Australian Floods Tragedy, Judgment, Grace

Article by Bill Muehlenberg

Whenever a major disaster or national tragedy breaks forth, a heated debate tends to arise within Christian circles. Opinions tend to be polarised, with two sets of extremes on offer. On the one hand are those who claim this is all the judgment of God, and people need to repent. On the other hand are those who argue that God would never do such things, and it is ridiculous to drag God into any of this.

From a biblical point of view, I tend to find both perspectives unhelpful. The truth is, we often simply do not know – and are not told – why a particular event happens. Are the floods in Queensland the direct and specific work of God, whether in judgment or for some other reason?

Who knows? I can’t say that it is or it is not. We simply cannot know for certain. So we need to be careful about rushing to judgment here. The truth is, when God acted in the Old Testament, he generally revealed his purposes in his actions. He would communicate his purposes to man, often through his prophets. Thus divine actions were explained by divine speech.

We now refer to this as speech acts. God acts, but he utters his intentions along with it. There are countless examples of this found in the Old Testament. For example, Yahweh says to Jeremiah, “When you tell these people all this and they ask you, ‘Why has the LORD decreed such a great disaster against us? What wrong have we done? What sin have we committed against the LORD our God?’ then say to them, ‘It is because your ancestors forsook me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law’” (Jer. 16:10-11).

Thus divine commentary accompanies divine actions. But today things are not so clear cut, so we need to proceed with caution. The problem is, we do not have that same prophetic word today. We do not now have a clear word from God every time some tragedy or disaster takes place.

But it seems the other extreme is just as bad, if not worse. These people argue that God could in no way be behind such tragedies. They think any form of divine judgment is simply not on today. As one believer put it on another site: “thats not true christianity … love love love”.

To be honest, these people are far less biblical than the first group. The first group at least has plenty of biblical precedent for their claims, while the second group is simply unbiblical. Indeed, they are little more than modern day Marcionites.

Marcion was an early church heretic who rejected the God of the Old Testament, and demanded a radical discontinuity between the Testaments. Marcionites said that Yahweh has nothing to do with Jesus and the gospel. The early church fathers rightly condemned this as unbiblical heresy.

The God we serve is the unchanging, eternal God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is just as full of grace in the OT as he is of judgment in the NT. I have written about this frequently on this site. See for example:
http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2010/05/27/on-divine-love-and-wrath/

Just as judgment from God broke forth against a sinful and rebellious people in the OT, so too we find it in the NT. Consider just a few of the episodes recorded there, such as that of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, or the judgment on Herod in Acts 12.

Jesus spoke clearly about this in many places. Consider his remarks in Luke 13:1-5. He mentions two tragedies, including a fallen tower which killed 18 people. He simply notes these cases, then twice says this: “unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Our Christian commentator who said “thats not true christianity … love love love” has obviously not read this passage, nor so many others like it. She would be the first to rebuke Jesus for his lack of compassion, and this heartless utterance of unloving words at such a difficult time.

It is amazing how some Christians think they are more loving than Jesus was. But Jesus – who was too wise to make a mistake and too loving to be unkind – knew exactly what needed to be said. He knew that judgment was imminent, and that the most loving thing he could do was to warn people to flee the wrath to come.

The truth is, a black cloud of judgment hangs over all of us. Very often God indeed does use natural and human tragedies to get our attention, to realign our priorities, and to get us right with him before it is too late. And even the Jesus of the Gospels – who we want to tame, domesticate and transform into our image – makes this clear.

Then there is the book of Revelation. Hopefully these Christian who say God would never judge us still believe that Revelation is God’s word to us, that it is still part of our inspired Scriptures. One Toowoomba resident said of the flood carnage, “The destruction is like from the Armageddon”.

Yes, believers do – or should – believe in Armegeddon, and the divine wrath unleashed as recorded in Revelation. Thus if believers can accept the judgment of God there, why is it not possible that he continues to judge according to his own plans and purposes?

Indeed, it can be argued that grace and judgments are inseparably linked with God, and we can no more speak only of his love than we can speak only of his anger and wrath against sin. Both go together and both describe who God is. His love is a holy love, and his judgments are always linked to grace.

We see that throughout Scripture. When God judged Adam and Eve by excluding them from the Garden, that was an act of grace. To live forever in a sinful, rebellious condition would have been horrible. And in that expulsion from Eden, he also provided a covering for the pair. Judgement and grace always go together.

