And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.
When John tells us about the one who sits on the throne, about the Lord himself, he uses very vague imagery. John does nothing to help us try to get a physical picture of God. Nobody can describe the infinite beauty of our Lord. It would dishonor God for John to try. So John does the best he can with likenesses.
John calls to mind three precious stones to depict God and his throne, jasper, Carnelian, and emerald. Countless commentaries have come up with countless explanations of what these stones symbolize. Sadly, they are often quite different. These stones all come in a variety of colors. They are all used in the breast piece of the high priest from the old Testament. They are all found in the walls of the new Jerusalem in chapter 21. The rainbow, we learn from Genesis, is the symbol of God’s promise of mercy for his children even when he judges.
What are we supposed to see as we think of what John says here in verse 3? God is beautiful and valuable. That is all we can say for sure. His worth is infinite. His loveliness is magnificent. The colors, the hues, the glory, they are simply too much for human words.
When we worship our God, we should remember that we are in the presence of the most beautiful being in existence. There is no end to the wonder and worth of our God. To glimpse him is to glimpse the most breathtaking colors, the most stunning sight, the most aw-inspiring picture.