Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Bow In the Sky As a Picture of God's Grace

When God promised mercy to Noah, He gave a bow in the sky as a symbol of His covenant of grace. Notice, I said 'bow.' We commonly speak of the covenant symbol as a rainbow, but the actual symbol of God's grace is a brightly colored bow--a weapon of vengeance. Noah's culture had just endured the righteous display of God's wrath in a flood. To illustrate that His Divine wrath was assuaged, God gave to Noah and his family a bow in the sky. There are three things true of this bow:

(1). The bow is pointed away from the earth, away from mankind.
(2). The bow has no string and thus cannot shoot any arrow of vengeance.
(3). The bow is unbent and as such serves as a true symbol of peace with God.

God gave the bow to Noah after the 'burnt offering' had been sacrificed on the altar, an act that gave the Lord 'a soothing aroma' (Genesis 8:20-21). Burnt offerings in the Old Covenant Scriptures prefigure the Messiah, the Lamb of God who would come to bear the wrath of God for His people and be well-pleasing (soothing) to the Father. Jesus Christ indeed came and fulfilled the Law, offering Himself once and for all for our sins (Hebrews 10:10-14).

Nature itself reveals the gospel. Next time you see a bow in the sky, tell your kids the story of Noah and the burnt offering that resulted in a promise of peace with God and the bow in the sky as a reminder of that peace. Impress on your hearers that because of the person and work of Jesus Christ, the bow of God's righteous wrath and vengeance is unstringed, unbent and unaimed toward we who have embraced His Son.


Anonymous said...

Love this post. (:


Pege' said...

Wade, I really enjoyed the 3 points. It is amazing that the earth "speaks" of God and his amazing creativity and beauty let alone His grace. The stars the "zodiac" also tell of God. I love to look and watch animals , birds, fish, big horn sheep, we have so much wild life here in Colorado. Do you ever wonder what was the Lord thinking when he made something like the BEE. It should not fly, yet it does.I love gardening to see the little seeds I put in the ground turn into veggies and grains.I am like a child when I see one growing filled with excitement. Watching a beautiful sunset and in my minds eye God is painting it for us. HE GETS ALL THE FUN!!!!! The Lord our God is all around us and how grateful I am for all of his creative work, the colors the smells the joy of living in his creation.Thanks for the reminder!!

Martin Kids said...


Thanks for a great post. There is so much beautiful artistry in the Biblical narrative that we just simply miss because of our culture. (Especially in Genesis) I would dare say that there is a lot more to Noah's story than meets the eye.

On a side note, I just got done reading "Noah Primeval" by Brian Godawa. (He wrote a phenomenal movie called "To End All Wars" starring Kiefer Sutherland.) His latest work, "Noah Primeval" is a great fiction/fantasy work based on the Noah story. It is filled with with great theology and imagination. Check it out on Amazon. You won't be disappointed.


Rex Ray said...

“We commonly speak of the covenant as a rainbow, but the actual symbol of God’s grace is a brightly colored bow—a weapon of vengeance.”

Hey! That’s the same thing that James’ judgment did. I mean he said the Gentiles don’t have to obey Jewish Laws, BUT only a few. (Acts 15:19-20)

The “but” did away with the first of James’ sentence just as Wade’s “but” changed ‘rainbow’ into a “weapon of vengeance”.

“The bow is unbent…”

When the string is off, a bow is straight. A rainbow is bent almost to the breaking point.

The symbol was not for “we who have embraced His Son.”
“When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life.” (Genesis 9:14-15 NLT)

The symbol was not a promise of peace between God and man. God killed thousands afterward and “…the earth will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10)

Wade, I believe the symbol of God’s grace is the cross; not the rainbow.

wadeburleson.org said...


I agree. A bow in the sky is only 'a' symbol of grace, not 'the' symbol of grace.

Thanks for your comment.

Martin Kids said...


Try reading the "bow" and the rest of the Noahic covenant as prophetic of Jesus and his ministry.

I would strongly argue that 2 Peter 3 is fulfilled. Here is a resource.


If heaven and earth haven't passed away then we are still under the old testament sacrificial system. (Matthew 5:17-18 (Thankfully, they were burned up completely at the end of the age.)


Martin Kids said...

Sorry, I should have said "Noahic story."

