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Wednesday
Jul272011

Showers That Water The Earth

Whenever we go a long time without rain, we suddenly stop taking water for granted and start appreciating a gift that we suddenly lack. Thanks to modern technologies, we are able to store up vast supplies of water and transport them wherever we need them, but even these technologies are dependent upon rain falling somewhere along the chain of supply. When our lawns are turning brown and our foundations are straining against the shifting soil, we are alerted to the need for rain. When our crops begin to fail, our livestock face premature slaughter, and our authorities warn us to ration our faucets, it becomes impossible to take water for granted. Our dependence upon the heavens for something so simple and necessary as water is an occasional reminder of our reliance upon God, but we ought to have a constant sense of that fellowship.

 

Discussion

I. Saved Through Water

A. Genesis

1. men’s dependence upon water is clear from the beginning (Genesis 2:4-9)

a. the second chapter of Genesis supplements the outline of the first chapter, describing certain aspects of creation – especially regarding man – in greater detail

b. water is one of those details, as it is lacking where it is needed to irrigate the land, a responsibility given to man in tending the garden, dependent upon the rivers that flowed about

2. all that became more difficult once Adam and Eve sinned and were banished from the perfection of Eden; eventually the corruption compelled God to use water as a destructive force (Genesis 6:5-8, 7:1-5, 11-12)

a. writing as an inspired commentator, the apostle Peter reasoned that Noah and his family were “saved through water” (see First Peter 3:20, NKJV)

b. the same rainwater that flooded the unbeliever and unrepentant preserved the lives of eight souls who floated upon it in safety in the ark

3. anthropologists and geologists have found evidence of flood narratives in cultures throughout the world – hundreds of them dating to different eras and rooted in different cultures that could not reasonably have copied from one another; “Noah is but one tale in a worldwide collection of at least 500 flood myths, which are the most widespread of all ancient myths and therefore can be considered among the oldest” (Schoch 2003, 249)

 

a. the Aztec legend says the only survivors of the great flood were those who rode it out on a boat, after which giants constructed a pyramid to reach the clouds – sounds like the ark and tower of Babel

b. the Greeks believed that Zeus flooded the world, but allowed one couple to survive in a wooden chest

c. the Chinese also have a flood narrative, but just as interesting is that their character for “boat” appears to be a combination of the character meaning vessel + eight + people

d. the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic, dating to the seventh century before Christ is very similar to the biblical story of Noah and his ark

 

4. eventually, the rains abated and the flood subsided (Genesis 8:1-4)

a. God set a rainbow in the sky that day to signify his promise never to flood the Earth in that way again, and every time we witness a rainbow today, it is a reminder of God’s mercy and longsuffering

b. as much as we need the rain to fall from the heavens, we also need it to stop, and although there are still localized floods, there has never again been such worldwide devastation as is described here

 

B. Egypt

1. when the children of Abraham eventually landed in Egypt, they were there to escape a drought in their own land

2. Egypt enjoys very little rainfall; the water to irrigate the vegetation and supply the needs of the people flows in on the Nile, so that when God plagued the river by turning its water to blood, more than the lives of the fish were in peril; “And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile” (Exodus 7:24).

3. when God plagued the nation with thunder, hail, and rain, Pharaoh was naturally afraid and his crops were terribly harmed, but again he lost his religion when the plague passed (see Exodus 9:22-35)

4. water played a role in Israel’s escape from Egypt, but it was the promise of water that drove them on to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 11:8-12)

 

C. Canaan

1. the land that flowed with milk and honey was generally well-watered, evidence of divine blessing in the growing seasons, although the rains were occasionally interrupted when the people went astray or refused to be ashamed (see Jeremiah 3:3, 5:24)

a. “O God, when you went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel. Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad; you restored your inheritance as it languished; your flock found a dwelling in it; in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy” (Psalm 68:7-10).

b. Israel looked to God for refreshment and blessing, even as they waited for spiritual rebirth in the Messiah: “May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations! May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth! In his days may the righteous flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more” (Psalm 72:5-7)!

2. in the land of milk and honey, Israel learned to depend upon God for things like that rain that could not reasonably be stored up to ride out a long drought or famine (Psalm 147:7-11)

 

II. Into Every Life

A. Metaphor for Blessing

1. rain, of course, is a metaphor for divine blessing raining down upon mankind, even the just and unjust, but it goes further to the duty of humanity to acknowledge the God of the heavens who opens the clouds

2. in his valedictory speech, Moses told Israel, “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God” (Deuteronomy 32:1-3)!

3. the Hebrew writer draws on the agricultural metaphor to compare a Christian who falls away to land that is watered, but bears thorns instead of crops (Hebrews 6:1-8)

 

B. Metaphor for Adversity

1. rain, when dropped to excess, becomes a metaphor for adversity

2. think of Ezra assembling the remnant Jews to discuss their sinful marriages; “And all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain” (Ezra 10:9).

3. Jesus taught us something that Longfellow poetically confirmed:

 

Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;

Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;

Thy fate is the common fate of all,

Into each life some rain must fall,

  Some days must be dark and dreary. (The Rainy Day)

 

a. adversity happens to all (Matthew 7:24-27)

b. how we handle that adversity makes all the difference

 

C. Metaphor for Godliness

1. the Bible borrows from God’s goodness in the heavens to illustrate the potential for all of us to share our blessings with others in need

a. Isaiah wrote, “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it” (45:8).

b. “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12).

2. a person who will not share, or who, worse, pledge to help but then does not, is like those morning clouds that seem to promise a break in the drought, but which amount to nothing

a. “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give” (Proverbs 25:14).

b. “A poor man who oppresses the poor is a beating rain that leaves no food” (Proverbs 28:3).

3. we have God as an example of one who comes to the aid of people without respect of persons, coming to the aid of not only our friends and neighbors, but even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48)

 

D. Subject of Prayer

1. when we have ample rain, we seldom think much about it, but when our land is parched, we might think to pray to the one who “gives rain on the earth and sends waters on the fields” (Job 5:10).

2. it is not a blessing that will come from the exercise of superstitions or anything that man, with all his technology, can accomplish alone (see Zechariah 10:1-2)

3. when James teaches us, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” he uses Elijah as an example – he who prayed about a forty-two month long drought as well as its end (see James 5:16-18)

 

Conclusion

Rain will not simply fall because we pray for it to be so. God is not only in control of our meteorological conditions, but is also tasked with repairing the damage we sometimes cause through bad policies, and, even worse, persistent sin. Surely, prayer indicates to God an acknowledgement of our dependence upon him, but how likely is it that vast swaths of the population will do so?

Questions for Review
  1. How was the land watered in the beginning?
  2. What application did Peter make of Noah’s family being “saved through water”?
  3. How does rain help to illustrate the shame of apostasy?
  4. What makes the difference as storms crash into every life?
  5. What is a stingy person like?
  6. What do we learn from God sending rain on the just and unjust?
  7. What might keep our prayers for rain from being granted?

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