By Rev. Caroline Osborne
In the Florida, few things are as consistent as rain. Rain can often seem like a nuisance (“It’s raining again?!”) or a threat (“It’s raining because this is the edge of a hurricane…”). But what about in the Bible? Rain features in various stories and sayings from the Bible. Does it have special significance?
To answer that question, you have to understand first that in the Ancient Near East water, especially large bodies of it, was often seen as a symbol for chaos. In Genesis, when the Spirit of God hovers over the waters, the Bible is symbolically also saying that the Spirit hovered over the chaos and, in the act of creation, brought order to that chaos.
Rain maintains some of that sense of chaos throughout the Bible. Rain brings the flood of Noah’s Ark fame, while drought drives Jacob and his sons to Egypt. Moreover, the landscape of Ancient Israel relied heavily on rainfall. There were not many year-round springs in the wilderness where the herdsman traveled with their animals, and rain was needed for their agriculture-reliant society to survive. That desperate need for something so uncontrollable as rain was why many of the people groups around Israel worshipped the Canaanite rain god, Baal. They thought that if they pleased the god who controlled the rain, they would be more likely to be given the rain they needed.
God, however, made it a point to show that rain really comes from him. For example, when the people of Israel turned to worshiping Baal under the reign of Ahab and Jezebel, God caused a drought for three years to make it clear who really deserved worship. Likewise, throughout the Psalms, the psalmist talks about God sending rain or having storehouses of snow, symbolizing that the seemingly uncontrollable natural phenomenon of precipitation was under the command of God.
Those same ideas about water and rain play out in the New Testament as well. When Jesus walked on the water and when he calmed the storm, he demonstrated that he truly was God. Who else could conquer the chaos of water or command the uncontrollable weather and be obeyed?
When rainy days come and you may be tempted to feel that the rain is a nuisance, let it remind you of the God who sends the rain and stills the waves, the God who brings order out of chaos and uses a rainbow as a reminder of his faithfulness.