Many are speaking and writing on the subject of Hurricane Katrina and a large amount of those individuals are commenting on the spiritual dynamics of this awful disaster. Much is insightful and helpful and some should simply be discarded. While some should be discarded, it is always helpful to think about what God may be doing, especially in a national crisis. If we divorce these things from God, then we compartmentalize our faith and our everyday lives at best and we deny the very existence of God at worst.
Consider the Scriptures in this regard. "From the chamber of the south comes the whirlwind, And cold from the scattering winds of the north. By the breath of God ice is given, And the broad waters are frozen. Also with moisture He saturates the thick clouds; He scatters His bright clouds. And they swirl about, being turned by His guidance, That they may do whatever He commands them On the face of the whole earth. He causes it to come, Whether for correction, Or for His land, Or for mercy (Job 37:9-13)." Note that God is the one who brings the storm. We cannot deny that fact. In the end however, while we cannot know for certain exactly what God is doing, while we cannot say for example that God is judging this city for this sin or even that God is necessarily judging this city, we can say what the Scripture says. The Scripture says here in v. 13 that God causes the storm to come "whether for correction, or for His land, or for mercy." Thus, God has a purpose. That purpose may be one among many or it may be multi-fold. Understanding that God has a purpose will cause us to reflect upon our own hearts and seek to glorify Him as He teaches us personal lessons. Five possible purposes were outlined in yesterday's article. Five more possibilities are offered here for reflection.
Sixth, in light of the foregoing, it might be good at this point to say that God may have designed to create a holy fear among men in regard to their own sinfulness. We are all sinners whether redeemed or not. Those who are not must fly to Christ or suffer an eternity in Hell. Those who are redeemed must strive for holiness lest they find themselves deceived and presuming upon God’s grace. We are told to examine our hearts throughout the New Testament to make sure that we are in the faith. Paul admonishes us: "Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith, prove your own selves. Do you not know your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are reprobates (2 Cor. 13:5)?" When disasters of this kind roll in upon us, or others, we are forced to examine ourselves and confess not the sinfulness of those in New Orleans, but our own sinfulness. Again, with reference to our attitude and heart, the full text of Jesus' warning is needed here: "There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish (Lk. 13:1-5).'" Katrina should create a holy fear in each one of us.
Seventh, while Israel is more to be equated with the church than the United States, it may be that God intended to issue a warning to the church and/or the nation. Implicit in this warning is a call to repentance. There is no doubt that the church in America is lethargic at best and that America as a whole has little if any regard for the true and living God. Perhaps God’s words to Israel through Amos are applicable to us: "And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, and you have not returned to Me, says the LORD. And I have also withheld the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest. And I caused rain to fall on one city and caused it not to rain on another city; one piece was rained on, and the piece on which it did not rain dried up. So two or three cities wandered to one city to drink water, but they were not satisfied; yet you have not returned to Me, says the LORD. I have stricken you with blasting and mildew. When your gardens and your vineyards, and your fig trees. and your olive trees increased, the creeping locust devoured them; yet you have not returned to Me, says the LORD. I have sent the plague among you in the way of Egypt; I have slain your young men with the sword, and have taken away your horses. And I have made the stench of your camps to come up into your nostrils; yet you have not returned to Me, says the LORD. I have overthrown some among you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand plucked out of the burning; yet you have not returned to Me, says the LORD. So I will do this to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel [O church, O America] (Amos 4:6-12)." In this text we see that God brought calamity as a warning and call to repentance. He discriminated between cities in His sovereignty and thus demonstrated justice and grace at he same time. Yet, while only part of the nation was stricken from time to time, the entire nation was at fault and in need of repentance. In the end, they would not turn to the Lord and suffered greater judgment. Whether God is warning the church or America I do not know. But, as a Christian who is familiar with the God of Scripture, I must take a text like this and apply it to myself. Others perhaps, need to do the same.
Eighth, even these dreadful things may have been designed by God to instill a confidence in His people concerning the truth of Scripture. Again, while we cannot know God's full intention here, and while we must be slow to judge even the people who disobeyed the mandatory evacuation order and went back to partying in the French Quarter and laughed at reporters who warned them to leave even when all seemed clear, consider the apostle's word in 1Thes. 5:3: "For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape." Katrina does not cause me to doubt that God exists. She only causes me to know even better that God exists when I meditate upon His word and see awesome connections in contemporary life.
Ninth, it could be that the Lord is simply giving us an opportunity to think about Him. If nothing is more important than Him, then all of our musings about news and sports and stocks and fashion and commerce and politics and whatever else ad infinitum are irrelevant if we don't think about Christ. The psalmist very simply says, "Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver (Ps. 50:22)."
Tenth, it goes without saying that God has given us an opportunity to proclaim salvation in the Name of Jesus Christ. We are to make disciples as we go (Matt. 28:18f). We are to be His witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). As Christians have opportunity to visit the hurricane ravaged area or speak with victims, they do so as ambassadors. With Paul they can say, "Then we are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as God exhorting through us, we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Cor. )." We must clothe the naked and feed the poor. Above all else, we must preach Christ.
We cannot fathom all of what God is up to in this human tragedy. We know something of what He is doing based upon what we know about His will and His ways as revealed to us in His Word. We know things He could be doing in general terms but we don't know what God is doing in individual lives. We know real people are really suffering and we should not treat this thing as a mere theological exercise. Again, our hearts should be moved toward God and the people of the Gulf Coast. In the end, in terms of what God is doing, as Dr. Mohler reminds us, we can sing with William Cowper:
"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines, of never-failing skill, He treasures up His bright designs, and works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, the clouds ye so much dread, are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour; The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain; God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain."
[Scroll Down for Parts One and Two]
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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