Forerunner, September-October 2000

In the vast array of God's creation, how many times have we studied an object and wondered, "How did God think of that?" or perhaps, "What possible purpose can that thing serve?" More often than not, when we dissect one of God's creations, we begin to see the infinite wisdom of His mind.

Here is one of those natural wonders: Have we ever stopped to think of the many types of precipitation God has made? The earth's atmosphere produces rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog, mist and dew—maybe even a few more kinds as well. These creations that God designed to water the earth also come at different times and in varying amounts depending on the region of the world.

Arid regions receive very little rain and rarely, if ever, see snow. Tropical regions receive regular rains and probably never have an ice storm. Arctic regions endure heavy snowfalls, yet may never have had a rainstorm. Many of us live in temperate climes that receive a mixture of all the different types of precipitation.

Except for possibly the frigid arctic regions, all the other areas receive some amount of dewfall. Most of the people on earth have some experience with dew, so it makes a good vehicle for illustrating spiritual principles. What lessons does God want us to learn from examining the use of dew in Scripture?

What Is Dew?

Dew is a deposit of water droplets, formed at night by the condensation of water vapor from the air, onto the surface of objects exposed to the sky. It forms on clear nights when the air is calm or winds are light. The process that produces the dew begins as the sun begins to set and night begins to fall. Objects exposed to the open air cool faster than the air around them, and if it is sufficiently humid, water vapor condenses out of the air and covers the object. Dew may also be drawn from the ground. Another type of dew, "hoarfrost," occurs when the air temperature reaches the freezing point.

When the processes of precipitation occur, a common result is that they cover everything. Whether it comes in the form of rain, snow, dew or frost, if something is in the open air, the precipitation will cover it. While walking in the forest behind our house on a cold winter morning, I can see that the dew has frozen, totally encapsulating everything in sight in a crystal-white jacket of hoarfrost. It is sometimes so thick it almost looks like snow. Who can paint a more beautiful landscape than God can?

Scientists have attempted to measure dewfall, and research suggests that on any given night, dewfall may be as much as 3/100ths of an inch. In some cases, dewfall may be as much as three inches annually. In wilderness areas of Palestine and Syria, dewfall is essential to maintain any vegetation and animal life at all. Rainfall from April to October is very scarce, and life in these areas would cease without the dew. This is true for many other regions of the world as well, but these two are of particular interest because of their relationship to biblical times.

As the dew covers a plant, the plant absorbs the life-giving substance through its leaves, giving it what it needs to survive another day. Without this daily source of water, plants will not endure until the latter rains in the autumn. We can perhaps relate this analogy to the timeframe of the spring and fall holy days, when we receive plenty of spiritual food to last through the long, hot days of summer or a long, cold winter.

From a biblical point of view, what does "dew" mean? Dew is used to refer to blessings, favor, prosperity, resurrection, long life, and to describe how an army covers the earth. It can also describe how an eagle covers her young or how God covers His people. We can see a well-known example in Isaac's blessing of Jacob in Genesis 27:28: "Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine."

Can we see evidence of such a blessing being poured on the church today? In Isaiah 5, God describes His vineyard and what He had done for it to reap good grapes, but what He found was not to His liking:

And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; and break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned or dug, but there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. (Isaiah 5:5-6)

Applying this to the church, we have all witnessed the hedge being taken away, and the protection that God had placed around it is not what it once was. In addition, God withholds rain from it, and growth slows or stops altogether.

Many may not have had the opportunity to live on or near a farm, but a hedge, fence or wall is very important in the protection of the crop. Once when I was out hunting near a cornfield, I noticed that the surrounding forest was covered with corn shucks. Now the field had a fence around it, but it was full of holes and broken down in some places. Varmints could come and go, freely taking the corn off into the cover of the forest to devour it. Since the hedge was broken, the field had no protection from the dangers that were lurking all around!

Withholding the Dew

We all look forward to the time described in Revelation 7:16: "They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat." A period precedes this, though, during which God says He will withhold the dew:

Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands. (Haggai 1:10-11)

What is this dew that is to be withheld? This is similar to what we see in Isaiah 5:6, where God says, "I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it." Could the dew and rain refer to God's Spirit? Do we see His Spirit being poured out as it once was in the church? Certainly, God would withhold His Spirit from a church that has largely apostatized.

God could not have written the script for the end-time apostasy in Deuteronomy 31-32 any better after its occurrence. In these chapters, God tells Moses that after his death the people would forsake God and turn away from His commandments. Does this sound familiar? It should, because it is a common pattern in the Bible.

