Yesterday evening my wife, Jan, and I were entertaining a couple, two longtime friends, in our home. Just before dinner my friend asked me if I had heard about the Asian tsunami. I hadn’t, since I’d been very busy with regional editorial tasks.
We turned on CNN and it quickly became very apparent that the world had a major disaster on its hands. A series of earthquake-triggered tsunamis had brought sudden death and destruction to parts of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and other areas of Southeast Asia and Africa.
The death toll at the time was estimated at 4,800. This figure soon began to rise exponentially. It now appears the final toll will pass 150,000, with many more thousands of deaths from disease predicted to follow.
The irony of partaking of a delicious evening meal with close friends right in the midst of a monumental disaster half a world away was not lost on me. Feelings of guilt crossed my mind. But it was not until the early hours of the next morning, as I could not sleep, that the full impact and meaning began to hit me.
Where is God?
Most of the many morning newspaper accounts attributed the tide of death to the awesome power unleashed by our own planet. The term “nature” was used over and over again, implying some sort of force beyond reason or understanding was involved.
We acknowledge our own fragility in the face of this terrifying demonstration of what we call “nature’s power.” As noted British columnist William Rees-Mogg stated in The Times: “We are not in control; the tsunami has demonstrated this ancient truth” (Dec. 27, 2004). That’s true, but there is more to the story.
Few understand that very long ago God placed on earth an archangel named Lucifer (specially created as a bringer of light). Eventually he chose to rebel against his Creator, turning this beautiful planet into a sorry scene of waste, confusion and devastation. (The story of how Lucifer became Satan the devil is primarily told in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. To understand in much more detail, please request our free booklet Is There Really a Devil? )
Later, in seven days God restored and renewed the earth into the idyllic place it had once been. He created the first man and woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden. But like the fallen Lucifer, they too rebelled against their Creator and God had no option but to banish them from their paradiselike garden. Adam and Eve set a pattern of disobedience for mankind, and we have been going astray from God ever since.
But from the very first, God has had a plan for the redemption of humankind (Revelation 13:8 Revelation 13:8And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
American King James Version×). He made our kind in His very own image and He has never given up on us. So our Creator has on occasion directly intervened in human affairs to keep that plan on course, knowing that in due time He would bring it to full fruition.
In His divine wisdom and to help fulfill His basic purpose, God has chosen to leave Satan in charge of this earth until the time of the future return of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul acknowledged the devil’s rulership by calling Satan “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2 Ephesians 2:2Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
American King James Version×). Three times in the book of John, Jesus referred to Satan as the ruler (“prince” in the King James Version) of this world.
The patriarch Job suffered greatly at the hands of the devil. In a series of disasters—one involving a great windstorm and another that may have been a bolt of lightning—Satan destroyed everything Job possessed, leaving only him and his wife.
Satan then afflicted him physically to the extent that his three friends didn’t even recognize him at first. God allowed this to happen to Job for a great spiritual purpose. After he had deeply repented and learned the lesson, God gave him twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10-16 Job 42:10-16 10 And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
11 Then came there to him all his brothers, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought on him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.
12 So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses.
13 He had also seven sons and three daughters.
14 And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch.
15 And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brothers.
16 After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations.
American King James Version×).
This tragic incident illustrates the power of Satan as the ruler of this present world and demonstrates his eagerness to bring suffering on humankind. This is not to say that he is behind every disaster like this latest earthquake/tsunami or every personal misfortune, but to highlight his harmful influence during “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4 Galatians 1:4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
American King James Version×). He has the power to spread misery and suffering throughout his domain.
So the question remains: Why does God sometimes allow such devastation to take place, and what should our reaction be?
How should we respond when disaster occurs?
Jesus called to mind a disastrous accident in teaching us all a very important lesson. Referring to a great tragedy in Jerusalem, He said: “…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” (Luke 13:4-5 Luke 13:4-5 4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
Our shortsighted way of life often brings on the potential for disaster. God has created a world of cause and effect. Proverbs 26:2 Proverbs 26:2As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
American King James Version×tells us that “the curse does not come without a cause” (Bible in Basic English). Sometimes, however, there is a long time lapse between cause and consequence. This is what deceives humans into thinking that they can get away with their evil deeds (Ecclesiastes 8:11 Ecclesiastes 8:11Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
American King James Version×). Somehow we like to play Russian roulette with our precious lives.
