by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa
In recent weeks, the state of Florida has been struck repeatedly by hurricanes; first Charley, then Frances, then Ivan and, as I write this, Karl has formed in the central Atlantic and is approaching. We know the damage strong winds can do. Even locally, here in the St. Louis area, we know all too well the effects of wind and weather; trees have been uprooted and homes damaged in the not-too-distant past. Weather, and especially wind, can be a destructive “force of nature” to rival earthquakes and other natural disasters.
It’s no wonder that the upsetting nature of change is summarized in the phrase “winds of change.” We’ve all heard the proverb “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.”
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “ruach,” translated “wind,” is the same word that is translated “spirit” or sometimes “breath.” Wind represents change, and it also represents the spirit of God. Wind can represent God in action. In Genesis, chapter 8, God sent a wind to roll back the water following the flood (Gen. 8:1). In Exodus, chapter 10, it was the east wind that brought the locusts when Moses invoked the plague of locusts on Pharaoh (Exod. 10:13), and the west wind that took the locusts away again (Exod. 10:19). In chapter 14, it was the east wind that drove back the Red Sea and allowed the Israelites to escape from Pharaoh’s army (Exod. 14:21a). After he had been delivered from Saul, David sang of God soaring “. . . on the wings of the wind.” (1 Sam. 22:11b, Psa. 18:10b NIV). In Psalm 11, the wind brings judgment. “On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.” (Psa. 11:6 NIV). We’re told that God “. . . has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands . . .” (Prov. 30:4b NIV).
The prophet Jeremiah warned of a wind of judgment, a wind of destruction. “At that time this people and Jerusalem will be told, ‘A scorching wind from the barren heights in the desert blows toward my people, but not to winnow or cleanse; a wind too strong for that comes from me. Now I pronounce my judgments against them.’” (Jer. 4:11-12 NIV). This is not a gentle breeze, a wind to “blow away the cobwebs.” This will be a “scorching wind” like in the Psalm, a destructive wind, a wind of judgment.
But we have a savior who can turn back the wind of judgment and calm the winds of this world (Matt. 14:23-33), so that we are no longer “. . . tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” (Eph. 4:14b NIV). There are “ill winds” blowing across our world today: winds of hatred, winds of intolerance, and winds of sin. But we don’t have to be carried away by the winds of this world. Instead, we can be carried above by the wind of the Spirit.
It is no coincidence that the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2 is represented by the sound of wind (Acts 2:2). In the New Testament, the wind once again represents God’s spirit, the holy breath of God. Fortunately for us, what the wind of judgment can blow away and scatter, the wind of grace can redeem.
Someone near you needs to feel the wind of the Spirit. He or she has only felt the winds of this world; he or she has been buffeted by the winds of hatred, the winds of anger, and the winds of fear. He or she needs to feel the cleansing, healing wind of God’s spirit. Tell him or her today.
Feel the wind yourself; let it blow through your soul, let it cleanse you, let it blow away your doubt, sin and pain. Let it carry you. Feel the wind of grace.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4 NIV.)
(Based on a sermon I preached on 9/12/04 at Immanuel UMC, Old Testament lesson Jer. 4:11-12, 22-28)