THE WINGS OF THE WIND
BY GLENN PEASE
When Columbus and his crew were being blown West by the Atlantic trade winds, one of the reasons they were so fearful was they did not know how they could get back home against the wind. Fortunately they discovered not only a new world, but new winds that carried them back to Spain. They returned as heroes on the wings of the wind.
The ancient world was almost completely dependent on wind power for travel on the sea, and all of the great adventures that began the modern era depended on wind power. Columbus could not have discovered America without the wind, and Magellan could never have sailed around the world without wind.
Dr. Luke in describing the travels of Paul makes it clear that where you got to, and when, was all up to the wind. In Acts 27:4 he writes, "From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us." In verse 7 he says, "When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete." Then comes the long description of the hurricane force wind that swept them across the sea eventually destroying the ship. The point is, man all through history has been at the mercy of the wind. It is one of natures greatest forces. It would take thousands of atomic bombs exploding every minute to match the energy of even a modest gale. It is no wonder that man has sought for ways to harness the power of the wind. Hammurabi, back somewhere around 2000BC, planned to use windmills to irrigate, and in the second century BC we have a record of a windmill in Alexandria, Egypt that was used to play an organ.
Prov. 30:4 pictures God holding the winds of the world in His fists, and all through the Bible God is the controller of the winds that produce the music of nature as they go singing through the canyons and the forest.
"God holds in His hands the winds of the East,
And the West and the South and North:
And He stands in love in the skies above,
And He sends them leaping forth."
The winds of all four directions are dealt with in the Bible, and each has its own special purpose. This is a study in and of itself.
I have been in a forest when the wind is coming through the trees, and I have heard the music of the trees. It was somewhat scary until I knew what it was, and then it became beautiful. I can now appreciate the words of the unknown poet-
"God is at the organ-
I can hear
A mighty music
Echoing far and near.
God is at the organ
And the keys
Are storm-strewn moorlands
This image of God creating music with the wind I have had in my mind before, for much of the music of man is made by wind propelled through instruments. But not until I began to study Psalm 104 did I ever imagine God riding on the wings of the wind. God is portrayed as being way ahead of man in His recognition of the value of wind power for travel. This must have been a popular image in Israel for in Psalm 18:10 we read again, "He mounted the cherubim and flew; He soared on the wings of the wind." Then in II Sam. 22:11 David pictures God soaring on the wings of the wind. Three times the Bible tells us God rides the wings of the wind.
The Hebrew mind could look up into the cloud filled sky as the wind pushed them rapidly across the heavens and imagine God using the clouds as His chariot, and wind as His fuel for flying. Our more scientific mind can only conclude that this is poetry, and that God, who is already everywhere in His omnipresence, does not need to travel across the skies. But the Hebrews knew this too, and so we do not need to take it so literally that we imagine God jumping on a cloud and actually riding it anymore than we need to try to picture the wind with actual wings. Of course we are dealing with poetry here, but poetry that is telling us something important about God and His relationship with nature.
We know God does not need wind to travel, but who are we to say that God never enters His creation to enjoy the beauty of what He has made, and actually ride the wings of the wind? God enters earth many times in the Old Testament. God enjoyed eating with Abraham and walking in fellowship with Enoch. He walked in the garden in the cool of the day. Cool, by the way, is the same word for wind. If you study wind in the Bible, you discover that the Hebrew and Greek words for wind are the same words used to describe the Spirit of God. We cannot say that God does not literally enjoy riding the wings of the wind. The Spirit of God is the same as the breath of God or the wind of God. The same words refer to all of them.
The very first picture of God we have in the Bible is in Gen.1:2, and that is of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters. The Hebrew word for spirit is the same word for wind and breath. It was God riding on the wings of the wind that began the process of turning the chaos into a world of order. It all begins with the wind of God, the Spirit of God, the breath of God. All three are the same Hebrew word.
