I started to notice the first signs of fall while mowing my lawn in late July. The leaves on the sumac bushes had a hint of yellow to them. Now in October, the brilliant mosaic of red, yellow and orange leaves on the trees are eye candy and an obvious sign of the changing season. Fall is here!
Why do the leaves change color anyway?
Here’s the process God put together. During the long days of summer, plants use water, carbon dioxide, sunlight, and a molecule called chlorophyll in a process called photosynthesis, which helps the plant to grow. Chlorophyll gives the leaves their green color.
As the days get shorter, it is a signal to the trees to get ready for winter. They rest and live off the food stored during the summer. As chlorophyll disappears from the leaves, the underlying red, orange, yellow and brown pigments appear, providing us a landscape full of colors that people travel from far away to see!
I love that the secrets of why leaves change color in the fall have been uncovered and understood. There are other things we have discovered, like weather patterns. Have you heard the expression “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors delight.”?
This is a not only a fun saying, but in places where the weather generally moves from west to east (like Minnesota), it’s true!
A red sunset happens when the rays from the sun, 93 million miles away, travel through a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high pressure and stable air coming from the west. It’s a good indication that tomorrows weather will be fair.
Similarly, a red morning sky occurs when the sun’s rays travel through yesterday’s fair weather. You might want to throw an umbrella in your car on those days, since clouds and precipitation often follow.
There is a lot about God’s creation that is inspiring and mind blowing. As cool as that creation is, you may be thinking, “I use a weather app. What does all of this mean to me?” The truth is, it is much more important to recognize spiritual signs than the physical signs of nature. Jesus says so in the Bible.
The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” – Matthew 16:1-3
In these verses, the Pharisees and Sadducees were not asking Jesus questions with sincere hearts, looking to learn. They were hoping Jesus would give an answer that they could use to accuse Him of doing something unlawful. In Matthew 15:14, Jesus refers to the Pharisees as “blind guides.” They were blinded by their own sin, which made them unable to see what was going on around them spiritually.
In order to be able to interpret the signs of the times, we need to be seekers of spiritual vision. We need to pursue God by reading His Word, understanding it, and doing what it says. We need to spend time in prayer and ask that the truth of Scripture be revealed to us. We need to ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit and to have our faith affect every aspect of our lives. Jesus called this kind of life, “Life to the full.” – John 10:10.
When you look at the beautiful fall colors, or the stunning red sky at sunrise or sunset, by all means enjoy! But I would encourage you to not stop there like the Pharisees and Sadducees. Let these signs of nature remind you to be watching for spiritual signs that are around you as well.
In closing, here’s an encouragement for you. Just as there were observable signs in July announcing that fall was on its way, there will be signs in the early days of March telling us that spring is coming! Despite the cold weather and snowstorms that can still provide challenges, if you are observant, you will notice that many migrant birds start arriving back in Minnesota. Their presence is not only fun to see and their journey an amazing marvel, but they can serve as a reminder for us to be watchful for the spiritual signs all around us.