Rainbows symbolize the promise God made to Noah that He would never again wipe out mankind with a flood. The rainbow is a symbol of God’s grace. They’re captivating to gaze at, never quite revealing their endpoints and sublime in their beauty and color. Pretty much everybody loves rainbows. Some candy companies use the rainbow to market their product, and popular cartoons use rainbows to keep kids interested because, not only is the rainbow pretty, it makes people happy. What is this marvel of weather that gives us a reminder of God’s grace and makes us feel good? How does it work?
Rainbows result from the interaction of two very important substances – water and light. I’ve written before about light (here) and water (here), and that these two come together in a confluence of God’s attributes here is quite significant. You see, light is a Biblical type of God and water a type of the Holy Spirit. Romans 1:20 tells us that God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made and two of the best examples I know of are light and water. Light possesses a dual nature, just like Jesus; it has a constant speed for all observers, such that time slows down to make the math work out for this to be so; and using spectroscopy, light reveals the composition of distant stars, consistent with Ephesians 5:13 which tells us all things become visible when they are exposed by the light. Water is the world’s universal solvent able to split light into its colors; freeze it and it will split rocks; mix it with most anything and it will split molecules in solution. What I love about writing this blog is taking things you see everyday and showing them in new and unexpected ways. So here we have light and water, each with unique and special physical properties serving as Biblical types of God, working together to make rainbows, that they might remind us God loves us.
Water symbolizes the Holy Spirit and God is light. The woman at the well was offered living water by Jesus and flowing water is a type of the ongoing sanctifying work of the Spirit. Water is everywhere, covering most of the earth and comprising most of our bodies as God’s Spirit is ubiquitous and omnipresent. 1 John 1:5 tells us God is light. Light always casts out darkness and Revelation tells us there will be no need of the sun in heaven as the Lamb is its light. By choosing the rainbow as a promise of his grace, God has foreshadowed the promise the of the Savior, the Light of the world, and the ongoing sanctifying work of the Spirit in the lives of believers.
When water droplets are suspended in the air during rain or mist and light passes through them, the light is refracted and reflected within the water drop. Because different wavelengths bend more than others in water, you see the different colors separate from each other into a rainbow. This prism effect splits light into its constituent colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, which are always present, but your brain can’t perceive them so you see a composite, white light. A prism separates the colored light spatially so that your brain can process each different color. Your sense of hearing is not so limited. Think back to the last time you heard an orchestra and how when you concentrated you could pick out the oboe from the clarinets and flutes. Your ears are able to separate different wavelengths of sound, but your eyes not so much. I wrote about how your ears do that here.
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Another interesting facet of rainbows is that they reveal the limits of what man can see. Our eyes can see wavelengths of light from red to violet, nothing more and sometimes less. God can see everything – He is omniscient. We mere mortals enjoy only a sliver of His knowledge. We see red to violet but he can see the ultraviolet, infrared, x-ray, microwave, and so on. The rainbow serves to remind us of our limitations. Neither can we find the end of the rainbow because only the proper viewing angle will reveal a rainbow. If you move, it moves. Every attribute of God is mirrored in our physical world and has a counterpart in the physical laws He has ordained. The location of a rainbow depends on the location of the observer relative to the sun and water droplets. Only a specific angle of viewing will reveal the rainbow, the message of God’s grace to the observer. Each differently located observer will see their own rainbow. The physics is the same for each observer, but separately located observers will never see the same rainbow; they cannot see the others’ rainbow. Rainbows are for everyone but also for each individual specifically. The consistent laws of physics everywhere mean the message is transmitted uniformly and equally, but only those viewing at a specific angle see that specific rainbow. Other folks see their own rainbow.
God speaks to us all through creation and has made His invisible attributes clearly seen. He goes further and reveals His Son, Jesus, through the revelation of His word, the Bible. The Bible is for all of us, but God speaks to us individually as we read it. Next time you see a rainbow, remember that you’re seeing a rainbow meant just for you that no one else can see in the same way. Let it remind you that God wants to speak directly to you in a unique way through His word. Please don’t miss out!