We have been hearing and reading in the news about global warming, the threat of more violent storms, and rising seas that could flood the earth to the point of destroying it. God, however, in the Scriptures made a covenant that “neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Gen. 9:11) The seal of this covenant of nature was the rainbow, which Noah had never seen in the clouds before. Regarding this seal of the covenant made by a divine institution, we observe several important things.
This seal is affixed with repeated assurances of the promise it was designed to ratify. “I do set my bow in the cloud and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.” (vs. 13) “The bow shall be seen in the cloud and I will remember my covenant … the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.” (vss. 14,15) The bow was given so that its sight might strengthen man’s heart and confirm faith in God’s promise. “I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature.”—vs.16
A rainbow appears in the clouds when the clouds are most likely to deliver rain. It often returns after the rain; when we have most reason to fear the rain continuing. Then, God shows this seal of the promise that it will not continue. In this way God calms our fears with such encouragements that are both suitable and reasonable. The thicker the cloud the brighter the bow in the cloud. Thus, as threatening afflictions abound, encouraging consolations abound much more.—2 Cor. 1:5,4
The rainbow appears when one part of the sky is clear, which implies mercy remembered amid wrath, and the clouds may appear to be hemmed in by the rainbow. The rainbow is caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun’s light by rain or other water droplets in the atmosphere. This illustrates that all of the glory and significance of the seal of the covenant are derived from Christ, the “Sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2), who is also described with a “rainbow about his throne,” and a “rainbow upon his head.” (Rev. 4:3,10:1) This intimates, not only his majesty, but his mediatorship.
The colors of the rainbow signify God’s faithfulness (blue), Jesus’ sacrifice (red), Jesus exalted to be the “Sun of righteousness” (yellow), and the promise of life to man (green). It is a bow directed upwards toward heaven and not downwards, towards the earth. The seal of the covenant was intended to comfort man, not to terrify him. Marvelously adapted, it serves as a type of mercy following judgment—as a sign of the connection between man’s sin and God’s free and unmerited grace. As God looks upon the bow that he may remember the covenant, we, too, should also be mindful of the covenant with faith and thankfulness, for God hath truly promised, “The earth abideth forever.”—Eccles. 1:4
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