The Disasters of God

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  September 25, 2005
Audio   •  PDF
  • Share:

Well this is an interesting week for me; I actually had prepared two messages for this Sunday morning. One continuing our study in James, and the other that I'm going to bring to you this morning. As the middle of the week approached and I began to look at the events around us. They were predicting at the time that a hurricane of catastrophic proportions, 175-mile-an-hour winds, would hit the Texas Gulf Coast, possibly decimating the cities of Galveston and Houston, and would eventually end up over us. It occurred to me that it would be good for us to reflect on what the Bible teaches about disasters such as those.

You see this weekend we watched again as another hurricane poured out its fury on the Gulf Coast. I couldn't help but think that those who live on the coast will be glad when this hurricane season is over, just as those in Florida were glad last year. But disasters come often, and in many shapes and sizes, as part of the residual of the curse in our world. And so it's not just hurricanes that we have to deal with. But these hurricanes have forced us as God's people to think more deeply about what they mean. From tsunamis in Asia to hurricanes on the Gulf Coast; tornadoes in the Midwest to earthquakes in California – we have to reckon how those intersect with the divine, eternal plan of God.

As those who believe that there's meaning in the world and that such events are not merely the random collision of atoms, this year's events have forced Christians to face some very difficult questions. As people look at the storms, for example, they're asking what, if anything, are the lessons of these tragic storms that have devastated much of the Southeast over last year and this. As you would expect, in America there is no shortage of views. In fact the week after hurricane Katrina ravaged Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana the pulpits, papers, and blogs of America and the world weighed in on 'why.' European papers suggested that Katrina was punishment on the US for our failing to sign the Kyoto Accord. That's a stretch. Islamic militants saw Katrina as part of Allah's holy war in the US, paying us back in part for what's going on in Iraq.

When you come closer to home and you take a look at what Christians are saying, and I've read a lot of what they've said over the last couple of weeks, some who profess Christianity have argued that God had absolutely nothing to do with the disasters that occurred. Many Christians however are quick to say that God at least allowed them and others would say He directed them and then they are on a desperate search to try to unlock an explanation and a meaning. And the answers to that meaning are also some of them farfetched. For example some suggested that the hurricane was God's punishment on the US for cooperating in the removal of the Jews from the Gaza strip. Those dots are a very long way apart and require a very long line to connect them. But that's what some said.

By far the most common explanation of why, in Christian circles, was the reality that New Orleans as the epicenter of the disaster was a sin city with few rivals. And of course that's true. Some, for example, pointed out that coming up in Labor Day there was to be a festival of southern decadence and the French Quarter tourism site, this article says, describes that festival as "a gayer version of Mardi Gras most famous for displays of naked flesh and public displays of sexuality pretty much every where you look." Others said, no it's not the immorality and sin of the city, it's the fact that the city is renowned for its occult practices, particularly voodoo. Still others pointed to crime, some to corruption. So in many Christians' – I would say even most Christians' minds – Katrina was a simple act of judgment on a very wicked part of our country.

What about unbelievers? What are they saying? Well, most of them say it's simply an act of nature. An indiscriminate act of an impersonal force wreaking havoc to the harm of people. No meaning. They essentially take an existential approach. How do they respond to the Christian perspective that God was somehow involved in this? Well most unbelievers simply reject the concept of God's involvement saying that that's some sort of a twisting or perversion of the Scripture. Some of them are even vitriolic. One web log I read put it this way: "I only wish religion were the opiate of the masses as Carl Marx believed. It would certainly be less dangerous. To believe that a terrible hurricane which has killed possibly thousands, not just from New Orleans, but small towns all along the coast – to believe that was an deliberate act of God is asinine, cruel, mean, childish, idiotic."

Everybody has weighed in. And we are bombarded with it from every side. So I thought this morning we would do something a bit unusual. We'd step away from our study of James for this morning and look at what the Bible says about all such disasters. Because in the end our only source of true direction on this issue will come from the pages of God's word. I've looked at some four hundred passages this past week. Four hundred different passages trying to get my own arms around what the Bible teaches about God's use of and involvement in disasters in our world.

