How do you remember things? Do you put reminders in your phone? Do you use a calendar that hangs on a wall or on your refrigerator? Do you use post it notes? How do you remember things? Have you forgotten things that you should have remembered? Everyone of us needs help in remembering things, sometimes important things. God knows that we have faulty minds, and we forget things that we should not forget. One of the ways God helps us to remember important things is by giving us signs or symbols to help recall important truths. One of those signs is the rainbow. I want us to think about that today; why it’s important, how it should impact your daily life and why God wants you to remember it. The rainbow of God is mentioned four times in the Bible and today, we are going to look at the first time it is mentioned. The first time we encounter God’s rainbow is in Genesis 9:8-17.

Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, “Now behold, I Myself am establishing My covenant with you, and with your descendants 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 comes out of the ark, every animal of the earth. 11 I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be eliminated by the waters of a flood, nor shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations; 13 I have set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall serve as a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall come about, when I make a cloud appear over the earth, that the rainbow will be seen in the cloud, 15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the rainbow is in the cloud, then I will look at it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (NASB)

This section begins with these three words, Then God spoke…. What just happened before God spoke these words? Back in Genesis 6 we are told “the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth” and “that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually” (v.5). In addition, we are told “the earth was corrupt” and “filled with violence” (v.11). It had dived into the depths of corruption, wickedness, and violence because of what happened between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of mankind” (vs. 1-4). They married and had children that became known as the Nephilim (v.4). This corrupted humanity in ways unimaginable which produced great wickedness and violence. Because of the depths and intensity of the corruption, God – all wise, all loving, all holy, all merciful, and all-powerful – decided to bring judgement upon the earth. His judgement was severe. He had Noah build an ark for his family and certain animals that God would bring to the ark. It took Noah about 120 years to build the ark. When the ark was completed and the animals on board, God shut the massive door to the ark. The floods came. Genesis 7 tells us, “… all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. The rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights” (vs. 11-12, NASB). As a result of this great flood of judgement the Bible says that “all creatures that moved on the earth perished” except for those in the ark (v. 21). Once the floods subsided, Noah and his family exited the ark. The first thing Noah did was to build an “altar to the Lord” and worshiped God (Genesis 8:20, NASB). It was during this time of worship that God spoke to Noah. God made a covenant with Noah. In this covenant God promised to never destroy the earth with a flood again. As a reminder of this covenant, God chose to use the rainbow as a sign and symbol of His promise to Noah and all the generations to follow that “all flesh shall never again be eliminated by the waters of a flood” (Genesis 9:11, NASB).

This covenant by God begins with the two words, “Now behold….” The word “behold” (hinneh) means pay close attention to what you are about to hear, to listen closely and immediately. The word includes strong feelings and calls for special attention. In short, it is the Holy Spirit’s way of attempting to grab your attention and make you notice something important. God does not want you to miss this. There is something significant here for you. When you see God’s Word saying, “behold,” it’s like a spiritual billboard with arrows pointing to something important. It’s like a divine yellow highlighter that God has highlighted in your Bible that He wants you to pay attention too.

There is a lot happening and many lessons within this event. However, I want to focus on the rainbow and what we learn from it and why it’s significant to your life today.

God’s rainbow points to the sovereignty of God

Number one, God’s rainbow points to the sovereignty of God. God says in verse 9, “I Myself am establishing My covenant with you…” (NASB). God is the initiator of this covenant and there are no conditions that need to be kept for it to be valid. You cannot think about the Biblical rainbow without thinking about the Biblical flood.

  • God created Noah and all the animals.
  • God told Noah what He was about to do.
  • God gave Noah the precise building plans for the Ark.
  • God brought all the animals to be on the Ark to the Ark.
  • God brought the rain.
  • God shut the door to the Ark.
  • God established the covenant with Noah and all the generations to follow.
  • God set the rainbow in the clouds.

Everything about this event screams God is sovereign. God is in charge. He rules. He reigns. He is in control.

Notice carefully that God says, “I myself am establishing My covenant….” This covenant is unilateral. That means it’s a covenant made by one. A bilateral covenant would be made by two. This is a unilateral covenant. What this means is that God is going to fulfill this promise regardless of what people do or don’t do. This is not a mutual agreement. When you think of a covenant, you generally think of something that is bilateral. You think of it probably like a treaty or some kind of agreement that has mutual agreement between two people. That is not true of this covenant. This is a one-way covenant driven by God.

