Tornadoes, Drought, Fire, And Death

Some years ago, a handful of Christians infamously claimed that hurricane Katrina was God’s judgment on New Orleans, or later that the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti was His judgment on the culture of voodoo and the occult practiced there in times passed.

What are we to make, then, of the events in Mid-America this year? That would be the area of the US famously known as the Bible Belt. This spring tornadoes, numbering more than a hundred strong, tore through Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, over to Nebraska and Missouri, and up into Indiana, killing and destroying.

At the beginning of this summer, wildfires devastated Colorado, and drought has consumed crops throughout the Great Plains and over to the Appalachians. In fact, the USA Today reports that 64% of the US is experiencing drought conditions.

If all that isn’t bad enough, the Denver area experienced another horrific shooting event last night. Some reports say more than seventy people were hit and twelve died.

All this, of course, comes in the midst of the feeble recovery from the Great Recession that has our spend-happy nation reeling.

In the after-math of the natural disasters, news cameras caught survivors picking through the ruins, thankful that they had lived and vowing to keep going. Some way. Some how.

After last night’s shooting, there’s talk of the gun culture and insane people trying to grab the spotlight so that the world will look at them for a few fleeting days. Undoubtedly gun legislation is on the horizon.

All of it is white noise to the real issues that we need to talk about. God works in the world today, as He has throughout history. Because we understand and can predict weather patterns does not mean God has no part in them. Because a psychotic killer picked up a gun and attacked a theater full of people does not mean God is indifferent or uninvolved.

These events remind me so much of the things Job experienced, all engineered by Satan, but permitted by God, used by God. Why do we think He has changed?

No, He did not cause the shooting suspect to open fire on those theater-goers last night. That was an act of evil, and God doesn’t tempt anyone to do evil (see James 1:13). But He works His will in and through these circumstances. And He does so in order that we will look to Him rather than to our own supposed strength and goodness.

God allows fires and floods and wind and drought so that we can see we are weak, not strong. He allows evil men to kill and steal and destroy so that we will see, Mankind is not good.

Only God is strong. Only God is good.

When will we look to Him instead of looking to ourselves for answers?

We are so much like Israel of old. They were a religious people, keeping their feast days, offering sacrifices in their holy cities, and God said, I’m not interested. Instead He brought war and famine so that they would turn to Him.

Offer a thank offering also from that which is leavened,
And proclaim freewill offerings, make them known.
For so you love to do, you sons of Israel,”
Declares the Lord GOD.
“But I gave you also cleanness of teeth in all your cities
And lack of bread in all your places,
Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.
“Furthermore, I withheld the rain from you
While there were still three months until harvest.
Then I would send rain on one city
And on another city I would not send rain;
One part would be rained on,
While the part not rained on would dry up.
So two or three cities would stagger to another city to drink water,
But would not be satisfied;
Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.
I smote you with scorching wind and mildew;
And the caterpillar was devouring
Your many gardens and vineyards, fig trees and olive trees;
Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.
“I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt;
I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses,
And I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils;
Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.
“I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
And you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze;
Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD. (Amos 4:5-11 – emphasis mine)

Are we somehow beyond God’s reach, that He would not be at our shoulder, calling to us, telling us we need to return to Him? Are we so oblivious to our egregious behavior, putting to death thousands and thousands of unborn babies year after year; calling evil good and good, evil; giving credence to false prophets who lie about God and His character, that we think God is pleased with us and will continue to bless us as a nation?

What will it take for us to realize, God might be trying to get our attention because He wants us to look at Him, listen to Him, bow before Him, and recognize that He is God and we are not.

8 Comments

  1. I agree with your post.

    But I was struck by these two things that don’t quite jive to me:

    permitted by God, used by God
    God allows fires and floods and wind and drought
    He allows evil men to kill and steal and destroy

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I smote you with scorching wind and mildew;
    I withheld the rain
    I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt;
    I slew your young men by the sword
    I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils;
    I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,

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  2. jibe, not jive

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  3. Sally, I see your point. The difference is, Amos was recording God’s direct words. I, of course, am not. Therefore, I think it would be presumptive of me to claim that God is, in fact, treating America exactly as He did Israel.

    But we know from other places in Scripture–Jesus’s discussion with His disciples, for instance, when they wanted to know whose fault it was that a man was born blind–that God uses tragedy for His purposes.

    Only, we in America seem to think that’s superstitious or blameworthy. Sadly that’s the stance Trevon Martin’s parents are taking–their God, according to news reports, would never use the death of a young man to accomplish His will. Really? How does anyone with that point of view explain God using Jesus’s death as the means to redeem His people?

    Becky

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  4. I wasn’t aware of the situation in North America. We get some reports, but I didn’t know that you were in drought, for example. And of course the Denver shooting is just everyday stuff for the USA. Not the first, won’t be the last. I wouldn’t worry about any gun legislation. You won’t be able to stop yourselves on the way down.
    You try to make out that all this stuff if God trying to get your attention. But it is also happening all around the world (leaving aside the regular mass shootings). Maybe it’s just the normal path of weather varying from day to day. Maybe it’s just events without individual meanings. Maybe the USA is just another fading empire in the long march of history. Why do you all think you are so important that God must be intimately involved with you all the time, and if not, it is The End?