What you're going to get this morning is just sort of the thumbnail sketch of what I saw and discovered. But when you take all of that data, when you take everything together that the Scripture says about disaster – and I didn't even look at all of them, the four hundred were just the more obvious ones – when you look at that it becomes clear that the Bible makes two categorical assertions about disasters. I want us to look at those two together this morning.

The first categorical assertion the Bible makes about disasters of various kinds is that God is fully responsible for all the disasters in our world. You know sometimes we want to get God off the hook. We're afraid that somehow His reputation will be tarnished if we say 'God directed that storm.' But God certainly doesn't feel that way. And in fact He is crystal clear in accepting full responsibility. In biblical terms, as well as in the fine print on your insurance policies, these truly were acts of God.

Now how does He establish that? Well, generally the Bible teaches us that God claims to direct all the laws, forces and processes of His creation. Everywhere you look in Scripture, God says, "I am the Lord of My creation." Turn with me to Psalm 104 where He makes this point in clear and certain terms. Psalm 104 is a psalm that records the Lord's providential care for all of His creation. It is essentially an ode to God's providence in the physical world. And I'm going to be frustrated this morning because I'm just going to be able to sort of scoot you across the tree tops and give you a little glimpse. This psalm deserves fuller treatment than this, but let me just take you to one portion of it. Go down to Psalm 104:14. "He [that is God] causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he [so that HE] may bring forth food from the earth."

Now God has in His creation put together a process by which things grow. But what God wants us to know here is that He is not the god of the deists who simply created those processes and stepped back from them. Instead He is intimately involved in them. Vegetation here is not merely the product of some impersonal law, but it's the direct result of the care of our God. Look at verse 16: "The trees of the Lord drink their fill, the cedars of Lebanon which He planted." Here God is described as a great gardener and the earth as His garden. It goes on to record that He provides for all of His creatures. Verse 21: "The young lions roar after their prey and [they] seek their food from God." Verse 27: "They all wait for You to give them their food in due season." Verse 29: "You hide Your face, they are dismayed; You take away their spirit, they expire and return to their dust." Just as you and I feed our dogs and cats, our pets, God provides for all of the animals of His created world. Intimately, intimately involved.

The same thing is true when you come to the issue of weather. I've pointed this passage out to you before but turn to Job chapter 36. Job 36, Elihu is speaking. Elihu was not one of the three friends that are castigated by God. Elihu is the only one who isn't. And notice what he says in Job 36:27: "For He [that is God] draws up the drops of water, they distill rain from the mist, which the clouds pour down, they drip upon man abundantly." We're all familiar from school with the hydrological cycle. Here God is saying 'I am intimately involved in that process.'

He goes on to describe the storm, verse 29:

Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, 
The thundering of His pavilion?

Behold, He spreads His lightning about Him, 
And He covers the depths of the sea. 
For by these He judges peoples; 
He gives food in abundance. 
He covers His hands with the lightning, 
And commands it to strike the mark.

Every bolt of lightning is directed, as it were, by the very hand of God. Verse 33: "Its noise [that is the thunder] declares His presence." Of course our response is the same as Elihu in verse 1 of 37: "At this also my heart trembles and leaps from its place." Verse 6 of chapter 37: "To the snow [God] says, 'Fall on the earth,' and to the downpour and the rain, 'Be strong.'" And in so doing, verse 7: "He seals the hand of every man." There's nothing we can do to respond to it. We just seek shelter "that all men may know His work." Verse 12, speaking of the storm here:

It changes direction, turning around by His guidance, 
That it may do whatever He commands it 
On the face of the inhabited earth. 
Whether for correction, or for His world, 
Or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen.

There's no question but what God takes full responsibility for the laws and processes that work in our world, even those that issue forth in storm.

The same thing is true in Psalm 29. I encourage you to read it; we don't have time to turn there. At some point we'll look at that psalm. It's essentially a description of God in the thunderstorm. You see the psalmist looking out over the Mediterranean seeing a storm brewing and then, as he discusses, it finds its way in over land and God displays His glory in it. God claims that He directs all the laws, all the processes of our world. But more specifically God takes full responsibility for disasters.

