The Rainbow: A Sign of Grace amidst Judgment

The rainbow is a sign of God's promise regarding global floods and his wrath. It is also a sign of God's grace amidst judgment.

Every year some part of the world is flooded. Recently, Texas and Oklahoma have endured historic flooding, destroying property and taking lives. So severe was the flooding that the Blanco River rose 12-14 feet in thirty minutes.

May 2015 has been the wettest in history for many parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Personally, it seems like it’s rained every day this month in East Texas. The Dallas-Fort Worth area has seen rain in 18 of the first 24 days in May according to WFAA.

It seems like the rain just will not end.

This has led many to post various memes referencing Noah’s Ark (click for full size):

Noah called, he picks us up in 10 minutes. Meanwhile in Texas -- Noah's Ark

Rainbows: A Sign of God’s Promise to Us

While the parallels may be inaccurate (i.e., these floods are localized, Noah’s was global; these killed a handful, Noah’s killed all except a handful), there is something common to both: rainbows.

The first rainbow was given following Noah’s flood as a promise from God:

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 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. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and 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 sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” – Gen 9:8-17 (ESV)

God told Noah that the rainbow would be a sign of a covenant, a divine promise, between him and all creation. God promised “that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (v. 11). He repeated this promise in verse 15: “the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.”

Notice that he did not promise to never again send floods. He promised two things:

  • He would never again destroy the entire earth with a global flood
  • He would never again destroy all human life with a global flood

This is a promise that God made and that God has kept. The sign of that promise is the rainbow. However, this is more than just a promise of no more earth-ravaging, life-ending global floods. The rainbow is a sign of grace amidst judgment.

Rainbows: A Sign of God’s Grace Amidst God’s Judgment

To begin to appreciate this, we have to be reminded of why God sent the global flood in the first place. Contrary to Aronofsky’s anti-biblical “Noah” starring Russell Crowe, it was not about an environmentalist agenda. Scripture makes it clear that God sent the flood as judgment for man’s sinfulness (Gen 6:1-5): marital infidelity (v. 2), sexual immorality (v. 4), and ever-growing sinful desires and thoughts (v. 5). Basically, there was nothing righteous in what mankind did, thought, or wanted (cf. Rom 3:10-18).

Because of man’s rampant, unadulterated sinfulness, because of their utter wretchedness and desire for nothing good or holy, God decided to send judgment. In this case, death (cf. Rom 6:23a), just as he warned Adam and Eve—and thus all mankind—would happen if they sinned (Gen 3:3, 19). Despite knowing what consequences would eventually come to those who sin, man chose sin. Thus, God decided it was time for judgment to come.

So God made it rain… and rain… and rain… and rain.

He flooded the world, destroying creation and killing all human life except for the only ones who were faithful to God (not perfect, just faithful): Noah and his family.

7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. – Gen 6:7-8 (ESV)

Amidst the judgment, there was mercy. Admidst the wrath, there was grace. Noah was not perfect (cf. Gen 9:21). Because all who sin have earned death, God would have been justified to destroy Noah and his family along with the rest of humanity. Nevertheless, Noah received God’s “favor,” that is, God’s grace.

Why did Noah receive grace? Although he was righteous, he never earned God’s grace. Rather, as God always does, he gave grace to those who had faith in God alone. In this case, that was Noah (cf. Heb 11:7).

In the middle of all the wrath and judgment for sin, God gave grace to those who put their faith in God alone. However, the grace and mercy didn’t end with the Ark. God poured out mercy on all creation after the waters subsided, and signified that grace with the rainbow.

The rainbow assures us that God will never again destroy all creation with a flood. Regional floods will come and go, but never again will he send a global flood.

The rainbow is a promise of mercy to the Earth and all its inhabitants amidst the destruction of God’s wrath being poured out.

But the rainbow goes beyond just a symbol of a promise. God chose the rainbow for a reason, and it has nothing to do with politics or social issues. The rainbow is the total of all visible colors in the light spectrum. It is the complete collection of all the colors humans can see.

Furthermore, the rainbow’s colors, when combined, are white, the color of absolute purity and holiness. Thus, the rainbow represents the visible aspects of God’s glory! The rainbow is God revealing his glory to us, reminding us that though he is a righteous judge, he is also a merciful savior.

The rainbow reminds us that even in the harshest of times God is still there. It reminds us that even though God does judge—and sometimes quite severely—he is not devoid of mercy.

The rainbow is a reminder of the gospel. It reveals God’s glory, reminds of grace, and calls us to respond. The rainbow should remind Christians that we must proclaim God’s grace that is the gospel. The rainbow reminds all mankind to trust in the risen Lord, the one who is the light, and the one through whom all creation was made: Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:1-5)!

All who put their faith in Jesus alone will receive God’s grace and are saved from God’s wrath!

About John L. Rothra
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