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"Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it."
Mercy or Judgment?
A few days ago I read a grimly humorous story about a family who posted a message on social media, “Good news! We are OK,” to which a friend wearily replied “I’m sorry, remind me: which disaster are you in?”
The level of destruction due to natural—and man-made—catastrophes we have recently been witnessing is heartbreaking. We all want to do everything we can to help and to ease people’s suffering.
Many Christians are deeply troubled and fearful in the midst of such chaos, and unfortunately, we have seen much conflict and animosity occurring as people entrench themselves into opposing viewpoints, vehemently arguing their case as to the cause behind all the trouble. Some claim the disasters are judgments from God; others react against this, questioning why God would judge one place and not another; and still others try to walk a middle road, claiming that God is merciful, but there are times He does need to judge and we can’t always understand His ways.
These pronouncements and opinions miss the point.
In Luke 13, we read that Jesus was told about a group of Galileans who had been cruelly killed by Pilate. He gave a response that, at first glance, almost seems evasive, but it actually gives us an enlightened perspective:
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-5)
The Lord had just been discussing the importance of discerning the signs of the times when someone piped up with the account of the slaughtered Galileans, probably with the intent of receiving a response about judgment and retribution. But Jesus clearly pointed out that these events were not direct examples of heaven’s judgment upon wicked people. As He often did, He changed the focus of the question back upon an individual’s responsibility to live in right relationship with God.
So, as we ponder and pray our way through the turmoil and chaos, and wade through all the declarations of doom from self-proclaimed prophets—and the resulting hurt and angry protestations from individuals offended by what they perceive as heartlessness—there are a number of factors to consider.
We understand that God is sovereign; everything that exists belongs to Him. He reserves to Himself the ultimate authority to judge every individual, every people group, every nation. There is a coming Day when the present age will be consummated, and the secrets of every heart will be revealed. In that Day, we will all stand naked before the holy One who sits upon the glorious throne, judging with perfect justice.
It is important to recognize that God has a controversy against every nation (Jer. 25:31, Hosea 4:1), so we are to seek Him for wisdom and guidance as to how we should pray, and not automatically declare “This particular occurrence is a judgment of God upon this particular people at this particular time.” The great truth, and great hope for us, is that God desires all men to be saved. His heart is always reaching for mankind with good-will and kindness. Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. He said if we believe in the Son we are not judged; if we do not believe, we are judged already (John 3:16-19); and it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God if we refuse His grace (Hebrews 10:31). But for us who have been justified, the hands of God are a refuge of strength and comfort and mercy, for we have been tenderly engraved upon them (Isaiah 49:16; John 20:24-29).
We also recognize that at this present time, Scripture teaches that all creation groans and convulses as a woman laboring in childbirth, desperate for the full manifestations of the sons of God (Romans 8:22). It is irresponsible and naïve for us to ignore our own complicity in the convulsions of creation due to sin. Our planet groans and aches with longing for us to fully take our place in righteous stewardship, properly managing our Lord’s good gifts, because then creation itself will be delivered from its bondage to corruption into the glorious liberty that awaits us (Romans 8:21).
So, when we see tragedy strike, it is helpful and right that we humble ourselves and confess our sins—not in morbid introspection, but in humility like Daniel, identifying ourselves with the failings of our people and our nation. As we repent, we also respond with gratitude and worship for God’s great kindness and goodness. We have freely received, so we freely release blessing and life over our nation, proclaiming mercy and healing into every heart and every situation. As children of the great King, ambassadors of His grace, it is our mandate to bless and not curse. We are to be blameless and pure so that we shine as lights in the midst of a warped and perverse generation (Ph. 2:15).
So, do not feel as though you must take sides about “why” tragedies occur. Frankly, there are many “whys” we all must face that do not have completely satisfying answers. But it is vital that we keep as our foundation the clear teaching of Scripture that our Lord is good, and He expresses that goodness to all He has made! At the birth of our Savior, the sky exploded with brilliance as angelic hosts proclaimed the kind intentions of our eternal Creator: “…peace on earth, goodwill toward men….”
We honor our Father when we trust Him. We do not bury our heads in the sand and refuse to face reality; rather, we courageously and boldly live lives of hope and trust in the face of dark trouble and wickedness, knowing that the God of all the earth will do justly.
We are assured that the time is coming when He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and His dwelling will be with us eternally. There will be no sorrow, or sickness, or fear, or pain.
All will be as our God desires. Behold, He makes all things new.
Your Innocence is Releasing Deliverance From Your Enemies and Help in Your Distress
“The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.”
This is such an appropriate verse for our nation that is facing hurricanes, fires and floods. Yet in the midst of natural storms I have received many letters from people who are facing life storms. These people have written to me to ask for prayer as they have been crying out for help. God has heard your cries of distress!
“…But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.”
Your cry has reached His ears. Psalm 18 goes on to say,
“He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. The Lord rewarded me for doing right; he restored me because of my innocence.”
Because of my innocence…
As soon as I read those words I was once again taken into a Heavenly courtroom where the enemy was gathering “proof of guilt” against the saints of God. As he presented the evidence of guilt before this court, it was place in the hands of Jesus where it transformed into a blackish sludge and poured through the holes in His hands. As it did it became a liquid gold that was so pure that it was transparent. Guilt was turned to absolute innocence. As the proof of guilt became the proof of innocence because of the blood of Jesus, I saw Heavenly help and rescues angels released.
Because of the greatness of His love, you have been declared innocent! No matter what you have done or what penalty you deserve, as the evidence of guilt is placed into the hands of your Savior it transforms into pure innocence.
Let’s look even further into Psalm 18,
“Then at your command, O Lord, at the blast of your breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare. He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters.”
Just like when the Israelites stood before the Red Sea and the Lord opened up a way where the bottom of that sea could be seen and the foundations do the Earth were laid bare; He will command a way to open up before you that will rescue you from what has been too strong for you.
Psalm 18 is a promise of rescue for you. Jesus has provided innocence to cover you and release a rush of Heavenly help to assist you at this time. This is your prayer, your promise and your declaration.
The innocence provided for you in Christ Jesus is, even now, releasing deliverance from your enemies and help in your distress.