“Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; [so] the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.”
Have you ever noticed how people obsess over the weather? Weather is the Pulitzer Prize of small talk. It the go-to subject around the coffee pot at work, the ice-breaking conversation starter with a stranger and even the talking point in an elevator, a place where few ever talk.
Inclement weather seems to generate the most dialogue, especially pending storms. Those initiate almost non-stop discussion, especially with the weather channel and 24/7 news feeds. I remember so well the days leading up to Katrina how, glued to televisions, we all waited and prayed for a favorable outcome. The threatening storm created much stir. Although Katrina has long since subsided, the weather frenzy has only intensified. Now more than ever, with every storm named, the weather fascination continues.
Weather was also a topic of interest in Jesus’ day. Apparently, there were meteorologists, even then. When discussing how best to discern end time events, Jesus initiated the conversation about weather as an avenue to reprimand those so-called weather and prophecy experts:
“Then Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “When you see clouds beginning to form in the west, you say, ‘Here comes a shower.’ And you are right. When the south wind blows, you say, ‘Today will be a scorcher.’ And it is. You fools! You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the present times.”
Another time, in Matthew 16, Jesus is confronted by critics asking Him for a sign to prove who He was but rather than comply with their demands, He scolds them for being savvy forecasters of weather, based on the color of the sky, yet unable to read the signs of His coming. These weather enthusiasts were pros at using their eyes to judge nature but failures when it came to recognizing the Truth standing in front of them. They were good at watching clouds but stunk at finding Him.
My key verse is from Zechariah 10. The context is the nation of Israel, after their captivity in Babylon and subsequent return to their homeland. Zechariah writes that God will once again bring the blessings back with His latter rain. This promise brought encouragement to them and for us today, as well.
THE BRIGHT CLOUDS
I have read this passage several times and often skim past it. Every time I read the part about the bright clouds, I envision a drawing depicting a bright, sunny day with lofty clouds and green grasses below. The kind of sketch a child would draw for display alongside other choice refrigerator artwork. Since I grew up on the KJV Bible, I had never questioned that bright clouds meant anything other than the billowy types. I assumed that the rain mentioned would come later. Actually, the bright refers to ‘lightning’ or ‘flashing clouds’ and are rain clouds instead of the bright sunny ones I supposed.
Lacking any adequate irrigation system back then, Israel’s livelihood was dependent on rain. Early and then latter rains are what kept their crops alive and their well-being preserved; hence, Zechariah’s portrayal of the clouds would automatically be viewed as an encouragement to those despondent, former slaves that blessings were forthcoming. Rain was on the way!
I was a little distraught when I realized my understanding about the clouds was in error. Even though the flashing type brought rain and were a clear promise of renewal, thoughts of such storms, with occasional associated destruction, clouded my receptivity of the verse’s true meaning. Part of me longed to keep that happier picture on the refrigerator. Yet, God reminded me to take a closer look.
Rain clouds are by nature ominous. Though not as becoming as the white, fluffy types, they are the only ones which sustain life. Water vapors, if left suspended in the sky, may be beautiful clustered together as clouds, but they must bust open their payload to nourish the fields and grasses below. My bright clouds look good floating around in the sky or on pretty paper but are worthless if they never bring showers of blessing.
THE SILVER LINING
The bright, flashing clouds mentioned suggest latter rain, but also hint of a benefit yet unseen; there is a silver lining. With stormy Cumulonimbus clouds, lightning is always around. It is the precursor to the rain. One flash suddenly illuminates the dark. The clouds bring the restoring rain, but the lightning bolts, though unpredictable and terrifying, herald its arrival. One day soon, another event will suddenly stun the entire world and bring for some a longed for promised restoration. With lightning strike speed, God will herald the Son’s return and our promised gathering to meet Him in the sky. For Believers, meeting Jesus in the clouds is our silver lining!
“For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24:27
The return of Christ is on the horizon but His coming will catch many unaware. As lightning crashes unexpectedly ahead of rain, Jesus will snatch His loved ones home with a suddenness that will bring eternal blessings for them but profound devastation for those left behind. However, since this event is yet to occur, nobody reading this post need be unprepared. A-accept Jesus now, before it is too late. B-believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. C-confess your sins openly with your mouth and make Him Lord of your life. Out of love, Jesus gave His life so that everyone would have a Way back to Him and not left behind. Just do not delay. Today is the day of salvation!
God observes the weather. Though we tend to get fixated upon the weather and its patterns, He is not at all surprised when it changes. Perhaps, knowing that man would have such a fascination with the weather is what prompted His decision to designate clouds as the meeting place for Christ’s return. He knew we would be cloud gazing anyway, so why not have that upward stare be a reminder of Him.
Whether bright, fluffy ones or ominous, rainy ones, clouds should always be special to God’s children. It is in those clouds, with a blaze of lightning flash glory, that He will both reunite and carry us home. Bright clouds really are silver-lined!