I doubt that I have many readers who are unfamiliar with the story of Noah’s ark, but in case you are, here is a quick synopsis. At some point in time, God looked down on the earth and saw nothing but sin and evil in the people he had made. He was grieved by this and decided to destroy all life on the earth except for a small family of Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives. Noah built a large boat, called an ark, based on instructions he was given by God, and then God shut Noah and his family and some of every kind of animal into the ark and flooded the earth, killing every living thing that wasn’t in the ark. They spent about a year on the ark, then the water dried up and they came out to repopulate the earth. God then made a covenant between himself and the whole world, saying that he would never again destroy the world in a flood. The full story is in Genesis, chapters 6-9.
There is so much beautiful and terrifying imagery in this story. It is a story of both God’s wrath and his grace, his hatred of sin and his mercy toward people. I could write multiple blog posts about the types and pictures. There is one image, though, that I think doesn’t get quite enough attention.
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.”
Some translations use the word rainbow, but the Hebrew word is bow. A weapon, an instrument of death and war. God hangs his bow in the clouds, pointing away from the earth. There are two different ways that we can look at this picture.
The bow in the clouds is in an undrawn state. It is relaxed, not ready to be fired. God has hung his bow up, putting it away. It is no longer a threat. This is a covenant of peace between God and man, initiated by God himself and kept by him.
Or, and this is my personal favorite way of seeing it, God has changed the direction he is pointing his bow. It is no longer aimed at the earth and the people he created, but it is aimed into his own dwelling, into his own heart. He poured out his wrath on the earth in Noah’s time, but the next outpouring of his wrath would be aimed at himself. This is exactly what Jesus came to do. Jesus came to earth as both man and God in order that, after having lived a perfect life, he would go to die on a cross and, as he died, take on all the sins of his people. “For our sake he (God the Father) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Father crushed the Son, pouring his wrath out on Jesus instead of on us, so that we could be made righteous, holy, and blameless in his sight. How glorious! How beautiful!
See how far God went to bring you to him. Jesus went to the cross, to death, to face the holy and terrifying wrath of God so that he could bring sinners to himself as his justified people. He has hung his bow in the clouds as a reminder of the peace that you can have with him through Jesus Christ. Put your faith in Jesus and be reconciled to God.