Christiane said...

In Judaic teaching, the rainbow is the bow that now points 'away' from the Earth,
not towards it.

Rex Ray said...

A lot of preachers have good sermons; then they TRY to find Scriptures that fit.

I’d say you made a good ‘save’. :)

Remember we went the longest discussing if the penalty of sin was ‘Spiritual death’ or ‘Separation death, and we compromised on ‘Soul death’, but I see no compromise on ‘the earth will pass away’ or ‘the earth has passed away’.

You said, “If heaven and earth haven't passed away then we are still under the old testament sacrificial system. (Matthew 5:17-18 (Thankfully, they were burned up completely at the end of the age.)

Matthew 5:18: “For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished.”

I believe Jesus is saying it is just as ridiculous for the law to pass away as it is ridiculous for heaven and earth to pass away.

Martin Kids said...


Please read the article I linked. (Do a word search on "stoicheion" {elements} and see how the NT always relates it to the Law / Old Covenant Torah)

Once again, I don't think the Bible talks about the beginning or the end of the physical universe. The first "heavens and earth" that Genesis one speaks of is the "Old Covenant World" just as the "New Heavens and Earth" that Revelation speaks of is the "New Covenant World."

I would respectfully disagree with your take on Matthew 5:17-18. Jesus is clearly teaching that "heaven and earth" would pass away when ALL was fulfilled. Notice how he uses this same language in the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24, Luke 21) when he is discussing the "end of the age" and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. (Two simultaneous events.)

There are plenty of passages in the OT that equate God's people with "heavens and earth." (Jeremiah 4:23ff, Duet. 32:1) This is confirmed by Josephus who said that the Temple was a microcosm of the Universe.

I think our problem is that we so easily force our worldview on to the ANE worldview of the Bible.

Happy Hunting :)


J. F. M. M. said...

Greetings from Spain.
I am an amateur photographer, and published in blogs, pictures of my people are in:


I hope you visit me.

Rex Ray said...

I’ve already looked enough at your link to know I wouldn’t read it if I was paid.

As a kid, I got fed up with people arguing Revelations and I will not go running all over the Bible trying to put something together for ‘itchy ears’.

I think we all should take the advice (I think it was Mark Twain) that said: “It’s not what I don’t know about the Bible that bothers me; it’s what I do know.”

You said, “I would respectfully disagree with your take on Matthew 5:17-18. Jesus is clearly teaching that "heaven and earth" would pass away when ALL was fulfilled.”

Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” and that’s good enough for me.

My oldest cousin died in China when she was 5 saying, “Mama, which one is our house?”

Why do you want to search about heaven passing away and not learn why early Christians became Catholic?

To me, that would be important so the mistake doesn’t happen again which Wade is pointing out with ‘pastor authority’.

Would the Jerusalem church ‘loose’ the Gentile Christians if they killed Paul as indicated in Acts 21:22? That was prevented by: “Therefore do what we tell you… (Verse 23)

I believe the web was so clever in accomplishing what the Jerusalem church wanted that few ever see it.

Paul didn’t see it until he wrote; “No man stood for me…May it not be counted against them.” (That’s the prayer he heard Stephen pray.)

It’s probably the oldest ‘cold-case’ murder that ever happened.

Yea, I know—Mark Twain.

Wanda (Deb) Martin said...


Just wanted to let you know that your "bow in the sky" post inspired today's post over at TWW.

I remember when you featured this several years ago, and it had a profound effect on me.


Unknown said...

Or possibly the bow is now taking aim at one in heaven who will taste death for the redeemed, as Jonathan Edwards put it.

Unknown said...

The bow may have been aimed now toward one in heaven who will taste death for the redeemed on the cross.

Unknown said...

No. It's a rainbow. The loLo made the rainbow appear as a reminder that he will not drown mankind again. Has anyone ever seen a weapon in the sky? Besides a missed. Get real. People always want to confuse Christians with bad doctrine. Moses wrote bow. Rainbow. After a few translations people just make stuff up. Put up a weapon of vengeance in the sky to support this. Don't use the rainbow then say it's not a rainbow. Thank you 😊

Makakilo71 said...

Kudos to Unkown who suggested the bow was a weapon pointed at God, who would took the arrow to resolve mankind's sin problem.