As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
It is raining hard outside. The gutter on the side of the house sounds like tiny horses are thundering through it. Ugh! Rain. It is a necessity yet quite inconvenient. It never comes at the right time. One must experience drought-like conditions to welcome it. Rain slows us down. It makes extra steps in the day as people try to avoid getting wet, stepping in puddles and hydroplaning on the road. Storms cause interruptions. Our plans give way to the weather conditions. It takes longer to get places. Rain is needed to water the earth. It waters the fields that produce our food. It nourishes the animals that become our sustenance. The steady stream washes away dirt and debris as it prepares for new growth. We need the rain…even the heavy rain. Rain comes in storms. No one wants a storm. It is uncontrollable. It may cause damage. It is dangerous in our navigation through the world. But the Lord reminds me today that rain is a good thing. His Word, like the rain, is released in the earth as a farmer sowing seed for the next harvest. As rain waters the earth, it makes seeds bud and flourish. God’s Word is the seed. His Spirit is released on the earth in us to produce something good, worthwhile and necessary. God’s Word will not return to Him void. Agreed. Where is the harvest? Why are we not prospering? If the Lord is doing His Part, where have we fallen short?
Why do we complain about the rain? It interrupts our life. It inhibits our plans. It causes us to slow down, stop or hunker down so we do not get wet. I hate to get wet when I am going somewhere especially my feet. When water soaks through my shoes to my bare feet, it puts me in a horrible mood. Although it is not terminal, it becomes critical as complaining and grumbling rises within me. Why? I am uncomfortable. God has a good plan for me. He has already provided everything that I need. It is His Way that produces what He has purposed for me including blessing and prosperity. It will require change. It will mean my plan is interrupted. I will experience discomfort. But in the end, I will prosper.
James 5:17-18 (NIV)
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
I love the story of Elijah when he faced the prophets of Baal. They tried everything to stir a dead god, but Elijah knew the living God. (I Kings 18) Elijah had declared a drought and the rain dried up just as he suggested. (I Kings 17) Ahab was furious. When Elijah returned, he came upon Obadiah, the prophet, who was surveying the land for signs of life at the king’s request. Elijah asked him to announce his arrival, Obadiah was afraid. He was quite certain that he would be killed. However that is not at all how the story goes. When Elijah meets with Ahab, the prophet suggests a showdown. He tells the king to summon the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah to assemble on Mount Carmel. He instructs them to prepare the elements of sacrifice each to their god. The one who answers is the one true god. Ahab agrees.
The great multitude of false prophets to dead gods gather together preparing their sacrifice. They beg, plead and even cut themselves to summon a presence, any presence, they plead for a response. Nothing. So Elijah steps up, prepares the sacrifice to the Living God. Now I am quite certain that the Lord would have consumed the offering as it was, but this needed to demonstrate His Impossible Power. So the people were further instructed to fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and the wood. He had them do it a three times until the offering was drenched and the trenches filled with standing water. At the right time, note the time of sacrifice, Elijah called out to the Lord, and the Lord immediately responded. The entire sacrifice was consumed by fire and every bit of water licked up. The water came from the rain. God used this illustration to demonstrate His Power to His People so they would turn back to Him and experience the covenant blessings available only to Children of God.
The people responded by acknowledging the One True God. All the false prophets were killed that very day. Elijah asked the Lord to send rain, and He did. The rain did not fall on the altar. It was part of the sacrifice. God sent the rain when the people acknowledged Him that day. Are you living in a drought but your life is a continuous storm? Are you going through the motions of religion but not experiencing the benefits of our covenant relationship with the Living God? Do you want it to change?
Elijah was a man. An ordinary person who believed in an extraordinary God to the extent the impossible became possible by faith. His human weakness is revealed in the very next chapter. (1 Kings 19) After great victory, Elijah hides in a cave in fear of his life. The super heroes of the Bible are all just ordinary men and women who by faith trusted the Lord enough to surrender the life to Him completely. Acknowledging Him allowed the rain in their life to produce confident hope. It made the impossible totally possible.
