As a result of the storms that ravaged through NC this past Saturday, at least 23 lost their lives and more than 130 were injured. Several of those who died were children and I can't imagine the pain that many families are experiencing right now. When we're faced with tragedies like these, one would certainly be justified by asking the question, "Was this God's will?"
I've heard many, in their attempts to preserve God's character, say things like, "This wasn't God's perfect will but His permissive will." They try to make their case for God only doing good things and only desiring good things from a philosophical standpoint...but certainly not from a Scriptural standpoint. It's our nature to try to interpret things around us according to our own experiences, for example: I would never hurt a child, so, certainly God would never hurt a child. I would never destroy someone's home, so surely God would never destroy a family's home. We interpret God's will or desires according to the standard of our will and desires.
This, however, raises some very important questions as to our view of God and our theology. Do we look at calamity and say, "God had 'plan A', but since Satan and sin had their way, He implemented 'plan B'. The tornadoes that ripped across NC were not the will of God, and surely the death of all those people (including my son's death recently) was not God's perfect will!...so, it's time for God to counteract this tragedy with 'plan B". As stated before, these interpretations are purely human philosophy and not Biblical.
So, what does the bible say about God's sovereignty over the natural world? Is Satan or God the sovereign over natural disasters? Examine the life of Job. Satan told God in Job 1:9-11 that the only reason Job feared God was because of His protection. It wasn't until God gave Satan permission that Job's family and possessions were destroyed by natural disasters. Notice v. 12:
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath [is] in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD."As a result, Job's family, sheep, and servants were killed by natural disasters (Job 1:16-19). But, who was in charge here, Satan or God? According to this passage, Satan has no power to do anything apart from God's granting him permission. Notice also what Elihu, one of Job's friends says to him in Job 37:10-14,
"By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened. Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud: And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth. He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy. Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God."If you adhere to the humanistic philosophical views of God's character, Isaiah 45:7 is a tough verse to swallow:
"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things]."Does this make God the author of sin? No, it says He creates evil. "Create" is the same word used in God's creative process in Gen. 1. and "evil" is calamity...these are the effects of sin. This evil should be a reminder for mankind to look to God for mercy. If my daughter went through life with no consequences to her sinful actions, she would surely turn out to be a monster. In the same way, God has ordained calamities to direct our focus back to Him. So, calamity is God's means of pointing us toward His mercy...notice again the last of Elihu's message to Job:
"He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy."So, how did Job respond in his calamity? According to Job 1:20-22, He worshipped and chose to trust in God's sovereignty in the matter, rather than focus hatred toward Satan's limited power.
Notice also the description of Jesus in Hebrews 1:3:
"Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;"Everything in existence owes its existence to Jesus Christ Himself. Everything is being upheld by the word of His power...everything. The moon stays in orbit according to His word. The paths of the sea are directed according to His word. Even the winds obey His voice. But, it doesn't end there... The word for "upholding" is the Greek word, phero which literally means to bring, bear, produce or carry. Also noting that this participle is in the present active, it means He's presently...not "used to be" or "will be"... the causative agent that brings things to pass. He is not a passive God sitting in heaven wringing His hands over what's happening in the earth. He is actively causing all things to go according to His will:
"In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:" Eph. 1:11He doesn't just just carry the universe's objects to their ordained ends, but He "worketh" or brings them about.
So, how should we respond? We have 3 options...maybe more but 3 will do:
- Blame God and hate Him.
- Blame Satan, sin or anything else and ignore God's sovereignty
- Acknowledge God's sovereignty and worship Him knowing that the Judge of all the earth always does what's right.
Maybe, when time allows, I'll write more on God's sovereignty and how it relates to human responsibility.