“I set my bow in the cloud . . . ”
~ Genesis 9:13
in the cloud . . . not in the sky . . . not in the heavens . . . in the cloud.
Could this mention of “the cloud” be nothing more than a random detail?
If rainbows couldn’t be seen anywhere else but in clouds, I might not have stopped to think about it, but they can, so I did.
I’m not going to tell you why God stated that He set His bow “in the cloud” because I can’t.
I can’t find any verse in Scripture that explains exactly why He didn’t set it “in the sky” or “in the heavens,” but let me tell you what I did find. It just may take your breath away as it did mine.
But first, we need to review the beauty of the rainbow.
The rainbow is the symbol of God’s covenant of grace that despite the sin of the world, He’ll never again judge it with a flood.
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s new and better covenant of grace that despite our sin, He will not judge us accordingly if we’ve trusted in His Son Jesus Christ as the payment for those sins.
Insert collective “Whew!” here.
So what about the cloud?
The first time we see the word “cloud” in the Bible is here:
“I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.”
~ Genesis 9:13
Setting the rainbow in the cloud, God declared His promise of grace upon the earth. At this point, the cloud seems a nice, but insignificant detail.
But then I looked to see where else I see God mention a “cloud”:
- God’s presence dwelt in the wilderness with the Israelites in a pillar of cloud (Exodus 13:21-22).
- God came to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai in a thick cloud and gave them the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 19:16-17)
- God covered the Tabernacle with the cloud at its dedication. The glory of the Lord was in the cloud and dwelt with the Israelites. (Exodus 40:34-38)
- God appeared in the cloud above the Mercy Seat, which was the place where the blood of the sacrifice for forgiveness of sins was sprinkled each year. (Leviticus 16:2)
These are just a few of the occasions we see God choose to dwell or deal with Israel in a cloud in the Old Testament.
Are you starting to feel that God setting the rainbow in a cloud might not be so random after all?
Now we come to the New Testament.
In the most outrageous display of grace, God dwells with man again for the sole purpose of providing the way of forgiveness for all sin for all time.
Jesus Christ, who was called “Immanuel” — “God with us,” came to earth in the form of man. (Matthew 1:23)
Jesus didn’t come at that time in a cloud, but the cloud shows up.
- When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain with Moses, Elijah, and three of the disciples, God spoke from a bright cloud, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5)
- When Jesus ascended into heaven, He ascended in a cloud. (Acts 1:9,11)
- When Jesus returns, all the peoples of earth will see Him coming on the clouds of heaven. He will be coming with the clouds. (Matthew 24:30, Revelation 1:7)
The last time we see the word “cloud” in the Bible is in Revelation:
“Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like the Son of Man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.”
~ Revelation 14:14-16
This passage sounds great until you get to the sharp sickle. Then it’s not a happy scene if you’re one of those who’ve rejected Christ and His gift of salvation. (Remember, not choosing to accept Christ is choosing to reject Him.)
Jesus is pictured here sitting on a white cloud waiting on God’s orders for the earth to be reaped.
The orders come.
In another display of extravagant grace, the earth is actually beyond ripe, withered and wasted away: “xērainō” (Rev. 14:15)
The time of grace for sin has finally reached its very end, and from the cloud, Jesus begins the final, terrible judgment of sin — from a cloud.
Back when God first introduced the rainbow in the cloud, it would be so easy for us to have dismissed any importance in the mention of the cloud. However, from this brief overview of the cloud as we see it in the Old and New Testament, it’s clear the cloud symbolizes the glorious presence of our holy and righteous Triune God — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Let’s now look at our Red Thread Clue:
Red Thread Clue:
Jesus came to dwell with man and offer grace. When He comes again, He’ll deal with man according to their sin and His righteousness.
It’s what we’ve seen throughout the Bible. Paul taught this great news in Romans:
Grace reigns through Righteousness.
“so that, as sin reigned in death,
even so grace would reign through righteousness
to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
~ Romans 5:21
Every now and then a truth of God just jumps out and grabs me. Romans 5:21 is one of those. I like to wallow all up in this truth.
Because no where in all of the universe, for all of eternity, will you ever find the demands of holiness met with pure grace other than in Jesus Christ — and He is mine!
Because of the extravagant grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ, ALL of my bold, blatant rebellion against our holy and righteous God is swallowed up and removed far from me through Christ’s loving display of unearned grace toward me.
Christ took my sins upon Himself and clothed me in His righteousness, and all I had to do to receive it was just that — receive it — receive Him.
That’s all anyone has to do.
When He comes again in a cloud to judge sinners, I won’t be among them, even though I’m as guilty as the worst sinner.
People opposed to God cry all the time that God’s not fair. They’re right.
It’s not fair that God should place all our sins upon His righteous Son so that we could be set free from the penalty we fully deserve.
It’s not fair at all. That’s why it’s called grace — extravagant grace.
Think about this truth the next time you see a rainbow set in a cloud:
The Rainbow & Cloud ~ Grace & Righteousness
Falling on your knees and praising God would be a completely appropriate response right now.
Accepting Christ’s free gift of salvation is the most necessary response.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series in Noah’s Ark. Because we’ve had so many Red Thread Clues in this series, I’ve been requested to do a summary of them in my next Red Thread post. I thought it was a great idea, so that means this wasn’t actually my last Red Thread in Noah’s Ark post. We’re going to end with an even dozen. Wow.
To see all of the posts in the series, click on this link:
The Red Thread in Noah’s Ark
You may also enjoy these posts:
- Monday Music — “Glorify” (Crystal Lewis, written by Linda Barnhill)
- God Still Pardons Murderers
- Just Grace — The Story of God’s Transforming Grace
NOTE: “Red Thread Clue” is not an actual biblical term. You won’t learn it in seminary. It’s a term I use to refer to anything in the Old Testament that gives us a clue of what Jesus Christ would do when He came in the New. Yes, that rhymes, because I work with pre-schoolers. Red Thread Clues may include actual prophecy and biblical types, but they may also be simple instances in the Old Testament in which we can see the character or work of Jesus Christ and His glory that would be displayed in the New Testament, such as in a cloud placed in a rainbow.