And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you…
Well may we adopt the language of the author of the book of Ecclesiasticus, and say, "Look upon the rainbow and praise Him who made it. It compasseth the heaven about with a glorious circle: and the hands of the Most High have bended it" (Genesis 43:11, 12). The prophet Isaiah has also a very remarkable reference to the rainbow, when speaking of the strength and perpetuity of the Church (Isaiah 54:7, etc.). Never more shall calamities overspread the whole Church, and threaten its complete destruction. Times of trial and persecution must, indeed, come, but Zion will always be safe. As the rainbow is only to be seen painted upon a cloud, so when the conscience is covered with thickest, darkest gloom, at the remembrance of many and grievous sins, Christ Jesus is revealed as the covenant rainbow, displaying all the loveliest attributes of the Divine character, and betokening peace. The bow in the cloud is not a mere general assurance that God will keep His promises with His people, but it is a special token of His grace; and as we gaze upon the beautiful iris arching the eastern horizon, and resting on its dark background of clouds, our thoughts reach far beyond the covenant made with Noah, to a more glorious covenant of grace, and we may read in its glorious colourings, as in an illuminated Bible, a pledge of the provisions of mercy secured to us by His death and sacrifice. "Many years ago," says a pastor in his sketch book, "I was intimately acquainted with a man of uncommon intellectual powers and social qualities, which endeared him to a large circle of friends. He had keen wit; was a close observer of character; courteous in his manner: he was without a personal enemy in the world. His parents were people of simple but fervent piety, and he was accustomed from childhood to attend public worship, and continued the practice — though not regularly — when he became a man. A lawyer by profession, his circumstances were so easy that he had no occasion to apply himself to business, and his social qualities proved a snare, and led to his ruin. In the meridian of life he was seized with a fatal disease, and slowly sank into the grave. His minister was attentive in visiting him, but the sick man seemed in good spirits, and even made a jest of the emaciation of his limbs. As death drew nearer, however, this careless state of mind gave place to a horror of great darkness. His Christian friends watched with sleepless anxiety, and prayed with earnest importunity for some token of mercy, but the sick man still wandered in the wilderness where there was no way. A sister's gentle voice inquired if he felt no relief; his uniform reply, given in broken and despairing accents, was, 'Not a ray of hope yet! Not a ray of hope!' Among his near relatives was an aged Christian who lived in a distant city, and, on one occasion, the silence of the chamber was disturbed by an exclamation from the sick man, who seemed to have been musing upon the dreary hopelessness of his condition: 'I used to laugh at uncle's prayers: but I would give the world for an interest in them now.' In this state of fearful apprehension and despair, the poor man went down to the grave, his last intelligible words being but a repetition of his oft-repeated complaint, 'Not a ray of hope yet!'" God has set His bow in the cloud as a token of His covenant of grace, and the most undeserving of us may now find acceptance in the Beloved. Aye, even amidst the awful scenes of the judgment, we shall not be disappointed of our hope, when we behold the Redeemer in whom we have trusted, coming with power and great glory; for there shall be "a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald!"
(J. N. Norton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: