Formations 02.27.2022: The Rainbow

Genesis 9:1, 3-17

Rainbows are rare enough that their appearance feels magical. When we see a rainbow, we exclaim and point, and then we fall quiet and reflect. We stand on the ground and look up, marveling at the way the sun filters through the dark clouds, separating white light into its seven distinctive bands of color. We watch until the colors fade away and the sky returns to normal. We feel as if we’ve witnessed something miraculous—a sign from God.

The Bible tells us the story of the rainbow. In Genesis, it is described not as refracted, dispersed light but as a sign from God. After long months of rain, flood, and receding waters—after devastation and death—Noah and his family and the creatures finally exit the ark that has kept them safe from God’s wrath. Imagine them stepping onto the muddy earth, the trees around them dripping water, the sky still full of clouds but with some blue peeking through.

They were probably relieved to get off the boat but also nervous to return to solid ground. Maybe they looked around them for signs of life…or death. Maybe they wondered if any of their structures were still standing or if they’d have to rebuild. Maybe they pondered whether the wet earth would hold new seed for crops. Maybe they felt burdened by the knowledge that they were responsible for carrying on the human race.

And God gave them a sign. They looked up, just as we do today, and were awestruck by the sight. “I have set my bow in the clouds,” God said, “and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (v. 13). If Noah and the others felt any uncertainty, surely this breathtaking sign in the sky eased their fears a little. The assurance of God’s presence with them and of God’s promise to them was painted gloriously above them.

Still today, with our scientific explanations, the rainbow assures us of God’s presence and God’s promise. When we see it, may we remember and know that God remembers too (vv. 14-16).


• When was the last time you saw a rainbow? How did it make you feel?
• Does the scientific explanation of a rainbow detract from its miraculous nature or only make it more amazing?
• How do you think Noah and his family felt when they finally stepped off the ark?
• What must it have been like to see the rainbow for the first time and to hear God’s assurance behind it?
• How can the rainbow still assure us of God’s presence and promise today? What should we remember? What does God remember?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


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