Rainbow across the sky

CONSIDER for a moment what goes through your head when you see a rainbow.

Growing up in Pietermaritzburg, my memory is associated with rainbows after the summer thunderstorms. It would be roasting hot during the day, cloud over by 3pm, pelt down with water and lightning and thunder, and then the clouds would stretch out and the setting sun would pierce the landscape below them. It was in those moments that the most incredible rainbows would arch over the city.

I grew up as the son of a preacher, and so for me a rainbow has always been synonymous with Noah and the flood. Recently, I’ve been asking the question: what does a rainbow actually mean?

We posed the question on our Facebook page.  I suppose my questions are things like, is a rainbow just refracted light? Or is it more… could it really be an ancient promise? A covenant between God and man?

The short answer is I believe it’s the latter.

I’m a novice in these things, but feel the urge to share some interesting learning curves.

The rainbow points to Jesus. If you consider the rainbow as God’s promise never to wipe out humanity again, you have to consider what he did instead. The idea is profound – it is this idea of grace. For me, it never gets old. He gave us Jesus.

What is interesting about this in the context of the rainbow is what Spurgeon recognised as “vengeance satisfied”. The literal translation of the Greek is not “rainbow” but rather, just “bow”. Spurgeon notes:

Again: in the rainbow, and in Christ, I see vengeance satisfied. Is not the bow the symbol of the warrior’s power? 

Vengeance is there, justice is there; but which way is it pointed? It is turned upward…

I see this in two ways.

1. The bow is aimed not to shoot arrows down on us, but as a reminder that God himself took the vengeance on himself to redeem mankind. The words of 1 Thessalonians 5:9 echo in this picture: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…”

2. The bow is aimed heavenward in another sense. That is, as Spurgeon says, it is “for us, if we have faith enough to string it, and to make it our glorious bow — to draw it with all our might, to send our prayers, our praises, our desires, up to the bright throne of God.”

A rainbow reflects divine grace. What’s interesting is that you never see a rainbow on its own in the middle of the sky… it is always against the backdrop of storm clouds.

It’s as if God’s promise is always most beautiful and most radiant and most apparent in our darkest moments… it is Jesus colliding with those dark moments in our lives. It’s God showing his kindness towards us.

Rainbow is a sign of beauty. It reflects, in part, who God is. When my kids see a rainbow, they run inside clapping, jumping up and down, and shouting: “Daddy! Daddy! Come and see! Come and see!” Their response to the mere sight of a rainbow is one of awe, intense wonder and huge excitement.

Consider, in contrast, our adult response to God. We have to audit those moments – and consider carefully – where we are not really seeing God for who He is. If we did, our response would surely reflect that of a child? In those moments, where we don’t see God for who He is, it’s important to ask why.

But that’s for another blog.

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