Signs for awakening

The rescue of thirty-some Chilean miners, to exclamations of “It’s a miracle!,” prompted a grumpy young agnostic of my acquaintance to say some churlish things, whereupon I replied in the same tone. We may have achieved mutual semi-comprehention, but not much more.

On even something as benign as expressions of thanks to God (to the superficial neglect of His instruments — “It’s a technology!” just doesn’t have the same ring), we seem, like those at the Tower of Babel, to lack a common imagination behind our superficially identical English.

I thought of that mutual incomprehension as I encountered a morning devotional today (I guess I’m a day behind, as this passage was appointed for yesterday).

The reading was from Jeremiah 14:

2 Judah mourns,  and her gates languish;
They mourn for the land,
And the cry of Jerusalem has gone up.
3 Their nobles have sent their lads for water;
They went to the cisterns and found no water.
They returned with their vessels empty;
They were ashamed and confounded
And covered their heads.
4 Because the ground is parched,
For there was no rain in the land,
The plowmen were ashamed;
They covered their heads ….

(New King James Version, © Thomas Nelson Publishers) The devotional reflects:

… As a Prophet, Jeremiah understood that the drought Israel faced was a message from God.  “The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah concerning the drought…” (vs. 1).  The people of Israel appear to have thought so as well.  Today, however, a severe drought more likely would be called ‘a natural disaster.’  The mind of the ancient People of God revealed in words like ‘mourning,’ ‘crying,’ (vs. 2), ‘shame,’ and ‘wrongdoing’ (vss. 4,6), differs from the outlook of people today.

Our forefathers in faith experienced a ‘calamity’ of nature primarily as a spiritual and penitential event that required covering ‘their heads’ in grief before the Lord (vs. 4).  To see God in a drought and in empty water pails is worthy of our consideration.  As the Nineteenth century English statesmen, Viscount Henry Bolingbroke, said, “It is the modest, not the presumptuous, inquirer who makes a real and safe progress in the discovery of divine truth.  One follows Nature and Nature’s God; that is, he follows God in His works and in His word.”  There is wisdom in seeing God in His works …

Beloved, God’s hand upon the world is a wonder that merits deep thanksgiving, “…that the earth shall be satisfied with the fruit of [His] works” (Ps. 103:14).  How sad that perception of God’s creation and His action has shriveled so greatly in our consciousness!

The devotional writer focuses on chronology, as in his expression “contemporary idiom.” But the purveyors of jeremiads of old often were killed for their efforts. The ancients, no less than we, often could not or would not “read the signs.” It’s not just the passage of time, or our increasing body of scientific knowledge that blinds us.

And for that reason, there’s hope. All it takes is a little “paradigm shift” and we may see some of the unseen causes behind the “natural causes.”