Chapter 9:8-17 (ESV) - Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 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. 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.” 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: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 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. 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.” 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.”
Question to consider: What was God’s purpose for the rainbow?
Once everyone and everything had left the ark, God established a new and everlasting covenant with Noah. Covenants throughout scripture shared common elements: a promise by God, stipulations of man, blessings for keeping the covenant, curses for breaking the covenant, the shedding of blood to ratify the covenant, and a sign or seal of the covenant. As long as that sign or seal was witnessed, both God and man would remember the covenant which was established.
In the case of Abraham and Moses, the covenantal sign and seal was circumcision. Every time a newborn male was circumcised on the 8th day, he would become grafted into the family of God, and those who had been circumcised would remember their relationship with God and God would remember His promises. In our covenant with Christ, the sign and seal is baptism. Every time we witness a baptism, we again participate in our own baptism and God remembers His covenant with us.
For Noah, God’s promise was to never again cut off all flesh or destroy the world by the waters of the flood. The stipulations of this covenant for Noah and all of his descendants was to refrain from eating live animals and committing murder. The blessings of keeping this covenant was that they would be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Failure to keep the covenant resulted in God’s curse of taking the life of the covenant breaker. God established a governing authority to carry out this curse. God’s covenant was established by Noah’s bloody sacrifice of some of each of the clean animals and birds when they exited the ark, and today we read of the rainbow being set as God’s sign and seal for remembrance. It’s as if God set down his battle bow as a sign that His war with creation had ended.
From a scientific standpoint, it’s possible that the atmosphere changed after the flood so that conditions can now happen for the rainbow to occur. Whatever the case, Moses was making the point to his readers that every time they see God’s battle bow laid down in the sky, they would remember His awesome promise of mercy to His creation. Each reminder would encourage them in their attempts to keep the law and reassure them that God remembers His promises. May we continue to see God’s rainbow as a reminder to pursue holiness and be thankful that God still shows the same mercy to us.
Dear heavenly father, we thank you for giving us a continued sign to reassure us of Your mercy and give us a reminder that You still keep Your promises. Wherever we witness Your sign, help us to remember that we belong to You and to recommit our lives to bring You praise and honor and blessing. For you are worthy of our praise! Amen.