The Spirit and the wind have much in common. They are both invisible, yet very powerful. Wind is air in motion, and the Spirit is God in motion. Jesus linked the Holy Spirit and the wind in His night talk with Nicodemus. He said to him in John 3:8, "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
The wind can lift up millions of tons of water into the atmosphere, and yet it is an unseen power. It is doing things of enormous power all the time, but we cannot see it. So the Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of people doing wonders in changing them and motivating them, but He is unseen. Like the wind, His influence is seen and felt by His effects that are visible. Wind is ever doing mighty things in the realm of the physical and spiritual. We need both the natural and the spiritual wind more than we realize.
Grace N. Crowell expressed our need for the cleansing wind in these prayer lines-
"God keep a clean wind blowing through my heart night and day.
Cleanse it with sunlight, let the silver rain wash away
Cobwebs, and the smoldering dust that years leave, I pray.
God, keep a clean wind blowing through my heart: Wind from far
Green pastures, and from shaded pools where still waters are;
Wind from spaces out beyond the first twilight star.
Bitterness can have no place in me, nor grief stay,
When the winds of God rush through and sweep them away.
God keep a clean wind blowing through my heart night and day."
This is a prayer for the Holy Spirit to cleanse us from the pollution of the world and give us a clean inner atmosphere where the fruit of the Spirit can grow. The Holy Spirit blows out the contaminated air of our soul and gives us fresh air to breathe. The result is a revived interest in the things of Christ. Our affections are set on things above, and not things below. Revival comes when God rides the wings of the wind blowing away the chaff, and giving us clear vision of what really matters.
When the rushing mighty wind came upon the disciples at Pentecost, it was the wind of the Spirit, and they were filled with that Wind and began to declare the wonders of God. The wind and the Holy Spirit are both message carriers. They make sounds, and these sounds convey a message. The Psalmist says, "He makes the wind His messenger." The poets often refer to the winds as messengers. Shakespeare wrote,
"The southern wind doth play the trumpet
To his purposes; and by his hollow
Whistling in the leaves foretells a
Tempest, and a blistering day."
Tennyson wrote, "A wind arose and rushed upon the South and shook the songs, the whispers, and the shrieks of the wild woods together; and a Voice went with it, follow, follow thou shalt win." Longfellow wrote,
"I hear the wind among the trees,
Playing celestial symphonies.
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument."
At Pentecost, the wind of the Holy Spirit was playing God's song for all nations. The Gospel melody rung out to the crowd, and the great commission fulfillment began as people from all over the world responded to the Gospel. The power that propelled the church forward on this glorious mission was wind power: The heavenly wind power of the Holy Spirit.
Wind power has always been a part of nature, but man has been slow to capture this power and harness it for his purpose. The Dutch were the first to bring windmills to America. In 1622 they set one up in New York for grinding grain. By 1900 it was a ten million dollar a year business. The first successful windmill to generate power commercially was built in Vermont in 1941. It is on a hill called Grandpa's Knob. It's two bladed propeller measuring 130 feet from tip to tip generated electricity for nearly 4 years. Then in 1945 a wind so strong came up that it spun one of the eight ton blades right off the tower sending it two hundred yards. The project was then abandoned. Wind is a dangerous power that can get out of control.
If we apply this to the Holy Spirit we see the similarity. The Holy Spirit is ever present, but this does not mean we know how to utilize the power of this heavenly wind. When we do discover ways to be propelled by the wind of the Spirit, we often lose control. The Corinthians were empowered by the Spirit, but they used the power in abusive ways that did damage to the church. They were like a windmill coming apart at the seams, because they did not control the power.
I have wind power in my car, and when I turn the blower on I can get wind of varied degrees of force and temperature. I have to regulate this wind power or I will be too cold or too hot. Power is available, but it has to be regulated or it becomes a problem. So it is with the power of the Holy Spirit. People often go to extremes with what is good, and end up with what is bad. Christians have gotten into all sorts of fanatical displays of power. Power must always be used wisely or it can do more harm than good.
Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he did not need to understand the wind to profit from it. Nor did he need to understand the new birth to yield to the Holy Spirit and be born anew. You do not need to understand power to use power wisely. We all use electricity without understanding it. We do not know how it works, but we make it work for us because we have channeled it to wise purposes. If we hold up a golf club in a storm we are inviting a bolt of power that will not be put to good use unless our goal is to be toasted. We understand enough about this power to avoid foolish dangerous practices. So it is with the power of the Spirit. We must use the power wisely and avoid follies that hurt the body.