We find this running all through the Bible. Indeed, it is such an important theme that a brand new book devotes 650 pages to this topic. I refer to James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Crossway, 2010).

In it he rightly argues that God’s grace is always accompanied by God’s judgment. God cannot save without also judging. When Yahweh saved Israel, he simultaneously judged Egypt. When God delivered David and Israel, he judged Goliath and the Philistines. We find this time and again in Scripture.

And the ultimate work of grace and salvation – the death and resurrection of Christ – was also the supreme work of judgment. Jesus was judged and took upon himself the wrath of God in order that we might escape it. God’s glory is made manifest in both his salvation and his judgment.

As Hamilton says, “This glory of God is a saving and judging glory – an aroma of life to those being saved and death to those perishing (2 Cor. 2:15-16), and this saving and judging glory is at the center of biblical theology.” The holiness of God and the love of God must always be kept together.

“While God’s steadfast love is seen in salvation, it is also seen in judgment. When God judges, he enforces standards he himself has set, showing steadfast love to himself and the demands of his character. Further, when God judges, he shows steadfast love to his people. They are saved from their enemies when he judges those enemies. They are saved from their sins when God judges their sins (e.g., Isa. 40:2; Rom. 8:3).”

But getting back to the floods, we are simply faced with mega-questions, such as: what is the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility? Thus in this case, can we simply say it was an act of God, or largely due to human irresponsibility (not building enough dams, etc.), or other factors, or a combination thereof?

In our fallen and finite state, we just will not have perfectly clear answers on all this, at least on this side of eternity. But if it is foolhardy to argue that every disaster is an act of God’s judgment, it is just as foolhardy to believe that God does not or cannot judge as he freely chooses.

Whatever is the actual cause of all this, as always, believers can pray for those affected, and offer tangible expressions of help and encouragement. Already believers are praying, giving and acting to help those involved. That much we can always do.

http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/11/tragedy-judgment-grace/

What do YOU think?

comments

Comments

  1. -"The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it." (Jer 18,7)

    Since I live in Australia  -and have lived in a number of other countries with much better spiritual climates – I know how much repentance is needed here, especially of prayerlessness and our self-suficiency and self-reliance, trying to do it all on our own and ignore God. Independence from God is a big one. And there are many many other sins that are prevalent.

     

    I have heard for example that they were about to bring a new law in Queensland to allow babies in mother's wombs to killed even in the 8th month of pregnancy, and it was due to be voted this January! Well, the floods came faster …

     

    Oh, when are we going to give up our: I am alright mate! attitude! I don't need God's direction in everything, I can lead a church by myself, I know how to build it, I know what programs to organise and the Holy Spirit can take a back seat and watch my wonderful achievements through my own ingenuosity and wisdom. I know how to run my life and I am doing a good job without needing to consult God all the time and neither do I need the others in the church, I am all-sufficient by myself… – these are some of the attitudes that quite a number of Christian have – of course, there is always a remnant who thinks and lives differently.

     

    It reminds me of something Jesus described:

    ' Because you say: I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and nake – I counsel you to buy gold refined in the fire, that you MAY BE RICH; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. AS MANY AS I LOVE, I REBUKE AND CHASTEN. THEREFORE, BE ZEALOUS AND REPENT." (Revelation 3:17-19)

  2. Melody, I pray that you will spend some time reading the journey of this man (with his wife) who tried to follow the Lord with all their hearts.

    http://www.cfcindia.com/web/mainpages/book_window.php?book=the_day_of_small_beginnings_volume1

    http://www.cfcindia.com/web/mainpages/book_window.php?book=the_day_of_small_beginnings_volume2

  3. MelodyCat says:

    Redbuck40,

    I have had much to do with people who say they hear God and give prophecies. I have been around and not frightened to go beyond my own denomination and go elsewhere to hear what other preach and teach in their denominations/churches.

    I have also found on close personal examination many have been found to be either apostates and/or having made false prophecies in the past ( a sign they are truly not God’s prophets).

    Any mature Christian who reads God’s Word will know what is occurring around them and why. Jesus told us but seems most like to dabble in signs and wonders and bragging of their connection to the Lord (if it is God and not a counterfeit).

    Jesus always warned us of MANY (not just some) False Teachers and Prophets. Jesus warned us to not be deceived.

