ARE NATURAL DISASTERS PUNISHMENT?

How could anyone forget Katrina and the terrible aftermath? One of my good friends is from the New Orleans area and has a long family history of being rooted in that part of the country.  I'd love to visit some time, but there would be a few places visited by tourists that you would not find me without a direct word that I should be there for a godly purpose.  I was asked some time ago if I thought God caused Katrina.  When the earthquake in Haiti occurred I was asked the same.  This is what I feel scripture reveals.   

Some natural disasters are punishment brought about or allowed by God to get our attention.  Some are a natural occurrence in a world that functions under laws that govern how the universe operates.  Others are the work of man's principal enemy, satan.  That said, all three catalysts may impact circumstances, but only one has ultimate power.  This is the Creator of all, the one true God of the universe under whose watch nothing occurs by random happenstance.  

In the aftermath of Katrina there was outrage expressed in the media at the stated viewpoint that God unleashed Katrina on that city as a means of judgement.  The mere suggestion that God is capable of such judgment upset and challenged a comfortable, but wrong conception of God as passive.  God's divine Love extended to us and indwelling believers is not now, nor has it ever been passive.  True Christianity is a radical force and the rescue of mankind to eternal and intimate relationship with Him, and the destruction of all those who sided with satan and rebelled against God is so vitally important that God the Father sacrificed His one and only Son...  For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3: 16).  

In my opinion Katrina was God's judgment just as the degree of devastation visited on Haiti was the same.  God is intimately connected to His creation and He gave man the authority, will, and talent to bring nature into a place where it can serve his needs.  When we think about a farmer bringing in a crop of wheat we understand this.  When we recall how some of us have been drawn to gardening and man's history of using plants for medicinal purposes as well as nourishment we praise Him for the bountiful harvest of untold number of gifts that come from this intricately created world.  But... do we consider that this principal applies equally to the greater, more fierce elements of weather?   

Throughout the history of mankind people with no true Savior, have given into original sin and worshiped the creation instead of the Creator.  Now when the people saw that Moses was delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, "Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him (Exodus 32: 1). 

 One of satan's many titles is prince of the power of the air.  Although we can't see it, I'm certain that many times disasters conjured up as a curse or natural outcome were not allowed by God because godly people prayed.  Or, in His very great mercy God exercised divine right over His creation and natural catastrophes were mitigated or did not occur at all.  In a common deliverance prayer the wordage goes like this...  In the name of Jesus Christ we bind up the powers of earth, air, water, fire, the netherworld and the satanic forces of nature.  Some who practice warfare prayer on a regular basis no longer use the phrase "bound-up" or "we bind."  Rather they call upon God to burn those demonic forces that are behind such events or attack with the fire of the Holy Spirit, asking that heavenly angels escort them immediately to the throne of God for righteous judgement never to return.  And... with their orders concerning us be cancelled forever; those satanic beings sent to the abyss... a place from which they cannot ever return.  I've learned that to bind, to cast out and off is a temporary measure.  Our present place in world and cosmic history demands that we understand warfare prayer as an offensive and not a defensive practice and our position in Christ, which calls us to unleash this power on a regular basis.   

God is ultimately in control of all He created.  If we really believe this, why wouldn't we pray on a regular basis that His creation and those laws that govern the elements bring blessings instead of trial and hardship. 

When I consider Your heavens, and the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?  Yet You have made him a little lower than God, you crown him with glory and majesty!  You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; you have put all things under his feet (Psalm 8: 3-6).  Read all of Psalm 8.   

All through man's history God has used natural disasters to get our attention.  He did this in the past and he'll do so in the future. To bow to intimidation and say otherwise is to proclaim ignorance of scripture.  But are we helpless in such circumstances? 

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.  Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit (James 5: 17, 18). 

Elijah was prophet during the rule of Ahab and Jezebel.  King Ahab immersed himself in the pagan practices of his wife's very evil religion and culture and together they persecuted the Jewish faithful, killing many who were forced into hiding to avoid martyrdom.  We read about Ahab's shameful reign  in 1st Kings 16: 29-34 on through 1st Kings chapter 22.  