Job 36:26-31 (NIV)
How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out. He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind. Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds, how he thunders from his pavilion? See how he scatters his lightning about him, bathing the depths of the sea. This is the way he governs the nations and provides food in abundance.
God operates beyond our comprehension and understanding. He intends to bless and prosper our life. He promises to those who pay attention to His Commandments that they will indeed be blessed and prosper becoming the head and not the tail. (Deuteronomy 28:12-13) He draws water from the earth producing rain to water it. Hold that thought for a moment. God is faithful. He continues in His Process and Plan even when we do not plant or tend the fields we are given. We are not prepared for rain. We meet the Lord with partial faith and a portion of our heart. We receive what we according to what has been given. If a storm hits our pour foundation of faith and compromised belief, the structure of our life falls apart and must be rebuilt. This is the process by which our faith is renewed and restored to become confident hope. God doesn’t send the rain to destroy us but to bless us. It is our lack of preparation that causes the problem. Rain is good. Storms can be productive. We must be prepared to receive the rain and weather the storms of life to see the harvest that is produced.
Ecclesiastes 11:3-6 (NIV)
If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie. Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Sow your seed in the morning and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.
God does things on a much grander scale and from a higher perspective than human knowledge allows – it is in our attention to His Word and His Way that we discover the truth about the rain. I have no power over it. I cannot turn it on or shut it off. However, I can prepare my life for the rain. I can sow seeds of righteousness through faithful obedience to God so when the rain comes it will produce something in my life. I can sing in the rain as it falls knowing that God is always good and showers me with blessings in abundance. The only way to avoid rain is to run for cover and get out of it. God is sending showers of goodness and blessing into my life. The way that I choose to live and where I dwell determines the outpouring in my life. Do I want His Rain to fall in my life? I must sow spiritual seed by planting His Word in my heart and my mind each morning. In the evening, I will continue the Lord’s Work even after my daily job and familial responsibilities are done. If I want spiritual success in my life, I must be ready for the rain.
Joel 2:23-27 (NIV)
Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.
Into each life a little (or a lot of) rain must fall. The Lord is using the saturation of our soul to do amazing things for those who pay attention, prepare and continue to sow in the Spirit. In preparing for the Daniel Fast in January, the Lord reminded me it is about my heart’s condition rather than the natural conditions of my life. Well, look what comes after “rend your heart and not your garments” and Joel’s call toe repentance with prayer and fasting. Rain that yields prosperity and promises for God’s People. Jeremiah offers new insight that it is our attitude and actions that limit the production in our life. Stubborn and rebellious hearts are not fertile ground for God’s Word. God promises us an abundant harvest in our life that will satisfy our mind, soul and body. Is it our rebellion that is causing us to fail to experience such a life? (Jeremiah 5:23-25) Hosea tells us that when we return to the Lord, He will revive and restore us in His Presence. When we acknowledge the Lord even pressing to know Him more, it is like rain in our soul and spirit. It replenishes us from the inside out. (Hosea 6:1-3) The Lord is sending His Rain to water our life. Will we be ready to receive it? Prayer and fasting opens our heart exposing the rocks and stubble keeping us from growing in prosperity that He promises. He keeps sending the rain to revive and restore us but until we open our hearts and minds to receive Him, we will continue to live in the drought.
The abundance of God awaits us in 2016. It is ours. We don’t have to ask for it. We don’t have to beg for it or try to earn it in any way. We receive it through faithful obedience and the repositioning of our life into the Lord’s Overflow. He is sending the rain. Day by day the clouds are building until it comes. Will you be ready? Will I? As we welcome the New Year with a fast, our prayer should be that of submission to God’s Placement in His Plan and positioning for His Promise. We need God to change us. We ask the Lord to move us into perfect alignment with His Will, Word and Way. When we surrender, He will come like the rain.
Zechariah 10:1 (NIV)
Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone.