Drought Breaker was painted by Geoffrey Todd, a farmer’s son from the Australian Outback. Growing up, he said, he and his family had to rely on God to send rain for the crops and thereby preserve their livelihood. Although they experienced periodic droughts, God and his grace always came through, he said, and this was something that he had always looked forward to. In the painting, an Australian woman points with joy to the approaching storm, and Jesus celebrates with her, rejoices with her rejoicing.
For those of us who aren’t farmers, it can be hard to see rain as a joyous event; we see it instead as a nuisance, as something that ruins our outdoor plans. But for those who work the land for a living, rain is everything; its absence could mean the loss of a year’s income, or more. And for societies that are agriculture-based, as were those in Bible times, rain is pivotal to survival. That’s why the Bible is full of people’s praises to God for the rain—for example, Elihu’s in chapters 36 and 37 of Job:
How great is God—beyond our understanding! . . . 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. . . . His thunder announces the coming storm; even the cattle make known its approach. . . . He brings the clouds to . . . water his earth and show his love. . . . Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge?
Then, in Job 38, Elihu gets rhetorical:
Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass? Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? . . . Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, “Here we are”? . . . Who has the wisdom to count the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens when the dust becomes hard and the clouds of earth stick together?
These passages are beautiful in their wonder of the life-giving, life-sustaining phenomenon of rain. Rain makes the earth to grow and to flourish. It gives men rest from their hard labor by forcing them to take cover and simply look out on the abundant provision of God. It is so utterly beyond human control that it compels us to trust in something bigger, something more powerful, than ourselves. God even sends rain to desolate areas so that life and beauty might take root there and even the smallest and most neglected of creatures will be nourished. Yes, God cares for all of his creation, not just humans.
Remember those water cycle charts you studied in elementary school, with all the -ations (you know, precipitation-evaporation-condensation)? God designed that cycle, and he oversees it from on high. Scientists continually marvel at how well-suited Earth is to support life. Well, that’s because a life-loving God created and sustains it.
In the Bible, rain is used metaphorically as well, to signify blessing, or soul-nourishment. For example, God’s words, his law, his teachings are described as coming down like rain. Refreshing. Cool. And vital to existence.
- “Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.”—Deuteronomy 32:2
- “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.”—Isaiah 55:10-11
This latter verse is especially comforting, because in it God promises that no matter how people may respond at present to the “raining down” of his gospel, it will assuredly produce a bountiful harvest in the end. Throughout history, God has showered down his words through prophets, and ultimately through Jesus, the incarnate Word, so that we might soak them in and live and grow in them. And because God’s purposes cannot be thwarted, that means that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and Life itself.
Israel had waited for this Rain, this Messiah, for centuries, just as eagerly as any farmer waits for literal rain—probably more. They wrote about this yearning in their scriptures:
- “Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”—Hosea 6:3
- “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.”—Hosea 10:12
- “He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth.”—Psalm 72:6
Sadly, most of Israel is still waiting, because they missed the downpour that took place two thousand years ago in Galilee, when Jesus poured himself out for mankind on the cross. There God “showered his righteousness on us,” as Hosea had prophesied. And he was completely and utterly delighted to do so.
So what makes Jesus happy? Nourishing us physically, emotionally, and especially spiritually. He is happy to pour down his love like rain again and again and make us to flourish, and to break the dry spells in our lives.