Sunday, May 13, 2007

Rain God

Here's a meditation on rain in the Bible. After a rather dry and sunny April (for the UK), May has been pretty rainy so far. The wet weather is forecast to last for the next week or so. April's mini drought left our lawn looking parched, withered and cracked. The recent showers have already begun to refresh the garden. The other day we read Psalm 65 in family worship. The Psalm praises God for sending rain on the earth. This, together with the present rainy spell got me thinking about rain in the Scriptures. What does the rain tell us about God? It's pouring down outside as I type!
Rain and the goodness of God
Rain is a gift of God the creator and life-giver. The Hebrews knew about the water cycle (Ecclesiastes 1:7). But they preferred to say that, "God sent the rain". The weather is beyond the control of human beings. But Yahweh, Israel's God makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall. Psalm 65 delights in God's life-giving, creation beautifying rain.
You visit the earth and water it,
You greatly enrich it;
The river of God is full of water;
You provide their grain,
For so You have prepared it.
You water its ridges abundantly,
You settle its furrows;
You make it soft with showers,
You bless its growth.
(Psalm. 65:9 & 10)
Jesus taught that rain is a token of God's indiscriminate goodness towards human beings. The rain teaches us to love our enemies. Learn the lesson of the rain:
"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust". (Matthew 5:44 & 45).
In Lystra, Paul healed a lame man. But the effect of this healing is not what the apostle would have wished. The idolatrous inhabitants mistook Paul and his companion Barnabas for the gods Hermes and Zeus. Paul prevented the people from offering sacrifices to them by proclaiming the true and living God who sends the rain,
“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:15-17)
Every time it rains, we have an evident demonstration of the goodness of God. It might not seem like that when we are caught out in a rainstorm. But every drop that falls is a gift from God. Forsake your idols and thank God for the rain!
Rain and the judgement of God
God can use the rain to bring judgement upon the earth. The most cataclysmic example of this was the flood in Noah's day. God sent a flood to destroy all living creatures because of gross human wickedness. Noah was instructed to build an ark to preserve the life of himself, his family and the other creatures of the earth. God said,
"I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made". (Genesis 7:4)
The Lord promised never to flood the earth again. The rainbow is the symbol of his covenant word. But the flood-judgement points us to the final, earth-melting judgement that is to come.
"For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men". (2 Peter 3:5-7)
In judgement, God may withhold the rain. The most famous example of this is the drought in the days of king Ahab. The king and his wife, Jezebel introduced Baal worship to the people of Israel and launched a murderous campaign against the prophets of the Lord. Baal was supposedly the god of fire, fertility and rain. Ever the great ironist, Yahweh sent the prophet Elijah to announce a drought. "He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord holds them in derision" (Psalm 2:4). The devastating drought only ended after Baal was exposed as an empty lie in the great fire contest on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). The people hailed the Lord as God as he sent fire from heaven and burnt up Elijah's sacrifice, "The Lord he is God! The Lord he is God!" Then Lord sent rain upon the earth, "the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain" (1 Kings 18:45). The gods of the nations are useless idols. Yahweh alone makes the rain fall.
Rain and the blessings of Messiah
Psalm 72 looks beyond the glories of Solomon's reign to one even greater than he. The blessings of the Messianic King are described in terms of rainfall. Christ is the bringer of new life, fruitfulness and everlasting peace.
He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing,
Like showers that water the earth.
In his days the righteous shall flourish,
And abundance of peace,
Until the moon is no more.
(Psalm 72:6 & 7)
In Ezekiel 34, the Lord pronounces judgement on Israel's shepherd-rulers. God himself will act as the shepherd of his flock,
"For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day". (Ezekiel 34: 11 & 12)
The Lord will raise up a new David to be the shepherd-king of Israel,
I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken. (Ezekiel 34: 23 & 24).
Jesus probably had this passage in mind (as well as Psalm 23) when he said, "I am the good shepherd, The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11). As the good shepherd, Jesus has come to give "abundant life" (10:10) to his sheep.
The Ezekiel passage uses the metaphor of rain as a beautiful picture of the abundant life that the new David will bring,
"I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase". (Ezekiel 34: 26 & 27).
In Christ, there shall be showers of blessing!
There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.
There shall be showers of blessing,
Precious reviving again;
Over the hills and the valleys,
Sound of abundance of rain.
There shall be showers of blessing;
Send them upon us, O Lord;
Grant to us now a refreshing,
Come, and now honor Thy Word.
There shall be showers of blessing:
Oh, that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!
There shall be showers of blessing,
If we but trust and obey;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
If we let God have His way.
(James McGranahan)

2 comments:

michael jensen said...

This is great. A season in Australia would give you a new understanding of the words 'dry spell' and 'drought'.

And Wales? Is that the WETTEST place on earth?

We are determined to visit Stourhead soon by the way, on your recommendation...

Exiled Preacher said...

Hi Michael,

The piccy on the top is of Welsh rain! You'll love Stourhead, whatever the weather.