I have argued previously that God is sovereign over all and God uses things such as the recent state of the US economy to get our attention (see “What’s God’s Purpose for the Recession?“). The US economy has become so weak and the devaluation of the dollar has gotten to such a point that many countries no longer want to use it as the world’s reserve currency. There are consequences for our actions. “Every effect has a cause”, as they say. We do reap what we sow. However, I also addressed the fact that sometimes things happen to righteous people, such as Job, or innocent bystanders like the examples Jesus used of Galilean worshipers being killed in the temple by Pilate and those who died at the collapse of the Tower of Siloam (Lk 13:1-5).
This last point is important to ponder. This passage was often used to criticize Pastor Danny Nalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries in Australia for stating that God was removing His protective hand from Australia because of abortion. It is easier to blame the state of the US and world economy upon human behavior. After all, economics is a human invention. Without the flow of money, we would be back to bartering. More than that, it is easy to point to pervasive foolishness and greed as the causes. God did not cause the greed of investors or banks. God did not cause the greed of Bernard Madoff. Does the same logic work for natural disasters? Can we identify the causes as being the result of God’s judgment? And, if so, what does that mean exactly?
God Does Intervene When It Suits His Purpose
First of all, let’s highlight the elephant in the room first. God has actively intervened in human affairs throughout history. We are told it was God, not an angel, who drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (Ge 3:23-24). God caused a worldwide flood in Noah’s day to wipe most human life off of the face of the planet. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. What do all of these have in common? Sin. In the case of the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah, we are told that the sin was “very great” or “very grievous” (Ge 6:5; 18:20). In both cases, we also see the cries of injustice reached God’s ears.
Let us not forget, however, that God has also intervened at times to grant people favor. Yes, He punished the Canaanites by driving them out of the land, but He also granted favor to Israel by giving them the land. He granted favor to Queen Esther when Haman tried to exterminate the Jews. Time and time again, God showed favor to David while he was being chased by King Saul. Let us also not forget the greatest intervention to date by sending Jesus to die for our sins.
A Fragile World
However, as I have previously argued, these interventions are few and far between. Adam and Eve chose to do it their own way. They were allowed to choose their own rules, make their own societies and even make their own religions. God has setup a world where people eventually get what they sow. Why? Aversion therapy. The consequences of sin are constantly marginalized in our limited human imaginations. We tend to think it won’t happen to us, we are too smart for that or that we will find a way to fix it.
The universe tends towards entropy, chaos and disorder. Our world is no exception. We live under the illusion that things will continue on as they always have (2Pe 3:4). Yet, our world is actually a very dangerous place, even putting aside wars and corrupt governments. Nothing highlighted that more than the South East Asia tsunami of 2004. Have you ever asked, “Why?”
God Uses Evil for Good
God is a master at 4 dimensional chess, since time is an invention of His as well. We cannot outsmart Him, even though our morals, actions and attitudes often reflect that we think we know better than He does. Satan cannot outsmart Him, either.
Satan is described as a dragon (Rev 12:9). When I look at the description of Leviathan in the Book of Job, I firmly believe God is talking here of Satan:
His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal.
One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.
They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.
By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out.
Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.
His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.
~ Job 41:15-21
He is so powerful that no human dare to face him alone:
None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?
Yet, God says He will control him by putting “an hook into his nose” and “play with him”:
Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?
Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?
Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee?
Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever?
Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?
Shall the companions make a banquet of him? shall they part him among the merchants?
Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?
Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.
Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?
None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?
Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.
~ Job 41:1-11
Some say that “leviathan” means crocodile. Frankly, I’ve never seen a crocodile that had airtight scales, had lamps for eyes and shot out flames and smoke. Considering that the story began as a conversation between God and Satan, I think that is significant.
Something else that is significant is that Satan could not touch Job without God’s permission. Satan accused Job of being in it only for the blessings. Satan then went further and said Job would curse God to His face. Both times, however, God placed limits upon Satan.
How did Satan strike Job? He sent Sabeans to steal the cattle and kill his servants (Job 1:15). He sent Chaldeans to do the same with the camels (v17). Satan is the “Prince of the power of the air” (Ep 2:2) because he is capable of transmitting moods, attitudes and at times even thoughts to people who are tuned in to the wrong frequency.
That’s not all, however! Notice that Satan also caused lightning to strike (Job 1:16). He sends what was probably a tornado to kill Job’s sons and daughters (v18-19). If not restrained, then, God allows Satan to control the weather!
If God removes His protection from a land or a people, then, entropy ensues and things begin to fall apart on their own. However, removing His protection also means evil becomes unrestrained, and the process is quickened through the acts of Satan and his demons. We must remember that Satan is the “god of this world” (1Co 4:4), and even his demons are considered “rulers” in this present age (Ep 6:12).
How God Normally Punishes
There just are not very many specific instances where we see direct involvement of God in punishing people, although He certainly reserves the right to do so. Most of the time, He allows consequences to be what they will be.
I don’t agree with much of Danny Nalliah’s theology. The COG does not teach that it is necessary for God to provide revelation in dreams today. Yet, what Nalliah was criticized for was for saying that God has withdrawn his hand of protection from Australia due to abortion. Was he wrong? My Bible says that the Canaanites were expelled from their land because their sin had reached its full height (Ge 15:16) and included child sacrifice (Dt 12:31). They sacrificed their children to what they thought were gods. How much more despicable is it to sacrifice our children for convenience?
The sins of “Christian” nations affect everyone. Sin affects everyone around us individually, and the same is true for nations. David was punished for his sin because of the effect upon other nations (2Sa 12:13-14) as an example of this. Israel was supposed to be the shining example of God’s people on earth, but they consistently failed and were punished for it. Yet, in spite of that, the entire world has been blessed physically and spiritually because of the descendants of Abraham through Israel (Ge 22:18). While “Christian” nations had a form of righteousness, the entire world truly was blessed. But, now that they have thrown all of those blessings away as accursed things and turned their backs on God, the entire world will suffer in their sins.
Why withdraw blessings that He has given these “Christian” nations? What does God seek then? As I argued in “What’s God’s Purpose for the Recession?“, God wants repentance. Remember the lesson of Jonah and Nineveh!
Sometimes, God will allow evil agents to do their own natural work to speed up the outcome. “Nature abhors a vacuum”, the saying goes. When God decides to withdraw His hand from a nation or an individual, evil agents will rush in to fill the void. When a land that is supposedly “Christian” begins to push Him out of their schools, their governments, their workplaces and their everyday lives, God will honor their request and begin to withdraw from them. However, it cannot be emphasized enough that this means His blessings are withdrawn as well. Because God granted human beings free will, and because human beings have repeatedly told God to butt out of their business, it is only under extraordinary circumstances that God directly intervenes.
Thank God for those interventions! The greatest intervention is yet to come! Human beings will continue down the path of destruction until they gather together at Armageddon. Unless Christ comes then, no human flesh will be saved alive (Mt 24:22)!