God is not saying if you do this and do that then I’ll do this and do that. If you don’t do this and do that, then I won’t do this and won’t do that. It is not like that.

  • God says, “I Myself.” That’s in verse 9.
  • Look at verse 11, “I establish My covenant.”
  • Verse 12, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between me and you.”
  • Verse 17, “This is a sign of the covenant I have established.”

God and Noah are not saying together, “we enter into this covenant.” God says, “I am creating, establishing, and entering into this covenant toward you and all humanity.” The promise, the covenant is unilateral. God determines to make this promise on His own, without consulting humanity about it. He is establishing this promise and covenant as the Creator and Sovereign God that He is.

When you see the rainbow let it remind you that God is sovereign and in control.

God’s rainbow points to the faithfulness of God

Number two, God’s rainbow points to the faithfulness of God. God says He is establishing “My covenant.” When God makes a covenant with someone, He is promising to do certain things or not do certain things. He is making a promise to do what He said He would do. In this particular covenant, God promised to not destroy the earth again with a flood. This is why God says in verse 11, “I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be eliminated by the waters of a flood, nor shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth” (NASB).

Another way God’s faithfulness is demonstrated in this covenant is when He says, “It shall come about, when I make a cloud appear over the earth, that the rainbow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh” (Genesis 9:14-15, NASB). When God says “I will remember” (zakar), it doesn’t mean that He needs help to remember things because He might forget. The phrase “I will remember” is a covenant term meaning I will be faithful. God does not need a sign to remind Him to be faithful, but you and I need a sign to remind us of God’s faithfulness.

Throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament, you see God making several covenants. This covenant is called the Noahic Covenant. The reason you see God making several covenants in the Old Testament is so He can demonstrate His faithfulness. He makes a covenant and promise with Noah and all creation, and He keeps that promise. He makes another covenant with Abraham and He keeps that covenant. He makes another covenant with David and keeps that promise.

Every covenant God makes with someone He has an opportunity to demonstrate His faithfulness and trustworthiness. By the time you get to the New Testament where God makes a covenant with His people through Jesus Christ you now have a track record with God that He will keep every promise made in the new covenant in Christ. When God promises under the New Covenant in Christ to forgive you of your sins, He keeps it. When He promises to guide and provide for you, He does it. When He promises that you have a home in heaven and that He will some day return, He will do it. Overtime, throughout history, God has kept His covenant promises without fail. He has demonstrated His faithfulness.

Verse 14 says, “It shall come about when I bring a cloud over the earth and the bow shall be seen in the cloud and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh, and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.” Not only will you see that and remember, but I’ll see that and remember. You say, “Does God need visual reminders?” No. But this is His way to tell us that He doesn’t forget. Remember, the word remember is familiar Old Testament covenant language. God never forgets His promise, God remembers His covenant and God is faithful. God’s rainbow reminds you of God’s faithfulness.

God’s rainbow points to the wrath of God

Number three, God’s rainbow points to the wrath of God. In verse 13, God says, “I have set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall serve as a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth” (NASB). Notice God says, “I have set My rainbow in the cloud….” The word rainbow is a Hebrew word (qeshet) which means bow, soldiers weapon. It is a word used for battle, a weapon of death and destruction. In the Old Testament, a bow was used to symbolize wrath and war. When a war was over, the soldier would hang his bow on the wall. He would “set” or hang his bow on the wall. God says, “I have set My rainbow in the cloud….” My wrath is over!

The Old Testament describes God like a warrior. Exodus 15:3 says, “The Lord is a warrior.” Habakkuk 3:9, “His bow is made bare.” Zachariah 9:14, “His arrows are lightning.” God is depicted as a warrior with a bow. In the Flood, God the Warrior shot His lightning arrows, pierced the earth, the earth broke open, and then the sky fell and it flooded the earth. God bent His bow in wrath. But from now on – follow this – God has hung up His bow and He hung it in the sky where everybody can see it.

Next time you see a rainbow, Think of it as God’s bow. He hung it up because He would never judge the earth like that again. Even though, God’s rainbow is a sign of grace and mercy (which we will talk about in a minute), it is a reminder that God is holy and He must judge sin.

God’s rainbow points to the grace of God

Number four, God’s rainbow points to the grace of God. In the Bible there is what is called common grace and special grace.

