Psalm 135:7

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 7. He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth. Here we are taught the power of God in creation. The process of evaporation is passed by unnoticed by the many, because they see it going on all around them; the usual ceases to be wonderful to the thoughtless, but it remains a marvel to the instructed. When we consider upon what an immense scale evaporation is continually going on, and how needful it is for the existence of all life, we may well admire the wisdom and the power which are displayed therein. All around us from every point of the horizon the vapour rises, condenses into clouds, and ultimately descends as rain. Whence the vapours originally ascended from which our showers are formed it would be impossible to tell; most probably the main part of them comes from the tropical regions, and other remote places at "the ends of the earth." It is the Lord who causes them to rise, and not a mere law. What is law without a force at the back of it? He maketh lightnings for the rain. There is an intimate connection between lightning and rain, and this would seem to be more apparent in Palestine than even with ourselves; for we constantly read of thunderstorms in that country as attending heavy down pours of rain. Lightning is not to be regarded as a lawless force, but as a part of that wonderful machinery by which the earth is kept in a fit condition: a force as much under the control of God as any other, a force most essential to our existence. The ever changing waters, rains, winds, and electric currents circulate as if they were the life blood and vital spirits of the universe. He bringeth the wind out of his treasuries. This great force which seems left to its own wild will is really under the supreme and careful government of the Lord. As a monarch is specially master of the contents of his own treasure, so is our God the Lord of the tempest and hurricane; and as princes do not spend their treasure without taking note and count of it, so the Lord does not permit the wind to be wasted, or squandered without purpose. Everything in the material world is under the immediate direction and control of the Lord of all. Observe how the Psalmist brings before us the personal action of Jehovah: "he causeth", "he maketh", "he bringeth." Everywhere the Lord worketh all things, and there is no power which escapes his supremacy. It is well for us that it is so: one bandit force wandering through the Lord's domains defying his control would cast fear and trembling over all the provinces of providence. Let us praise Jehovah for the power and wisdom with which he rules clouds, and lightnings, and winds, and all other mighty and mysterious agencies.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 7. He causeth the vapours to ascend, etc. Dr. Halley made a number of experiments at St. Helena as to the quantity of water that is daily evaporated from the sea, and he found that ten square inches of the ocean's surface yielded one cubic inch of water in twelve hours -- a square mile therefore yields 401,448,960 cubic inches, or 6,914 tons of water. From the surface of the Mediterranean Sea during a summer's day there would pass off in invisible vapour five thousand millions of tons of water. This being only for one day, the quantity evaporated in a year would be 365 times greater, and in two thousand years it would amount to four thousand billions of tons, which evaporation would in time empty the Mediterranean Sea; but we have good reason for believing that there is as much water there now as in the time of the Romans, therefore the balance is kept up by the downpour of rain, the influx of the rivers, and the currents from the Atlantic.

Now let us consider the amount of power required for all this evaporation. Mr. Joule, whose experiments have given to the world so much valuable information, says that if we had a pool of water one square mile and six inches in depth to be evaporated by artificial heat, it would require the combustion of 30,000 tons of coal to effect it; therefore to evaporate all the water that ascends from the earth it would take 6,000,000,000,000 (six billion) tons, or more than all the coal that could be stowed away in half a dozen such worlds as this; and yet silently and surely has the process of evaporation been going on for millions of years. --Samuel Kinns, in "Moses and Geology", 1882.

Verse 7. He causeth the vapours to ascend, etc. There is no physical necessity that the boiling point of water should occur at two hundred and twelve degrees of the Fahrenheit scale. As far as we know, it might have been the same with the boiling points of oil of turpentine, alcohol or ether. We shall see the benevolence of the present adjustment by noticing some of the consequences which would follow if any change were made.

The amount of vapour given off at ordinary temperatures by any liquid depends on the temperature at which it boils. If the boiling point of water were the same as that of alcohol, the vapour given off by the ocean would be two and a half times as much as at present. Such an excess of aqueous vapour would produce continual rains and inundations, and would make the air too damp for animal, and too cloudy for vegetable, life. If water boiled at the same temperature as ether, the vapour rising from the ocean would be more than twenty-five times as much as at present. In such a state of things no man could see the sun on account of the clouds; the rain would be so excessive as to tear up the soil and wash away plants; inundations would be constant, and navigation would be impossible in the inland torrents which would take the place of our rivers. In winter the snow of one day might bury the houses. If, on the other hand, water boiled at the same temperature with oil of turpentine, the vapour given off by the ocean would be less than one fourth of its present amount. In this case rain would be a rarity, like an eclipse of the sun, the dryness of the desert of Sahara would be equalled in a large part of the globe, which would, therefore, be bare of vegetation, and incapable of sustaining animal life. Plants would be scorched by unclouded sunshine, springs and rivulets would be dry, and inland navigation would cease; for nearly all the rain would be absorbed by the porous earth.

We see, then, that the boiling point of water has been adjusted to various relations. It is adjusted to the capacity of space to contain aqueous vapour h transparent state; if it were higher than two hundred and twelve degrees, earth would be scorched by an unclouded sun; if it were lower, it would under continual shade. It is suited to the demand of plants for water; if it were higher, they would suffer from drought; if it were lower, they would torn up by floods. It is in harmony with the texture of the soil: if it higher, the earth would absorb all the rain which falls; if it were lower, the would often be washed away by the surface torrents after a shower. It is to the elevation of the continents above the sea; if it were higher, rivers their present inclination would be so shallow as to be often dry; if it lower, most rivers would be so deep as to be torrents, while the land would covered with floods. --Professor Hemholtz.