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  5. My daughter and her husband were in the path of the tornado that ripped through Joplin, Mo on 22 May 2011. They lost their house but survived without injury. Praise God.

    Only God fully knows his role in natural disasters. A few things are clear. When Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3, their sin brought consequences to themselves, to the world as a whole (it was now broken) and to God himself. Redeeming fallen mankind and repairing a broken world would require the death of his son

    Ultimately, both natural disasters and man-made ones, like the shooting in Colorado, are the consequences of individual choices and living in a broken world. But, whatever choice we or nature pick, God can make all things work for the good for those who love him. (Romans 8:28)

    The Bible provides a better explanation than any other world religion for why our world is the way it is.

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  6. Only God fully knows his role in natural disasters.

    Karen, you’re absolutely right. I appreciate your perspective as one who has seen the results of such disasters up close. There’s a passage in Scripture that shows the perspective God would want of us, I think.

    Thought the fig tree should not blossom
    And there be no fruit on the vines,
    Though the yield of the olive should fail,
    And the fields produce no food,
    Though the flock be cut off from the fold,
    And there be no cattle in the stalls,
    Yet I will exult in the Lord,
    I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.(Hab. 3:17-18)

    Our relationship with God, our response to Him, our offering worship and praise, ought not be contingent upon the stuff we have or don’t have. He is God and we are not. His person alone is enough to engender praise in His people.

    I also agree with you that the Bible explains the world–suffering and evil and Mankind’s sense of moral right and wrong–whereas other religions and atheists have no good answers for those issues.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Becky

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  7. Hi, Ken, thanks for taking the time to give your thoughts on this subject. You said

    You try to make out that all this stuff if God trying to get your attention. But it is also happening all around the world (leaving aside the regular mass shootings).

    Well, I think what’s going on in Syria and what’s happened in the past in places like Sudan, Uganda, Canada, Kosovo, Mexico, Guatemala, England, France, China, indicates that mass killings are not an exception anywhere but Australia, apparently.

    I also don’t see why someone living in another part of the world shouldn’t look at natural disasters and say, What does God want to teach us?

    The truth is, we tend to compartmentalize, which is why I think people reacted to Katrina and the Haitian quake as they did. Those things happened in those places, so those people have something to learn.

    That’s not really what Jesus said when He answered the disciples’ question about the man born blind. It wasn’t about that one man or even about his family, but it was about God receiving glory–as it turns out, from people all over the world, through centuries.

    So part of the problem is that our view is too small.

    The other part is that our view of God is skewered, and I’m surprised to see this in your comments, Ken.

    Do you not think God is sovereign over the world? There’s a quote in the header at Spec Faith that says this:

    “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” — Abraham Kuyper

    I don’t agree with all those quotes there that float into view, but I agree with this one. How can we think otherwise if we believe God to be God? The only other possibility would be that Nature is somehow apart from Him, doing its own thing, with Him somewhat hamstrung and/or befuddled as to how to operate a kingdom with all these unexpected disruptions.

    Quite frankly, that concept is so anti-God, it’s shocking to me to think that anyone might actually entertain it.

    I hope I’ve misunderstood your position.

    Becky

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  8. I like your article. I posted this on my facebook page this morning.

    I ask God to break my heart to what breaks his. As the week past I was so overwhelmed by sadness, a sadness that hurt. I knew he had done what I had ask but I couldn’t put my finger on the root of the sadness. As I spent more time with him I became confused, there is so much to be sad about in the world today. I told God that I knew he was not the author of confusion so where to go from here. The confusion came from my own understanding so I told God I would only pray in tongues so my understanding could get out of the way. He showed me complacency is keeping his people in bondage, keeping them from repentence. I said OK God—I see it, I get it now what do I do with it. I’m just a ranchers wife who tries my darndest to seek God’s face every single day and in seeking him I feel his judgement and where I feel it is where I live —–on a Ranch. The drought is becoming more and more evident as the summer goes on. I know in Amos God wants his people to return to him, before we can return we have got to realize we have gone awry——complacency. Where there is complacency there can not be repentence. I want the Ranchers and Farmers to be a light on a hill in a city and look at ourselves individually and repent. I feel if we look at ourselves individually first and repent, one by one we can add up to an example and be that light. I don\’t think God wants us to feel like we are in the middle of a pin-ball game and we are the ball being batted around by Satan. If we would repent, turn from our ways and return to Him—–he would show us mercy and open the treasure of heaven and heal our land. God is good, he knows we need rain, he knows what it takes for the land to produce, let’s ask him for the Blessing of Conviction so we can repent. God wants to bless us—–he is waiting for our return. As Ranchers and Farmers we could be an examples to the “world”. Let us humble ourselves and know that God is in control. We are stewards of what belongs to God. Do we ask him for Wisdom in the day to day operation of our Ranches and Farms or do we just go with the Wall Street flow, or the Government flow, or any other flow but God. Please pray about this. I know God put this on my heart. It is not only Farmers and Ranchers that are complacent but lets start from where we stand!!!

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