  • Common grace is where God blesses everyone without condition. Psalm 145:9 says, “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Jesus said God causes “his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45) and God “is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35). Common grace is an expression of God’s love given to those who love Hiim and who don’t love Him. He blesses each with health, rain, sunshine, families, friends, food, air to breath, etc. That’s common grace, everyone gets to enjoy that.
  • Special grace is for those who are followers of Jesus. For those who are born again they have been blessed with the Holy Spirit, salvation, fellowship with God, a place in heaven, etc. It is special grace because its especially for God’s people.

In Genesis 9, we see common grace in this covenant. He is promising all of mankind and the entire earth that He will not judge or destroy the earth in this way again. Everyone benefits from this. The other covenants in the Bible do not apply to all of humanity, but this covenant, the Noahic Covenant, does apply to everyone. It applies to everyone because of common grace. This is the covenant that is the basis of God’s goodness to all humanity.

This promise is universal. God’s common grace will be experienced by all. Look at verse 10, “With every living creature.” Verse 11, “With you and all flesh.” Verse 12, “Between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations.” Verse 15, “Between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh.” And verse 16, “Between God and every living creature of all flesh.” And verse 17, “Between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” Nobody is going to ever be left out of this promise. It is universal.

Back in Genesis 8:21 God says, “I’ll never again curse the ground on account of man even though the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth, I’ll never again destroy every living thing.” Man isn’t going to be any different. Man will be fallen. Sin will abound. The problem will be the same. But God says, “I won’t judge the earth again with a flood.” So, the rainbow then, is a symbol of grace, it’s a symbol of mercy. The only time you see a rainbow is after a storm. It’s when the storm is passed and the sun shines through. A rainbow is a picture then of grace after judgment.

God’s rainbow points to faith in God

Number five, God’s rainbow points to faith in God. To look at the rainbow and to say, “God put that rainbow as a sign of His covenant with all of creation. That rainbow is a symbol of God’s existence, God’s faithfulness, God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s sovereignty, God’s wrath, God’s holiness, and God’s salvation,” takes faith. Every time you see a rainbow let it remind you that your God is worthy to place your faith and trust in!

Your faith in God is constantly under attack. God must constantly remind you to keep your faith in Him. He is reliable. He is trustworthy. He keeps His promises. Noah would struggle with his own doubts, but you will struggle with your own doubts in God as well. You will need to be told over and over again that God is faithful because you will need to believe it over and over again. Notice how God repeats Himself about His covenant:

  • In verse 9, “I Myself am establishing My covenant with you.”
  • In verse 11, “I establish My covenant with you.”
  • In verse 12, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you.”
  • In verse 15, “I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and You.”
  • In verse 16, “I will look upon it [the rainbow], to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature.”
  • In verse 17, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh.”

Noah’s faith would be challenged. Think about it, up to this point it has never rained on the earth. The first time Noah saw rain fall from the sky was when God flooded the entire earth. After the flood, rain would be a regular occurrence like it is today. Can you imagine what was going through Noah’s mind when the next time it started to rain. Noah might have thought, “Is God flooding the earth again. He didn’t tell me about this. I don’t have the boat ready. I don’t have any food in it. I’m not prepared.” He could be filled with panic, fear, worry, doubt, and confusion.

However, when the common rain or common storms were over there would appear God’s rainbow as a reminder that God promised to never judge the earth like that again. It would serve as a reminder to Noah and his family to trust God, to have faith in God, and depend on Him being a covenant keeping and promise keeping God.

The same is true for you. When you see God’s rainbow let it remind you that God is faithful. You can trust Him. You can place your faith in Him. He will keep His word. Just like Noah needed to hear it over and over and over again; you need to hear God’s promises over and over and over again. This is why it’s important for you to be and stay in God’s Word throughout your life.

God’s rainbow is a warning sign

Number six, God’s rainbow is a warning sign. Once you understand that God’s rainbow is a bow that was used to bring wrath, judgement and war upon others it also serves as a warning sign. Even though God has set His bow in the clouds and declared that His wrath with the flood is over, and He would never destroy the earth with a flood like that again there remains an implication and maybe even a foreshadow of another and even greater judgement to come.

God promised to never judge the world with a flood again, but this is not a promise of never judging the world ever again. God will judge the world in the future, but it will be with fire, not water. Peter referred to this when he wrote, “But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment” (2 Peter 3:10, NLT).[1] Peter then goes on to say we should live “holy and godly lives” (v.11) an example and to give weight to the testimony of God’s salvation when you share it with others.

God’s rainbow points to a fresh start

Number seven, God’s rainbow points to a fresh start. The rainbow is connected to a fresh start, a new beginning. This is an opportunity for humanity to start over. It’s a reboot. The world gets a fresh start; God reboots the whole thing. The storm is over and it’s time to rebuild.

