I know that wouldn’t be very good news to folks in the southeastern states of the U.S., but here in the northwest, we are pretty exciting—It’s raining—something we haven’t seen in a measurable amount for 2 1/2 months! We may only get a half inch or so (which is nothing compared to the 50-plus inches in Houston), but it is very welcome. As a result of the hot dry summer and a few dry lightning storms, we have fires and smoke all around us. One of the fires is quite close to Libby, Montana, where we live and many have had to evacuate their homes and many more have been on a pre-evacuation notice. A bit further north, another fire has burned a number of residences. The fires have burned hundreds of thousands of acres of timber and created some very unhealthy air conditions for several weeks all across the northwest, so the rain today is very, very much appreciated—thank you, Lord!
I remember a few years back when our children were still living at home and we went hiking to a lake in the Cabinet Wilderness to camp during the third week of August. Again, it had been very hot and dry, so we weren’t allowed to have a campfire so had to take a little back-pack stove with us to cook on. The trail to the lake was powdery dry and the vegetation was very, very wilted. Well, before we hiked out, it poured rain and when we hiked back out water was running down the trail like a creek and the plants were seemingly shouting for joy as they absorbed the life-giving, sustaining moisture. What a contrast it made! What a difference water can make (for good or bad, depending on how much!).
I’m reminded of the story of Elijah in the Old Testament when he predicted a drought which ended up lasting three years without rain or even dew (I Kgs. 17:1; 18:1 cf Jas. 5:17,18)). People were not able to raise their crops and their livestock also began to die and even some of the people were starving to death. During that time, we have the story of how God sent Elijah to the brook Cherith and commanded the ravens to bring him bread and meat (I Kgs. 17:2-6). But then the brook dried up (v. 7) so God sent Elijah to Zarephath where there was a widow who provided for him (vv. 8,9). The widow was preparing to fix one last meal for herself and her son and then, for lack of water and food, expected to die. All she had left was a handful of flour and a little oil in a jar (vv. 10-12). But God promised that her bowl of flour and jar of oil wouldn’t run out before the rains came again (v. 14). Finally, after three years of drought, the rains returned (18:1, 43-45). Waiting three months for rain has seemed like a long time. I can’t imagine waiting three years!
God is the one who provides rain to water the earth. Job wrote: “He gives rain on the earth, and sends water on the fields” (Job 5:10). The Psalmist wrote: “…Sing praises to our God…who covers the heavens with clouds, who provides rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow on the mountains and gives to the beast its food…” (Psa. 147:7,8). The prophet Isaiah records these words from the Lord: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout…” (Isa. 55:10). As God was preparing the Israelites to enter the land He promised them, He spoke to them through Moses, saying: “But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven…and it shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments…that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. And He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be satisfied” (Dt. 11: 13-15). But then God went on to warn them: “Beware, lest your hearts be deceived and you turn away and serve other gods and worship them. Or the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit” (v. 16,17). We read King Solomon’s prayer on behalf of the Israelites, saying: “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain, because they have sinned against Thee, and they pray toward this place and confess Thy name and turn from their sin when Thou dost afflict them, then hear Thou in heaven and forgive the sin of Thy servants and of Thy people Israel, indeed teach them the good way in which they should walk. And send rain on Thy land, which Thou has given Thy people for an inheritance” (I Kg. 8:35,36).
God has often withheld rain as a discipline for His people’s disobedience. Upon repentance and return to worshiping Him, the refreshing rains return. He also used rain as a judgment upon the earth during the time of Noah, when God flooded the earth and destroyed all mankind but Noah and his family. He did, however, promise He would not destroy the earth again with water and gave us the beautiful rainbow as a sign of the promise (Gen. 9:11,12). So, whether we are experiencing a period of drought, or flooding, or refreshing rain in the right amounts, we should realize that our sovereign God is in control. During the final stages of earth’s history before eternity begins, God will send some terrible judgments upon the earth for man’s rebellion and especially for the nations’ mistreatment of His chosen people, the Jews. During that time, called the”great tribulation” (Mt. 24:21), or the “time of Jacob’s distress” (Jer. 30:7), God will send two witnesses to prophesy and preach His Word for 3 1/2 years (probably Elijah and Enoch or Moses). “These have the power to shut up the sky, in order that rain may not fall during the days of their prophesying…” (Rev. 11:6).
But, we praise God today that He is still extending His mercy and bringing the refreshing, life-giving, life-sustaining rains. We will rejoice and be glad. Thank You, LORD!