“The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.” (Jonah 1:4)
The National Weather Service sometimes miss their weather predictions, but they can always explain what is happening. High and low pressure systems, storm fronts, arctic blasts, inversion layers, and tropical jet streams. Everything has a rational reason behind it.
What the NWS cannot predict or explain is divine intervention.
In the Bible, God sends drought and rain. He hurls storms in judgment and calms storms just as easily. Sometimes He delivers a withering and burning sun. Other times he afflicts people with twisters and destructive winds. He uses weather to catch the attention of people.
Even Jonah’s story is replete with divine orchestration of the weather. As the reluctant (and sleeping) prophet tries to flee from God, the Lord creates a swirling and threatening cauldron around the ship, tossing it like a toy in a bathtub.
When did we last think of God controlling the weather, specifically to teach us something about Himself? In California we’ve been praying for rain for the past three years, but how has the drought drawn us closer to God?
In an age when we can build waterproof homes, pipe water for hundreds of miles to meet our domestic demand, hunker down with plenty of food and warmth if we get snowed in, and turn on air-conditioning if it’s hot outside, weather has become an inconvenience rather than a spiritual tutor.
Are we missing something? Has our Western affluence and convenience blinded us to God at work in and behind the natural world around us? Perhaps so.
In Jonah’s story, it didn’t take the sailors any time at all to each cry out to their own god (1:5). When they finally woke Jonah and confronted him, he did not hesitate. “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you.” (1:12)
Perhaps their spiritual sensitivity challenges our insensitivity.
We watch the news for updates on hurricanes, tornadoes, and El Nino, but few of us imagine God stirring it up. Does this speak to a larger issue?
If God no longer wields the weather (in our minds), does He really manage the natural world at all?
The first chapter of Jonah’s story turns out to be less about ancient superstition and more about modern blindness. Let’s pray for eyes to see. Perhaps today we’ll find the world around us — the sunsets and weather systems, the flora and fauna — really is a divine classroom.