The Great Work of God: RainPosted: May 31, 2009
But as for me, I would seek God,
And I would place my cause before God;
Who does great and unsearchable things,
Wonders without number.
He gives rain on the earth,
And send water on the fields. Job 5:8-10
If you said to someone, “My God does great and unsearchable things; He does wonders without number,” and responded, “Really? Like what?” would you say, “Like rain”? When I read these verses from Job recently, I felt, at first, the way I did on hearing some bad poetry that went something like this, “Let me suffer, let me die, just to win your hand; let me even climb a hill, or walk across the land.” Even? I would suffer and die to have your hand, and even walk across the land? As if walking across the land were more sacrificial than dying? This sounded to me like a joke.
But Job is not joking. “God does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number. He gives rain on the earth.” In Job’s mind rain really is one of the great unsearchable wonders God does. So when I read this a few weeks ago, I resolved not to treat it as meaningless pop musical lyrics. I decided to have a conversation with myself (which is what I mean by meditation).
Is rain a great and unsearchable wonder wrought by God? Picture yourself as a farmer in the Near East, far from any lake or stream. A few wells keep the family and animals supplied with water. But if the crops are to grow and the family is to be fed from month to month, water has to come from another source on the fields. From where?
Well, the sky. The sky? Water will come out of the clear blue sky? Well, not exactly. Water will have to be carried in the sky from the Mediterranean Sea over several hundred miles, and then be poured out on the fields from the sky. Carried? How much does it weigh? Well, if one inch of rain falls on one square mile of farmland during the night, that would be 2, 323,200 cubic feet of water, which is 17,377,356 gallons, which is 144,735,360 pounds of water.
That’s heavy. So how does it get up in the sky and stay up there if it’s so heavy? Well, it gets up there by evaporation. Really? That’s a nice word. What’s it mean? It means that the water stops being water for a while so it can go up and not down. I see. Then how does it get down? Well, condensation happens. What’s that? The water starts becoming water again by gathering around little dust particles between 0.00001 and 0.0001 centimetres wide. That’s small.
What about the salt? Salt? Yes, the Mediterranean Sea is salt water. That would kill the crops. What about the salt? Well, the salt has to be taken out. Oh. So the sky picks up millions of pounds of water from the sea, takes out the salt, carries the water (or whatever it is, when it is not water) for three hundred miles, and then dumps it (now turned into water again) on the farm?
Well, it doesn’t dump it. If it dumped millions of pounds of water on the farm, the wheat would be crushed. So the sky dribbles the millions of pounds of water down in little drops. And they have to be big enough to fall for one mile or so without evaporating, and small enough to keep from crushing the wheat stalks.
How do all these microscopic specks of water that weigh millions of pounds get heavy enough to fall (if that’s the way to ask the question)? Well, it’s called coalescence. What’s that? It means the specks of water start bumping into each other and join up and get bigger, and when they are big enough, they fall. Just like that? Well, not exactly, because they would just bounce off each other instead of joining up if there were no electric field present. What? Never mind. Take my word for it.
I think instead, I will just take Job’s word for it. I still don’t see why drops ever get to the ground, because if they start falling as soon as they are heavier than air, they would be too small not to evaporate on the way down. But of they wait to come down, what holds them up till they are big enough not to evaporate? Yes, I am sure there’s a name for that too. But I am satisfied for now that, by any name, this is a great and unsearchable thing that God has done. I think I should be thankful –lots more thankful than I am.
John Piper, Taste and See (Savoring the Supremacy of God), Multnomah Publishers, Sisters, Oregon, 2005.