This week as I've looked at all of those texts, the list is exhaustive. They are none that are left out. If you were to take the scope of Scripture and hear God speak about His involvement with them, you would find flood, storms, lightning, whirlwinds, earthquakes, drought, famines, outbreaks of diseases, and even the invasion of the army of another country. Disasters of every kind. It starts with the greatest disaster that has yet to hit the world. In Genesis 6:17, God, speaking of the world-wide flood that we call Noah's flood, which was actually God's flood: "Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish." I, even I.

I pointed out to you a couple of weeks ago, the prophet Amos in his prophecy, chapter 3 verse 6, says, "if a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it?" God takes full responsibility. Isaiah 45:7, God says through the mouth of Isaiah, I am "The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these." In Habakkuk chapter 3 you remember the prophet Habakkuk was writing, having just discovered that God was going to use the Babylonians to destroy Israel, to destroy Judah, to destroy the temple. This is unimaginable to Habakkuk and as he discovers this, listen to how he describes God in Habakkuk 3:3:

God comes from Teman,
And the Holy One from Mount Paran. 
His splendor covers the heavens, 
And the earth is full of His praise. 
His radiance is like the sunlight; 
He has rays flashing from His hand. 
And there is the hiding of His power.

In other words we don't even get a glimpse of His power, we only see tiny glimpses, it's hidden for the most part. And listen how he finishes his description: "Before God goes pestilence, and plague comes after Him."

But I think no passage that I encountered this week teaches this point more clearly than Ezekiel chapter 14. Turn there with me. There's an interchange recorded in Ezekiel 14 between God and His prophet that gives us great insight into God's work in the world. Ezekiel 14:12: "The word of the Lord came to [Ezekiel]." Ezekiel here doesn't want God to destroy His people. He doesn't want God to use another nation to destroy them. And so God is countering to Ezekiel with these words, verse 13:

"Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, [Notice 'I stretch out My hand against it'] destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves," declares the Lord God.

You know what God is saying? There comes a time when I am going to most certainly bring judgment and even the righteous by their prayers for deliverance can only deliver themselves. Even those who belong to Me cannot stay what I intend to do. Famine.

Verse 15:

"If I were to cause wild beasts to pass through the land and they depopulated it, and it became desolate so that no one would pass through it because of these beasts, though these three men were in its midst, as I live," declares the Lord God, "they could not deliver either their sons or their daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the country would be desolate."

Or here's another, verse 17: "If I should bring a sword on that country and say, 'Let the sword pass through the country and cut off man and beast from it,' [in other words bring an invading army] even though these three were in its midst, as I live…they could not deliver either their sons or their daughters but they alone would be delivered."

Verse 19, here's another option God has: "If I should send a plague against that country and pour out My wrath in blood on it to cut off man and beast from it," even then these men could only deliver themselves.

Verse 21: "For thus says the Lord God, 'How much more when I send My four severe judgments against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague to cut off man and beast from it!'" He says but I'm going to leave some survivors, verse 23: " 'They will comfort you when you see their conduct and actions, for you will know that I have not done in vain whatever I did to it,' declares the Lord God."

God takes absolutely full responsibility for the disasters that come upon our world. Now even as I say that it's important to balance these passages with a couple of other truths the Bible teaches about God, that God says about Himself. One of those is that He only does what is just and right. You see when you hear God saying those kinds of things we might be tempted to think that God acts capriciously. That He simply does what He does for fun, for no particular reason. But God, we're told is just and right. Genesis 18:25, " 'Shall not the judge of all the earth deal justly?'" Psalm 145, verse 17, "The Lord is righteous in all His ways." When He decides to bring disaster He is righteous, it is right, it is fair - which is a word we often hear bantered about.

Another thing to keep in mind as we talk about God as the God of disasters is that in disaster and wrath God remembers mercy. I love that passage in Habakkuk 3:2 when Habakkuk has now discovered what's God's going to do to His people, he says, "O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years," [don't forget, God, we're the work of Your hands; continue to work in us] in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath [what?] remember mercy." That's God's character. "In wrath remember mercy." You remember even in the plagues of Egypt he told the Egyptians what to do to keep from suffering some of those plagues.

