Our bodies do not detect the gradual increase in atmospheric pressure, but as the clouds thin and vanish from the sky, the warm sun ushers in a new and cheerful mood after a dark and gloomy day. A cool steady breeze flows from the northwest bringing a beautiful summer day or a cold, bright, winter day. The barometric pressure climbs, steadies, and begins to slide down again as the wind calms, then picks up from the east, grows stronger, and shifts to the northeast. The moisture in the air increases as the pressure continues to fall. The sun ducks behind a thick blanket of clouds and those first snowflakes hurry by, gather, and begin to slide like snakes down the road. The moisture laden air releases its burden as the pressure continues to drop. The pressure reaches the bottom, begins to rise and the wind shifts again to the northwest as the snow slackens, stops falling, but continues to blow into drifts.
Day after day the blanket of air around the earth is rippling and swirling with activity. From our earthly perspective, the changing atmosphere produces an intriguing array of clouds, precipitation, and levels of comfort. We often hear the whole matter summarized as “good” or “bad” weather. From the perspective of a spacecraft orbiting the earth, we see the larger picture of the interaction of swirling air with temperature, pressure, and moisture as variations in the cloud patterns. It all moves so slowly; our minds can perceive the pattern of movement only when a video recording is put into fast forward. Then the patterns may remind us of the swirls and vortices left behind the paddle of a canoe.
Why do the clouds swirl so? The meteorologist will point us to the sun as the ultimate cause of all this swirling of air. The sun provides the energy to heat the earth and stir up the basic ingredients of weather: air and moisture. These basic ingredients then behave in accordance with the following scientific laws: warm air rises above cooler air, rising warm air creates an area of low pressure, sinking cool air creates an area of high pressure, air will swirl in a counterclockwise rotation to fill the low pressure area (like water going down a drain), air will swirl in a clockwise rotation away from a high pressure area, water evaporates and “soaks” into the air, warm air can hold more water vapor than cold air, a drop in temperature or pressure will cause water to condense and fall to the ground. If you really want to start understanding weather, you would need to spend some time studying the above list along with some global geography. These principles are like the parts of a gigantic machine or the variables in a complex algebraic equation.
We can make these principles a bit more graphic if we think of the atmosphere like a giant transparent sponge that moves along the surface of the earth. As the sun beats down it drives water from the oceans, trees, soil, etc. and into the sponge. Warmth causes the sponge to swell and absorb even more water. As it moves and cools, the water condenses into clouds and is squeezed out over the land. Think of the low pressure like a void that needs to be filled. As the air swirls around, it is like hands reaching in and squeezing more moisture out of the sponge. Once the void is filled, the air is packed in, the pressure is high, and the sponge is left dry.
People try to predict the behavior of weather with careful observations compared with past behavior. Computers try to predict it by making a model of weather out of complex math equations, plugging in all the variables, and digesting a constant flood of data. As with every other part of God’s creation, man may penetrate its mysteries more deeply every day, but with each new breakthrough, he finds a hundred more regions of mystery. The unbeliever sticks each new breakthrough like a feather into the hat of pride, while the believer takes another one out as he is humbled by the one hundred new mysteries of God’s handiwork.
Without the spectacles of Scripture, the weather is bleak with a few sharp rays of selfish pride. The ungodly meteorologist looks at weather simply as an incredibly complex mechanism that has developed naturally out of the scientific laws and conditions that happen to exist on earth. They trace these laws and principles ultimately back to the principles that govern the atoms that make up the earth and atmosphere; which, they say, developed according to the scientific laws that governed the unfolding of the Big Bang; which comes from the big dark question mark of unbelief. Ungodly man demands to know what the weather will be like so he can plan his life accordingly. He enjoys the good without giving thanks, and shakes his fist at the bad.
Through the spectacles of Scripture, we see the glorious majesty of God. The weather is like an everlasting piece of music which is played by trillions of air molecules and conducted by God Himself. The music was composed in the eternal council of God according to all the laws created by God. God constantly upholds and direct this masterpiece as every mass of air down to its individual atom obeys. Job recognized the wisdom of God in the weather. We read in Job 28:24-27
For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder: Then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out.
Elihu gave some further insight into the weather to teach Job more of this ongoing sovereign work of God. We read in Job 36:27-33
For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly. Also can any understand the spreadings of the clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle? Behold, he spreadeth his light upon it, and covereth the bottom of the sea. For by them judgeth he the people; he giveth meat in abundance. With clouds he covereth the light; and commandeth it not to shine by the cloud that cometh betwixt. The noise thereof sheweth concerning it, the cattle also concerning the vapour.
Again we read in Job 37:6-13
For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength. He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work. Then the beasts go into dens, and remain in their places. Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north. By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened. Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud: And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth. He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy.
God at times uses the weather directly to bring judgment and deliverance. The Flood destroyed the world that then was, and ushered in an entirely new pattern of weather that constantly reminds us God’s wrath as well as his eternal covenant. God sent hail, thunder, and lightning to destroy Egypt. He sent an east wind to form a path in the Red Sea and bring quail for His people. As a reminder that He is in sovereign control of the weather, God at times will suspend the normal laws. He caused water to condense in a miraculous way to assure Gideon of His word.
Scientists may be able to explain why it rained on a particular day and predict the weather for tomorrow, but the believer sees through the spectacles of Scripture that the sequence of cause and effect was first in the eternal council of God. Upholding and directing the drop in pressure and condensation of water vapor is the almighty God commanding these things to be. “For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof” (Psalm 107:25). “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries” (Psalm 135:6-7).
Sometimes God makes clear the truth of His sovereign control over the weather by speaking His word for the weather through the mouth of a prophet. “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit” (James 5:17-18). “So Samuel called unto the Lord; and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel” (I Samuel 12:18).
God also reveals to us that the gentle shower that waters the earth is the providential care of God for the functioning of the world around us as He gathers His church from the ends of the earth. The showers of rain have no grace in them for the wicked. The showers only increase his pride and grease his slide into hell. “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction” (Psalm 73:18). The godly give thanks to God for His care.
No matter how we look at the weather, we are called to praise God in all that we see. “Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God: Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains” (Psalm 147:7-8). “Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word” (Psalm 148:7-8). The weather is always with us. Get out and enjoy it. Feel its power. Study its inner workings and observe the patterns. In all that you do, give God all the glory due unto His name.