Torrential rains have brought flooding and devastation to Israel, but also added to the vital waters of the Galilee. If you saw the news of this recent flooding in Israel, it may have reminded you of some of the narratives in the Bible, Sisera’s chariots being stuck as the river Kishon overflowed it’s banks in the battle of Mount Tabor, or after the great drought, when Elijah ran before Ahab’s chariot along the plain to Jezreel.
Torrential rains in Israel.
Rains in northern Israel have broken a 51-year record. The Times of Israel reported that, "Seven people have died in weather-related events in a winter that has seen some areas of the country repeatedly deluged in downpours” The article continues:
"Recent torrential downpours in northern Israel have broken a 51-year record of rainfall within a two-week period, the Israel Meteorological Service (IMS) announced Thursday.
"The IMS said that the Western and Upper Galilee have seen more than 400 millimeters (15.7 inches) of rain, causing major floods. Some meteorological stations have even recorded more than 450 millimeters (17.7 inches).
"Such numbers have only been seen twice since measuring started 80 years ago — in December 1951 and in January 1969. According to Channel 12, in certain southern areas the rains also surpassed 76-year records.
"Rainfall in the first nine days of January has surpassed the average for the entire month.
"As of Thursday morning, the Sea of Galilee had risen by 23 centimeters (approximately nine inches) in a 24-hour period, and was at 211.1 meters below sea level, 2.3 meters from it’s fullest level.
"In Emunim, in the central region, dozens of children were rescued from their school with dinghies and tractors after all access to the site was submerged under water.
"The flooding also caused havoc on intercity roads, with several being blocked. Route 4 going south from the Ashdod Interchange was closed off and Route 90 was closed in both directions between Ein Bokek and Ein Gedi.”
Water is so vital for the area and the modern state of Israel that it can cause war. The background to the six day war of June 1967 was in some part effected by Syrian attempts to divert the upper waters of the Jordan river. At the first Arab league conference in Cairo in January 1964 it was decided to divert the headwaters of the River Jordan. This was of course terminated by the Six Day War and Israel’s possession of the Golan Heights.
Like most things in the land of Israel, the rain teaches those who have ears to hear, spiritual lessons.
One of the defining features of the land of Israel from God’s perspective is how the land is watered, as detailed in Deuteronomy 11:10-15.
"For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year. And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.”
When God tells the Israelites about the land that they will be entering, the main point of distinction in comparison to Egypt, is the way in which the land is watered. In the land of Egypt you would water your field with your foot. Water for crops was sourced from the river Nile by means of irrigation channels and pumping or lifting the water up. So long as the Nile flowed there was water. In Egypt you relied on the Nile and the Nile always had water. In the land of Israel there was no river Nile. Israel is a land which drinks “water of the rain of heaven”. In Israel you had to rely on God to send rain. Living in the land of Israel therefore taught you to trust and rely on God.
Today Israel still relies on rain for most of its water. Rain can be rare and is vital. The first rains may come around October near the feast of Tabernacles, praying for rain at that time of year in particular, is a common practice today in Israel.
savethekinneret.com tracks the level of the Galilee
Just over two years ago when visiting the land of Israel we went for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. The level of the Sea of Galilee or Kinneret at that point was the lowest it has ever been, below the lower black line. The owner of the boat told us that it was in danger of turning into a salt water body because of the low level of the water and salt water springs partly feeding the lake. If that happened he explained, it would never recover. In fact, the government has plans to pump water from desalination plants on the coast to the Galilee. Thankfully last year was a great year for rain and the water level is now about 3 meters or 10 feet higher than it was then! However, to reach full capacity the lake will still have to gain over another 2 meters of water. The current rains will help add some more water to the lake. On Thursday the lake had already risen 23 centimetres as a result of the deluge. A webpage, savethekinneret.com, tracks the level of the Galilee almost daily.
In the scriptures, rain is a symbol of the word of God. Just as the land of Israel drinks of the water of heaven, so the people should drink of the spiritual waters of heaven. Deuteronomy 32:1,2 reads:
"Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass”
The current rains certainly haven’t been "as the small rain upon the tender herb", nevertheless despite some damage and tragedies, the water is vital to life in the land of Israel and the continued functioning and growth of the nation. The restoration of Israel being a work of the God of Israel himself.
In the prophecies of restoration in Ezekiel, rain is called showers of blessing and associated with the hill of God. Ezekiel 34:26-27
" And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them.”
The coming of the word of God and rain upon Israel are linked together. The rain causes the trees to bring forth fruit, likewise the word of God will cause the nation to bring forth the fruits of the spirit. Isaiah 27:6 says,
"He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.”
This is another way of saying,
"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:2,3)
Israel enlightened by the word of God, in the bonds of the new covenant, bringing forth the fruits of the spirit and directed by a righteous king, will be as a tree blossoming, budding and filling the world with fruit.
At that time water will flow out of the Temple sanctuary towards the Dead Sea. There will be a highway for pilgrims following the same route as the river of life giving water, called the “way of holiness". Trees of healing whose roots will draw the water of the sanctuary, will line this boulevard for pilgrims on their way to the temple. This can be read about in Ezekiel 47 and Isaiah 35.
As rain falls on the land of Israel today, we recognize that the hand of the God of Israel is active, working with the nation of Israel teaching them to rely on Him. Just as in the days of Elijah there arose a cloud as the shape of a man’s hand before the deluge, so today there is an unseen hand guiding events in the land and preparing the nation for the day of showers of blessing. It also teaches us to trust in God, that he is a living and active God and to look forward to the day when by his hand Israel will blossom and bud and fill the face of the world with fruit.
This has been David Billington with you for Bible in the News, at www.bibleinthenews.com Come back every week, God willing as we consider the unseen hand of the Creator, working to bring about His purpose in the earth.