I’m not going to judge you, and if necessary, I’ll take the arrows of my judgment myself.”
Jesus took the arrows Himself. He took God’s punishment and the penalty of our sins. Just as there is no more flood, there is no more condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.
Jesus emptied Himself of His glory, He came to earth in a form that had no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised, rejected, stripped of all beauty and glory.
He was stripped naked, beaten, whipped, and killed. He did that so that we could be clothed in His righteousness and one day get God’s approval, God’s applause.
There are things that your heart wants more than anything else, glory in the approval of others and in performance, and Jesus gave up His glory so that we could have it.
When Jesus died, the veil was ripped in the temple. It means the glory of God is no longer fatal to you. It can come into your life. This not only solves your issue objectively, but it also solves the subjective problem because now it helps me to want to obey Him and to trust Him.
The beauty of the rainbow points to the beauty of the cross. By going to the cross and giving up His glory, that is the most glorious thing that ever happened. That is the difference maker in your life.
So, the next time you are riding in your car and see a rainbow, you can say to your kids, “Let me tell you what that rainbow means. It is a reminder to God so that he remembers His promise not to destroy the earth again. It is also a picture with the up turned bow that on the cross Jesus was judged for our sins so that we would not have to be.”