In fact God is often the one who, not always, but often, decides to deliver His own from disaster. We love Psalm 91 where it talks about the fact that no plague will come near your dwelling and though a thousand fall on one side and ten thousand on the other side yet you will remain unscathed. That's not a universal promise to all Christians, of course. Disaster comes on everyone. But God is a deliverer even from temporal harm and He often chooses to do that for His own, and even for those who aren't, to demonstrate His goodness; to demonstrate His grace. But if He doesn't decide to deliver His own, he always strengthens us through it, doesn't He? He always gives us the strength, even as we learned from James chapter 1. God is very clear, He and He alone takes full responsibility for everything that happens in His creation, including every kind of disaster.

But of course that immediately raises the question for me and probably for you as well, of why? To what end does God direct such events? Well that brings us to our second categorical assertion. God always uses disaster to accomplish spiritual and eternal goals. God always uses disaster to accomplish spiritual and eternal goals. They are not random existential events with no meaning and no reason, simply to inflict misery on people. God uses and He directs disasters for patently clear eternal objectives. In Job 37:13 I read for you just a few moments ago, Elihu says the storm is sent "Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, [God] causes it to happen.' In other words God always has a purpose in mind.

Let me remind you of just a couple of the purposes the Scripture lays out for disasters. These are just a few of the more common purposes God has in disaster. Number one: to cause men to fear Him. To cause men to fear Him. There're some jobs in our world that intrigue me. One of those is being a storm chaser, particularly when it comes to hurricanes. My family grew up in hurricane country in Mobile, Alabama and I still remember our family weathering hurricane Camille in 1969. We were about 30 miles from where the storm struck the Mississippi coast and we were on the eastern side, that side that has the most danger and the most wind and the most rain, and even the most threat of tornadic activity.

And I remember sitting there that night in our house as a young boy, and we sat up all night. And what we heard outside of our little wood-frame house was the sound of what seemed like a dozen freight trains running past the house in every direction. You could hardly hear to talk to one another inside the house. It felt like the whole house at times would shudder with the force of a gust of wind. My father later told us children that he thought at least a dozen times that night the roof was going to go and we'd have to seek shelter some other way. But as I was there inside the house, probably not fully appreciating all the danger that was involved, I remember wishing that I could actually be outside to watch, somehow be shielded and protected and watch what was happening.

I was reminded of that Friday night as I tuned in, as some of you did, to the television and watched several reporters in harm's way. What struck me Friday night was that several of them were obviously surprised by the violence and magnitude of the storm even though it had obviously weakened considerably. Again and again they seemed to comment about the power that was in this storm. Well that's one of the lessons God intends to communicate through disaster. He is God and we're not. We are not in control. There's something beyond our control. He is in control. Again in Habakkuk 3:2, Habakkuk says, "Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear." When I heard about the disaster You're going to bring, it creates fear in my heart.

Of course the greatest disaster is yet to come. They are recorded for us in Revelation. In Revelation 11:13 it speaks of a great earthquake in which 7,000 people are killed "and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven." That's part of what God does in the midst of disaster. Revelation 14:7. This comes after the seventh trumpet. The angel "said with a loud voice, 'Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and springs of water.'" Disaster is intended to focus our attention on Him who should be feared.

There's a second purpose the Scripture lays out and that is to execute judgment on sin. To execute judgment on sin. I read this week a Puritan book written in the 1600s called God's Terrible Voice in the City. It's about the London fire and plague of the 1600s. Laying out God's providential work, how God used that to condemn the city of London for the sins which they had been involved in. This is certainly a biblical concept. This isn't the only reason God uses disaster, but this is one reason God uses disaster. One way He uses it.

Let me show you again, the Scripture is filled with examples of this. Let me take you to one. Turn to Deuteronomy 28. Moses speaks these words to the children of Israel as they're about to go in and take the land of promise. And they're chilling words. Deuteronomy 28:15.

But it shall come about, if you do not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.

Skip down to verse 20.

The Lord will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me. The Lord will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land.

