Woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of an unseasonal thunderstorm. It’s unusual but not unheard of to have lightning and thunder with snow on the ground, in the middle of a Midwest winter.
The rumbling skies reminded me of how an unseasonal storm was once used as a wake-up call for the people of God. In a chapter of Israel’s history known as the days of the Judges, the prophet Samuel called on God to send thunder and lightning in the middle of a dry season wheat harvest to bring a nation to its senses.
When the skies darkened and thundered in response to the prophet’s call, the storm had the intended effect. The people were shaken. The wheat harvest that they had worked so hard for was at risk of being lost. But more importantly, they realized what a mistake they had made.
The backstory is that in the days of the Judges, Israel had no king but God. This God had established a covenant with his showcase people at the foot of Mt Sinai. If his example-nation remembered and trusted him, he would prosper and deliver them from their enemies. If they forgot him, doing only what was right in their own eyes, he would send a curse to bring them to their senses. Only when they called on him, acknowledging their wrongs, and asking for his help, would he answer from heaven and send help.
This time, however, when Israel was in trouble, it was different. They decided it was time for them to be like other nations that had real kings to lead and care for them (1 Sam 8:4-9; 1Sam 12:12).
So now comes the thunder (1Sam 12:16-17). It worked. The harvest time storm was an eye-opener. Realizing that there is a God in heaven who was holding them to the terms of the covenant he had made with him, they cried out for mercy (1Sam 12:18-19).
The response they got was as wonderful as they might have expected from the God who had rescued them from Egypt—and as disturbing as their own inclination to forget him. God told them that in spite of their wrong in demanding a king, and in spite of all of the natural consequences of their mistake, God would still keep his side of the covenant. He was still there for them. And if they abandoned him he would still keep his side of the agreement to do whatever it took to bring them to their senses (1Sam 12:20-25).
From our perspective many centuries later, we know what happened. God’s assurances and warnings came to pass (1Sam 8:10-20; 1Sam 12:25).
The result is that now, with our own wake-up call, we might hear echoes of Samuel’s generation. Their story could remind us that even though we can so easily live like a goldfish in a plastic bag, there is more to life than what we can see and feel.
God is still king…
And now we know that the real King eventually took his throne– by the way of a tree…to show us that even though it is still true that God’s ways are not our ways… he still loves us… enough to bring his own– to himself.
So let’s think about the implications. Does this mean that trouble is always a wake-up call? How does our reality parallel the goldfish in a bag? :-)…