The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:15-16)
‘[As I live!]' declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die . . . ?' (Ezekiel 33:11)
A few days after the cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of Japan, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said the calamity was “divine punishment” for what he called the wickedness of his people during the past generation. In the United States, some radio and television personalities also weighed in on the Japan tragedy, suggesting such “Acts of Nature” are, in reality, evidence of God’s increasingly frequent and powerful warnings to humanity to repent.
On the other hand some people, such as professor Ronald Green of Dartmouth College, believe it “mean spirited” to declare such calamities signs of God’s judgment on sin.*
I will not enter the debate. I do not know why the earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, or why Katrina barreled through New Orleans, or why the earthquake and tsunami leveled Haiti. If, as Professor Green believes, calamities such as these are merely ‘Acts of Nature’ then we have nothing to worry about – so long as we don’t live on a fault line, or near the ocean.
As I recently read through the prophet Daniel’s prayer (Daniel 9), I wondered if it would be prudent – especially for those who believe God’s Word to be His eternal truth – I wondered if it would be prudent at this time to take a clue from the Scriptures in which calamities such as these are ‘Acts of God’ designed to warn wayward humanity to return to holiness.
If that be the case in the latest rash of ‘Acts,’ then we might be wise to consider making Daniel’s prayer our own: "Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. . ."
"Open shame belongs to us, O Lord . . because we have sinned against You . . . Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity . . . .”
"O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from [us] . . . O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations . . . . for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay . . .”
Like professor Ronald Green, we can dismiss calamities as mere “Acts of Nature,” and continue to live as we do, without much thought of God or eternity. Or we can consider such devastations to be ‘Acts of God,’ warning us to return to holiness.
Oh, Holy Spirit, Who hath spoken through the prophets, help us make the right decision. Amen.