I’m sure that you have noticed that after many years of drought in the eastern states and a few years of reduced rainfall in the southwest here we had a summer plagued by huge bushfires around the nation, including here in the west. Then when rain came, it resulted in significant flooding in some areas with large amounts of property damage. Then we have had multiple cyclones in both the east and the west, and now the threat of plague (well, a new and significant flu virus) is taking a lot of space in the media.
It does make many Christians wonder what God is doing, whether God is punishing Australia for something specific (perhaps voting in same sex marriage), or whether there is any particular message we should be understanding what is happening.
We see particular instances of God sending drought (see 1 Kings 8:35 and 1 Kings 17), or flood (Genesis 6-7) in the Bible in response to people’s sin. At the same time we read description of droughts and famines which make absolutely no mention of sin or why God has decided to send them (see Genesis 41 and Acts 11:28).
When questioned about disasters that befell particular people or groups, in Luke 13 Jesus explained that the disasters which they experienced was not due to their sin, and in passages like Luke 11, Jesus indicates that wars, great earthquakes, famines and pestilences are among events that indicate that the end is near (immediately after being told that when you see some of these things, don’t be afraid, because these sorts of things must happen but aren’t all signs of the end.
As such, we have a somewhat ambiguous biblical approach to understanding events such as the ones our country has recently been experiencing. If you are always on the lookout for signs of Jesus’ return, events such as the ones in the news recently only seem to point you to that conclusion. If you aren’t always on the lookout for signs of Jesus’ return, these events aren’t really that different from many other events which have occurred throughout history, and in most cases aren’t even the worst examples.
So does this series of disasters contain any particular message from God for us?
As is often the case, the answer is both yes and no.
No, there isn’t a particular message in these events because God has not sent a prophet to explain exactly what was coming and what it meant (see 1 Kings 17). All those who claim explanations are only doing so after the event, and doing not much more than guessing based on whatever preference or prejudice they already have with regard to political and other things going on in Australia.
Yes, there is a particular message – that the world is a fallen and dangerous place because of people’s rebellion against God. You never know when your time will be up and you will be called to account for your life by God. And no matter what programs, plans, contingencies or laws we put in place, we can never make ourselves safe, or deal with the real problem the human race faces, which is the problem of the heart.
Tragedies like these should prompt every person to reflect on the fleeting and precarious nature of life, and whether they are prepared to “meet their maker”. Reflection on serious threats should prompt a reflection on life, death and eternity. Yet all too often, people refuse to see what is before them. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:25-34, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body and what you will wear. Is not life more valuable than food, and the body more valuable than clothes? … But seek first [God’s] Kingdom, and [God’s] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” When you see these things, reflect on the fact than more than rain, more than fire breaks and a fuel reduction program, more than dams, managed catchments, cyclone shelters, design codes and medical facilities, you need God’s forgiveness and mercy through Jesus Christ, and so does everyone else.
Think about how you can point people to Jesus as the one who can save you from Hell. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell” and has sent his son Jesus to save you from that! (Matthew 10:28)