Everyone knows that lightning streaks down from the sky seeking the tallest object in the area. Anyone who has ever watched a lightning display knows that. However, what nobody knew until the advent of high-speed photography in the 20th Century, is that there is actually a smaller bolt that flashes from the ground up first.
To understand why, you need to understand how lightning forms. First, an electrical field begins to build up in the cloud. Gradually the top of the cloud becomes positively charged while the bottom becomes negatively charged. This separation of charge causes an enormous electrical potential, amounting to millions of volts, to grow within the cloud and between the cloud and ground.
Although the ground generally has a negative charge in relation to the atmosphere, the strong negative charge at the bottom of the thundercloud precipitates the buildup of a positive charge on the ground under the cloud. These positive charges often become concentrated in taller objects as the electrical fields build. On rarer occasions, this process is reversed with the negative charges in the ground building and interacting with the positive charge at the top of the cloud.
Eventually, the electrical resistance of the air between the cloud and the ground begins to break down and streamers of ionized air begin to form. These streamers, called stepped leaders, begin reaching down from the cloud in jagged steps while similar leaders reach up from the ground. Ground leaders typically intercept cloud leaders which come within about fifty yards of the ground (one of the reasons tall objects are more likely to get struck).
It takes about 200 milliseconds for the leaders to form a path from the cloud to the ground. Once formed, a small electric current flows from the ground up to the cloud, following the path of the completed circuit provided by the intersection of the ground and cloud leaders (flowing positive to negative). The main stroke follows immediately with much higher current and lasts much longer than the initial stroke (flowing negative to positive). The main stroke eclipses the initial stroke and is, because of it's speed and brilliance, what we see. Flickering lightning comes from a series of initial and main strokes cycling back and forth along the same path several times. Again it is the main stroke that we see.
Now, let me ask you a question, could a man living thousands of years ago know that a way is made for the lightning? Could he know that there is an initial, unsee bolt that marks the path that the lighting we see will follow?
Well, a man named Job did. And, in one of the oldest books of the Bible, Job wrote that God makes "a way for the lightning of the thunder" in both Job 28:26 and Job 38:25. Now, how could he know that without the benefit of high-speed photography and sophisticated electrical instruments? How indeed, unless the Bible is true and God revealed it to him.
Another fact about lightning, which would have been unknowable at the time, was recorded by the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah, who lived more than 600 years before Christ, wrote in Jeremiah 10:13, "When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures." And, like Job, he repeats the statement later in Jeremiah 51:16.
When we again look at the formation of lightning, we find that it is intimately related to the formation of rain. Water vapor rises from the earth and the oceans and condenses into small ice crystals and water droplets to form clouds (another unknowable fact in Jeremiah's day). As the water droplets and ice crystals move through the atmosphere's natural electric field they become electrically polarized, taking on either a positive or negative charge. Still others become charged by colliding with each other. Gradually, those with positive charges migrate to the top of the cloud and those with negative charges move to the bottom.
Of course, it is this polarization of water particles that sets the stage for the formation of the powerful electrical fields within the cloud, between clouds, and between clouds and the ground. Those electrical fields, as outlined above, produce the lightning bolts that we see. Those lightning bolts also help trigger the formation of larger and larger water drops and ice crystals which, when they become heavy enough, fall to the earth as rain and hail.
In other words, God not only "maketh lightnings with rain," He "maketh lightnings for the rain (Psalms 135:7)". Now how could Jeremiah, not to mention the writer of Psalm 135, know that? After all, they did not have the ability to fly sophisticated instruments in and through the clouds to measure and map the development of water droplets, ice crystals, and electrical fields.
How indeed, unless the Bible is true and God revealed it to them.
Now, the development of lightning and rain are by no means the only examples of things unknowable in their day that were recorded in the Bible. Space does not permit a detailed look here at the description of global air circulation patterns and the water cycle (Ecclesiastes 1:6-7), ocean currents (Isaiah 43:16, Psalm 77:19), the movement of the sun at great speed around the Milky Way galaxy (Psalm 19:4-6), the fact that the earth is a sphere (Isaiah 40:22) suspended on nothing (Job 26:7), the expanding or stretching out of the universe (Psalm 104:2), or the development of an unborn child according to a genetic blueprint [DNA] which is set at conception (Psalm 139:14-16), just to mention a few.
The point is, there are many scientific facts recorded in the Bible that were impossible to know about in the day in which they were written. Like the way prepared for the lightning, they could not be observed or determined directly. In many cases, the technology and instruments needed to observe them did not exist until sometime in the last couple hundred years or less.
People have come up with a variety of creative ways to explain how people thousands of years ago could have known many of these otherwise unknowable facts. Some believe that they were merely lucky guesses or that they were added after being discovered (that doesn't explain why I have a Bible printed in the 1860's which talks about the path of the lightning which wasn't discovered until a hundred years later!). Some claim that the unusual facts are the last remnants of the discoveries of an ancient advanced civilization such as the lost city of Atlantis. Still others suggest that the writers received psychic visions or special knowledge from space aliens. Unfortunately, most of these explanations fall short of credibility and leave God out of the picture.
As for me, since the Bible is so amazingly accurate in presenting these incredible scientific facts, I'd much rather believe what it says about the origin of these facts. According to the Bible, they were revealed by God to the writers. In fact, the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Furthermore, 2 Peter 1:21 tell us that, "For the prophecy [scripture] came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
Now, if the Bible is scientifically accurate, not to mention historically and medically accurate, isn't it reasonable to believe that it is spiritually accurate as well? And, if it is spiritually accurate, then we should believe the Bible when it says: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16-18)."
Of course, some would question how unlearned and ignorant men (Acts 4:13) could know such things. How indeed, unless the Bible is true and God revealed it to them.