Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, you may have noticed the sudden appearance of rainbows in windows near where you live. It has become a symbol of hope for people, and a way of lifting our spirits in this difficult time.
The picture above was drawn by one of my budding artist daughters…
But did you know that the rainbow has a specific meaning in the Bible?
The rainbow was a symbol which God gave humanity shortly after the flood of Noah. Here is part of the story from Genesis 9.
God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9 “As for me, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the livestock, and every animal of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ship, even every animal of the earth. 11 I will establish my covenant with you: All flesh will not be cut off any more by the waters of the flood. There will never again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “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: 13 I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it will be a sign of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow will be seen in the cloud, 15 I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh, and the waters will no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 The rainbow will be in the cloud. I will look at it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the token of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
Genesis 9:8-17 (WEB)
At the end of the global flood, God had preserved Noah and his family on the Ark. God made a covenant with humanity and all of the living creatures of the Earth, that He would never again destroy all flesh with a flood. God said that the rainbow would be a token between us and God of this promise.
So the rainbow in the sky is a reminder of God’s covenant. When God makes a promise, He means it. While the text above does say that God will remember the covenant when He sees the rainbow, there is no danger of Him forgetting. Rather it is for us to know that God remembers what He has promised us.
God did not promise that the world would never end, simply that all life would not be destroyed by flood. In fact, in Peter’s second letter to the church, he writes that the heavens and the earth will indeed come to an end but not in floodwaters, but burning heat (see 2 Peter 3:10).
I have not heard anyone suggest that COVID-19 will destroy all flesh, as Noah’s flood once did, but there are some asking if it is a sign of the End Times. The Bible does not appear to mention COVID specifically, although does say that pestilence is such a sign. Whether it is a specific sign of the End Times or not, I think it is a clear warning or opportunity from God for all of us to assess our relationship with Him and make sure we are in right standing with him.
The rainbow of Noah’s story is not the only rainbow we see in the Bible. In the book of Ezekiel, he opens his prophecy with a strange description of heavenly, angelic beings and even tries to describe the glory of the Lord.
In verse 28 we read:
As the appearance of the rainbow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.
Ezekiel 1:28 (WEB)
So vivid is the appearance of the Lord’s glory, Ezekiel struggles to describe it. He likens it to the appearance of a bright rainbow in the sky on a cloudy day.
We also see a rainbow surrounding the throne in heaven.
Immediately I was in the Spirit. Behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and one sitting on the throne 3 that looked like a jasper stone and a sardius. There was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald to look at.
Revelation 4:2-3 (WEB)
We also see some angels wear the likeness of a rainbow.
I saw a mighty angel coming down out of the sky, clothed with a cloud. A rainbow was on his head. His face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.
Revelation 10:1 (WEB)
The rainbow, therefore, is a simile for heavenly glory. The glory of God and His heavens are such that they cannot be described in words. They can only be expressed in figures of speech to give us some glimmer of understanding.
Rainbows are an impressive sight. Whenever the sun and rain collide, you will often hear people mention a rainbow, and scanning the skies to find one. When they appear, bright and crisp above us, they can be breath-taking. God’s glory goes far beyond this.
As you take your daily exercise today, why not go rainbow spotting. If the weather is right, yu may see a real one, and if not, then there’s a good chance you’ll see them displayed in a nearby window.
Focus on that rainbow. It has a specific promise behind it, and yet also symbolises the very glory of God. Take the time to praise Him for His glory this day and always!