In late September, Carol and I toured three days at Grand Canyon National Park. We hiked down the beautiful Bright Angel Trail for a mile and a half into the canyon. Shortly after we turned around, a downpour soaked our path. It quickly moved out over the canyon and a bright sun emerged.
A brilliant rainbow formed beneath us in the canyon. It was breathtaking. We were over the rainbow! What Dorothy Gale only dreamed and sang about became a reality for us. It felt like a once in a lifetime experience. At first we were too stunned to think of taking our picture. Fortunately, another hiker offered to snap a photo. What a treat from our heavenly Father! Midday rainbows are impossible except in unique places like the Grand Canyon.
If you look at the picture above, you might miss that we’re actually over the rainbow because the camera is positioned above us and the vast expanse behind us looks like the sky. But it’s not the sky. It’s the canyon below. The rainbow stretches in front of the rocks in the picture—the canyon floor. Isn’t that an amazing sign of a divine covenant?
From the Grand Canyon we headed north to Yellowstone National Park. We drove through a hard downpour and arrived at Old Faithful just as the rain stopped. As we stood at the famous site, a rainbow hovered in the east over Old Faithful Lodge. What a beautiful sight! A few minutes later, the reliable geyser erupted right on schedule.
Two national parks. Two rainbows. One trip of a lifetime. One would almost think God is trying to tell us something. Actually, he is. Rainbows are the sign of a covenant God made with Noah. We are the beneficiaries of his unconditional promise never to destroy the earth again by water in judgment.
Rainbows are far more than a refraction of light caused by moisture in the atmosphere. They’re a reminder that God restrains judgment on us. The colors draw our attention back to a covenant relationship we enjoy with our loving, heavenly Father. Rainbows shout out a universal covenant. They illustrate God withholding his hand of judgment in mercy. We all need God’s mercy. Whenever we see a rainbow, we remember God’s mercy toward us.
But we need more than God’s mercy. We need his grace, too. Mercy only withholds the judgment we deserve. Grace bestows unmerited favor upon us. Grace is consummated in the incarnation, when Jesus came to earth. That leads us to Bethlehem and the birth of the Messiah Jesus. The Savior brings us grace which extends far over the rainbow of mercy. He is full of grace and truth, fulfilling our deepest need. The rainbow is just the beginning. We also need the manger and the cross, all wrapped together in resurrection.
It’s a joy to hear from many of you during this time of year as we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus. May each of you have a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
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