What is a rainbow? In the spirit of our current age we might be most enamored to discuss its physical attributes; to describe its optical characteristics—the refraction of light, angles, measurements, molecules, water, air, and then add in some surprising statistics which render it malleable to our technological proclivities. But in all our scientific jargon, have we come any closer to knowing a rainbow? I suspect that in our modern sensibility we might congratulate ourselves at least—in this description based upon our present knowledge of physics—for leaving behind the spiritual or metaphorical meaning of the rainbow; these other meanings, which we might now term as mythological, or call a fantasy, befitting a more primitive time and a more primitive people. But since we are enlightened now, we must speak of things in scientific terms, believing that this, somehow, is the only way that will get us closer to the truth; self-satisfied in our very rational response to the supposed errors of the past. But we are simply making new errors in the present; worse errors if we forget the root of all things as residing in God, and if we continue along alone without this understanding of God as the basis of all things, we walk forward blindly with only our humanistic and technological perspectives to guide us.
Originally, from the Bible, we learn that the rainbow is a covenant. It is the sign of a relationship. It represents, in tangible ways, the love of God for humankind and His love for the creatures of our world. It is a sign of His mercy, and His forgiveness for the transgressions of humankind, and a symbol of a new start—redemption—and fresh opportunities for us to return to Him, and to rekindle our relationship with our Creator. From the book of Genesis: “And God said, ‘ This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations; I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.”
A rainbow is a sign of God’s love for us, and His covenant with us. This is the meaning of a rainbow, and its most central and important aspect. Interestingly, in this passage God calls the rainbow, ‘His rainbow’. It is the sign of His covenant, and he gives it as a sign to us, but He doesn’t give us the rainbow itself; He retains it and calls it ‘His’. So when we appropriate it and use the rainbow for anything other than as the sign of God’s covenant with us, it seems that we are stealing what is God’s for our own human purposes. It is yet another act by humankind of rebellion against God, and a prideful assertion of our autonomy in defiance of God’s loving mercy. Certainly God will allow us to do this, for a time, but just because we are free to do something is it the right thing to do? As children of God we must reassert God’s meaning and His purpose of the rainbow as a sign of His covenant with humankind and all created things, and we need to reclaim what has been stolen in this realm of symbol, as it pertains to human life. God’s rainbow should not be a symbol of mankind’s pride; nor should it be used as the logo and the brand for a way of life that is in direct rebellion against His Word, and against His will for us. We cannot stop people from using it as such, God’s way allows for human freedom and as children of God we also allow and respect human liberty. But we can reclaim the rainbow, there are thousands of years of precedent for it as God’s sign and covenant, long before man thought to use it to represent something counter to God’s design.
This is what we need to do: remind ourselves and the world that the rainbow is simply and beautifully, and only truly, God’s sign, and it only truly represents His covenant with us. Use it always in conjunction with humility, with obedience to God, with self-emptying of our prideful desires. Proclaim the rainbow to be the love and beauty of God, raise it as a banner which acclaims God and worships only Him, and reduces humankind to the lower place as creation. Make the rainbow repugnant to the forces of human pride and rebellion, by reasserting it the symbol of human love for God and for His authority over us. Make it our covenant back to God, He who fashioned us and from whom all things are given.
We are fooling ourselves if we think that symbol doesn’t matter. Why would companies pay hundreds of millions of dollars to brand and market themselves in just the right way, if signs mean nothing? In the battle for hearts and minds—which this world is—symbol plays a central role. We as children of God must fight to regain the ground we’ve conceded through deception, and by our complacency, fear and laziness; and reclaiming the rainbow as God’s sign is an excellent place to begin.