How many conversations have you had about the weather over the last 72 hours? Maybe on Friday you were pumping gas or standing in line at Kroger and the person at the opposite pumping gas or standing ahead of you in line asked your thoughts on Matthew's path? Maybe on Saturday some text messages came to your phone from unknown numbers. They were friends you rarely speak to, but when they saw Hurricane Matthew bearing down on our coastline, they reached out to you, How's the weather? How are you doing? Maybe today, after getting cabin fever, you got out of the house and walked around the neighborhood. You struck up a conversation with a passer-by, Man, that wind was whipping once the rain stopped! I've never seen anything like that.
Have you ever noticed how two strangers, with nothing in common, can carry on a conversation about the weather? Why is that? Is it because everyone knows they can be a weather forecaster? Maybe it is a result of our frustration with hearing a Hurricane is suppose to turn out to sea but instead slams into the seashore? Or, could it be that weather is the common denominator in everybody's life? We all experience weather all the time. Of course that's true. As I write this devotion it's 61 degrees in Myrtle Beach; 60 degrees in Fort Morgan, CO where my sisters live; and 70 degrees in China where my sister-in-law lives. We all experience weather every single moment of our life.
But that's not all. We also all experience the apparently arbitrary nature of weather. Winds whip at 65 mph along the coast as Hurricane Matthew churns while 5 miles inland the wind-speed is only 45 mph. A tornado crosses Ocean Boulevard leaving a trail of damage all the way to Highway 17 Bypass in North Myrtle Beach while leaving other areas untouched. Rain falls rapidly filling streets and ponds in Springlake subdivision while mist falls miles to the North in Wilmington. We thank God for the Weather Channel, WMBF, WPDE, and all the meteorologists (whether professional or novice). These experts can predict the weather, but ultimately, they can't control it. Only Jesus can do that. Only Jesus did do that when he walked on this earth (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, and Luke 8:22-25). He was known to have calmed a storm or two. And who’s to say that he didn’t create that same storm just so that he could calm it? After all, God doesn’t just control weather, he creates it.
The psalmist tells us: “He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind … He makes springs pour water into the ravines … He waters the mountains from his upper chambers … How many are your works, O Lord” (Psalm 104:3,10,13,24).
So what does this mean? Could it be that a Hurricane named Matthew was a work of the Lord? The Lord's efforts are in no way arbitrary. God didn't roll the dice when it came to Hurricane Matthew - the wind, rain, and storm surge. God didn't roll the dice when it came to the cool sunny day after Matthew passed through. He doesn’t roll the dice when it comes to weather or any of his works. It’s all part of his purpose and plan. Weather is by his design. Take a closer look at Psalm 104 and you’ll find that sandwiched between the lines of praise for what God does (God's handiwork) are statements related to why he does it (his design for weather). God’s weather gives water to cattle and makes grass grow for them to eat. God’s weather provides for crop cultivation to feed people. God’s weather creates wind for ships to catch in their sails. God's weather is a wonderful work of his mighty hand.
Consider for a moment how God intervened once in Old Testament times to make the sun stand still so that his chosen nation could successfully defeat an oppressive enemy (Joshua 10:12-14). Remember how God sent the storm that chased his wayward prophet, Jonah, back onto safe ground (Jonah 1:4-16). God rocked the planet with the tremors of an earthquake sending its shockwaves to the world when Jesus died as a signal that his sacrifice was for everyone (Matthew 27:50-53).
Every sunset. Every raindrop. Every barometric pressure change. Every cloud that silently floats overhead. Every gust of wind that whips. God designs and delivers with a purpose in mind. That also applies to hurricanes like Matthew. Therefore, Matthew is not bigger than God. Matthew answers to God. Matthew received his coordinates from God, his power from God, and his orders from God. Now Matthew is gone but God is not. God is still here to enact the next phase of his purposeful plan that we've labeled Hurricane Matthew.
What is that next phase? Might God be giving us more than just the weather to talk about with strangers? Might God be giving us opportunities to his love to people, to help them with compassion, and to share his free forgiveness with care and concern. You might not know that stranger, but now you've experienced the weather together - Hurricane Matthew. May God let that common denominator be an open door to show them Jesus, to pray for them, to help them, to show them we care.
Almighty God, you created the heavens and the earth, and you constantly orchestrate weather with a loving and holy purpose. To be honest, I don’t really understand this (or agree with it) when rain washes out afternoon plans or a hurricane churns along our Eastern coastline and slams into the homes and cities along the way. For now, I give you the praise and respect you deserve as Creator of all and chief engineer of all weather around the earth. I also thank you for the blessings of your created system of weather - the variety and beauty it brings to my days, the fruits and harvests it makes grow, and the spectacular wonder it produces in my mind and heart. Only you are awesome enough to fill that wonder. Only you are gracious and patient and understanding enough to listen when I ask that you teach me more your purpose and plan that includes this hurricane come and gone. Open my ears to hear, and my heart to believe. Amen.