RainbowWhen the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
— Genesis 9:16-17

The rainbow was thus marked as the sign of God’s promise not to visit wrath on the earth by way of the flood. But it is bigger than that, isn’t it? The rainbow is another sign of God’s promise to remove his wrath from his children.

The Hebrew word for “bow” in this text is the exact same Hebrew word used for the kind of bow one uses in battle, as in the ol’ “bow and arrow.” What God is talking about in this promise is that he is laying his weapons down.

In his commentary, Marcus Dods writes:

They accepted it as a sign that God has no pleasure in destruction, that he does not give way to moods, that he does not always chide, that if weeping may endure for a night joy is sure to follow. If any one is under a cloud, leading a joyless, heartless life, if any one has much apparent reason to suppose that God has given him up to catastrophe, and lets things run as they may, there is some satisfaction in reading this natural emblem and recognizing that without the cloud, nay, without the cloud breaking into heavy sweeping rains there cannot be the bow, and that no cloud of God’s sending is permanent, but will one day give place to an unclouded joy.

We keep seeking peace, peace, where there is no peace, and we only find our true lasting eternal joy-saturated peace when it comes by the Spirit of God straight from Father God in the gospel of the Son of God. It is in Christ Jesus’ work that we see that God “lays down his bow.”

And we can keep seeking peace even in God’s good gifts — work, family, recreation, food, art and culture, the great outdoors — but we can’t find the peace that endures forever until we find it in the gospel. Because cultivation and justice, while ordained by God, are administered by man and therefore can never truly satisfy.

But the covenant of grace is administered by God himself. So when we seek peace there, we truly find it. It’s not tainted by sin because God is holy and his Son is sinless.

And until we find peace in the gospel, in fact, we find only the search for peace and therefore no peace at all: “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked” (Is. 57:21).

But for the Christian? “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Is. 26:3).

I love this excerpt from John Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners”:

One day as I was passing into the field, this sentence fell upon my soul: “Thy righteousness is in heaven.” And with the eyes of my soul I saw Jesus at the Father’s right hand. “There,” I said, “is my righteousness!” So that wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say to me, “Where is your righteousness?” For it is always right before him.

I saw that it is not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness IS Christ. Now my chains fell off indeed. My temptations fled away, and I lived sweetly at peace with God.

Indeed, Ephesians 2:14 says “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”

The rainbow, then, is a sign of God’s promise that he has hung up his bow, and it’s a reminder to himself of his grace toward the earth, and in the same way, the cross is a sign of God’s promise that he has hung his Son up to die and it’s a reminder of his grace toward you that because Christ has taken the wrath, the wrath is taken. It is over, done, finished, removed, satisfied, propitiated.

At the cross of Christ, the wrath of God owed to sinners is absorbed, satisfied, set aside for all eternity. Dead and done with. His anger is gone, his love remains and it endures. The lovingkindness of our Lord is everlasting. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies are new every morning.

Every day you mess up, and maybe you fess up, but you’re even messing up in your fessing up. But God’s love is constant, always forgiving, always covering, always sustaining, always sourcing real peace deep inside.

Maybe you need to hear this today: Christian, God isn’t angry with you. His smile is over you. Zephaniah 3:17 says he “rejoices over you with gladness; he quiets you by his love; he exults over you with loud singing.”

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
(Apply directly to the forehead.)

Because Christ has come to take the condemnation, he takes it away into the wilderness and casts it into the void, and his precious blood is given as a covering for you; it speaks a better word than the blood of Abel, because while Abel’s blood cried out for the justice we keep seeking, Jesus’ blood cries out that justice has been accomplished. Every sin of yours — past present and future — has been accounted for and paid for, and now that the gospel takes dominion in your heart, it bears fruit and multiplies from one degree of glory to another, in mercy after mercy, precisely because we have received Christ himself and John 1:16 says that from his fullness we all received “grace upon grace.” There is a radiant kaleidoscope of blessings in the gospel.

We can breathe. We can wipe our brow. We can unclench our fists. God has laid down his bow.

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4 thoughts on “When God Lays Down His Bow”

  1. Nancy Green says:

    It is SO EASY for us humans to get untethered from the foundational truth of the Cross of Jesus Christ, and move on to our own efforts to sanctify ourselves. You almost don’t even realize it’s happening. I thank God for shepherds like Jared who keep beating the Gospel back into our heads (thanks, Martin Luther!), and our sanctification is through grace, by faith, and to God be the glory!

  2. Michael says:

    Good article! I’ve had many teachers (usually within the PCA) speak on how there is symbolic imagery of the bow in the sense that it is “aimed up” foreshadowing God taken the arrow of judgement upon himself. I’d be curious if you think there is any merit to this? Thanks! -Michael

  3. Dustin Hunt says:


    This was excellent! Truly a refreshing word to my soul this morning! Thank you for your faithfulness to Christ!

  4. jim delver says:

    thanks brother, nice reminder of where my righteousness comes from!

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Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. You can follow him on Twitter.

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