Throughout the history of Israel, the people ran hot and cold in their reliance on God, largely depending on the faith of their leader or king. God mentions dew in context of His work to proclaim the truth in Deuteronomy 32:2: "Let My teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass." Speech equates to "teaching," so it includes God's Word, His commandments, His truth and ultimately all of His instruction. Distill means to "run down," "flow" or "stream." This is a picturesque way of saying God sends His truth to cover the earth like dew!

God reestablished and codified His law through Moses, and just as God predicted would occur after Moses' death, Israel went into apostasy. After many years and hot-and-cold periods, Israel eventually became so scattered that their identity was lost even to themselves!

God, knowing that man could never follow His law without His Holy Spirit, sent Jesus Christ to magnify the law and die for our sins. This makes it possible for us to keep the faith without falling back to apostasy. Jesus also established the church. Yet after His death, the church flourished for a while then faded into apostasy, and its scattering was even worse than Israel's! Some went to Europe, others to Africa and Asia and who knows where else!

Nineteen hundred years later, God reestablished His truth through Herbert Armstrong, and Christ gave him the task of preaching the gospel to the world, which he did. But what happened after his death? Once again, God's patience has been tested, the people have turned away from "the faith once delivered," and the people of the church have been scattered to the four winds. Like Israel, our identity as God's people is fast disappearing!

Has God withheld the dew?

Why have the splinter groups that have come out of the Worldwide Church of the God and declared that they would finish the work of preaching the gospel to the world had no impact at all? Technologically, they have much greater access to far more resources than the church had before. The answer, however, is far simpler. We must ask ourselves how many of God's chosen leaders finished the tasks that He had given them during their lifetimes. Noah finished God's purpose for him. Moses finished his task, and Joshua completed his. God kept them alive and working until they had accomplished all that God had set out for them to do.

Some biblical figures desired to do more than God called them to do. David had great plans to build a Tabernacle for God, but God said, "No, Solomon will build the Temple," and he did. What would have happened if David had ignored God and built it anyway? What would God have done if Moses had tried to enter the Promised Land? They finished what God gave them—no more, no less.

A few of those God called tried not to do what He assigned them. Jonah, for example, did not want to do his God-assigned task, but God did the work through him anyway. Some of the prophets complained about the jobs God gave them to do. In every case, God overcame their fears and reticence to finish the task.

So we must ask ourselves, if we attempt to "finish" something that God already considers completed, will He bless our efforts? If God is withholding "the dew of heaven" at this time, efforts to preach the gospel will be done in vain and against God!

Perhaps in this light we can better understand Isaiah 55:6: "Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near." If He tells us to seek Him while He may be found, then there must be a time when He cannot be found! If God withholds Himself, His Spirit or His truth, no amount of preaching the gospel will change that!

A Matter of Survival

I once read a book about a boy named Tom who grew up learning from an American Indian how to live off the land. When Tom had come of age, he decided to test his survival skills. His plan was to travel around the United States and spend time in the most challenging areas. He stayed in the Grand Canyon and the Badlands, and the final test was to see if he could endure the desert of Death Valley.

Before Tom set out on the final leg of his journey, he left his car with a local storeowner. He told the man that, if he was not back in eight weeks, he was probably dead. The storeowner replied that Tom would be dead in two weeks! Undeterred, Tom struck out to begin his test.

The desert was more trying than anything he had ever faced. His main source of drinking water was dew. Every night, he would lay out a dew-catching device, and in the morning, he would have collected enough for a fresh drink. Tom recalled that he had never been so thirsty in all his life as on this journey.

As the days went on, Tom lost track of time, and after nine weeks, he decided it was time to go home. With the "dew of heaven" to drink, Tom reached his goal, but without it he would have stood no chance of survival. Without the spiritual "dew of heaven" from God, we have no chance of surviving in Satan's world!

God has allowed the hedge to be taken away, His Spirit is no longer being poured out like rain, and His truth is not running down. The knowledge of God is not covering as the dew covers the earth, and all indications are for the drought to continue (Amos 8:11-12).

Someday, though, God will lift the drought and pour out His knowledge and blessings once again. He says through Hosea:

"I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him. I will be like the dew to Israel; He shall grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like Lebanon. His branches shall spread; his beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon. Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall be revived like grain, and grow like the vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim shall say, ‘What have I to do anymore with idols?' I have heard and observed him. I am like a green cypress tree; your fruit is found in Me." Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them. (Hosea 14:4-9)

God has covered us with His truth. If we fail to drink in every drop, we may, like the plants of arid climates, never survive until the latter rains. As Christ says, we must endure to the end, and it will come soon!