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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Friday, February 01, 2013

Rain drops keep falling on my head, I hope

Rain drops keep falling on my head, I hope 


Samuel Martin

I spent a week in Turkey during the first week of May 2011 and when I returned to Jerusalem I was talking to the taxi driver on the way home from the airport and he was telling me about the unusual rain we had had while I was gone. As usual, the first thing that came to my mind was “Thank God, we need that rain.”

Even in the week after I came back, we had some much needed beautiful rain. It is right at the end of the rainy season here and those last little drops mean so much to us as we enter a full five months coming up without any rain at all.

I know that I was not alone in thinking that here in Israel. We never have enough water. But rain in general has been a subject that has popped up on the radar screen of late several times.

Over here in Israel, rain is no small subject. In fact, we have four different types of rain. These are all referenced in Scripture in fact. (There are a few other words translated “rain” as well.) These are:

Sprinkling Rain (Hebrew: יורה – yoreh) – comes in Israel from September to November
Normal Rain (Hebrew: גשם – geshem) – comes in Israel from December through March
Hard/Stormy Rain (Hebrew: מטר – matar) comes in Israel in same period as above
Latter Rain (Hebrew: מלקוש – malqosh) comes in Israel during April and May

I mention all of this because it is important to distinguish these terms when we are talking about the rain.

It is also important to say something about the seasons in that in Biblical terminology we only have two seasons and we can call them “summer” and “winter,” but we can also call them the period when rains fall and those when rains do not fall.

In Israel, the time of the rainy period is normally cooler than the period when the rains do not fall. Note what Baly says in this regard:

“The Palestinian year is divided into two major seasons, the dry summer from mid-June to mid-September and the rainy season in the cooler half of the year. The summer drought, during which no rain falls at all, is actually somewhat longer than the true ‘summer’ and extends into the transitional seasons which dive the summer from the winter at either end. Thus, even on the cost of Cis-Jordan (Israel), the drought is usually complete for five continuous months from the middle of May to the second forthnight in October. It is better to avoid using the word “winter” for the rainy season, for winter inevitably suggests to an English-speaking person a cold season, but in Palstine the cold weather is normally confined to the three months after Christmas, that is to the second half of the rainy season. In modern Arabic, the word “summer” is so emphatically suggestive of the long dry period (cf. Ps. 32:4, ‘My strength was dried up as the heat of summer”) that winter means more than anything else that blessed period when the rain comes. The Arabic word shittah is in fact used impartially for both “winter” and “rain” and there seems to be something of the same thought in Song of Solomon 2:11, “ For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.” (Baly, The Geography of the Bible, pg. 43)

Rain has always been important to me and mine. My dad was a trained weather forecaster in the US Air Force before he got interested in social studies and ultimately the Holy Scriptures. Dad used to always verbally thank God for the rains that would come when we were small in England, in Israel, in California, in Oregon, or where ever we were and it was raining. I guess being from a family who left Oklahoma in 1935 due to the Dust Bowl, he was always a little more cognizant of the importance of having the rain come in its seasons. I sure miss hearing my dad “Thank God” for the rain, but he’d be happy knowing that I’ve taken up his old habit.

I was watching Oprah recently to see Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand together and during the show, Oprah was rehearsing some of Mr. Redford’s films and the subject of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” came up and then Mr. Redford mentioned that song, “Rain drops keep falling on my head.” I always liked that song.

But even more than songs and the weather, I was talking to my daughter the other day and the rain again came to my mind. Kids will be kids and do the things kids do which in fact are basically the same things that adults do (make mistakes), but kids only are younger and make different mistakes than adults do. Mine are no exception, but one small event of late made me think of the rain and its importance as a symbol which parents can learn something from. In fact, it goes back to a specific teaching of our Lord referenced here below and it brings the issue of rain into the discussion. It is from the Sermon on the Mount in fact saying:

“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, o that you may be sons of your Father who is 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 ESV)

This very important section of Scripture is given totally in an environment of law. This is because at the time Jesus gave it, the Law of Moses was still very much in force and binding on Israelites. Of course, Jesus also had not yet died and been raised from the dead and the Holy Spirit had not yet come to dwell in us. However, while this is the case, we can still note some important teaching in this passage relating to how we treat our own children.

