The Wisdom of God and the Hydrologic Cycle
Many of you know my story of how I was a young believer when I was in college, reading the Bible for the first time with all the zeal and excitement that comes with it. At the same time, I was taking a required course for my Pre-Med major, titled Evolution. The “textbook” for that class was Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species (the actual title is much longer, but you get the gist).
So as I was richly digging into the Word of God, I was also learning about this man’s idea of how the world and everything else in the universe came to be. I had to reconcile these two ideas: I knew that God’s word was truth, but I had to understand how the ideals of evolution either fit into it or were completely wrong. [Let me tell you now…they are completely wrong!]
This began my journey of reading all things from an apologetic point of view. I wanted to always be able to give an answer for my belief, and I was continually searching for places in the Bible that contained wisdom to how our world worked.
Well, one of my favorite ones has to do with the hydrologic cycle of the Earth.
Oh, yes! There are plenty of scientific principles discussed in the Bible.
If you don’t know what the hydrologic cycle is, the name should give you a clue. The prefix “hydro” means water, and a cycle refers to a series of events that are regularly repeated in the same order. And, indeed, that is what a hydrologic cycle does. It refers to the continuous process by which water is circulated throughout the Earth and its atmosphere.
Beginning in our oceans, lakes, and rivers, liquid water is exposed to heat by the sun, causing some of its individual molecules to gain enough energy to become gaseous water. We call that water vapor. You deal with water vapor when you are heating a pot of water on the stove and finally see that steam rise out of the pot, letting you know it’s time to put the pasta in.
This vaporization of water is called evaporation. See the root word “vapor” in it?
Well, once water evaporates, it rises in the air, because, believe it or not, it is lighter than the air molecules around it. As it rises high enough, it cools because the higher the altitude, the cooler the temperature is. When water vapor cools, it eventually wants to become liquid water again. It needs to do this onto a hard surface. So it finds tiny dust particles in the air, and condenses onto them. This is the process of condensation. And that is what forms clouds. In fact, you could say that clouds are just tiny bits of dusty-water droplets. I know that is not very poetic. But I am the first one to say that I am not a poet.
As these condensed droplets collect, if enough of them get together, the droplets of water become heavier until they are too heavy to remain in the air any more. So they begin to fall back to Earth. We call that rain or snow (or sleet, or hail, or freezing rain, depending on the temperature and humidity in the area). This process is called precipitation.
If you think about it, then, the water travels from the Earth to the sky and back to Earth again. Evaporation, condensation, precipitation. As it does this, it moves around from the ocean or other bodies of water to land. The water on land eventually flows to bodies of water again where the cycle starts over.
And that is the water cycle.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Of course it is the water cycle. Everyone knows it exists. That is an easy one.”
But here is the cool thing.
The first person to think that rainfall was what helped to maintain river water levels was Bernard Palisy who is considered the discoverer of the modern theory of the water cycle. He lived in the late 1500s. His ideas weren’t scientifically tested until the late 1600s and weren’t even accepted by the scientific community until the early 1800s.
Well, here is the most amazing thing to me.
Job 36:27-28 “For He draws up the drops of water; they distill his mist in rain, which the skies pour down and drop on mankind abundantly.”
Think about that. “He draws up the drops of water.” That is evaporation.
“They distill his mist…” That is condensation.
“…in rain. The skies pour down and drop on mankind abundantly.” That is precipitation.
The hydrologic cycle: Liquid water evaporating as gas and rising. Then condensing out as liquid water, eventually building up to precipitate back onto land or sea.
The book of Job is traditionally believed to be written over 2,000 years before Christ. Where did the writer get that scientific information? How did he know of the hydrologic cycle?
In the discourse of this verse, Elihu is speaking to Job to remind him of God’s omnipotence and omniscience. God is all powerful and all-knowing. In verse 4, he says of God, “…one who is perfect in knowledge is with you.”
And, indeed, that is what we can learn from this. The One who made the universe and everything in it set up principles so that it could function. And one of those functions is the hydrologic cycle. It is necessary for life to survive on Earth. It is fascinating to study. And it is amazing to realize that the wisdom God imparted for us in His word is truly full of richness.
The next time you are looking at the clouds (dusty water droplets), be reminded of the power of our Lord who set them in the sky and began the process of circulation so that we can be refreshed. It is given to us in His word. And we should be filled with awe when we see it!