Being born at the tail end of 1981, I grew up with many rainbow images, such as the rainbow colored marshmallows of my favorite cereal, Lucky Charms, and my favorite video series from elementary school had the word in its name, Reading Rainbow! I preferred M and Ms to Skittles, but I was quite aware of the Skittles’ rainbow themed commercials. My sister’s cartoons of choice had rainbows front center in their imagery too: Care Bears, Rainbow Brite, and My Little Pony. I’m sure I even thought of Oz when I saw a rainbow. In high school I discovered the band Rainbow, that featured Ritchie Blackmoore, the man who wrote the famous “Smoke on the Water” riff, and Dio, the greatest voice of metal. I still see the rainbow featured often in my daughter’s 21st century cartoons, but to be fair, when many of us see a rainbow image today, childhood shows and cartoons probably don’t come to mind. What comes to mind today when you see a rainbow? What comes to my mind with rainbow imagery makes me think the band Rainbow would have chosen a different name if they were to form today.
Most of you probably answered something about gay pride, same-sex marriage, or the LGBTQ community coming to mind when you see rainbows today.
The image of the rainbow is linked so closely today with homosexuality; the White House was lit up with the colors of the rainbow the evening of the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in America for instance. The link is so strong to homosexual practice that many Christians today shy away from the use of rainbow colors or imagery to avoid promoting actions and a lifestyle that Scripture states as sinful.
This however does not have to be the case and should not be the case. The Bible after all prominently features a rainbow as a sign of a promise that God made with Noah after he destroyed the world via a flood. The promise that God made was that he would never again destroy the world via a flood.
We can remember much when we see a rainbow. We can remember God’s promise to Noah and all living creatures. We can look to the rainbow and be reminded of how God has given us promises that are both of Law and of Gospel.
When we look to the rainbow, we are reminded that God did destroy the world once due to the wickedness of mankind. We can understand how wicked we are capable of being when we consider the many millions of deaths that occurred in the 20th century under Atheistic, Communist regimes. Just how bad men had become Scripture is not clear, but certainly evil enough that God destroyed all of mankind, except Noah and his family. Noah alone found favor with God, because he walked with God.
Concerning Law, the outside color of blue reminds us of the flood waters of Noah’s day. The outside color of red, reminds us that God has promised that he will destroy the world again. He will keep his promise and not use water. This time he will destroy the world with fire.
The rainbow also can remind us of God’s promises of good news. The outside blue, reminds us of baptism into Jesus Christ. The way to be saved when the world is destroyed by fire is to be in the waters of baptism. Peter tells us that the waters of Noah’s day, the waters by which eight people were saved, symbolize the waters of baptism that now save us. He says that the waters of baptism save us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In baptism, we are buried with Christ in his death and raised with him to new life.
The outside red of the rainbow reminds us of communion. Communion is a meal that Jesus instituted on the night that he was betrayed to death. In it, he took bread and after giving thanks, broke it and said, “Take Eat, this is my body given for you.” He also took a cup of wine and said, “Take drink, this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” He told his disciples to eat of this bread and drink of this cup often in remembrance of him and that when we do this we are proclaiming his death until he comes again to bring us to the eternal home he is preparing for us.
The rainbow also points to Jesus. It is a bow, as in a bow and arrow. God’s bow is no longer pointed down at us. It is pointed up to heaven. God’s wrath against the wickedness of men has been turned to his Son, who became sin for us, and who was pierced for our transgressions.
Here with the rainbow we see God’s promises of both Law and Gospel.
Join me in sharing this message of God’s plan of salvation and the end of evil. Join me in sharing the promises of God, both of warning and of hope, found in the rainbow.