Stormy Wind Fulfilling His Word

We sat at the breakfast table discussing the hurricanes which have devastated our Southeast and the Caribbean islands. We were particularly concerned about missionary relatives on Jamaica. They had been warned by the U.S. Embassy to leave the country. However, they were staying. They felt that leaving would be a poor testimony to the Jamaicans who had to stay.Before we prayed for them I opened the Bible to read. Our passage that morning was Psalm 148. My jaw dropped in surprise as I read the last phrase of verse 8: “stormy wind fulfilling His word.” I stammered to my wife, “How apropos is that this morning?” We had been talking about stormy winds. The verse clearly proclaimed to us that the stormy wind was doing the will of God. That stormy wind meant devastation of homes, loss of property, hardship for many, and death for some. How could that stormy wind be doing the will of God?

All of this led me to think about God’s part in nature, and natural catastrophes in particular. As I thought about that with my Bible three things seemed to stand out.

First, natural catastrophes show the omnipotence of God. The Bible speaks of nature as having a witness. Usually that witness is spoken of from the positive side. Acts 14:17 is an example: “Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” You recall the lines of the hymn which come from the verse:

“He sends the sunshine and the rain,
He sends the harvest’s golden grain;
Sunshine and rain, harvest of grain–
He’s my friend.”

The testimony of Scripture is that God sends that rain and sun upon both the just and the unjust. To the just it is a reason for praise. To the unjust it is evidence of God’s grace to him. But, the other side of the coin is also a testimony to God’s omnipotence. We could rewrite the hymn slightly to say:

“He sends no sunshine and too much rain,
He withholds the harvest’s golden grain,
No sunshine and too much rain, no harvest of grain,
He’s my friend.”

In the Bible God often used natural catastrophes to show his omnipotence. We might mention the flood, plagues of locusts, the earthquake which punished the rebellion of Korah, and the drought in the days of Elijah. God took responsibility for all of those catastrophes.

Psalm 93:1, 2 speak of God’s majesty: “The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved. Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting.” Then the psalm goes on, in verses 3, 4, to prove that majesty by citing the natural catastrophe of a flood and the waves of the sea. “The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.”

The waves of the sea are one of the mightiest forces of nature, as they have proved along the Florida coastline. Hurricanes are awe-some. So are floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. But, after all of those natural catastrophes you can write, “The Lord on high is mightier…” Natural catastrophes show the omnipotence of God.

Second, natural catastrophes cause men to look up to God. There is a good example of that in Jonah 1:4-6. “But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.” That was a bunch of touch, swearing sailors who only used God’s name in vain. But, in the face of the storm they were on their knees as a bunch of trembling supplicants. We do not know if that storm was category 3, 4, or 5; but, the catastrophe made them realize that they were in the hands of a power greater than them-selves.

I dare say that scene was repeated many times in the past weeks of hurricanes. In quivering bathrooms and shaking basements, as families huddled wondering whether the house was about to lift off, men and women who had little use for prayer, prayed. Natural catastrophes cause men to look up to God. Their concept of God may be mistaken; but, they recognize a power greater than them-selves.

God created man with a knowledge of Him. Adam knew God. His children knew that there was a God above them. Over the years, man with his sinful nature, has denied God in every way. But, in the hour of his extremity he will cry out, “Oh God, help us!”

I recently reread a quotation from Sir Arthur Keith. Keith was a British anatomist and anthropologist. He was an evolutionist who personally examined many of the skulls attributed to prehistoric man. He said: “Evolution is unproved and unproveable. We [evolutionists] believe it because the only alternative is special creation, and that is unthinkable.” Man, even in our generation, has a knowledge of God and creation. But, in willful rebellion he says, “I will not think that way and be responsible to God.” However, under the pressure of natural catastrophe, even that man cries, “O God, save us.!”

Not many people are turning to God today. Yet, when things begin to come out, after these violent storms, there will be a few testimonies in Bible-believing churches, of men and women who repented of their sins in the midst of those catastrophes and truly turned to God. Natural catastrophes cause men to look up to God.

In the third place, natural catastrophes show men the wrath of an angry God. In our sentimental society that is not a welcome truth. I am sure you have heard that favorite modernist statement, ‘God is in his holy heaven and all’s well with the world.” I hope you realize that is false. If that were true, then hurricanes, earthquakes, and tidal waved could not, or should not, happen.

Have you ever been challenged by a co-worker who asked, “If there is a God and He is a good God, how come He allowed all of those homes to be destroyed and people’s possessions to be blown away?” The world can reason that way because it has created a new god in a new way. The popular god of 2004 is an indulgent grandfather who loves all men and judges nothing. He has been robbed of His righteous-ness, His justice, and His wrath on sin.

There is a picture of God in Psalm 97. It is in the context of natural catastrophe. Verses 1 and 2 state: “The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.” He is a righteous God of judgment. Verses 3 and 4 continue that picture: “A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled.” Verses 6 and 7 picture the effect that God’s catastrophes are intended to have upon men. “The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory. Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods.”

God began this world with creation. He created man to rule that creation to His glory. But, the very first man chose to disobey Him and believe Satan instead of God. God judged that; but, in His mercy, he continued to deal with man. Over the centuries he gave man a law to regulate his life in a happy way. He gives him a Bible to tell him all he needed to know about his Creator. He provided man a Savior and explained to him how man might be right with God.

In our own country he gave us a nation, springing out of the heritage of the English reformation. Ours was not a Christian nation, but its heritage was the Bible. The Bible shaped our laws, gave us our morality, and was at the heart of our homes. It produced a freedom of religion unknown in any nation.

However, over the years, the sinful nature of man has risen to the top. We have morphed into a society with man at the center, not God. We have replaced our responsibility to God with our rights as men. We have purged our schools of truth about the Creator. We have eliminated the Bible and prayer. We have stripped our justice system of the ten commandments. In so doing we have wrenched morality out of our society. God is mocked, not honored. God is in his holy heaven. That is true. But all is unwell with the world.

In 1721, in the Congregational Church of Northampton, Massachusetts, Jonathan Edwards preached that famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God.” That was a true, biblical, sermon. People in 2004 say, “That concept is out of date.” No, that sermon title was true in 1721 and it is true today. God is just the same in 2004 as He was in 1721. God is angry with men because of their sin; and, occasionally in human history, God shows how angry He is. Natural catastrophes show men the wrath of an angry God.

All of us will someday stand before our God. Men who have received God’s salvation will stand before him at the rapture as saved men, to be rewarded or not rewarded for their service. All other men will stand before God at the great white throne judgment. There, they will not face a God who is neutral. They will face this God who is angry with sinners about their sin. How angry is God? He is angry enough that he has showed that anger in the natural catastrophes of the ages. Another charge will be added at that time. Those who stand there have despised the way of salvation provided by a merciful God through Jesus Christ. Sinners will truly find themselves in the hands of an angry God.

I have maintained in this article that we should see the wrath of an angry God in the furor of the storms. But, reader, you can also see the wrath of God in another place. You can look at the cross of Calvary and see the wrath of God against sin, visited to the full upon a substitute. Jesus Christ received the wrath of God upon sin so that the sinner might be forgiven.

All of us will stand before a holy God. We will either stand as redeemed men, knowing and believing that Christ received that wrath for us, or we will stand before an angry God with the full heat of his anger over our heads.

Let natural catastrophes warn you. God is in His holy heaven, but all is not well with a sinful world.

September 2004

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