As I drove into the Metroplex today and noticed again how polluted the air was, I wondered where the city ranked in terms of air pollution. Sadly (or thankfully- depending on your view) DFW ranks 7th in terms of Ozone pollution, and doesn’t even make the top 10 list in the other EPA categories (stats here). I’m actually suprised by this because I often think to myself how nasty our air looks. After all, I run outside in this stuff 4-5 times per week.

Today I thought I’d look and see what the Old Testament has to say about air. Using my fancy Bible software (Bibleworks 7 -which isn’t cheap), I did some searches, and some reading. The word “air” actually doesn’t occur many times and represents only one way to translate the Hebrew word “ruach”. Most frequently this word refers to “wind” but can also mean “spirit”. In the contexts where it refers to air, there isn’t anything relevant to our topic. In the contexts where it is translated “wind”, it is used as an entity by which God brings both blessing (salvation) and judgment (see Gen 41:23,27; Ex 10:13, 19; Ex 15:10). Another hebrew word which is close to the word “ruach” is “shamayim” which is translated as sky or heaven. In the instances where it is translated as “sky” I was interested to find that it refers mainly to judgment -both in the present or in the future, as in “the day of the Lord”. Check Gen 6:7; 7:11; Ex 9:10; Dt 28:26; 1 Sam 17:46; etc.

So one could conclude from looking at the Old Testament’s understanding of the air (or sky, or wind) that God uses it as an instrument of judgment or blessing depending on the actions of his people. Let me pose a question. Could our air pollution (though we drive the cars, and work the factories that pollute) be something that God allows so as to enact his judgment? This actually fits well within Walter Brueggemann’s idea of the earth being the mediator of God’s blessing or judgment which he pesented in his book “The Land“.

The next time I look at the air, my understanding of why it looks like it does will be different. Instead of just feeling like we need to enact some pollution standards to control it, I will approach the issue more holistically. I think we should actually pray that we (as humans) would repent of our wrong acts toward God, each other, and God’s earth. I think I will begin to pray that God will relent from punishing us with the poor air (whether it is a result of humanity’s injustice or humanity’s choices in dealing with the environment though i argue elsewhere these issues are intertwined).

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