Job 37:1-13 (NRSV)
"At this also my heart trembles,
and leaps out of its place.
Listen, listen to the thunder of his voice
and the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
Under the whole heaven he lets it loose,
and his lightning to the corners of the earth.
After it his voice roars;
he thunders with his majestic voice
and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard.
God thunders wondrously with his voice;
he does great things that we cannot comprehend.
For to the snow he says, 'Fall on the earth';
and the shower of rain, his heavy shower of rain,
serves as a sign on everyone's hand,
so that all whom he has made may know it.
Then the animals go into their lairs
and remain in their dens.
From its chamber comes the whirlwind,
and cold from the scattering winds.
By the breath of God ice is given,
and the broad waters are frozen fast.
He loads the thick cloud with moisture;
the clouds scatter his lightning.
They turn round and round by his guidance,
to accomplish all that he commands them
on the face of the habitable world.
Whether for correction, or for his land,
or for love, he causes it to happen.
Observation: Job has suffered terrible losses, even though he feels he has done nothing wrong. His friend Elihu, in the midst of a lengthy debate about why God would allow such things, talks about God's direct hand in every kind of weather, and says we can't always understand why God causes certain kinds of weather.
Application: I'm struggling with this text for a couple of reasons.
The first is as ancient as the text itself, and maybe more so. Elihu's point is God directly causes every natural phenomenon, and God has God's own reasons for doing so. Everything from devastating hurricanes to volcanic activity is God's direct doing. I have a hard time believing a God who loves us would go around zapping people with thunder and destroying towns with tornadoes. I think it's a little more complicated than the simple, poetic way it's presented here.
My second struggle is more modern: the scientific community is increasingly convinced that human activity can and does have an unintended impact on weather patterns. We've always had extreme weather, but the effects of climate change are creating more extreme and inhospitable weather in more places. The idea that "Only God is responsible for bad weather, so God must be getting increasingly angry at us in a way that happens to be directly connected to how much fossil fuels we put into the atmosphere" doesn't seem to hold water.
What I come away with after wrestling with this text is that I think it's a poetic image--a metaphor--to imagine God's own breath freezing water, God's hand opening up a special room where he holds whirlwinds, God's direct word to the rain or snow saying "fall here, not there." In a world deeply affected by sin, we do not live in harmony with the elements, and there is an element of chaos in dealing with the natural world, which God never wanted for us. That said, I also believe that as we learn more about the natural world, to continue to ignore the small amount of control we have, and act as though we have no role in restoring balance, is morally irresponsible.
In short, sin has messed up our relationship with nature, but since we bear the image of God, we can repent of our sin and do some things to improve that relationship.
Prayer: God, thank you for the good weather you give us that nourishes the creation. Help us to better understand the weather we see as "bad," to see its part in renewing and creating new life. Help us to be humble in our dealings with all that you have made, and this home where you have called us to live. Amen.