Do you remember the first time you saw a rainbow?
Rainbows are iconic, universal, showing up in legends and stories throughout history. Despite years of pollution and our increasingly busy lives, rainbows still make us stop…and look up.
The first recorded rainbow appears in Genesis 9, just after the flood recedes. Noah walks out into the steaming earth and hears the voice of God:
“I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” Genesis 9:13-15 (NRSV)
This is what is called by theologians ‘The Noahic Covenant’—one of several agreements that God made with Israel—and by proxy with all the world.
And here we see this strange imagery of the rainbow, “I have set my bow…”. This word “bow” is the same Hebrew word as the bow of battle. To the original readers, the bow would have been a common sight in battle. It meant war and death.
But for God to “set his bow” meant that war was over, that the struggle was over. This is the sign of the rainbow in the clouds, turned away from us, a bow at rest.
That rest is what we remember when we see it, and it reminds us of all of life. As violent as the storm might be, the rainbow will be there—the power of the thunder and rain turns to beauty and color. That’s all that’s left standing.
The covenant reminds us that a devastation like a flood won’t destroy us again. God will not destroy us and start over; he will work with us and through us to accomplish redemption. He works through each storm in our lives to make beauty and light come through.
Instead of ending history, he works within it. And instead of starting over with humanity, he became one.
He set his bow in the sky. He set his covenant that he will always work with us and within us on our relationship with him. Let’s remember this promise when the storm comes.
Presented by Greg Williams
About the presenter:
Word of Life each Sunday is taken from Speaking of Life, (https://www.gci.org/videos/media-speaking-of-life/), a public resource video on the USA website of Grace Communion International.
Greg Williams is President of Grace Communion International and lives in North Carolina, USA.
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