    I don’t just follow those with fanciful stories of their dreams and visions. I can make preditions based on observation and say we will have floods or fires in Asutralia that is a 50/50 chance of being fulfilled regularly, no big deal. Easily done and then trot it out when it happens, hide it if they don’t come true.

    I like to be certain what I believe and who I put my trust in and it won’t be any arrogant person boasting of their supposed powers.

    I made a choice years ago to repent and receive Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and I follow no other.

    Only arrongant fools boast that other Christians cannot have direction or guidance from God. We all have the Holy Spirit and are taken care of by the Lord for we are His Sheep. Even if I am led to a place to die, it is God’s will for my days to have ended on this Earth. I have full trust in God but not in any Man on this earth. Especially boasters of how they have supernatural powers from God.

    I have read the Bible over and over again. Ocassionally here and there God answers questions I have brought up about this or that. One of my latest questions answered was about people who brag to have supernatural powers and through His Word I got several scriptures that clearly shed light on this for me.

    I go back to what Jesus warned us to do in these last days.

    MT 24: 23 At that time if anyone says to you, `Look, here is the Christ!’ or, `There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.

    MT 24:26 “So if anyone tells you, `There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, `Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

    You boast as if you have some extra secret or teaching that other Christians do not. How stupid to make out you are better than another Brother or Sister in Christ who has read the Word of God and desires only the Truth of God. In God’s Word we have all we need.

    God grief you go around saying I got a direct message from God so repent. Yet the very Word of God says that over and over again. The only people you fool with your boasting and your prophecies are those who are ignorant of God’s Word and those Christians too lazy to read it for themselves (hopefully only for a while until they wise up and remove themselves from false teachers).

    The gospels and the book of Acts clearly instruct the world to repent for the kingdom of God is near. You don’t need to have fancy visions or prophecies to share that message just read the Gospels and teach from them.

    JN 4:48 “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

    But the signs and wonders done amongst the Jews and Gentiles were not enough to convince many to Believe. The signs and wonders were not enough.

    AC 6:8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)–Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.

    AC 14:1 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the good news.

    IN the End Jesus made this observation about the need to SEEK God and His Truth over signs & wonders.

    MT 12:38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.”

    MT 12:39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.

    Signs and Wonders had a purpose to attest that Jesus & the Apostles who spoke the salvation message were from God.

    AC 2:22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.

    HEB 2:1 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

    So excuse me for not bothering to spend any of my precious time and energy following anyone who Boasts of the Prophecies or Signs and Wonders.

    2TH 2:5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

    Not wasting my time to find out if you are really of God or just producing couterfeit signs and wonders given to you by Satan!

    I follow God’s Word and His teaching and pray to the Father and take whatever comes my way with the Lord who is with me always. I don’t need anybody’s Crystal Ball show. Also I have God’s Word to share with others to help them come to repentance. I don’t need any magical performances from False Teachers and Prophets to help me interpret God’s Word either, I have the Holy Spirit.

    1JN 2:20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

    1JN 2:24 See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us–even eternal life.

    1JN 2:26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.

    1JN 2:28 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

    1JN 2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

    Those who some up with reasons that God has poured out his Wrath on Queensland obviously don’t know what the Bible clearly teaches.

    Innocent Children were dragged off into the waters and drowned for the Sins of others?

    Yet the Bible clearly teaches EVERBODY will die for their own SINS!

    JER 31:27 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will plant the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the offspring of men and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the LORD.

    29 “In those days people will no longer say,
    `The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’

    JER 31:30 Instead, everyone will die for his own sin; whoever eats sour grapes–his own teeth will be set on edge.

    That time has come with Jesus. We are now accountable for our own sins.

    Many who supposedly Prophesy in the name of the Lord do so contrary to God’s Word and God’s way. Now if I was ignorant of scripture I would easily believe these false prophets. However I have been fortunate enough to have applied myself to reading the Bible and praying for the Holy Spirit’s revelation all these years I have been a Christian.

    Just remember you if you are a false prophet what will be awaiting you and I hope you have “fear of the Lord” to go away and work out exactly where you may be getting your supposed powers.

    2PE 2:17 These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”

    I don’t heed your words but God’s Word is my final and ultimate authority.

    • Redbuck40 says:

      You went to such great detail to criticise me, and by doing have disobeyed the scripture which says: Test the fruit to see if the tree is good.

      “So excuse me for not bothering to spend any of my precious time and energy following anyone who Boasts of the Prophecies or Signs and Wonders.”

