The Beautiful and Lasting Symbol of the Rainbow
Rainbows have come to mean many things in various societies, cultures, and religions, but to find the true reason for and meaning behind the rainbow, we can look to the Bible.
The narrative found in Genesis 6-9 tells of Noah and his family, who built the ark because they had found favor in God’s eyes for their righteousness. In this account, God was holding humankind accountable for the evil ways and the wickedness that had consumed them all – except for Noah and his family.
God chose Noah and his family to carry out the plans of building the ark to save not only themselves, but all the animals on earth. At the end of this powerful account, God made a covenant with all humankind. God made a vow that he would never again wipe out all life and destroy the earth with a flood.
The rainbow serves as the symbol of his loving covenant to all generations.
Where Do We See the Rainbow in the Bible?
The first instance of a rainbow that we find in the Bible is found in the story of Noah and the flood. God set a rainbow in the sky to serve as a sign of the covenant that he would never again destroy all life with flood waters. It serves as a reminder of God’s forgiveness, truthfulness, and that however great the trials are that we endure, God will remain faithful and good.
“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life” (Genesis 9:13-15).
We also find a few more uses of the word rainbow being used in the Bible. The common element of all three uses of the term rainbow found elsewhere in Scripture is that it used to describe the coloring and imagery of heavenly visions. Truly, rainbows are quite spectacular and reflect the majesty of the Creator.
“Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking” (Ezekiel 1:28).
“And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne” (Revelation 4:3).
“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars” (Revelation 10:1).
What Happened before the Rainbow Appeared?
During the time of Noah and his family, the Bible describes the earth as very corrupt and wicked. Humanity is portrayed as violent and evil. We can only imagine how awful things were for God to bring a flood to destroy the epidemic of wickedness. However, God noticed the faithfulness of Noah and his family and spared them. When the rain began and the flood waters rose for forty days and forty nights, every living thing perished except those who were on the ark. According to Scripture, the flood waters covered the earth for 150 days.
When it was safe, Noah, his family, and the animals left the ark because the flood waters had receded. Noah then built an altar to the Lord out of obedience, sacrifice, and worship to the God who saved him. God saw Noah’s act of trust and blessed him and his family for their faithfulness. God instructed Noah, his family, and all living creatures to increase and multiply and fill the earth.
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Why Did God Send a Rainbow to Noah and His Family?
After the flood, God made a covenant with Noah and all humanity, that he would never again destroy all life by flooding the earth. God set the rainbow in the sky as a sign of his promise to Noah and for all generations to come. The rainbow must have given great comfort and relief to Noah and his family, and it served as a reminder of God’s great love and care for them, even during the most devastating of times.
When we see rainbows today, we know that every rainbow is still a sign of the covenant made thousands and thousands of years ago between God and all generations of humanity. We can trust that God will remain faithful to his promise and that never again will another flood wipe out all life on earth. God made a powerful covenant rooted in grace, love, and forgiveness. God made a covenant that he still honors today. The rainbow reminds us that we can trust God’s faithfulness no matter what we are going through.
Where Else Does God Make Beautiful Promises in the Bible?
We find promises from God all throughout the Bible; in the Psalms, the Gospels, the Pauline letters, the Prophets, and in various books in both the Old and New Testaments. Here is a small selection of promises we can hold onto and pray as believers.
2 Chronicles 7:14 - “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Jeremiah 29:12 - “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”
Isaiah 40:29 - “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”
Psalm 23:4 - “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 37:4 - “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
John 14:27 - “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Romans 10:9 - “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
James 1:5 - “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
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A Prayer to Remember God's Promises Today
Thank you for the vast array of promises we read in the holy Scriptures. Thank you for the ways you care for us and the promises we can count on. Lord, remind us to stand on your promises today. Remind us to meditate on your promises, to pray your promises over our lives and our families and the circumstances we need your help through. Your promises are refreshing, and your faithfulness is great and unmatched. Whatever we are going through, help us to put our faith in you and the promises you have given us. Let us trust you each day as we cling to your promises for hope and guidance. Thank you, Lord, for your grace and your unfailing love.
The rainbow continues to serve as a reminder of God’s covenant to never destroy all life with a flood again. When we face the hardest storms in life, find ourselves in the midst of unexpected battles, and wonder if there’s an end in sight, the rainbow reminds us that God remembers us, loves us, and will always be faithful to save us when we call upon him. The Lord will always stay true to his promises.
We can trust him even when life seems to be spinning out of control. We can trust him when we are in unknown territory facing obstacles that seem insurmountable. Like Noah and his family, we can take one obedient and faithful step at a time, walking hand-in-hand with God, to find our way through whatever we face.
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Pamela Palmer is a writer, speaker, and the founder of upheldlife.com, the platform on which she produces devotionals and faith resources to inspire keeping faith at the center of life. She is in pastoral ministry and gets to share in the emotional and spiritual lives of others. She lives and thrives on Jesus, coffee, and music. She is the author of Living a Deeper Faith: Nurture Your Relationship with God and Live a Faith-Fueled Life. Pamela married the perfect man for her and they have two beautiful kiddos. She has been published on herviewfromhome.com, and you can follow her at upheldlife.com or on Facebook.com/upheldlife.