I have discussed many times in my writings about the relationship that God has with us and we who are parents have a relationship which in fact resembles a little bit that of God to all of His children. My point in this is that if we who are parents want to have a systematic theology of parenting, which outlines what it is that God wants us to do versus what He does not want us to do relative to our own children, it seems clear to me that the place to learn about this systematic theology is in the Holy Scriptures. Here we have to use the Holy Scriptures, I believe, as our guide to help us learn and know about God and about how He does things. If we do this, especially knowing that God is perfect, we can know that the things we are doing (or trying our best to do in our human, imperfect carnality) are inspired by a divine source. This is my hope and prayer as a parent. I know that I fall short more often than not and I really want to know that godly systematic theology of parenting.

Knowing God – How?

I want to know more about God specifically and in general. {Please refer here to the really seminal article by DR. E.W. Bullinger – The Christians Greatest Need - http://rightdivision.com/christians-greatest-need] Being that we cannot see the Lord or speak to Him directly as we would any other person, we have some limitations. Of course, we know that He hears our prayers and that our communication with Him is real and substantive.

There are though two other ways we can have a better understanding of God. As a Christian, I can point to the first way, which will be fairly obvious. It is knowing and learning about God through the agency of that good old book: The Holy Scriptures. This book is the main entry point for the Christian today in knowing God.

However, there is one other way that we can learn things about God and it is referenced very clearly in the passage from Matthew 5 I quoted earlier.

In that passage of Scripture, Jesus very tersely reveals this principle. It is found in the following verse and, yes, it relates to the subject of our discussion here: rain!

“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45 ESV)

Here Jesus tells us that we can see God’s love in action through His bringing of the sun each day and His sending the rain on the earth.

So, in the physical phenomena of the sun and the rain, God’s love is expressed on mankind and the earth. Clearly, rain is a blessing and something good for mankind (as in the sunshine) and these natural phenomena tell us something about God. Note what Paul said in this regard:

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Romans 1:19,20 ESV)

Now, as God is Love (I John 4:8), His actions in caring for the earth and for its inhabitants are expressed partly through these natural means and through these means we can learn something about what kind of a parent God is and I believe what kind of a parent He desires us to be.

Now, sun and rain help to provide sustenance to the earth and all who live in it. Without these phenomena taking place in their due seasons, mankind would live in a very chaotic state.

This, in fact, is exactly the circumstance that mankind did live in prior to the time of the great cataclysm (also known as the Great Flood) that took place during the period of Noah. Yes, we can notice some teaching which shows that the normal phenomena that we experience today concerning sunshine and rain and the normal weather patterns we are generally acclimated to experience were before the great cataclysm disturbed in a way that affected how life on earth existed. Notice this very important passage in Genesis 8, which shows this. Following the great cataclysm, note what the Lord Himself said:

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22 ESV)

What this text seems to indicate very clearly is that prior to the great cataclysm, the circumstances of natural phenomena in the earth were no regular. Seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, were not taking place in their normal routine that we today are familiar with. Something was causing these normal phenomena to be disturbed. [This was almost certainly caused by the presence of a planetary ring made up of ice crystals that was broken up and came down to earth to cause that great cataclysm of water known as the Great Flood.]

Now, we know that through the promise of a natural phenomena, the introduction of the rainbow, God promised that mankind would be spared a further judgment by water.

Now, we have to believe, as Scripture teaches that the earth in that period was under a curse (Genesis 8:21) and this was expressed naturally by having the natural phenomena disturbed and not operating in their regular seasons. Not only were the seasons, crops and temperature disturbed, but day and night was also disturbed. Christ gave the universal understanding that there are, on the average, twelve hours in each day. (John 11:9). This also, of course, means that there are twelve hours of night.

