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The Meaning of Rain

First Published JCF Newsletter February 2012

By Gary Alley

It is wintertime in Israel, which means it is raining.  In fact, this past month of January, 2012 saw the highest number of rainy days in one month on record since the founding of the modern state of Israel.  During this time of the year, the days are typically short on light because of cloud cover, consistently cold because of uninsulated stone buildings, and undeniably damp because of intermittent drizzle.  It is a stark contrast to the stereotypical thought of a hot, dry Israel.

While true, Israel is a semi-arid climate, its year, though, revolves around two significant seasons— the dry summer and the wet winter.  Without the right combination of those two distinct weather patterns, Israel’s agriculture would fail.

Most will recall Jesus’ familiar words, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Mt 5:45).”  Some have wrongly interpreted this teaching by explaining that God sends both good (the sunshine), and bad (the rain), upon everyone.  But anyone familiar with the biblical text will understand the synonymous parallelism of the summer’s sunshine and the winter’s rain as God’s seasonal blessing for healthy produce.  Therefore, both the sun and rain are good agricultural gifts. 

In contrast to Lev 26:3-4’s conditional statement, “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit,” Jesus provocatively proclaims that God’s goodness is extended everyday to everyone, no matter their ethical standing (Mt 5:45).  Here, Jesus develops more fully Ecclesiastes’ question of why the wicked can presently thrive (Ecc 7:15).  Jesus explains that with equal amounts of rain and sunshine, God allows both the wicked and the righteous to grow up together and flower in this world.   Yet, in the Parable of the Weeds, Jesus defines this season of God’s generosity as limited; in the world to come, God will make a final decision, separating the good seed from the bad weeds (Mt 13:24-30).

As we watch the bountiful rain come down, it’s worthwhile for us to be reminded of God’s overflowing, available grace.  Just like the rain, His mercy is not a reward for our righteous actions, but a common denominator for all of humanity.  It might be hard to understand why God blesses His enemies with rain, yet we should remember that He is the final judge of everyone’s thoughts and actions.  For that same rain that falls on our enemies falls on us. Therefore, may we be like God, showering grace—even on those whom we might hate (Mt 5:43-48).