Power is always risky, and so every time there is a discovery of a new power source there is conflict among men to control that power. When the windmill became popular in the 14th century, the issue arose as to who owned the wind. Pope Celestine III laid claim to it and would only let the windmill owners use it at a price. This led to some interesting court cases. But wind power was in, and it changed the course of history. Holland was almost uninhabitable, but by means of the windmill water was pumped off the land, and a whole new civilization was begun. Descartes said, "God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland." What he forgot was the Dutch could have done nothing without the wind, and God holds the winds in His fists.
It took 51 windmills four years to empty a lake, but in 1634 it was dry and Holland's land area was greatly expanded. It was the most startling reclamation project of the age, and all was done by wind power. Over 9 thousand windmills lined the dikes and canals of the land. It was the land the wind built. The kingdom of God on earth is like this as well, for Jesus told the disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they received power from the Holy Spirit-the wind of heaven. When the mighty rushing wind came at Pentecost, the church had the wind power necessary to build a universal kingdom. The church, like Holland, owes its existence to wind power. God rides not only across the sky, but across history on the wings of the wind. The wind is the source of energy that God has used in both creation and redemption.
How did God restore the earth after the flood so that it was fit again for man and animals. Gen. 8:1 says, "But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and He sent a wind over the earth and the waters receded." By wind power God did to the whole world what the Dutch did to Holland. The whole world was reclaimed by the wind.
How did God save the Israelites when they were trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh with his army of chariots. Ex. 14:21 says, "All that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong East wind and turned it into dry land." God is all powerful, and could by His mere word make the river bed dry, but He preferred to use wind power. God uses this great force to do his will in creation. He saved Israel by wind power. He was, that night, riding the wings of the wind, and using this natural power for His purpose. And the message of all this is that God is immanent in His creation. That is, He does get involved, and does in some way really ride the wings of the wind. Some of the reasons why He does He has told us. First of all-
I. TO CREATE.
It was the wind of God, or His breath, that pushed back the water and made the dry land possible. It was His breath breathed into the animal world and man that gave them life, and then we read in Ps. 33:6, "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, the starry hosts by the breath of His mouth." The whole universe came from the breath of God. The wind of His spoken word created all that is. And everything continues as it is by the power of His breath, or wind. Over and over again, the Bible makes it clear that if God withdrew His breath from anything it would cease to be.
The whole process of natures reproduction is maintained by wind power. If pollen and seeds were not blown by the wind all would soon be dead. But because of the wind every nook and cranny on the planet is a place for potential life, for seeds are blown everywhere. Lyll Watson in Heaven's Breath wrote this whole book to show that the wind is the circulatory and nervous system of earth, and that all life is dependent upon the wind. The 5600 million million tons of air that wraps this planet is a key to life. Each of us breaths about 10 million times a year. We begin life with a breath and continue life with breathing. The whole world needs to breathe to continue, and it does so by means of the wind. Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? It is awful. We need wind going down our windpipe to survive. The wind also evaporates water from the sea and gives the whole world the drink it needs to survive. Without the wind the world would soon be a vast desert. The wind causes one and a half million tons of water to fall on the land of this world every second. Life needs water and wind gets water to all of life.
Man is just beginning to see how the whole planet is kept in balance by the jet steam that tares around the world 30,000 feet above the earth. It travels up to 300 miles per hour and regulates the weather all over the world. It redistributes hot and cold air all over the world to maintain balance. Dr. Harry Wexler of the U. S. Weather Bureau wrote, "In a windless world the tropics would become intolerably hot and the rest of the planet unbearably cold; the parched continents would become dust: Cities would suffocate." But God rides the wings of the wind to create balance. Secondly, God rides the wings of the wind-
II. TO CLEANSE.
The world is filled with corruption and pollution in the air. If the wind did not blow this foul air away all of life would soon parish in the stagnant air. Life depends on the cleansing power of the wind.
"There is ever and ever his boundless blue
And ever and ever his green, green sod,
And ever and ever between the two
Walks the wonderful winds of God."
