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Seeing God In a Summer Storm

by Robert L. Cobb
-Administrator, News For Christians Dot Com

God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.
     The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

                                                                        Nahum 1:2-3

Introduction:  It was a Sunday night in June. The congregation of about 120 listened intently to the sermon of the hour, on The Devices of the Devil.  Around 20 minutes into the message a hard rain began to fall outside.  It is difficult to hear the rain inside the brick church building with a shingle roof.  But tonight the sound of rain almost drowned out the pastor's message.  The message continued.  Then the invitation was given.  As the last of those who came to pray left the altar, the lightning came.  One of the men in the church had opened the double doors that opened into the foyer and glass windows and doors in the front.  The last amen had not yet been said, but now we could see the storm.

The rain was so hard you could hardly see five feet outside the windows.  The flash of lightning was followed almost immediately by the powerful boom of thunder.  The worst of the thunderstorm was right  on us.  The pastor said, "You can leave if you want.  But you might be safer if you stayed here for a while. I wouldn't want to be out of God's will right now."  Everyone stayed put.  Some went back to the altar to pray.  Others sat silently as the storm passed over. 

As we sat there, the thought came.  How much like God is this thunderstorm!  Jesus used nature and the everyday things around him to illustrate His points.  Now God was painting a great portrait of his sovereign power and glory all around us.  Let us examine deeper to see God in the summer storm.

I.    The Summer Storm Reveals God's Mighty Power

Many people today think of God as a kindly old grandfather Who is amused at His children's sins and shortcomings.  Their concept of God does not allow for the use of His power to punish or strike against sin.   Catastrophic events in nature were once referred to as "acts of God."   But now science can tell us all about these natural events.  They do not allow for a personal God to instigate these occurrences.  Nature testifies of God.  Psalm 19:1 tells us "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork."  The night sky, sunrise and sunset, and even the catastrophic events of nature show God's mighty power.   Psalm 68:33-35:

33 To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old; lo, he doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice.   34 Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds.  35 O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.
Lightning is mentioned in scripture many times in relationship to God's power.  In Ezekiel, the living creatures surrounding the throne of God exuded lightning.  In chapter ten of Daniel, the prophet describes a vision of the pre-existent Christ as having "the appearance of lightning." In the gospels, Jesus' second coming is prophesied to be "as the lightning."

Anyone who has ever been caught in a violent summer thunderstorm can attest to its power. The dark and foreboding clouds on the horizon attest to its approaching.  We look at its darkness and try to determine its severity.   Then the lightning begins to flash in the distance and we know that it is near.   We take cover.  The powerful thunderclaps tell us that the storm is upon us, and the rain drives us from our outside activities.  There is great power in a thunderstorm.  Some have said that, if the lightning from one summer thunderstorm could be harnessed for man's use, the power would supply a town of 10,000 for a month.

ILLUSTRATION: In the midwest during the times of the great Moody revivals, many atheists toured the towns to refute the evangelists who were preaching repentance and faith.  In one town, the great speaker used his oratory to confound and confuse the hearers.  A few Christians called out Bible verses only to have them twisted and thrown back at them.  He chided the crowd, "Where is your God?  If He is alive, let Him show Himself!  If He is present let Him speak!"  No one dared challenge him until an old black man near the back of the crowd yelled, "Here He come!  He'll be here in a minute.  Then He'll shut yo' mouth, yes He will!"  He pointed to the horizon and all eyes followed his finger.  In the hubbub, a storm had been gathering, catching them by surprise.  In a few minutes, the sky let loose a torrent of rain and wind, and, sure enough, the crowd dispersed and the atheist took cover with everyone else.  God had shown Himself in the storm.

II.    The Summer Storm Rebukes Man's Pride

We think of ourselves as self-sufficient.  We are able to handle the pressures and problems of life.  We surround ourselves with gadgets and devices that make our lives easier and make us prideful.  The violent summer thunderstorm reminds us of our place in God's order.  Lightning surges run through the power lines and blink our electronic devices;  our communication system goes awry.  Man sits with pride upon the throne of his inventions until God sees fit to knock him down.

In Jeremiah 50:31-32 God says,  "Behold, I am against thee, O thou most proud, saith the Lord GOD of hosts: for thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee.  And the most proud shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up: and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him."  How many proud and arrogant people has God laid low by the storms of nature?  We watch the TV reports as survivors are interviewed after a violent weather event and see subdued people who feel fortunate to be alive.  How many of those people were full of pride and pretension before the storm?

Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."
And in Proverbs 29:23,  "A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit."

III.  The Summer Storm Regards Man Equally

The Bible tells us that God is no respector of persons.  This means that God does not play favorites.  Race does not matter with Him; Gender does not matter with Him; Wealth or fame does not matter; Intelligence or ability carries no weight with God.  But it would be a simplistic notion to think that God treats everyone the same.  He is a discriminating God!  He does as He wills!  His choices are holy, righteous, and true.  No one can gainsay or accuse God of wrongdoing in His dealings.  Though He treats us differently as individuals, He does not do it on the basis of favoritism or prejudice.  He does it because He is the All-Knowing One!

The summer storm is a great example of this truth.  When a particularly destructive storm passes through an area, the TV cameras always show the "random" path of the storm.  It is a great mystery to the world why the storm destroyed one house and left its nearest neighbor intact.  In 1989, when Hurricane Hugo passed over my inland home, the winds were still at 60-75 miles per hour even though we live over 200 miles from the coast.  I had a metal outbuilding that was blown off its foundation.  But the contents of the building, including cassette tapes stacked one on top of the other,  were not moved!

