Sunday, May 10, 2015

What is a Single Rain Drop's Worth?

Perhaps the most difficult part of life is the waiting.  Into our periods of living inevitably come those spaces  between when we see not even a hint of progress, either in our own lives or in the lives of those around us. 

Whatever the situation, it seems as barren as the winter, where we plant seed after seed, eternally watching and waiting for the first sprout.  Each day finds us swinging wide like a pendulum between greatest joy when we think we see signs of new life and deepest despair when those hopes are dashed in the light of the next dawn.

We want to rush every process, to do whatever it takes to ram our future into our yesterday.  But that's not how it works.

The past two weeks, we have looked into the Shema of Deuteronomy 6, first focusing on how we must love what we teach about the Lord in order for it to be effectively communicated to those around us and then focusing on how we must rest in the comfort that our teaching moments are empowered by the Holy Spirit instead of by our own feeble abilities.

This week fast forwards us to the last day of Moses' life when Scripture says he "spoke the words of this song until they were finished, in the ears of all the assembly of Israel" (Deut. 31:30).

After Moses had written down the entire law of the Lord, all Israel gathered 'round to hear his parting words.  Not surprisingly, they began with a message about faith, patience, and love.

Moses sang,  "Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb.  For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God!" (Deut. 32:1-3).

In two short verses, Moses gives four different similes concerning rain to symbolize what the teaching of God's Word should look like.  The choice of water is intentional, since for the Israelites, water from heaven was the difference between life and death in the desert.  Without rain, even the deepest of wells and cisterns would run dry, and all would perish.

The message here is quite simple--the Word of the Lord is life giving for all whom it falls upon.

The way that life-giving water falls on individuals, however, is not always the same.

In the first instance--"drop as the rain"--the Hebrew word translated here as "drop" means "to drop, drip...trickle."*  The image here is of what my children call "a sprinkle," not even enough water falling from the skies to call it a "shower." 

In the second example, Moses compares his teaching to the "dew," the gentle mist that falls silently at night to coat everything like a damp quilt.

The third example is of "gentle rain."  The Hebrew word here meaning "raindrops, rain showers"* implies the drops are large enough and consistent enough to take notice so that we could actually call it a "shower"; yet, it is by no means a storm that will result in a great rain. In fact, the KJV refers to it as "small rain." 

The fourth example--"like showers"--in Hebrew is defined as "copious showers, heavy showers"*  The Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon says this word indicates "showers, from the multitude of drops....plenty of water"**  This is a heavy rain.

The last example of a heavy rain is what we like to hear when we speak of sharing God's Word--we want His Word to be a flood, making such a big impression on those we're sharing with that their lives are instantly transformed in a huge way.  And, as Moses shows, that kind of eternal-life-giving transformation is possible.

But also notice that Moses only symbolizes teaching as a heavy rain after giving three examples of light showers and watery mist.  Somehow, I don't think that is a coincidence.  Instead, it seems he is communicating what we should anticipate in our routine sharing and teaching of God's Word....and how we should alter our expectations about "results" in light of this.

In three of the four above Hebrew words for "rain," the amount of water that falls is so insignificant that often, our listener may not even know he got wet!  And yet, that gentle rain or morning dew is so very important, as ever so slowly, it gives life.  Given time, it can accumulate drop by drop until our cup literally runneth over.

This should be an encouragement to those of us who may not get the chance to have a whole conversation with someone concerning the gospel.  Perhaps we only have the opportunity to share a sentence at a time.  Or perhaps, it's not even that much.  Maybe it's just an act of loving kindness done in Jesus' name for another. 

Mother.  Father.  Sister.  Friend.  Neighbor.  Co-worker.  Whoever it is that you're trying to teach about Jesus--don't give up.  Keep planting those seeds of the gospel with your very life.  Keep offering His life-giving water found in the Word, even if all you do today is coat them in the gentle morning dew of God's love shining through you.

We must be faithful to share His Word in sprinkles, dew, and light showers, trusting in God's perfect timing that one day, He will give someone--maybe even us!--the opportunity to speak the heavy rains upon their hearts and see them born into the kingdom.

Now that would be a flood worth celebrating.

* Strong's Concordance--Blue Letter

**Hebrew Word "rabiyb"“Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak;
And let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
“Let my teaching drop as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
As the droplets on the fresh grass
And as the showers on the herb.
“For I proclaim the name of the Lord;
Ascribe greatness to our God!"

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