It is raining today, a needed refreshment of the parched earth. If the sun peaks through the clouds before the rain ceases, we can expect to see a rainbow. I have always been fascinated by rainbows. No matter how many times I see them, they never become old hat. They always manage to capture my attention. Sometimes they are vivid, sometimes faint. Most often there is a single rainbow across the sky, but on rare occasions there will be two.
This morning in my devotions, I read the story of the rainbow in Genesis 9. After the great flood, God promised Noah that He would never destroy the world in that way again. As a sign to Noah and to every subsequent generation, God gave us the rainbow. It is intended to be a sign of the grace of God.
And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:12-16
People have always been fascinated by rainbows. They have been incorporated into myth and legend, story and song. Scientists have studied the conditions that cause the rainbow to appear. They discovered that as the light passes through the droplets of water, they act as prisms, which separate the white light into its colorful component parts. The colors of the rainbow are always in the same order because they represent the spectrum of light as we know it.
Because we can describe how a rainbow is formed, many people have dismissed the Biblical account of its creation. In our scientific world, we have done this with many things. Because we are able to describe a process or explain a phenomenon in scientific terms, we think that we no longer need God in the picture. In our arrogance, we have assumed that we have unlocked the secrets of our world and mastered them. But have we really?
Just because we can describe something or explain how something works does not mean that we fully understand it. It does not mean that we have discovered the final word on a subject. All we have done is stated the obvious. The real question that needs to be answered is, why do things act the way that they do? Someone might answer, the rainbow is caused because of the refraction of light. That is true, but why does the refraction of light always result in a rainbow? Being able to describe something does not explain its origin, it only explains how something works.
What the story in Genesis 9 makes clear to us is that it is God who created the phenomenon that we observe in our world. The rainbow didn’t just happen, God made it happen. The best that science can do is answer the question “How”. It can never fully answer the question “Why”. We can describe in detail how a rainbow is formed, but we cannot answer the question, why is it there in the first place?
All of the phenomenon that we marvel at in our world are there for one purpose, to point us to the one who created them. Paul made that crystal clear in Romans 1:20. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Let he who has eyes to see, see!
The rainbow is an enchanting, marvelous display. It causes us to pause and stare, in part because it is not always there. It often marks the end of the storm. The rainbow is worth marveling at. But it is only a sign, a reminder that God so loved the world that He sent a Savior.