After the hurricane passed through this area, I was talking with someone who commented, “God sure is unhappy with our country, isn’t He?” Since it wasn’t a person I knew well, I didn’t want to get into a theological debate – but it did make me wonder about their beliefs. It’s true that God has used natural disasters to bring judgment on people: the flood and the ten plagues are the first events that come to mind. Later the prophet Hosea told Israel:
“[B]ecause they have transgressed my covenant and rebelled against my law. … For they sow the wind, and they reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it shall yield no flour …” (8:1, 7 ESV).
Israel received physical consequences for their sin on multiple occasions and they were also rescued from other nations through a variety of manmade and natural events. However, I think there are some problems with applying that kind of logic to every natural disaster that comes along, even if the insurance companies do label them as “acts of God.”
- Following the flood, God said, “I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth. … This [rainbow] is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth” (Genesis 9:11, 17). Some may argue that this refers only to a global flood, not smaller floods. In any case, that flood was a unique occurrence of God’s judgment that will not be repeated.
- The United States is not, and has never been, God’s chosen nation. Isaac blessed Jacob (Israel) by saying, “Let the peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. … Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blessed you” (Genesis 27:29). The “chosen nation” label applied only to Israel. Therefore we cannot interpret the events that happen here under the same principles by which the nation of Israel was cursed or blessed for their corporate actions.
- In the first and second chapters of Job, we learn that it was only after God gave Satan permission to test Job that several disasters occurred. God Himself said of Job, “There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (1:8), so obviously the events that followed were not a sign of judgment. When Job’s friends tried to say it was God’s judgment on Job, they were the ones rebuked: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right as my servant Job has” (42:7).
- All of creation was impacted by sin as a result of the fall. “[C]ursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17b). We shouldn’t expect to be spared from every natural disaster just because our faith is strong and we pray for protection. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons” (Romans 8:22-23).
Having said all that, God certainly can and does use all kinds of circumstances to awaken people to the brevity of life and their need for salvation. Psalm 33 has some great reminders:
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” (6-8).
“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples” (10).
“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield” (18-20).
So was Hurricane Florence part of God’s judgment on the United States? I don’t think so. But it should remind us that there is coming a day of final judgment when there will be no more chances to repent and believe. May that motivate us to pray for unbelievers, share the gospel and endeavor to glorify God in life and in death.
© 2018 Dawn Rutan. The views stated may or may not reflect the beliefs of the pastor or leadership of Dulin’s Grove Church.