Verse 7. To ascend from the ends of the earth. Rains in England are introduced by a southeast wind. "Vapour brought to us by such a wind have been generated in countries to the south and east of our island. It is fore, probably, in the extensive valleys watered by the Meuse, the Moselle, the Rhine, if not from the more distant Elbe, with the Oder and the Weser, the water rises, in the midst of sunshine, which is soon afterwards to form our clouds, and pour down our thundershowers." "Drought and sunshine in part of Europe may be necessary to the production of a wet season in another" (Howard on the Climate of London). --William Whewell (1795-1866), in "The Bridgewater Treatise" Astronomy and General Physics. 1839.

Verse 7. From the surface of the earth raising the vapours. The whole description is beautifully exact and picturesque. Not "the ends", or even "summits" or "extreme mountains", for the original is in the singular number (hcq), but from the whole of the [xtr[m[ lay[r, the superficies or surface of the earth; from every point of which the great process of exhalation is perpetually going on to supply the firmament with refreshing and fruitful clouds. --John Mason Good.

Verse 7. He maketh lightnings for the rain. When the electrical clouds are much agitated, the rain generally falls heavily, and if the agitation is excessive, it hails. As the electricity is dissipated by the frequent discharges the cloud condenses, and there comes a sudden and heavy rain; but the greater the accumulation of electricity, the longer is the rain delayed. Thus connected as the electrical phenomena of the atmosphere are with clouds, vapour, and rain, how forcibly are we struck with these appropriate words in the Scriptures. --Edwin Sidney, in "Conversations on the Bible and Science", 1866.

Verse 7. He maketh lightnings for the rain. Dr. Russell, in his description of the weather at Aleppo, in September, tells us, that seldom a night passes without much lightning in the north west quarter, but not attended with thunder, and that when this lightning appears in the west or south west points, it is a sure sign of the approaching rain, which is often followed with thunder. This last clause, which is not perfectly clear, is afterwards explained in his more enlarged account of the weather of the year 1746, when he tells us that though it began to be cloudy on the 4th of September, and continued so for a few days, and even thundered, yet no rain fell till the 11th, which shows that his meaning was, that the lightning in the west or south west points, which is often followed with thunder, is a sure sign of the approach of rain. I have before mentioned that a squall of wind and clouds of dust are the usual forerunners of these first rains. Most of these things are taken notice of in Psalms 135:7 Jeremiah 10:13 51:16; and serve to illustrate them. Russell's account determines, I think, that the Nesiim, which our translators render vapours, must mean, as they elsewhere translate the word, clouds. It shows that God "maketh lightnings for the rain", they, in the west and south west points, being at Aleppo the sure prognostics of rain. The squalls of wind bring on these refreshing showers, and are therefore "precious things" of the "treasuries" of God. --Thomas Harmer.

Verse 7. He maketh lightnings for the rain. The Psalmist mentions it as another circumstance calling for our wonder, that lightnings are mixed with rain, things quite opposite in their nature one from another. Did not custom make us familiar with the spectacle, we would pronounce this mixture of fire and water to be a phenomenon altogether incredible. The same may be said of the phenomena of the winds. Natural causes can be assigned for them, and philosophers have pointed them out; but the winds, with their various currents, are a wonderful work of God. He does not merely assert the power of God, be it observed, in the sense in which philosophers themselves grant it, but he maintains that not a drop of rain falls from heaven without a divine commission or dispensation to that effect. All readily allow that God is the author of rain, thunder, and wind, in so far as he originally established this order of things in nature; but the Psalmist goes farther than this, holding that when it rains, this is not effected by a blind instinct of nature, but is the consequence of the decree of God, who is pleased at one time to darken the sky with clouds, and at another to brighten it again with sunshine. --John Calvin.

Verse 7. He maketh lightnings for the rain. It is a great instance of the divine wisdom and goodness, that lightning should be accompanied by rain, to soften its rage, and prevent its mischievous effects. Thus, in the midst of judgment, does God remember mercy. The threatenings in his word against sinners are like lightning; they would blast and scorch us up, were it not for his promises made in the same word to penitents, which, as a gracious rain, turn aside their fury, refreshing and comforting our frightened spirits. -- George Horne.

Verse 7. He bringeth the wind out of his treasuries. That is, say some, out of the caves and hollow places of the earth; but I rather conceive that because the wind riseth many times on a sudden, and as our Saviour saith ( John 3:8 ), we cannot tell whence it cometh, therefore God is said here to bring it forth, as if he had it locked up in readiness in some secret and hidden treasuries or store houses. --Arthur Jackson.

Verse 7. He bringeth the wind. The winds are, with great beauty, represented as laid up by him as jewels in a treasure house. Indeed, few verses better express creative control, than those in which the winds, which make sport of man's efforts and defy his power, are represented as thus ready to spring forth at God's bidding from the quarters where they quietly sleep. The occasion comes, the thoughts of Jehovah find expression in his providence, and his ready servants leap suddenly forth: "He bringeth the winds out of his treasuries." But this bringing forth is not for physical purposes only; it is for great moral and spiritual ends also. Take one illustration out of many. His people were on the edge of deepest and most brutish idolatry. They were ready to fall into a most degraded form of idol worship, when he offered to them that ever yearning heart of Fatherly love:

"Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen." Their god is only "the tree cut out of the forest", silvered over, or decked with gold; "upright as the palm tree, but speaks not: the stock is a doctrine of vanities; but the Lord is the true God; he maketh lightnings with rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasures." Jeremiah 10:2-16 . Thus, too, the words of Agur to Ithiel and Ucal, "He hath gathered the wind in his fists." Proverbs 30:4 . -- John Duns, in "Science and Christian Thought", 1868.