Verse 22:

[He] will smite you with consumption … with fever … with inflammation … with fiery heat … with the sword … with blight and with mildew … they will pursue you until you perish. The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze [in other words – no rain] and the earth which is under you, iron. [It'll be hard as iron.] The Lord will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed. [Verse 25] The Lord shall cause you to be defeated before you enemies; [invading armies] you will go out one way against them, but you will flee seven ways before them, and you will be an example of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth. Your carcasses will be food to all birds of the sky and to the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away.

And on and on and on it goes. There are literally chapters in the Old Testament devoted to God using disaster to execute His judgment on a rebellious, idolatrous and disobedient people, both His own nation as well as the pagan nations around them. This is a constant theme of Scripture. But it's not just nations. It's also true of individuals. Proverbs 24:16 says "A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity." This is by God's divine intention, to execute judgment on sin.

There's a third purpose that God has in disaster and that's to sanctify His own. I won't have you turn there but in Isaiah 48 verse [10], God tells His people that He has refined them, "but not as silver." He has tested them "in the furnace of affliction." He says, I have brought on you what I have brought on you to refine you, to burn off the dross and to make you all that you need to be. Of course the most graphic example of this in the life of an individual was Job. Job was a righteous man and yet there were things in Job's life that God needed to deal with. And Job eventually comes to that point, you remember, even after all of those catastrophes, after all that happened to his family in the end of the book he says, 'I repent in dust and ashes because now I've seen You.' So God uses, as we've seen from James chapter 1, as we see in Isaiah chapter 48, God uses disasters and troubles of various kinds to sanctify His own.

Let's move to number four. God uses disasters to drive sinners to repentance. Turn to Luke chapter 13. Christ makes this point citing two disasters of His time. Luke 13:1, "Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices." Apparently there were some Galileans involved in the zealot movement – that that group of Jews that were opposed to Roman rule and they had established resistance against it – but they were Jewish people and the law said that they needed to come to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice. And so the Roman government had recognized that and had put a special watch out for these men, apparently. And they catch them, as it were, making their sacrifice in the temple. And Pilate, we're told, mingles their blood with that of their sacrifices. In other words, the soldiers fall on them there at the temple and take their life. By Jewish standards this was a terrible catastrophe, a blasphemy, really, of God and the temple.

Verse 2,

Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits…

Now, there was a pool, you remember called Siloam in the south part of the city of Jerusalem. It's mentioned in some other accounts in the life of Christ. And apparently a tower, a pillar, was built there perhaps at the entrance to mark it out for pilgrims that came into the city. But whether during construction or whether after it was completed, we don't know, but this tower fell and killed 18 people. And He says, do you think they

… were worse culprits than all the men who lived in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

What is Jesus saying here? When disaster strikes, don't for a moment imagine that the people who die are more wicked than the others around them. Eventually Jesus says all sinners will suffer a similar and even worse fate. What Jesus is saying is that disasters are God's wake-up call to those who survive to repent. Listen carefully to this. In a sense disasters here, however bad they may be, are more grace than judgment. They're more grace than judgment. When judgment really falls, as we're told it will during the tribulation period, over half of the world's population will die. In today's terms, two and a half billion people. That's judgment. Yes, God uses disaster in judgment even today, but there is more expression of grace calling sinners to leave their sin and turn to Christ in today's disasters than there is judgment.

I've seen this first hand. I remember after the '94 Northridge earthquake in California our neighbor came and sat in our living room and we talked about the gospel. And she was more open than ever before to the truth of the gospel, because her life literally had been shaken out of its complacency. Hundreds came to Grace Church that Sunday after the earthquake who didn't ordinarily come and we saw many of them come to faith in Christ. It's been remarkable to hear how the gospel has made inroads in Asia as a result of the tsunamis. You see, however bad disasters may be, here they are an expression of God's grace calling those who survive to Himself, giving them an opportunity to respond to the gospel. The real question to ask when disaster strikes is not 'Why did they have to die?' The real question is 'Why does God let anyone live?' God uses disaster to call sinners to Himself.

The fifth reason God uses disaster is to display His name or His glory; to display Himself. Turn to Exodus chapter 9. I was reminded of this passage recently as we were studying it on Wednesday night in our survey of the Old Testament. Exodus 9. Listen to what the Lord says. You remember of course some of the worst disasters our world has ever known were perpetrated at the hand of God against the Egyptians, recorded in the book of Exodus. Exodus 9:13. God says, I want you to say this to Pharaoh:

Thus says [Yahweh], the God of the Hebrews, 'Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth.'

