This rainbow craze seems to have begun in Italy during their COVID-19 lockdown and spread via Facebook – a colourful cheer-up for worried and frightened people in the midst of a global pandemic.
Somehow the symbol of sunshine after a storm felt appropriate to lift spirits and engender a sense of better things to come. When the children in our street began putting crayoned rainbows in their windows I decided to join in. I bought coloured tissue paper and made a massive one with HOPE written in big black letters across it.
But my rainbow faded!
So, when Pentecost came, I bought more tissue paper, renewed my rainbow and added the dove to remind us of the biblical story. The return of the dove bearing her olive branch showed the earth had been cleansed by the flood, but not totally destroyed. The rainbow was a promise that God would never again flood the whole earth – a promise not just for Noah and his family but for all of creation corrupted by our sin.
But my rainbow faded again!
Was hope fading with it? Hope that our government would make wise decisions and hope that the public would obey the rules? Hope that this virus would end soon? Hope for a vaccine? Even my husband complained my faded rainbow was stopping us seeing out and hoped it would come down. So, more tissue and another rainbow but this time arched.
It has to be arched because the biblical word is ‘bow’ – as in archery. Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice to God when he landed on dry ground, and God in response hung up his warrior bow in the sky. John Gill, the 18th century theologian, points out it is aimed upwards towards God, himself, who would offer the ultimate sacrifice for this sin ravaged world by sending Jesus.
Again my rainbow faded!
I suppose all man made rainbows like man made hopes for health, wealth and prosperity are bound to fade. As the pandemic drags on the disappointments mount up – the cancelled holidays, the missed family gatherings and looked forward to events. There’s a weariness with Zoom and also a growing anxiety over the economic downturn and inevitable unemployment. We desperately need a rainbow and a hope that will not fade.
As we mourn this broken world and long for justice and the putting to right of so many wrongs, creation groans with us, longing for deliverance (Romans 8:20-25). And God promises to act. We know he hasn’t given up on his world. Christ will come to judge and purify it with fire, bringing in a glorious new heaven and earth. We wonder why it is taking so long but Peter explains that God is delaying to give time for repentance (2 Peter 3:7-9), and Jesus says the gospel must first be preached to all nations (Matthew 24:14).
Meanwhile, our future destiny is totally secure in the kingdom of God – an inheritance that cannot fade (1 Peter 1: 4), unlike my rainbows! If we believe this we can surrender our small hopes and dreams to his great plan, confident that his purpose will triumph.
Perhaps before Christ comes to renew the earth, he’s using this pandemic to renew his church.
My latest rainbow is small. It too is fading but will be easier to renew. God’s rainbow like true hope is unfading. The prophet Ezekiel speaking to the people of God, suffering the trauma of exile, has a vision of God’s throne and sees the radiance of a bright rainbow wrapped in clouds of glory. At the end of the Bible John has a similar revelation; circling the throne is a rainbow of emerald green (Revelation 4: 3)
Yes, rainbows are actually circular! Scientists say that from the air they are complete circles, without beginning or end. From earth they look arched because they’re blocked by the ground and horizon. God’s rainbow is round – no beginning or end. And green? An evergreen rainbow promising eternal life for those who trust in his unfailing, unfading love and mercy.