I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between me and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.
—Genesis 9:13, 16
Who doesn’t love to see a rainbow? The best one I can remember was a gigantic arc that stretched over the West Maui Mountains in Hawaii as I was about to board a plane that would take me back to the Mainland. “That is a serious one,” my friend said. She had taken up residence on Maui and was closely tuned to the wonders of The Islands. “It means you will be back soon.”
I did return to Maui a few months later, with my two children, for a summer none of us will ever forget. We saw quite a few rainbows, although none as awesome as that first. Ever since Maui, I have thought of rainbows as special signs of good luck, but I did not trace their origin back to Genesis.
In the Ancient Near East (the culture in which Genesis was written),a bow was an instrument of war, as in a bow and arrow. The astonishing message of Genesis 10 is that, after the Flood, God sends a rainbow as a sign that God is "hanging up” God’s war weapon and making a peace covenant with his people.
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease,” God says. (Genesis 9: 2). The rainbow is a sign of promise and also a reminder that God’s way is peace, not war. We are to strive for peace, within ourselves, within families and communities, and between the nations of the world.
Although peace may be the ideal, reality is often very different. The beauty and power of a rainbow is that in spite of our failures and shortcomings, God reminds us with this beautiful symbol to keep trying, on every level, to create peace within and peace without.
Give to us peace, in our time, O Lord. Amen.
Copyright © 2010 Margaret Jones.