- Emma Newling
Whether the weather
Whether the weather be fine, or whether the weather be not;
whether the weather be cold, or whether the weather be hot;
we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather,
whether we like it or not!
(Type the word weather and its homophone enough and you start to question your spelling.)
Knowledge domain: Geography & Science
Topics: Weather & Climate
Genesis 1 & 2 is an obvious landing place since God made the weather but let’s explore some other options.
If you’d like to explore examples of God controlling the weather here are a few:
Noah and the flood – Genesis 6-9
The hailstorm as the 7th plague in the Exodus narrative – Exodus 9
Elijah and the drought – 2 Kings 17 – 18
Jonah and the mighty tempest – Jonah 1
Jesus calms the storm – Mark 4:35-41 (and parallels in Matt 8:23-17 and Luke 8:22-25)
Paul and the storm near Crete – Acts 27
One of the obvious themes is that God, as the one who controls the weather, often uses the weather to remind humanity that we are not in control! The weather – both in ancient days and now – is untouchable to us and we are subject to it. God, however, uses it to bring judgement and discipline in multiple Old Testament narratives, and to make himself known in a world that is determined to ignore him. In the case of the four Old Testament narratives above, the revelation of God’s authority over creation goes hand in hand with judgement on those who refuse him and salvation for those who seek his mercy through obedience to his word. For example, the storm in Jonah 1 is clearly of God’s sending (Jonah knows this!) and is in response to Jonah’s rebellious flight westwards when he should be headed east to Nineveh. Through the storm, and its subsequent abrupt end, the sailors, from multiple nations (i.e., not Israelites), come to know Yahweh – the God of heaven and earth (as opposed to their false, geographically bound ‘local’ gods) – and seek his mercy and receive their physical preservation/ salvation through the terror. Jonah on the other hand, knows his demise is deserved and yet by God’s mercy is saved through the belly of the big fish, in which he too recognises God’s mercy and is returned to life. Wisely, he chose obedience with his second chance but by the end of the book it’s clear that he’s still not happy about it!
When looking at these events and drawing out the themes we must be careful with the implications that come from the Old Testament. In each of the passages above we have God’s clear word, through the prophets, about the purpose of each of these weather events. We can identify them as acts of judgement, salvation, and revelation because God does. That is not the case with weather today. Just as there were many weather events in ancient days about which we have no clear understanding of their purpose, so it is the case today. We do not have a prophetic word and we cannot make direct connections between what the weather does and what God intends by it. That said, in all events we can say that God is in control, the weather (both good and bad) come by his hand and determination. This should at least turn our hearts to him as we recognise that we are not in control and yet the one who is in charge of the weather has not left us guessing about it, he has made himself known.
When Jesus controls the weather and the elements he is demonstrating his authority over creation, authority that testifies to him being ‘God with us’ (Immanuel). But it is also consistent with him as the true and perfect human, the image of God in creation. What would life on earth have been like if the fall never happened? Would humanity’s dominion over the earth have included some level of ‘control of the weather’? We don’t know … but whatever the weather before The Fall it would not have caused us problems. Likewise, I take it that other parts of nature that are sources of trouble for humanity now such as volcanoes and mosquitoes, would not have been a problem for us before The Fall (the students will ask!). For now, creation groans with us, longing for redemption, and the weather is part of that. But even as the weather can be dangerous for us, it is also God’s goodness to us: sometimes he uses it to chart the course of a person’s steps, and, regularly it is a daily reminder of his providential blessing on all the earth. For this, that by the weather God provides for our good and gives us a deeply interesting world to explore, we should give thanks!
Examples for K-4:
In K-4 classes I would work to establish children’s wonder at the weather, their genuine interest in it and delight in its variety. I would use concrete examples to help build their theological framework that God is in control of the weather and that nothing – either good or bad – is beyond his control. For this reason, I’d stick to looking at narratives like creation, Noah, Jonah, and Jesus calming the storm. I would model this by giving thanks for the weather regularly, praying for tomorrow’s weather (especially for days with excursions and camps) but also talking through what to think and how to express ongoing trust when God does not answer our prayers about the weather in ways that we would have liked. These can be difficult questions to answer with young minds, so modelling on-going trust in God's goodness to us through weather events is likely to speak more loudly.
Examples for Year 5+:
As students develop their literacy ability and abstract thought, branching out into the lesser-known parts of the Bible is worth doing. While weather remains an area of science that is substantially beyond our understanding and control, it is not beyond God’s control. The poetic writings of the biblical authors bring these ideas to light: for example, God’s response to Job in Job 38 or the purpose of drought and famine prior to Israel’s destruction by the Assyrians as prophesied by Amos in Amos 4 & 5. These passages require a biblical literacy and competence with understanding genre before their riches can be accessed by a classroom of students, but we should not shy away from using them … just be prepared for doing some hard work too!
I find that many older students are quite fascinated – both horrified by the initial events and surprised by the ending – by the story of Job. This narrative provides the added benefit of highlighting that not all suffering is understandable in this life, and possibly more is going on than you know. Similarly, not all terrible events are God’s direct judgement on sin or wrongdoing, though clearly from other parts of Scripture that can at times be what is going on. In any event, the wisdom of James is worth remembering: pray … let us examine ourselves and pray, remembering that God, who controls the weather, is merciful and kind (James 5).