Friday, May 15, 2020

What Are We Supposed to Learn?

When a “natural disaster” hits, we are quick to jump to God’s defense with an assertion that God did not cause this.  I can still remember when “natural disasters” were called “acts of God.”  The term, “natural disaster” takes God out of the picture all together.  The word, “natural” fits in nicely with “naturalism,” which is the belief that the world operates without any divine activity because the supernatural does not exist. 

As I read through the scriptures, I get a different picture.  Due to rampant sin or injustice, God would either intervene or withdraw. The results included things like plagues, famines, and enemy invasions.  The prophets pointed out that these were most definitely “acts of God.”  Their purpose was either to motivate the people to repent, or to punish due to lack of repentance.

When some of these things happen today, people call them, “natural disasters” rather than “acts of God.”  We are offended at the suggestion that God would do such things.  Many of the “official prophets” who worked in the kings courts were also offended at the faithful prophets of Yahweh when they issued prophetic warnings and instructions connected to “acts of God” (Jer 26; 38:1-13; Amos 7; Is 30:8-10; 1 Kg 22;13-28)  The false prophets seemed more interested in raising troop morale and comforting the people than speaking God’s word in difficult times.

I have to ask myself, “Do I sound more like the faithful prophets of Yahweh, or the chaplains of the kings court?”  “Am I helping people ask theological questions after a disaster that will lead to a reevaluation of loyalties, ethics, and morals?

Listen to the message of the prophet Joel after a Locust plague destroyed everything, “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. (Joel 2:12-13).

God’s intervention was not an isolated event.  Notice God’s words to Solomon after he finished building and dedicating the temple, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place” (2 Chr 7:13-15).  

God continues to act for the sake of repentance.  In Revelation, John wrote that after God had sent plagues and disasters, they “still did not repent.” (Rev 9:20,21; 16:9,11).

In Matthew 5, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.”  I have to ask myself the question, “What does God’s light sound like in a time of darkness?”  Is it, “God had nothing to do with this!  It will be over soon!  Everything will be okay!”? Or, is it, “We don’t know exactly how God is working, but we do know that he wants us to repent and turn to him.  If we do this, then everything will ultimately be okay, because Jesus has overcome the world!”