Who doesn’t notice when a rainbow sets in the sky?
We know what causes rainbows. In grade school, our teachers taught us it has to do with light and water in the atmosphere, light bending and water reflecting.
This far from Genesis 9, you and I see rainbows with a different eye than Noah. That makes sense scientifically. No one sees the same rainbow. National Geographic taught me that we all have different antisolar points which means we all have different horizons. We may be looking at the same rainbow, but we’re seeing it from different perspectives.
That makes sense theologically as well.
God’s covenant with Noah, with the rainbow as its sign, was God’s sure promise Noah would never endure another flood. It then became our sign no one would ever endure one at all. It’s the same promise seen in a distinct light.
You can almost hear Noah saying to us, “You think you have it bad? Let me tell you what I had to go through before the rainbow!”
The rainbow is a sign of God’s covenant with Noah. Think of it as the signed copy of the agreement. In part, that’s what covenant implies in the Bible. It’s an important word.
Covenants aren’t one-sided. They are partnerships. From God’s covenant with Noah, we know God will not send a flood to destroy humanity. But what about Noah’s part of the agreement?
It has to do with God’s blessing after Noah and his family rode out the flood.
Noah built an altar and sacrificed an offering to God. The Lord blessed Noah and his sons and charged them to, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). When we hear that, I am sure the storyteller expects us to remember God’s similar charge to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1.
Now, let’s also recall how Noah’s story began. Genesis 6 introduces Noah as “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time” (Genesis 6:9). That’s striking because the rest of humanity was anything but blameless.
Here is where I think we see Noah’s end of the deal.
After the flood, God told Noah to increase in number. Before the flood, we’re told that the number of people increased and they brought evil with them. God regretted even creating them.
So Noah’s covenant duty was to continue walking faithfully with God. Doing so would bring God’s peace to the world.
We know rainbows are actually full circles. Ever wonder why we only see half the circle as we gaze at a rainbow’s beauty? There’s a scientific explanation, of course. But could it also be that God reminds us of the promise made to Noah with one half? The rest of the circle we cannot see, then, is our promise to live in a way that brings peace, God’s peace to the world.