God says, I want you to see who I am. I want you to see that your gods are not gods. Verse 15:

'For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth.'

You know what God is saying to Pharaoh? I've just been getting your attention. Because if I had really wanted to judge you, we wouldn't be talking – you would be gone. Verse 16:

'But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.'

God is still doing that through displays of His great and awesome, unimaginable power. Drives us to see God. That's why Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, "Happy storm that wrecks us on such a rock as this. O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God, and God alone."

What are the reasons behind the recent disasters in Asia and Florida and on the Gulf Coast? What is God doing? Well, according to Scripture He's doing all of these things and many more than our mind could ever begin to conceive. Romans 11:33. Our only response is with Paul: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" The paths of God, the patterns of His behavior, can't be fathomed. They're too deep for our minds to grasp.

So how should we as Christians respond to hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, floods, tornadoes, etc… – all the disasters that come in our world? Let me give you a couple of very practical responses.

  1. We should exalt God's glory by praising and pointing others to His sovereignty over all creation. This is God. Our God is the God who is in the heavens and who is over all the earth, who does His will among the inhabitants of the earth.

  2. We should urge unbelievers to repent and believe the good news of forgiveness in Christ. This is their opportunity; God has spared them and us. This is a demonstration of His grace.

  3. We should confess and turn from our sins. It's a reminder that God punishes sin; that He deals with sin.

  4. We should allow our circumstances to have their purifying effect. If God is trying to sanctify His own, then we should respond by pursuing holiness even more as a result of encountering that disaster.

  5. We should find our confidence in God's unfailing love. I love Romans 8:35, "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? … Will famine, or … peril, or sword?"

Of course the answer is nothing, absolutely nothing. That's where we find our confidence in the midst of disaster. God hasn't promised to protect you or me from disaster. It could come. But when it comes we find our hope, we find our confidence, in God's unfailing love. Nothing will separate us from His love.

And finally:

  1. We should put our full trust in God and in God alone. Listen to Habakkuk. Habakkuk's learned that God's going to bring the disaster of an invading army into His land. Women will be killed and others will be carried off captive; children torn from their pregnant mothers' wombs. Unimaginable disaster. And listen to what Habakkuk writes. Habakkuk 3:16,

I heard and my inward parts trembled,

At the sound my lips quivered.

Decay enters my bones,

And in my place I tremble.

Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,

For the people to arise who will invade us.

And then he finishes his wonderful prophecy with these words:

Though the fig tree should not blossom

And there be no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold

And there be no cattle in the stalls, –

Now remember this is an agricultural society. Do you know what he's saying? He's saying if everything that makes life enjoyable, that makes us comprehend the goodness of God; if everything predictable in my life goes away –

Yet I will exult in the Lord,

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

How could he say God is his savior when God is bringing him through disaster? You see Habakkuk had a bigger perspective. Our hope is in God our savior, our deliverer. He may or may not choose to rescue us from this life's disasters. He didn't in the case of Habakkuk. But Habakkuk says He's rescued me from the wrath to come. From the world's greatest disaster He will undoubtedly, certainly, rescue me. First Thessalonians 1 says we are waiting for God's Son from heaven, the One "who rescues us from the wrath to come." We may face disaster here but we'll never face the ultimate disaster because He's rescued us. That's what we celebrate in the Lord's Table as we do even this morning. Rescued from the greatest disaster, eternal separation from the presence of God. Let's pray together.

Father, how can we begin to thank You? We praise You for Your greatness. We have seen Your power, both on our television sets this week and in Your word this morning. We've been reminded that You are God. You are in control. That You take responsibility for everything that happens here, and that You use what happens here for Your eternal purposes. Father, help us to respond as those who know You and love You. As those who understand that You are God over all the earth. And, Father, we thank You that while You may or may not choose to rescue us from earthly disasters we will never face the disaster of Your wrath because of Christ; because of what He has accomplished for us. Father give us grateful hearts; humble hearts; hearts that long and strive for holiness. In Jesus name, Amen.