Broken Rainbows


In Genesis 9, after the flood-judgment, God makes covenant promises to Noah, and to the living creatures of the new world that has been delivered through the judgment. “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'” (Genesis 9:12-13).

In Hosea 2, God speaks of the coming war-judgment on Israel, and of the promises he will make to his people and living creatures. These promises are reminiscent of those he made to Noah after the flood-judgment. “I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will break the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety” (Hosea 2:18). So, there are several parallels:

Flood-judgment // War-judgment

Covenant with Noah & creatures // Covenant with Israel & creatures

Bow hung in the cloud // Bow (& other weapons) broken

In the rainbow—the war bow hung up in the cloud—we have a vivid picture of God’s promise to make war against war itself, to bring everlasting peace and security to the whole world. This is something we have in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have peace with God and with each other in the church because Jesus has removed our enmity through his sacrifice of love. And we have the promise of perfect peace in the New Heavens and the New Earth. Interestingly, it’s most common to see not a full bow in the clouds, but a partial rainbow. This is a better visual symbol of God’s promise to “break the bow,” to bring an end to all our warfare with God and each other. The rare complete rainbow is a sight to see. But, ordinarily, the bow we see is broken. As it should be.

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