Monday, March 14, 2011

God and Calamity

There were some present at that very time who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And He answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them:  do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."  (Luke 13:1-5)

Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.  (Psalm 135:6)

Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?  (Amos 3:6)

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.  (Isaiah 45:7)

"Such is the provision which God hath made through Christ in the covenant of grace for the preservation of believers unto salvation; that although there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation; yet there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation on them that repent; which makes the constant preaching of repentance necessary." Chapter 15:5 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession.
(Romans 6:23; Isaiah 1:16-18; Isaiah 55:7)

     These last several days have obviously been incredibly difficult for the Japanese people and we need to continue to pray for them.  Indeed we should weep with them, help them financially, and some should travel to assist them in the aftermath of their suffering and hardship.  Beyond the indescribable helplessness that we all feel at times like this are questions like:  What, if anything, does God have to do with such calamities?  Are the Japanese people particularly evil that God would judge them more severely than others (e.g. some Japanese leaders have pointed to their greed as the reason 'the gods' have judged them)?  Is Satan behind the earth's disturbances?  If so, why doesn't God stop him?  If God has caused this, or allowed this tragedy, what are His reasons for doing so?  Do these earthquakes and tsunami's project to us predictable Bible prophecy?  These are honest, if not valid, questions that many are asking during times like these.
     In times of earthly calamity it is important to consider what we must not do or think:
  1. We must not put God on trial or expect specific answers during calamity.  Be reminded of Job.  Though he lost his family, possessions, health, friends, and his dignity God did not give him answers.  Does the Lord have reasons for calamity?  Yes, but they are His reasons and He in no way owes to man every answer for His sovereign dealings with His universe.  Does God remain good?  Absolutely!  Does He remain loving?  Of course!  God's infinite attributes are eternally immutable (unchanging) no matter what occurs on earth.  Unsearchable are His ways in most times of calamity.  We do know this planet will experience the results and judgments that sin evoke (and it has since the Fall), but God has been merciful to all in this world.  
  2. We must not defend God or make excuses for Him during calamity.  Some have suggested God is not able to stop these types of things or He would.  Or that a loving God could have nothing to do with such human suffering.  As the above Scriptures (and we could look to many more) suggest, we do not have this option lest we fall into idolatry.  A 'god' who was powerless to stop the earthquakes/tsunami's is not the God of the Bible.  If Satan causes cataclysmic activity on earth he does so only as he is allowed by God.  Read Job Chapter 1 again.  Jesus demonstrated His control over nature while here on earth, certainly He continues to exercise sovereign rule over the earth as He currently reigns at the right hand of God (see Col. 1:16-17)!   
  3. We must not think the Japanese people are more deserving of judgement than us collectively or individually because of their calamity.  Both the righteous and unrighteous suffer unimaginably in this world at times.  In Luke 13, our Lord describes 2 disturbing events in ancient Israel:  He describes the ruthless activity of Pilate who killed Galileans and mixed their blood with animal sacrifices.  He then describes a tragic event in Siloam in which a tower fell and killed 18 people.  In both disasters, Jesus' taught that it wasn't the particular evil of these Galileans or inhabitants of Jerusalem that led to these events.  Similarly, we must not think the Japanese people are especially evil as being the cause of the recent events there.  Even if they are being judged for their greedy materialism, they have learned much of this from imitating America!
  4. We must not attempt to tie specific Bible prophecy into every earthly calamity.  Will earthquakes, famines, pestilences, wars, etc. increase in the time before Jesus returns?  Yes they will, and they are but we are not instructed to try to make specific sense of these earthly troubles.  Instead, we are reminded to watch and pray for the Lord to return in His glory.  Some misguided folks try to tie supposed Bible 'prophecies' together with every world event (e.g. take a verse out of context and you can make sense of everything that happens in the world, right?!).  This is lacking in wisdom at best and deceitful at worst.  Though the current scenes of Japan indeed appear apocalyptic, we must watch and pray for Christ's return as the world's birth pangs increase.  He is our blessed Hope and will soon return in power and glory!  Calamity reminds us again the present world is not our home.  
     As horrific as this recent calamity in Japan is, it pales in comparison to the reality of the eternal suffering in the lake of fire for the unrepentant.  Just as Jesus' disciples in Luke 13, we who have been given time to listen and reflect should heed the advice of the Lord and live a life of continual repentance before the Lord.  This is Jesus' primary teaching in Luke 13:  calamity especially teaches us repentance toward God and faith in Christ.  We must take our Lord's teaching to heart and encourage others to do likewise.  He will abundantly pardon all who come to Him in faith!
     Let us continue to pray for the physical, emotional, and especially spiritual needs of the people of Japan.  May the Gospel of Christ bring healing to this land.  May God's people be the means.

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