It’s been a tough week in a tough place where I work. 2 students have lost their lives to violence over the span of the weekend. I did not know the students or even of them. They were anonymous to me but after seeing many distraught students in my classroom Friday morning I felt some of the pain that such a loss brings to people who are sadly accustomed than anyone their age should be to such awfulness.
There’s a terrific story in the gospels. It’s so terrific in fact that besides the crucifixion it’s the only miracle repeated in all four gospels. In it, you’re probably familiar, a large crowd has gathered to hear Jesus teach. And they get hungry. Jesus tells the disciples to feed them. Of course their reaction is huh? What do we have? One of them finds a boy, I wish the scriptures gave us his name, who had 5 loaves and 2 fish. Not sure if it was wheat or white and if the fish were walleye or trout, but that’s what they had. Jesus takes the loaves and fish and somehow multiplies it into a feast for the masses. 5 loaves and 2 fish.
When I go to work, I feel like the disciples. LORD, I pray, this problem seems overwhelming. All I’ve got is 5 loaves and 2 fish, and they’re not really big fish you know, never really learned to fish. What can I do LORD? I’m just a guy who teaches history, grew up in the safe place, never experienced anything close to traumatic in my life. Well, here you go LORD, here’s my life, use it this week, next week, next month, next year. I’m offering my 5 loaves and 2 fish.
I am intentionally reading through the Bible this year. There are parts of the Bible I’d rather not read, to be honest, and right now I’m in one of those places, Job.
I know the book of Job. Satan challenged God to let him mess over Job and see if he’d remain faithful to God. Of course Job loses almost everything and ultimately remains faithful. I don’t really need to read it again right? After all, I’m a concrete thinker and all of this poetic language doesn’t resonate in my recently damaged brain.
So I found myself last night reading Job. I actually told Janice I don’t like reading Job, but faithfully plowed through a bunch of chapters relying more on the headings provided by Mr. Schofield to determine the gist of the chapter. The sooner I can get out of this book the better I’m thinking so I’ll read a whole bunch.
And then the words stopped me. Stopped me in my tracks. Job 36. He’s writing words about a storm. I start making the connection. There’s a big storm out there, Irene, which is threatening many here and has already devastated many in Caribbean countries that most of us don’t pay any attention to.
:27 “For He draws up the drops of water, They distill rain from the mist, which the clouds pour down, They drip upon man abundantly”
I’m no scientist but apparently his friend Elihu who wrote these words was. The science of rain formation! In what is the oldest book in the Bible! Cool!
:30 “Behold, He spreads His lightning about Him, and He covers the depths of the sea. For by these He judges peoples.”
The storms are part of God’s plan. That’s a tough pill to swallow. Some people apparently are being judged by God in what is unfolding in front of us on TV.
:32 “He covers His hands with the lightning, and commands it to strike the mark. It’s noise declares His presence.”
The noise of a storm indeed declares His presence. We shouldn’t need to be reminded of it. Where can I hide from His presence? That’s what David asked. There’s many seeing God’s presence right now in this storm. And did you catch the lightning line there? He commands it to strike the mark. Is this where we get the God will strike you with lightning idea? Could be. I never thought about it.
In chapter 37 now, more science, :9 “Out of the south comes the storm and out of the north the cold” No need for explanation there. Hurricane season has us all looking south, and the coming winter season has us looking north.
:13 “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen. (dear microsoft, lovingkindness should not be underlined as a misspelled word, it’s a word that has been around for millenia, a word meaning God’s faithful love for unfaithful people) These storms have a divine purpose. Jesus talked about this in Luke 13. “Or do you suppose that those 18 on whom the tower fell in Siloam and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
The storms of today, spoken of in ancient times serve a divine purpose. These storms are correcting people. Some will perish. And this is the message. What we do in this life, if the literal storms hit or not, has to lead to a time, a moment, in which we repent. And when we do that, then we can agree with Elihu’s awesome conclusion.
:21-24. Now men do not see the light which is bright in the skies; But the wind has passed and cleared them. Out of the north comes golden splendor; Around God is awesome majesty. The Almighty-we cannot Him; He is exalted in power and He will not do violence to justice and abundant righteousness. Therefore men fear Him. He does not regard any who are wise of heart.”