The sovereignty of God is a mysterious truth of the Bible.  We cannot fully understand it but we should fully appreciate it.  Our times are in His hands.  He knows the things that come into our lives, whether they be storms or sunshine.  There is no "randomness" in God's storms, only sovereignty!  Job, contemplating this subject, said in Job 9:10-12:

    10  Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.  11  Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not.  12  Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?
IV.  The Summer Storm Reproves Man's Intelligence

Watch the local weather forecast for just a week, and you will come to the conclusion that humankind is ignorant about the weather.  The "weather man" is correct in his forecast about 65% of the time.  Modern science and technology can track the storms but can only give odds of what they will do and where they will go next. 

I can remember the TV weather reports of my childhood:  The "weather man" would take a heavy felt marker and draw the fronts, the low pressures, and the high pressures on the weather map.  He would then draw arrows in the direction he thought the weather systems would go.  Now we have sophisticated radar, multi-layer maps, weather projections up to a week ahead, and many other advancements, but the accuracy is about the same.

When God answered Job's complaints from the whirlwind in Job 38, the weather was one of the things that He challenged Job to address:

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,   Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?  Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.  Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding... Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth? Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,  Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?...To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;  Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?  Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?...Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?...Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?
V.  The Summer Storm Resists Man's Influence

Man has been trying to affect the weather almost since the beginning of time.  We have all heard of the American Indian "rain dances."  In frontier America, traveling rogues laid claim to bringing or withholding rain.  They are all Elijah wannabes, for God used him to actually shut up the heavens for 3 1/2 years.  Modern science has been experimenting with cloud-seeding to cause clouds to produce rain.  Just this year a company claims to have produced a chemical that will dry up a hurricane.  Government monitoring of the tests have been positive.

Psalm 36:5 says, "Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds."  Though man might invent ways to affect the weather, God is still the Sovereign of nature.  The summer storm travels a path that man cannot change.  He can only "hunker down" and wait for it to pass over.  Likewise, God is not influenced by man's scientific advances or his growing knowledge of nature.  He will continue to use it to accomplish His purpose. l 

VI.  The Summer Storm Ruins Man's Plans

We have all had ball games, picnics, and family outings disrupted by the weather.  Sometimes it is just a minor inconvenience, other times it may be serious. Christian, do you recognize God's right to ruin your plans?  Most of us will answer that question very quickly.  "Yes, we definitely know that God can change our plans."  But do we really understand what that could mean?

James tells us in James 4:13-16, "Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.  For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." Christians know those verses and are quick to add "if the Lord wills" to their plans.  But do we really mean it?  Or do we add our "if the Lord wills" as the television and radio commercials add the disclaimer to the end of their advertisements?  The speaker reads the disclaimer quickly and without force, hoping it will not negatively influence the hearers.

A lovely Christian girl in the low country of South Carolina was about to be married to the man of her dreams.  Both came from good Christian families and they were deeply in love.  The bride had dreamed of her wedding since childhood.  She wanted her wedding to be outside in a nearby garden among the spring flowers and colorful azaleas.  Her pastor and her parents warned her of the danger of decorating for a wedding outside at the mercy of spring showers.  But she said, "I'm not worried, mother.  God has assured me that there will be no rain on my wedding day."  But less than an hour before the scheduled start, a violent thunderstorm passed through and destroyed decorations and scattered the seats.  The wedding went on, albeit an hour later than scheduled.  The young bride was heartbroken.  "How could God let this happen?" she kept saying.

Again, I ask you, do you recognize God's right to ruin your plans?  One person pursues his life's goal in a certain field.  What if God will not let you succeed in that line of work?  Another wants to live in a certain town or community.  What if God moves you somewhere else?  A couple marries with the intention of starting a family.  What if you go childless?  A preacher prepares himself for the pastorate.  What if you never get a church?  James Chapter Four is not just a "Christian disclaimer."  It is God's way of letting us know that He is in charge of our lives, not us!

VII.  The Summer Storm Renews the Earth Even in Destruction

My wife and I are lovers of the city of Charleston, S.C.   We take most of our vacations there and never tire of it.  In  1989, Hurricane Hugo came ashore just a few miles north of the city itself.  The storm did billions of dollars of damage.  Trees, hundreds of years old, were blown down.  Historic houses were damaged extensively.  Some areas still show the effects of Hugo.

One of our favorite places to visit in Charleston is the Olde Charlestowne Landing national park.  In that park, they have a nature walk with  exhibits of the animals that were native to the area in the 1700's.  There are cougars, bison, bears, alligators, all kinds of birds,  snakes and rodents.  Hugo almost completely destroyed this part of the park and many of the animals were lost.  A few years after the storm, we visited the park again.  Much of the nature walk was still "off-limits."  When one of the visitors made mention of the terrible loss associated with Hugo, a park guide said these words.  "The hurricane was as much a part of nature as were the animals and habitat.  This area has seen dozens of hurricanes in the last 300 years.   Hugo could have some positive results in nature, but it will take longer than our lifetimes to see it."

How much like God in the storms that He sends.  We will never know the full results until we reach heaven.  God brings renewal from destruction; He brings gain from loss; positives from negatives.  God called the prophet Jeremiah into his service and made this statement:  "See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant."  Jeremiah 1:10  His job description was not only to destroy and pull down, but to build and to plant.  God never brings the storm without a purpose.

Conclusion:  The next time you look to the western horizon and see an approaching thunderstorm, think of the attributes of God that are seen in the storm.  If you are not saved,  eternity will be like an unending storm of fire and punishment.  For the Christian, this life is like a brief thunderstorm, sometimes scary, but always guided by the hand of God, to be followed by the eternal sunshine of God's presence.

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