What God promised Noah was that there was going to be a consistency and normalcy regarding heavenly motions and this would extend to day and night. Note the following texts in this regard:

“I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies.” Selah (Psalm 89:34-37)

"Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord of hosts is his name: If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” (Jeremiah 31:35, 36 ESV)

What has happened in the past will not happen again until a new heavens and a new earth come into existence. (Isaiah 65:17)

Rain is a blessing for mankind

It must be understood that rain that comes on the earth is something that comes due to the grace of God and through His agency. As we have seen, disturbing of the seasons and withholding of rain or sunshine is considered evil and a curse, but rain coming in its seasons is a blessing that comes from God. Note the following texts:

“But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, a land that the Lord your God cares for. The eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. 15 And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. Deuteronomy 11:11-15 ESV)

“The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue. The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.” (II Samuel 23:2-4 ESV)

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice! Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor! 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 72:1-6 ESV)

“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! “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. (Deuteronomy 32:1-4 ESV)

These texts point to God’s use of rain in blessing mankind. He also speaks in Deuteronomy 11 of the withholding of rain being a curse for the sins of the children of Israel if they went to worship other deities.

Changes in God’s dealing with man relative to rain shown
by Jesus in the New Testament

Now, we can see in the context of the law of Moses that rain was considered a blessing and would be given to the righteous believer who followed God’s ways. While this is indeed the case, we can note in the Gospel of Matthew a little difference in the teaching of Jesus and he clearly pointed this out in His Sermon on the Mount in the text we referred to earlier.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-47 ESV)
Here Jesus takes the existing laws of Moses and magnifies them to the extreme.

Christ while teaching in the flesh was really placing the capstone on the Mosaic system of living by the Law. Indeed, Christ was prophesied to be a "second Moses" with all the power and authority of Moses to be a legislator. Note the textual indications which shows this:

"The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And
the Lord said unto me, they have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him" (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

"The Lord is well pleased for his [the Messiah's] righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable" (Isaiah 42:21).

So, in this process of magnifying the Law, of introducing some new ideas for our consideration as Christians, we see that Jesus here in this text injects a number of ideas for our consideration and they can be adopted by parents if we wish to see this as an opportunity to add something to our parenting tool box.

Note what he says once again: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-47 ESV)

Here we have Jesus talking about God once again as our Father. The Fatherhood of God is mentioned twice in this text and note that He here is talking about actions of God towards us, His children.

When I read this passage, what I see here is not an eye for an eye, but rather love in spite of sin. Look at it here. He sends the blessing of the sun and rain on the just and the unjust. Here is where we parents can learn something I think.

He is here telling us something about His style of parenting and it is anything but punitive. It is totally oriented to love. If we take this illustration to its logical conclusion, we can apply it to our own children and I think we can learn something about how to treat them.

Frankly, speaking about my own kids (and thinking back to times when I was a kid), sometimes they are sinful and sometimes good like most kids. This places them in the camp of the “just” and the “unjust” as I see it. Many dear Christian brethren are very keen to point to correcting every fault, punishing every wrongdoing and righting every wrong, but here we don’t see that in evidence. We see God showering down His blessing on the “just” (the good little children) and the “unjust” (the children who are misbehaving). So my question then comes down to this. If this is what God is doing as our parent as an supreme example of love, why should we, His children, not follow His example and do the same thing? I think we should.

Do we need to do it every time? Perhaps not as rain does not always fall uniformly. It might miss a hill here and there, but I think in general as a principle, I think we need to generally aspire to having an environment of “the rain falling” on the “just” and the “unjust.”

I think personally if you withhold the rain and try to deal with the unjust in a dry ground perspective, it can be harder. Let the rain drops keep falling on our heads, I hope.

1 comment:

Carissa Robinson said...

Loved this post! Thanks, Samuel. We have come to appreciate rain as a family while living here in Bolivia. The farmers count on the rain in order for their crops to survive--this year, the farmers were despairing because no rain fell during the rainy season. The believers here were earnestly praying for rain, and it did come! And, of course, it fell on the just as well as the unjust; what a beautiful picture of grace.