The past few weeks have been full of heart-wrenching images of our fellow Americans living through the tragedy of back-to-back hurricanes.
It’s been quite some time since the United States has seen hurricanes like Harvey, Irma, and now Maria. Houston is still in full recovery mode from the devastation left by hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma tracked right up the west coast of Florida as it ripped through cities like Miami, making its way through Tampa and even causing serious flooding as far north as Jacksonville. And now Puerto Rico has no power after Hurricane Maria ploughed directly over it. And just when it seemed like we’ve had enough, we hear of major flooding in India, landslides in Africa, and earthquakes in Mexico.
Many have died or lost loved ones, others are injured, some have been displaced from their homes, while others lost all their belongings. It’s crossed all of our minds—are all these natural disasters a sign from above? Is God trying to tell us something? Is God judging us?
Biblically, God has used natural disasters to judge the world. Noah and his family were spared from a flood intended for judgment (Genesis 6—8). God judged the Egyptians for their mistreatment of the sons of Israel with swarms of locusts, transforming the Nile into blood, pestilence, and blocking out the sunlight. Now, these aren’t your typical natural disasters, but disasters nonetheless.
It’s crossed all of our minds, are all these natural disasters a sign from above? Is God trying to tell us something? Is God judging us?
As word got out about the severity of these hurricanes, a few voices started shouting that God was judging our nation, and they would often quote 2 Chronicles 7:13–14, “When I close up the sky so that it doesn’t rain, or command locusts to devour the land’s vegetation, or send a plague among my people, if my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray, seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
It’s easy to see from this passage how someone might think God dangles natural disasters over our heads to keep us in line. The problem with using this passage as a judgment text for today is that it doesn’t apply to us. God is speaking to King Solomon specifically about Israel in light of the special covenantal relationship He has with them. If you go back and read Deuteronomy 28—30, you’ll find that God promised to use certain natural disasters like famine to wake up Israel if they ever begin to veer away from Him spiritually.
The truth is, the Scriptures don’t say God would intermittently judge sin with natural disasters. Quite the opposite actually. The apostle Paul says that humanity who refuses to accept the kindness and grace of God’s salvation in Christ Jesus is “storing up wrath…when God’s righteous judgment is revealed!” (Romans 2:5). Paul doesn’t mention sporadic judgment today, but a once-for-all judgment that comes in the future. God’s extraordinary kindness is found in His patience as He waits as long as He can for anyone to come to salvation in Christ before His true judgement comes. Share this Post
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Catastrophes like Harvey, Irma, and Maria are less about His judgment and more about His sovereignty working in a fallen world. The sin of Adam and Eve did more than corrupt the human heart, it maligned all of God’s creation. The apostle Paul says “creation was subject to futility” (Romans 8:20)—it’s held captive to the bondage of decay. The good news is, this is not the way God intended it to be, and He sent Christ to be the King of all things made new (Revelation 21:5).
So until that day Christ makes all things new, hurricanes will continue to rage. Until that day Christ makes all things new, earthquakes will shake the ground. Until that day Christ makes all things new, fires will burn. And until that day Christ makes all things new, we will wait patiently knowing God is sovereignly in control of the storm.