Nobody likes a wake-up call—and I’m not even talking philosophically. Ask any businessman who travels for a living. There is nothing more annoying at 6:00 o’clock in the morning than a cheery-voiced desk clerk telling you it’s time to get up.
There’s another type of wake-up call. If you have a six-year-old at home, you know what I mean. No sooner does a thunderstorm begin than he’s at the foot of your bed, shaking your foot and telling you that he’s scared. And no matter how many times you tell him that it’s only God snoring, or the upstairs neighbors bowling, he still won’t go back to bed until it’s over.
As we all know, the booming sound of thunder is only noise. So what is this wake-up call of thunder announcing?
Simply, the greatness of one of God’s creations—lightning. And what is so great about lightning, besides the fact that it makes the perfect background for a murder-mystery? Consider this.
There’s a verse in Psalms 135 stating that, “God made the lightning for the rain.” A great twentieth-century thinker, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, explains that this refers to the fact that rain needs lightning in order to accomplish one of its jobs. What did he mean by that?
I know from my farm in Brooklyn that if I want my tomatoes to grow, I have to water them (which is one of the purposes of rain). But if I want them to be really big and juicy, I have to use Miracle-Gro, or at least some type of fertilizer. Water only helps the chemical reactions take place, but a plant still needs healthy soil in which to grow. And since soil is only a few inches deep anywhere in the world, its nutrients get used up fairly quickly and need to be replenished. That’s where fertilizers come in. And they come in a variety of different types, potencies and smells.
What do they all have in common, though? Nitrates, which is a combination of oxygen and nitrogen. There’s only one problem, and that is that nitrogen is practically inert: it doesn’t combine easily with other chemicals. The only way to overcome this problem is to use intense heat to fuse it together with oxygen. Since the farmers of the world haven’t the time to go running around with Bunsen burners looking for spare nitrogen, God does the job for them. Each time that lightning strikes, the intense heat generated by this electrical reaction causes the nitrogen in the air to combine with oxygen. These gases, combined with the traces of ammonia in the air, dissolve into the rain, which then brings this life-giving fertilizer into the soil.
Score a point for the Psalmist.
But don’t think that you have to wait for a thunderstorm for lightning to happen. Lightning is taking place continually in the atmosphere every day in order to keep our soil rich and healthy.
Thunder is God’s reminder to us that even when we are too busy to take care of the things we need to survive, the benevolent Creator of the world is ably taking care of them Himself. So the next time you hear a clap of thunder, wake up and smell the fertilizer.