Rejoice in the Lord your God! For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. Joel 2:23
It seems a simple thing for the Lord to affirm his faithfulness through something so commonplace as rain. But this easy-to-pass-over declaration in Joel becomes profoundly meaningful when one steps back to examine rain through the lens of the Very Beginning. In fact, there is a complexity to its occurrence that would do us well to consider.
Consider that the sun hangs 93,000 miles away which is just the right distance for water to exist in all three forms of liquid, gas, and solid on our planet. This means we have oceans that steam and send water into the sky to later fall over the land in the form of snow and rain only to run back to the ocean in life-giving rivers to begin the process all over again. Without this process humanity and most other forms of life would never have flourished but how did all this come to be?
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone? Have you explored the springs from which the seas come? Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground and make the tender grass spring up? Can you shout to the clouds and make it rain?” (Job 38:4, 6, 16, 27, 34)
Consider also that 93,000 miles also happens to be the exact distance at which the earth will neither freeze nor burn in its proximity to the giant ball of fiery fusion that at this perfect distance contributes to life just as much as water in all three forms. Consider the seasons all brought about by the steady orbit of our planet, on a mathematically predictable path around our sun. The seasons that happen only because our planet is tilted at a degree of 23.5 degrees; the seasons that give way to the variety of life – from polar bears to tigers, jellyfish to eagles, jungles to grasslands – and the procreation thereof.
“Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth? Can you direct the sequence of the seasons?” (Job 38:12,13,32)
Consider the moon that hangs in orbit around our world – bigger in proportion to its planet than any other moon in the solar system – big enough to affect a perfect pace of rotation for the earth, keeping it steadier still as it circles around the sun.
“Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you use them to regulate the earth?” (Job 38:33)
Many call these events the incredible, nearly impossible luck that began our planet; only some call it the faithfulness of God; fewer still live in the reality that “in [God] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Something sustains our planet and the fragile life that exists on it. The mysterious law of gravity seems to be a popular explanation but for those inclined to see the multiple coincidences and complexities as intelligent design, God – the self-existent, self-sufficient Creator who puts all of humankind on trial in his interrogation of Job – is the obvious answer.
Many of us are at a disadvantage – though you’d be hard-pressed to find someone actually call it that – as we live in a culture that has built a semblance of control over life and our most basic needs. We have grocery stores filled with anything and everything we need and if one store doesn’t have it, the one next door surely will. Lacking drinkable water is a thing never even considered, much less feared, by the majority of the Western world. Hospitals have innumerous methods of preserving health and staving off death – so much so, that people now feel free to fight against modern medicine in pursuit of more “natural” methods of healing.
We are only ever a drive away from all we might need to preserve our life, though we rarely consider those basic needs since we are also only a drive away from everything we could ever want. In fact, our needs are so certainly met by the world we’ve built, we have the choice to spend far more time being concerned with our wants; ironically, often times our wants produce more stress than our needs.
Many call this a blessing; some call it “just the way it is”; fewer still see it as a disadvantage in that we have become blind to the absolute dependence we have upon the One who can claim:
“I alone am God, the First and the Last. It was my hand that laid the foundations of the earth, my right hand that spread out the heavens above.” (Isaiah 48:12-13)
Living in a country like Papua New Guinea gives profound meaning to the verse from Joel: Rejoice in the Lord your God! For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. People who must plant and cultivate food to live (like all of our ancestors) are extremely dependent on the rain for life. (Another issue is keeping animals out of their gardens; a friend of mine is constantly talking about how her pig ravages her garden and destroys all the food she’s been waiting to harvest…but that’s another story.) The story I want to illuminate is the fact that this way of life – the way most humans have lived over the course of history – is a way of life that is admittedly and obviously dependent on the One who sends rain, the same One who laid the foundation of the earth making it possible for rain to fall.
As people in PNG are awakened to the reality of their Creator and his redemptive story that makes it possible for a rebellious creation to reestablish a relationship with him, they are daily inclined to “rejoice in the Lord” as they see in every drop of rain evidence of his direct and intimate faithfulness. He loved them in their creation, he loved them in their redemption, and he continually loves them in the sustenance of their lives as he “tilt[s] the water jars of heaven when the parched ground is dry and the soil has hardened into clods” (Job 38:37-38).
Though we live in a time and place that has built a deceptively autonomous way of life, may we consider each drop of rain with the same rejoicing gratitude. May each wet splatter on our windshield, sparkle of dew on our grass, and slip of water between toes and Rainbows keep us ever reminded of our dependence upon a faithful God who has graciously spanned the gap of rebellion to remind his beloved people of his sustaining presence. For in him only do “we live and move and have our being.”