Saturday, January 21, 2012

Job's Water Cycle Tutorial

Historical Old Testament figure Job received fascinating lessons in meteorology from the youthful Elihu in Job 36-37. The lessons followed Elihu’s more serious commentary in earlier chapters on the deficiencies he perceived in Job’s lifestyle. Elihu was less harsh in his judgment than Job’s other three friends. The lessons in meteorology follow the spiritual advice he offered Job. Elihu may have felt that our responsibility to God consists not only of obedience and righteousness, but also of becoming aware of the Creator’s authorship of order and grandeur in nature. The lessons in Job 36-37 are majestic tutorials on events of the earth’s water cycle.

Earth is a planet teeming with life primarily because it has a plentiful supply of water. In particular, earth life depends on the ability of most of earth’s water to remain in liquid state. Water also exists in two other states--solid and gas. Earth’s life also depends on water’s ability to transition among these three states within the very narrow temperature ranges present on earth.

The water cycle, also termed the hydrologic cycle, is only one of hundreds of functioning cycles upon which earth life depends. Failure of any one of these cycles would preclude the possibility of life as we know it. One of the most readily observable and understandable cycles is the water cycle. Its operation is easily visible whenever rain falls followed by our observation that some rainwater evaporates back into the air. Precipitation, one step in the cycle, enables plant life to thrive. And in turn, animal life thrives on plant life. Nothing is more vital for life than the production of food supported by adequate rainfall.

Transition of water from liquid to vapor and from vapor back to liquid enables water to travel long distances from oceans and other water bodies to cropland locations. Atmospheric circulation quickly transports the water vapor from place to place. Some water infiltrates the soil, becomes groundwater, and eventually returns to streams and larger water bodies for use in irrigation or even re-evaporation back into the atmosphere. Superimposed on this process are many sub-cycles, some of which may be demonstrated in the laboratory by hands-on activities such as heating liquid water (evaporating) and cooling water vapor (condensing), or by freezing and melting experiments.

The weather imageries presented in Job 36-37 by Elihu, along with additional commentary by the Lord Himself in chapter 38 are vivid and stunning depictions of water cycle phenomena. The purpose of scripture is not to render a scientific account, but rather to offer accurate and insightful observations. One may imagine that Elihu understood the process of recycling: the same water is re-used repeatedly over long time frames.

The origin of a stable water cycle on earth was a phenomenon of the second creation day (Genesis 1:6-8). On the third creation day, the dry land burst forth with every sort of grass and seed-bearing plant, along with seed-bearing fruit. “The land was filled with seed-bearing plants and trees, and their seeds produced plants and trees of like kind. And God saw that it was good. This all happened on the third day” (Genesis -13 NLT). Therefore, the water cycle existed on earth long before the fifth day appearance of animal life.

Understanding the intricacies of the life sustaining operational water cycle is a cause for humble worship of the Creator. The more we understand earth’s cycles, the more we comprehend His greatness. I recommend a devotional study of Job 36-38.