“Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” – Psalm 135:6
When it comes to God and His Sovereign right to do all He pleases in heaven and on earth, such is the depravity of mankind that we take our seat in the court of human opinion as both the jury and the Judge. We want answers! We feel we have a right to answers. God owes us an explanation (we think). So we schedule an immediate trial. God Himself must answer to us. He must be put in the dock. We demand that He answer the charges made against Him of injustice. And He had better come up with an adequate explanation. He had better be convincing, for we are more than ready to find Him guilty as charged for violating our moral sense of “goodness.”
Yet, though we schedule the court hearing, hiring the best prosecution attorneys to act on our beahlf, God does not show up for the trial. This makes us all the more angry of course. But from His perspective, He feels no need or obligation to explain Himself.
You will remember, I am sure, that Job asked a whole lot of questions as to why calamity had struck him and his family and never once did he receive an answer. God felt no obligation to explain Himself, but instead asked Job “where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Job is stunned into silence as God asked question after question, none of which he could answer.
When devastation occurs, many wish to point their cannons Godward, demanding that He explain Himself to us. Many are doing exactly this as the events of the last few days have unfolded. Some Christians and even some preachers, feeling the weight of the questions posed against God, resort to very unscriptural concepts of God to try to shield Him from scrutiny. They say “God is just as upset as you are. Once the tsunami occured, God was weeping in heaven, knowing the calamity would strike. There was nothing He could do. If only there were something. See His tears, as He weeps!”
Really? Is that an explanation? God was powerless to prevent it? Really?
In Job 38:8 when he asks Job rhetorically, “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb… and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?”
Was God just being poetic? Was He simply filling space up in our Bibles to fool us with the pretense that He was actually in charge of the waves?
Psalm 89:8-9 says, “O Lord… you rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.” Did God lose this kind of power now in our enlightened intellectual and sophisticated age? Really?
When the deadly threat of the storm came, Jesus “rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm” (Luke 8:24). Is He unable to do this now? As John Piper rightly stated, “even if Satan caused the earthquake, God could have stopped the waves.” That’s the God of the Bible, one who actually rules and reigns. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground except the Father was involved in some way.
Amos asks the rhetorical question, “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6) If we had any doubts as to the answer, those doubts are forever expelled in Isaiah 45:7 where the Lord says, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.”
A god who was powerless to prevent the tsunami is not the God of the Bible – plain and simple. In desiring to shield God from scrutiny, those who propagate the idea that God could not prevent all this have fled to the false refuge of idolatry.
Perhaps someone’s reaction to all this is to say, “I could never love a God like that.” My response is, “Oh I understand you completely. Unless God graciously intervenes to take out our hearts of stone, and put in instead a heart of flesh which beats to know Him, none of us would ever love the true God of the Bible.” It is a work of grace from start to finish.
Jesus’ shows us that in all reality, though we like to think we can aim our guns toward Him, God’s guns are rightfully aimed in our direction. It is we who must repent, not God. Here is the passage in Luke 13:
Luke 13:1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Personal tsunamis happen everyday. Perhaps it is the untimely death of a close friend or a loved one – an unfavorable health report from a doctor, a car crash, a plane crash – each of us has to deal with personal tsunamis at some point in our lives.
What Jesus tells us is that when we see a tower fall on eighteen people and kill them or by wider application, the devastation of a tsunami where the death toll could be in the tens of thousands, rather than questioning God or pointing the finger at others, it should remind each of us of own personal sin and of what each of us deserve.
Three main points from Jesus’ words:
1. None of us are better than those who were killed
which leads us to the second point…
2. It should have been me (what should surprise us is that we were not killed last night or that God does not send similar scaled tsunamis everyday)
3. Each of us personally must repent (the tsunami tells me that John Samson needs to repent for his sins and trust in the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ), and in light of the universal guilt of the human race, as a herald of the King, I must call others to heed His words, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
A Final Thought
Lets keep praying for the precious people of Japan and for God’s good purposes in all this to be established. The fact is, we do not know all of God’s purposes, but we can say this for sure, He certainly has them. It may indeed be God’s purpose to bring a widespread awakening to the Gospel thoughtout Japan. On the other hand, without God directly intervening, many could become even more hardened to the things of God because of all this.
God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy and will harden whom He will harden (Romans 9:18). He will do all His good pleasure.
With all this being true, it then is our responsibility to pray, to feel compassion and to even weep for the many lost, broken and devastated lives. Our God is a God of compassion who commands us to feel the weight of other’s pain and to weep with them. Dr. John Piper rightly stated, “When the Bible says, “Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), it does not add, “unless God caused the weeping.”
Job’s comforters would have done better to weep with Job than talk so much. That does not change when we discover that Job’s suffering was ultimately from God. No, it is right to weep with those who suffer. Pain is pain, no matter who causes it. We are all sinners. Empathy flows not from the causes of pain, but the company of pain. And we are all in it together.”
May the love of God be seen in the hearts of all those who are able to help in practical terms, and may it be the cause of our on-going prayers for this great people. May He, through the gospel of Christ, draw many lost people into the fold, where they can experience an eternity of love in the presence of God, saved from His wrath forever.
(This article has now been translated into Italian here)