In Elijah's day God allowed the consequence of a three year drought. He did this to get the attention of a passive populace who entered into and partnered in a dysfunctional, very evil state structure and pagan religion.  These people had forgotten about the power that was theirs to effect destiny via faith and obedience to the one true God of the universe; known to the Hebrew people as Jehovah or Yahweh.  Generations later God the Father would send His one and only Son, Jesus Christ to die on a cross that we might have eternal life.  Elijah identified the core problem:  Elijah came to all the people and said, "How long will you hesitate, between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow Him, but if Baal, follow him."  But the people did not answer him a word. (1st Kings 18: 21, 22). 

A persistent commitment to sin had separated them from God.  Fear had paralyzed every good instinct to rebel and fight for what was right as they labored under the rule of a narcissistic, despot king.  God sent Elijah. 

Now Elijah the Tisbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word (1st Kings 17: 1). 

There was a solution for these people just as there is one for us today. 

If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2nd Chronicles 7: 13, 14). 

This is what the angels of God said, recorded for our benefit. 
And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever.  Amen. (Revelation 7: 11, 12) 

I love the image this evokes.  Do you see it?  God is all this on our behalf and more.  When we pray He is all-powerful.  It is in our ability to do just as Elijah did and pray for judgement via natural disasters to be reversed or come to an end.  The caveat?  In doing so we had better be prepared to change something about ourselves and something about our world.  We do this in the context of where He has us right now giving voice to whatever calling He speaks and seals by the power of faith into our hearts and mind. 

We might even take this prayer principal further and believe that any obstacle, any suffering can be reversed and cease.  We know this because James said, Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly.  This outcome was vividly demonstrated for the Hebrew people longing for release from suffering under King Ahab's malevolent rule.  Because of Elijah's prayer the drought came to an end.  ...and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.  Whatever your drought is God is powerful on your behalf via a personal commitment to first repentance and then petition.  Just speak to God.  He loves hearing from you.  He's waiting...  Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know (Jeremiah 33: 3). 

When was the last time you stood outside your house and observed a gathering storm?  With storm warnings heard over the airways you may decide to lift your hands to heaven calling out for God's protection; praying that instead of what was predicted there would be a gentle cleansing rain for the benefit of crops, animals, and people.  Even praying a protective canopy in a covering of the blood of Jesus Christ of Nazareth who came in the flesh over your house, property and loved ones. 

It is true that God uses natural disasters to get our attention.  Anyone who says otherwise has ignored the extensive scriptural history and future predictions.  The seventh seal, the seven angels with the seven trumpets (Revelation 8) describes future cataclysmic events that will fall on planet earth in a last attempt to call a people to repentance in some of the last final judgements.  The last great judgment:  Matthew 24; Mark 13; all of Revelation; Isaiah 24; Zachariah 14; Daniel 9; Jeremiah 23: 20... just to name a few scriptures and passages. 

 James 5: 13-18 teaches valuable principals of prayer.  James links a believers prayer-power with repentance.   He groups physical illness, rejoicing before the throne of God, with praying against natural disasters... in this case drought.  All this is in the scope of praying believers to impact, alter, or reverse what seems impossible.  How do we know this?  Because the word of God tells us so and because we understand that we can't have God's power without taking him at His word.  Read Mark 11: 22-26; Matthew 17: 14-23  

Let's consider the passage / James 5: 13-18 

Is anyone among you suffering?  Then he must pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  He is to sing praises.  Is anyone among you sick?  Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him (James 5: 13-15.)

Notice the wordage.  Then he must pray.  Here is the next part of this passage which links repentance to prayer being effective.   

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.  The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5: 16).  James then takes us into the next aspect of his teaching... Elijah who exercised obedience to God when he was sent to prophecy drought as a means of judgment then prayed three years later that this same horrible drought would end.  Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit (James 5: 17, 18).  

Elijah prayed that the drought would come to an end as evidence of God's mercy, power, might, glory, and wisdom.  He also prayed for the miracle on Mount Carmel in spiritual battle (1st Kings 18: 20-46) as a vivid example to us of how to wage war against our enemy in similar circumstances.  The motivation of Elijah's heart...  "Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You  O Lord, are God and that You have turned their hearts back again" (1st Kings 18: 37, 38). 

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him (Psalm 91: 15).

God answers prayer.  These are my thoughts.  What are yours?  For more about this topic and the power of prayer to reverse divine judgment read my former post of June 5, 2010 entitled: The Power of One - One Repentant Sinner

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