This was true even in the ideal world of Eden. Even in a perfect world there were certain times better than others. One of them was the cool of the evening. The sun could still be hot in a perfect world, and so Adam and Eve could sweat and even get sun burned, and so it was a refreshing time when the cool of the evening wind would blow. Gen. 3:8 says, "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day." The Hebrew word for cool is ruach, which is the same word for wind, breath, and spirit. It was in that time of day that nature was providing the gentle breeze that God walked in the garden. The heat was blown away and it was an ideal time. The wind brings comfort and pleasure to all of us when it is hot. Thirdly, God rides the wings of the wind-
III. TO COMPEL.
Wind is the driving force of life. The breath of God is what gives all that lives, life, and the ability to move. When we lose the breath of life we are dead and still. It is the wind within us that compels us to think, to act, and to grow. Everything that we do depends upon the movement of air. The Bible says we function by wind power, and when the wind stops we stop too. To be born anew is to born of a new wind. The breath of God's Spirit enters us and we are compelled by this new wind to go a new direction God wants us to go. Myra Scovel in 1969 wrote,
"Where does the wind come from,
"Rabbi, I do not know;"
Nor can you tell where it will go.
Put yourself into the path of the wind,
You will know the thrill of being borne along
By something greater than yourself.
You are proud of your position,
Of your security,
But you will perish in such stagnant air.
Put yourself into the path of the wind,
Bright leaves will dance before you.
You will find yourself in places
That you never dreamed of seeing.
You will be forced into places you have dreaded
And find them like a coming home.
Put yourself into the path of the wind,
You will have a power that you never had before.
You will be a new man!
Put yourself into the path of the wind."
Dr. Jowett, the great preacher, went for a walk by the sea, and he asked a sailor if he could explain the wind. He said, "No, I can't explain the wind, but I can hoist a sail." Jowett realized then that we don't need to explain the wind, but we need to simply cooperate with it and use the wind to achieve God's purpose. We need to let it blow us in the direction He wants to compel us to go. Fourthly, God rides the wings of the wind-
IV. TO CONQUER.
In II Sam. 22:11 God rode on the wings of the wind in order to deliver David from his foes. By the blast of breath from His nostrils came a conquering wind. All through the Old Testament the breath of God is a force for judgment. Some of the great victories of history were wind victories.
England will never forget the winds of God that saved them from the Spanish Armada. The superb and towering galleons struck terror into the hearts of the English people. They had only small ships in comparison, but Captain Drake went out anyway to do battle with these giants of the sea. The wind became strong and the huge Spanish ships could not maneuver like the smaller English ships. They became helpless and those that were not sunk were carried around the channel and smashed to pieces on the rocks. By the power of the wind England won a decisive battle she could never have won without the wind of God.
It was four o'clock in the afternoon on April 22, 1915. The experts told the German Generals it was the perfect time to let loose the deadly poisonous gas on the Allies. They said the wind would blow in their direction for the next 36 hours. The gas began to kill the allied soldiers, but then the wind shifted and came back upon the Germans and they died by the thousands. If the wind had not shifted the Germans may have conquered the world. Never before was there any record of the wind shifting so suddenly. God again was riding on the wings of the wind to conquer the forces of evil.
We need the wind to win. We need God's judging wind to create storms that bring judgment on evil. Wind is a weapon that no man can resist. It is a frightening power, but we need to pray that God will blow away the foul odor of man's corruption, and let us breath again the clean air of righteousness. We cannot do this with our puny power. We need the wind of God to conquer.
Captain Ahab in Moby Dick says, "Tis a noble and heroic thing, the wind! Who ever conquered it? In every fight it has the last and bitterest blow.......There's something all glorious and gracious in the wind." This is even more so when we look beyond the wind of nature to the wind of God's Spirit. Let every cooling breeze remind you that God's Spirit is blowing to bring refreshment into your life. Let every storm remind you that the wind of God's judgment will have the final word, and we need to be sheltered in the ark of Christ or be blown away. Shakespeare was right when he said, "Ill blows the wind that profits nobody." Every wind can profit the Christian if they will, like the Psalmist, look for and see God riding on the wings of the wind.