When Elder David A. Bednar announced in General Conference that he would speak about the "imagery of the 'windows' of heaven," I sat up a little straighter. (Hey, I'm a former English major; it's not often you hear apostles discuss literary devices.) He taught, "Windows allow natural light to enter into a building. In like manner, spiritual illumination and perspective are poured out through the windows of heaven and into our lives as we honor the law of tithing." This was a new insight for me, but I have long loved this phrase--the windows of heaven--at least in part because biblical prophets use it in what seem like diametrically opposed ways.
Malachi uses the phrase to describe the means by which a loving Heavenly Father blesses his faithful children (see also 2 Kings 7:2). But the windows of heaven also dispense divine punishment. In Noah's day, when the Lord announced his intention to cleanse the earth of wickedness, "the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened" (Genesis 7:11). To paraphrase Malachi, rain came down and there was not "room enough to receive it," but I seriously doubt that Noah's contemporaries saw this deluge as "a blessing" (Malachi 3:10).
Isaiah also describes the windows of heaven opening to mete out God's wrath. He warns, "Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth. And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake" (Isaiah 24:17-18). Tying Malachi back to Noah and Isaiah provides a different perspective on the windows of heaven. Rather than thinking about heaven's windows as a source of blessings, we see them as a means by which we receive the natural consequences of our actions. The windows of heaven are always open, and we are blessed--or admonished--on a daily basis and in accordance with our actions.
The "subtle but significant" blessings God grants to the faithful are so numerous that we may not have "room enough to receive" them; but the trials and tribulations that inevitably afflict covenant breakers and the wicked are similarly numerous and have drowned the damned in a flood of affliction. The windows of heaven are always open, and it is our privilege to decide--in accordance with God's promises--what will come out of them.
Truly, great are the words of Isaiah!