With all the recent natural catastrophes, is it true as some say that God is bringing judgment to this nation?
Time and Chance
Several people came to Jesus and “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” (Luke 13:1-3). They had assumed that the people who died in this accident were worse sinners than they were, but Jesus corrects them, saying, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3), and then Jesus adds, “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 13:4-5). What we can discern from this is that not every natural catastrophe or evil act is attributed to the people’s sinfulness or is a direct judgment of God, because things like this happen. Jesus’ makes His point a second time, saying, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). Wise King Solomon understood that time and chance happen to us all, writing, “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all” (Eccl 9:11). We cannot make judgments about events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or floods as being the judgment of God. We just cannot know that for sure. He may use these catastrophes as His righteous judgment, but it’s not something we can be dogmatic about. Some have even said that Houston deserved it because of its liberal nature, or a few years ago, New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina, a city they said was full of sin, so they believed that Hurricane Katrina was sent by God to punish the city. Interestingly, the name Katrina means “cleansing,” but we have no business making that assessment when we simply can’t know the hidden will of God.
The Sovereign God
It is God alone Who judges the nations of the world in righteousness, but we don’t know for sure when God uses natural disasters to do this, and as we saw with Jesus’ sayings in Luke13, we can’t assume that every tragedy is God striking a nation or city down. It’s just not possible to know that, but we do know that nothing happens outside of the sovereign will of God. In fact, not even a leaf drops from a tree without God decreeing it to be so, but we also can’t jump to conclusions that Houston deserved the flood of Harvey’s wrath which caused millions grief and caused thousands and thousands to be homeless, just because they were more sinful than others. Were they worse than the people of Chicago or Detroit, or even the city I was born in, Wichita, Kansas? Jesus seems to indicate, “No, but unless they (all mankind) repents, they will also perish,” so to assume that natural disasters are judgments sent from God is to step out on a limb that might not hold us. It’s just not possible to know that. All we can really say is, “It could be.”
God Judges the Nations
There are striking parallels between ancient Israel and the nations of today. Will God discipline His own people and leave the others without judgment? No, because eventually, God will judge every nation, so with this in mind, let’s read Isaiah the Prophet’s warnings about Israel and see if there are any similarities between this and other nations today. Isaiah wrote about a “sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged” (Isaiah 1:4). Are there not many nations with which this could apply? Can we look at our nation and not say, “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it” (Isaiah 1:5b-6a)? Even though this is written to and about Israel, there are striking resemblances to our nation, as Isaiah writes, “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15). Here, Isaiah is referring to people who pray and praise, but they have blood on their hands. How much blood has been spilled since Roe v Wade in 1973? Over 64 million babies have died at the hands of abortion doctors. Those are surely “hands full of blood.” And, to think about all the murders in this nation is to see blood on many hands.
Repent or Perish
The messages of Jesus in Luke 13 and Isaiah 1 are startling enough, but Micah adds that “Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together” (Micah 7:3), so this speaks of political and perhaps, business corruption. The solution is just what Jesus said, and Isaiah writes about: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:15-16). That is a call to national repentance, because we can see in this nation that “the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house” (Micah 7:6). Next, Jeremiah, in writing about ancient Israel, but with extremely close similarities between the nations of today, “the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land mourns, and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right” (Jer 23:1), and worse, even the “prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the Lord” (Jer 23:11), so there is corruption even in some churches today, and because of this, God says, “I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the LORD” (Jer 23:12b).
We cannot know what God is doing in this world with natural catastrophes, but we do know God is going to judge the nations with complete and perfect righteousness, so is God using nature to discipline the U.S. and other nations? We just don’t know, but it is possible, and if God dealt with His own chosen people in such a way, what makes us think He won’t do the same here for this or any nation of the world? God is God and He can do what He pleases, so whether the recent natural catastrophes are from the hand of God or not, either way, Jesus pleads with this nation, and with you if you are not saved, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
May God richly bless you
Pastor Jack Wellman
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