Water is an easy and obvious symbol of life – never more so than in a dry and drought devastated land.
Unlike fire or flood, the drought slowly takes its deadly effect on our lives. It is easy for our media and community to rally support for an emergency or a calamity like an earthquake or a cyclone. It can be captured in a ten second sound bite. But the drought is a long, drawn-out process, with many false hopes of relief carried in waterless clouds.
The Bible uses drought and rain as expressions of God’s wrath and mercy. To go without rain for years on end, is the destruction of the nation. To receive rain in due season is the people’s salvation.
In the time of the weak and evil king Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, there was a three- year drought in Israel. Elijah was the prophet of God at that time. You may remember the great contest that he had with Jezebel’s prophets of Baal. It culminated on Mount Carmel, where God honoured his prophet Elijah and confounded his antagonists.
God showed Elijah a cloud – a small cloud seen as no bigger than a man’s hand. It was a drought breaking cloud. Drawing nearer to Israel it grew into a mighty storm. Elijah prostrated himself before God and his prayers were answered for the salvation of the nation.
Amos spoke of drought as a warning from God that the people did not heed. God took Israel’s prosperity from them to call them back to him. But they continued in their materialistic rejection of God – even when their materialism was failing them.
Amos is not a happy book to read. It speaks of the materialistic sinfulness of the people of God and of God’s judgement upon them. Only at the end of the book, in the last five verses, it promises the coming of a new day of salvation and prosperity.
However the worst part of Amos is the warning in chapter 8
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the LORD.
They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD,
but they shall not find it.”
Like all droughts this famine for the word of God was slow and devastating. To not hear the word of God is like missing the rain. One day you may not notice that it did not rain, but over time you cannot live. We do not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. A drought of God’s word is death itself.
Australia is not God’s nation like ancient Israel was. But like ancient Israel, we are a people in a dry land, living in materialistic rebellion against God. The drought reminds us to turn back to God.
There has also been in Australia a famine of hearing and teaching the word of God. However, there is a cloud on the horizon – a small but steadily growing cloud. For over the last decade there has been a steady growth in the number of men and women training in Bible colleges and Theological colleges. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our own Moore Theological College and the Sydney and Missionary Bible College. Both colleges are overfull, with record numbers of students. Both colleges are trying to increase their facilities to cope with the still increasing number of candidates.
Over the next few months, I will be speaking at several conferences aimed to help people who are seeking career diversion into the full-time ministry of God’s word. Next week Helen and I will be at such a conference in Tasmania.
This may be a kind of spiritual drought-breaking cloud – the kind of small but growing cloud that Elijah saw. Please pray that this may be so and that we will see a great outpouring of God’s word on our land.
So, as we come to pray for rain to break this State’s drought, let us also remember to pray for the breaking of the spiritual drought as well.