That is essentially what God told Noah in Genesis 9:1. The Bible says, Then God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth” (NLT). God’s rainbow is a reminder that God is a God of fresh starts. Do overs. New beginnings. The Bible says God’s mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23).

For me, God’s rainbow also reminds me of something God did in my life when I trusted Him for the forgiveness of my sins and my salvation. When I placed my faith in Christ and became a follower of Jesus, God’s Word says I became a new creation. God gave me a fresh start and a new beginning. God’s rainbow reminds me that I am loved by a God of a second chance.

God’s rainbow points to the salvation of God

Number eight, God’s rainbow points to the salvation of God. When we see God’s rainbow we should always be reminded of God’s faithfulness and His amazing grace. We should also be reminded that our God is a holy and righteous God who has a holy hatred for sin and who will not allow sin to go unpunished forever but will always make a gracious and loving way to escape His wrath.

Just as God provided a way for Noah and his family to be saved in the ark, He also has provided a way for us to be saved through Jesus Christ. Noah and his family were saved from the wrath of God that came in the flood, just as those who are in Christ are saved from the “wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10).

God’s rainbow is a reminder that to all those who see it they can be saved and rescued from the flood of sin in their life. God has prepared an ark called Christ and if you place your faith in Him you will be saved, forgiven, and given a new and fresh start.

Conclusion

People, nations, and people groups throughout history have used the rainbow for their own purposes.[2] They are free to do that. However, for you, as a follower of Jesus, you understand the true meaning behind the rainbow. It is a spiritual reminder of how great your God is! It is a display of His glory, His wrath, His grace, His mercy, His salvation, His faithfulness and His sovereignty.

[1] God’s wrath and judgement are described as “a strange thing” and “an unusual thing” (Isaiah 28:21, NLT).

[2] Throughout history nations, people groups, and organization have all used the rainbow as a symbol of some type. In the Albanian culture the rainbow is believed to be the belt of the goddess of beauty who later became a Catholic saint by the name of Prende, whose name is derived from the word perendi, meaning heaven, and swallows were harnessed to her carriage and pulled her through the gates of heaven. The rainbow symbolized her belt. The Greek mythology the rainbow to the goddess Iris who was the daughter of Thaumas and Elektra, the sister of Harpies and a messenger of the gods of Olympus. The rainbow is also said to be the belt of Iris or a footpath between heaven and earth. And some have said it is a stairway which descends from heaven to earth and back again so that messengers can bring messages from the gods. Throughout Australia a serpent has been used as a simile of the rainbow. This is also seen in Africa and in some cultures in Brazil. In some parts of the world the rainbow is believed to be the cause of drought because the rainbow appears when there’s water. And so the superstition is that the rainbow is like a sponge and pulls up water. And it will draw up water into the sky so that it is taken from the earth and that’s what creates droughts.

            There are several superstitions that have been attached to the rainbow as well. In ancient Europe it was believed if you point at a rainbow, your finger would fall off. Another superstition about the rainbow is there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow with Irish Leprechauns guarding it.

            The laws of physics make it impossible to walk under a rainbow or to find the end of the rainbow. But there were some in ancient Europe who believed that if you passed beneath a rainbow and you were a man, you would instantly become a woman. And if you were a woman, you would instantly become a man.

            To Muslims in Iran, the brilliance of the colors of the rainbow al have significance. Prominent green means abundance. Read means war, yellow brings death, and so forth.

            The Arawak Indians of South America recognized the rainbow as a sign of good fortune if seen over the ocean, and a sign of bad fortune if seen on land. Tribes in northeastern Siberia see the rainbow as the tongue of the sun. And even in America, North American Indians tribes regard it as a bridge between the living and the dead.

            Rainbow have preoccupied various cultures throughout the history of mankind. Even Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz said, “Somewhere over the rainbow there’s a land where dreams really do come true.” Even Kermit the Frog says, “We are all watching for the rainbow and someday we’ll find it. The rainbow connection, the lovers, the reamers and me.” On a far less trivial note, the LGBTQ+ community have adopted the rainbow as their own symbol representing their diversity.

            However, as followers of God we believe what God says about the rainbow and what He says it represents. It represents His covenant with all of mankind and it reminds us of His faithfulness, His existence, His wrath, His mercy, His grace, His salvation and a fresh start found only in Him through His Son Jesus Christ.