This world is recklessly drinking iniquity (lawlessness) like water. We are removing ourselves farther and farther away from God and His righteous way of life, willingly rejecting His blessings and protection.
Herein lies the answer to the question, “Where is God?” People have pushed Him out of their lives and even out of their consciences. And He is allowing them to do so, for now.
This morning The Daily Telegraph in London published two editorials on the same page. Not surprisingly, the first one was titled: “A Terrible Reminder That Nature Is Dangerous” (Dec. 27, 2004). It was about the disastrous effects of the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean.
The second, just below, was entitled: “Losing Our Religion.” The connection between the two will become obvious. This last editorial consisted of commenting on an accompanying feature article in the same paper titled: “Britons’ Belief in God Vanishing as Religion Is Replaced by Apathy.” Likewise the drophead read: “The national mood towards faith is one of indifference.”
The second editorial talked about Britain “becoming a nation of shoulder-shrugging agnostics who, instead of thinking systematically about religion, react to tragedy by improvising rituals with the nearest objects to hand, such as flowers or teddy bears” (emphasis added). God, of course, would far prefer that the reaction be personal repentance of their individual transgressions of His law.
(The British example is used simply because England is where I live and needed information is more readily accessible. If I still resided in my native United States, its example would probably be more appropriate. America acknowledges God to a much greater degree than Britain, but still doesn’t live His way.)
The latest British poll conducted by The Daily Telegraph is far from encouraging. The feature article mentioned earlier sums up the startling findings: “In 1968 more than three quarters of people, 77 per cent, said they did believe in God. That figure has fallen by nearly half to 44 per cent—a minority of the population. The proportion prepared to admit that it does not believe in God has more than trebled from a mere 11 per cent in the late-1960s to 35 per cent today.”
Reacting with repentance
It’s very encouraging to see that the Western nations (including Britain) have immediately pledged millions of dollars of disaster aid and have begun airlifts of desperately needed supplies to these battered regions. This tradition of generosity and help for those in need is an outgrowth of these nations’ long Judeo-Christian heritage and is to be highly commended.
But how should we personally react to a disaster of such enormous proportions—no matter how far away? Again, Jesus Christ said not to take our lives and well-being for granted, that they can disappear in an instant due to circumstances beyond our control. Personal repentance , He said, is the only sensible response to disaster (Luke 13:1-5 Luke 13:1-5 1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And Jesus answering said to them, Suppose you that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
3 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
American King James Version×).
We need not go farther than our track record with the Ten Commandments. Our nations continually break God’s great spiritual law with seeming impunity, and then we wonder why bad things tend to happen.
When God sent His prophets to warn ancient Israel, the inhabitants often reacted by stoning them. Later He sent His very own Son and they likewise murdered Him. Then the Church Jesus built was assigned the task. It is still on the job. But few today really and truly like to hear where their misguided way of life is taking them.
We don’t like God interfering in our business. As mentioned above, an increasing number don’t even acknowledge His existence. Even those who do generally fail to keep His Commandments.
One of the purposes of this prophetic publication is a call to repentance. If you are stealing in some way, heed the words of the apostle Paul: “Let him who stole steal no longer” (Ephesians 4:28 Ephesians 4:28Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs.
American King James Version×). If you are having an affair, remember the words of the book of Hebrews: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge ” (Hebrews 13:4 Hebrews 13:4Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
American King James Version×). Jesus simply said to a woman He had forgiven: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11 John 8:11She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more.
American King James Version×).
No matter what course your neighbor or your nation as a whole may take, you can turn from your sins and begin to live a righteous life by the indwelling of Jesus Christ through the power of God’s Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×). As a reader of this newsletter, you are most likely being called to repentance by your Creator.
Don’t leave your life to the vagaries of time and chance. Act now!
They haven’t perished forever
One final but important point is that the many innocents who perished in this disaster have not perished forever. God will cause them to live again in a world of peace and safety. And, more importantly, they will then have an opportunity to become His sons and daughters too. To understand more fully, please request or download our free booklet What Happens After Death? . WNP