Here’s a question someone asked based on the teaching “Defiant Praise” from September 13, 2020:
You mentioned that things like Covid-19 and the western wildfires are signs of God shaking our nation, and that the wildfires are not because of climate change as much as they are ‘God-change’. Could you explain this?
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,” says Psalm 33:12.
This promise isn’t just for Israel, but for all nations. The next verses in Psalm 33 say, “The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man…and observes all their deeds.” (vss.13-14). And then a few verses later: “The eye of the Lord is on those who fear him…that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.” (vvs.18-20).
The idea here is that whenever a person (or nation) turns to God, they come under his care and blessing. They will experience signs of his favor and protection. This doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to them. We live on a broken planet, cursed by sin. Famines will come (and wildfires and viruses too.) Jesus said rain will fall on the just and unjust.
You might say then that the one “whose God is the Lord” will experience a divine umbrella on many an occasion. Life will still be challenging and downright hard at times, but they’ll enjoy favorable headwinds, and the overall trend of their lives will be toward blessing.
However, when a person or nation turns from God and disregards the blueprint of his laws and wisdom revealed in Scripture, that divine umbrella is pulled away, leaving the person or nation exposed to the full brokenness and curse of sin. Over time, conditions will deteriorate and hardships will multiply.
God allows this to happen precisely because he is a God of love. He knows that no lasting peace is possible outside of a relationship with him. So he allows us to experience what our sinful hearts desire – a life without him – in the hope that we will come to our senses and return home.
We see this pattern over and over again in the Old Testament with Israel. Closeness to God led to a life of blessing (they experienced an increase in “shalom”, a rich Hebrew word meaning, “health, happiness, prosperity, freedom, wholeness).
Abandoning God led to an increase in misery, futility, emptiness, weakness and trouble. The Lord could truthfully say to Israel, “I gave you cleanness of teeth [i.e. famine],…I withheld the rain from you…I struck you with blight and mildew…I sent among you a pestilence [i.e. pandemic]…I killed your young men with the sword [i.e. increase in warfare]…yet you did not return to me.” (Amos 4:6-11).
God allows us to experience what our sinful hearts desire – a life without him – in the hope that we will come to our senses and return home.
Christianity teaches that we live in a moral universe. Yet the moral machinery isn’t wound so tightly that every cancer cell or car accident can be pinpointed to a specific moral infraction. We believe in a sovereign God, not karma. (When Jesus was asked if a man’s blindness was caused by his sin or his parents, the Lord definitively rejected the explanation, John 9:1-2.) Run away from the preacher who declares that this earthquake struck here, and this outbreak struck there because the people in the region had it coming.
But when we stand back and look globally at the flow and trends of history, the moral structure of the universe can be observed. And it’s in this wider, moral sense that we can look at what’s been happening – arguably from 9/11 to the present day – and say that God is shaking our country, shouting for those who have ears to ear, and calling us to return to him.
And what if we don’t listen? Could it get worse? Ask Israel. Or your great-grandparents.
“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” ~ Isaiah 45:22
Bear Clifton, writer and screenwriter, is the pastor of BridgeWay Community Church in California, Maryland. His blogs, screenplays and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, “A Sparrow Could Fall”, and his latest – “Living Under The Cross”, a collection of essays on the Beatitudes – all available through Amazon.