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God’s Word for You

Luke 12:54-56 It’s gonna rain

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, August 23, 2018

54 Then he said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘Rain is coming,’ and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘Hot weather is coming,’ and it does. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the look of the earth and the sky! How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this moment?”

In Palestine, any child can tell the weather in the way Jesus describes. Rain comes from only one direction—from the west. There is nowhere else where water can be picked up and dropped without a miracle. So he says, “When any sort of a cloud rises.” A nephélē (νεϕέλη) is any sort of cloud, even a waterless wisp (Jude 12), but more often they are towering or substantial clouds like the pillar of cloud which led the Israelites in the exodus (Exodus 13:21; Nehemiah 9:12; Psalm 99:7) or the one in which the Transfiguration took place (Luke 9:34-35). And if one of these rises up in the “wests” (δυσμῶν is always plural, probably because the compass has more than one point that can be called “west” as long as you’re heading toward the Atlantic), there will be rain. The Bible counts many places as being west of Israel: Egypt (Hosea 11:10), Philistia (Isaiah 9:12), Greece (Daniel 8:5, where Alexander is meant), or any part of the Mediterranean (Joshua 23:4). Rain comes from any of these points. Anyone can see such a cloud and say, “It’s gonna rain,” and it will.

The same is true of the south wind. When the wind blows from the north it brings neither heat nor rain. If it blows from the deserts to the east or the south, then heat is coming. In fact, the south wind brings a heat that is very intense and severe. “It’s gonna be a hot one!”

Jesus says, you all know these things. The smallest child who doesn’t know their right hand from their left hand can guess the weather in Israel. The old man whose memory is slipping away and who thinks his son is his father can still tell the weather just as surely as he can say his bedtime prayers. So why, Jesus scolds, do you hypocrites have trouble figuring a simpler thing? The answer shamed the crowds. They couldn’t test the times they were living in for one simple reason: They didn’t do it. They weren’t looking for the Messiah to come. They were like a man living in a cave or in a basement who has no idea about the weather. It could be pouring rain with thunder and lightning, but he just goes about his business, and for all he knows the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day. The water might be rising and flooding his living room, but he doesn’t have a clue. The leaders of the Jews weren’t looking for the Messiah because most of them didn’t believe the word of God anymore. But there were ordinary Jews, the Jews in the pews, many of whom formed these crowds around Jesus. They had not been taught to look for Christ, but by the grace of God, some of them did anyway. They were putting their faith in Jesus even though their leaders were not pointing them to Jesus.

This is the hope that still exists for people in Christian Churches when some of the leaders and pastors have wandered away from the faith. A dear relative of mine in another Christian denomination recently agonized over the suspicion that grew into a firm belief that his pastor was not a Christian at all. That pastor served there for a couple of years, openly questioning the Bible in some sermons or avoiding the word of God other sermons. But that church still had a liturgy, still had readings from the Bible, still sang fine Christian hymns based on the Bible. So even though their chosen shepherd attacked their faith, the word of God was still there, and faith prevailed until the shepherd finally left. What a thief that miserable, monstrous pastor was! Souls were at stake, and souls could have been lost.

Think of the key teachings of the Bible, the most important doctrines that form the pillars of our faith. They are the points of the compass that guides us in our understanding of the word of God and of the time in which we live.

We must understand original sin: we are born sinful, we need a Savior because we cannot do anything toward our salvation by ourselves. This is why we pray in the confession every week: “I, a poor miserable sinner.” We are dust, the dust underfoot, and we confess with David, “The Lord remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).

We must understand justification, that we are declared to be forgiven by God through no merit of our own, but only through the merits of Christ. God made him—Jesus—who had no sin at all to be sin for us, in our place. Why? With what result? That he would be sacrificed, the last sacrifice. He is the one sacrifice that covers over all sins. Through Jesus alone we receive the righteousness God demands and requires (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We must understand the resurrection from the dead: Christ rose from the grave in his physical body, the body he still has to this day and that he will have forever. He offered his hands to his doubting disciple Thomas and said, put your finger in the holes where the nails went in (John 20:27)! And Paul said to the Corinthians, “Go and ask an eyewitness! There are more than five hundred of us still living!” (1 Corinthians 15:6). Some people doubted or thought those witnesses were crazy (Acts 26:24), but no one ever found two witnesses whose stories did not match perfectly just as the law demands (Deuteronomy 19:15).

We must understand that we will rise from the dead, too. Christ was the first fruits, and we will rise on the last day. Before that, our souls will have been carried to heaven by the angels (Luke 16:22), but when we rise we will be reunited, body and soul, and we will be “caught up in the air” along with the believers who will still be alive on that day and we will all be carried into heaven forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

The devil and the doubters and the fools will keep attacking our faith; but stay firm in your belief. You trust in Jesus. Keep that trust. Keep your faith. You will be saved through your faith, because your faith is in the Son of God who died for your sins.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.