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Let It Rain

I’ve never been too concerned about rain. I’ve never measured how much rainfall my neighborhood has experienced in a given month or season. I’ve never examined the water tables to determine the dryness of the soil. I’ve never given a thought to crop growth. I’ve always felt perfectly justified in a liberal application of both garden hose and shower head. I’ve never been too concerned about rain.
     Never, that is, until I began ministering amongst a community of farmers. Suddenly, conversations are dominated in Summertime by discussions of rain gauge measurements, as observed in back yards in disparate parts of the county. The sharing of prayer requests can never be drawn to a close without the ritual, “please pray for rain . . . it’s awfully dry around here right now.” Now, as never before in my life, when I peruse the produce sections of the grocery store, or revel in the garden bounty of generous congregants, I am aware of the blessing that rain actually is.
     All of this gives me a new insight into passages like Joel 3:18, which I’ve been studying in my personal devotions recently:
And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the Valley of Shittim.
How important water is to an agricultural society! How important water is to all of us (all of us who like to eat when we’re hungry anyway) if only we knew it! The Israelites were all too well aware of the extreme value of water, especially in their arid environment. Water thus becomes a predictable symbol of life to them. Passages like Isaiah 44:3, Jeremiah 2:13, 17:12–13, Ezekiel 47:9, Zechariah 14:8, and others, all use the earth’s need for water to illustrate the deeper need that God’s people have for God himself.
     One of the more startling ways that some of these passages accomplish this is by describing streams of water flowing from the very throne of God himself. Thus Ezekiel writes:
Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side. (Ezekiel 47:1–2)
The prophet goes on to describe how the stream of water that flowed from the temple quickly increased in width and depth to the point where it became a virtual river flowing east from Jerusalem into the Dead Sea, where it would proceed to turn that famously salty body of water fresh.
     Similarly, Zechariah prophesies:
On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. (Zechariah 14:8).
Taken all together with the passage from Joel, where we started, it would seem that God wants his people to understand that the water they long for to nourish their land comes finally from him. He is all they need.
     Indeed, he is much more than they could possibly imagine. For John picks up this same imagery in his Revelation. He writes:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1–2)
The water that John envisions flowing from God not only results in a fruitful land that produces crops as needed for the citizens of God’s kingdom, it actually nourishes the Tree of Life itself. Which is as much as to say that all we need, in this life and the next, flows freely to us from God.
     The amazing thing in all of this is that we don’t need to wait until the consummation of the kingdom for this divine irrigation to begin. Jesus promises it to us here and now, at least in some limited sense:
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 14:13–14)
When we accept Jesus’ offer to provide living water, we can be assured that the dry soil of our souls will never go thirsty again. The dead seas of our spirits will become fresh. We will bring forth an eternal harvest for our God.
     So in this sense, as much as in the other, more earthly one, it is good for us to pray, “Lord, let it rain . . . it’s awfully dry around here right now.”

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