Double rainbow over the Santa Catalinas, near Tucson, Arizona

Double rainbow over the Santa Catalinas, near Tucson, Arizona

We are in the midst of our summer monsoons here in Arizona, a time where the heat of the day creates violent afternoon thunderstorms that come rushing through in a fury, dropping rain willy-nilly across the desert floor. Last week, one such storm cleared quickly to the west just before sundown and created the gorgeous double rainbow that I was able to capture in this photo.

Rainbows are common enough after storms, of course, but in many places the horizon is too obscured by trees or buildings to see more than a piece of the arch. Here in the west, where the horizon is uncluttered for dozens of miles in all directions, we often see both ends of the rainbow at once, and sometimes a faint second arch above the first, which you can see at the left and right edges of the photo.

Early in the book of Genesis, following God’s judgment against the earth and the great flood that only Noah and his family escaped, God creates the rainbow as a permanent, natural sign of his covenant promise of mercy towards the earth and humanity. He explains it this way:

“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.” — Genesis 9:13-15

We understand the mechanics of the rainbow phenomenon as sunlight split into its component colors by the prismatic action that takes place as it passes through raindrops. All very cold, precise and correct, of course, but an explanation that fails to account for a rainbow’s intrinsic beauty, or for the awe and wonder rainbows inspire in us.

As with many beautiful and wondrous things in nature, their ultimate purpose is to draw our thoughts and hearts towards the merciful and loving God who created them, and us.

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