      I never asked you to follow me, indeed I didn’t even give you the prophesy I spoke instead I urged you to search the subject, and you refused to even do that.

      Did I say anything that was against scripture? Did I say I was the only I who heard? Did I mention miracles, wonders. dreams or visions?

      “Not wasting my time to find out if you are really of God or just producing couterfeit signs and wonders given to you by Satan!”

      How can you tell if someone is a true teacher or prophet except by the words they speak and the things they do. By which one of these do you condemn me for being false?

      You chose not to test but make the claim that the work of Father is the work of Satan. You are very close to the unforgivable sin.

      “I don’t need any magical performances from False Teachers and Prophets to help me interpret God’s Word either, I have the Holy Spirit.”

      If you did have The Holy Spirit, firstly you would obey his commands to test, and secondly you would not be slandering me.

      • "If you did have The Holy Spirit, firstly you would obey his commands to test, and secondly you would not be slandering me."

        Chris, you have to be very careful about trading put down for put down. This is tantamount to saying that Mel does not belong to Christ because she hasn't studied your life and because she has kind of put you down by her reference to your prophetic insights.

        I would be very careful about making such pronouncements, especially in this case, because I personally believe that it isn't true, and it could be very hurtful to a sensitive soul.

        Hopefully God has given us enough wisdom to discuss issues with people without quickly implying that they are not real Christians just because they write something we find hurtful.

        I suspect Mel has seen just so much questionable stuff being passed off as gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as having had to face her own disappointments, that she is speaking out of frustration and disappointment as well.

        I hope this will be a place where we seek to lift each other and encourage one another.

        • Redbuck40 says:

          What I meant by the comment was not that Mel did not have the tutorship of The Holy Spirit, but maybe not the power of The Holy Spirit that grants discernment. We all know the gifts: Knowledge, Wisdom, Special Faith, Healing, Miracles, Prophecy, Discernment, Tongues, Interpretation of Tongues. Not everyone who claims to have ‘The Spirit’ has these gifts.

          All I was saying that Mel exhibited in her letter that she did not have that gift of Discernment and she was choosing not to test.

          I agree that Mel may have had questionable experience with others but that does not give her to right to attack without testing.

          I never meant to imply that Mel was not a christian, as you and I Michael understand the term christian. All I want Mel to do is test before passing judgment, to ask for the Power of Discernment from the giver of The Holy Spirit, Jesus, and eagerly seek the gifts that will help in her ‘witnessing’.

  4. Redbuck40 says:

    “Who knows? I can’t say that it is or it is not. We simply cannot know for certain. So we need to be careful about rushing to judgment here. The truth is, when God acted in the Old Testament, he generally revealed his purposes in his actions. He would communicate his purposes to man, often through his prophets. Thus divine actions were explained by divine speech.”

    If we cannot know for certain do we place suspicion on those who spoke before time of this event? Father may not have revealed it to you in advance and for you, you are a spectator, but he DID reveal it in advance, not only through me (4 years ago), but many others have prophesied these events, sometime many more years in advance.

    Melodycat, if you haven’t heard I would encourage you to ask Father. If not then do a search of it on google. You wont find what I said (I sent it directly to the PM and most members of parliament this time 2007), but there are many others who have spoken of these events.

    By the way we didn’t DRAG God into this, he has been in the center all the time.

    More disasters are to come.

    The article though interesting doesn’t answer questions, it gives supposition. The author does not know what Father is doing, and assume’s that nobody else does either.

  5. Thanks for posting it Mel.

    I think the author has a point when he talks about God's judgements and grace working together. And also, the difficulty we face in interpreting these things as a judgment from God, especially when the true prophetic voices of God who give answers to these questions, are not heard, or not universally acknowledged.

    So if it is in any sense a judgement from God, is there a TRUE prophetic voice who can tell us what it is a judgement for?

    The prophets I have heard who predicted judgements on Australia, and I can think of at least 3 I heard BEFORE the events, mentioned several areas. The main ones being:

    1. The stinginess and love of money in the hearts of the Christians, as seen in our missions giving. For me this was best exemplified by a Christian man I was sharing about some missions needs with who told me "Tell someone who cares".

    2. The toleration of sexual sin in the churches. There are major churches where trusted leaders have been caught with their pants down, and you don't hear many exhortations to the fear of God.

    If this site seems to some to be SCREAMING repentance (as if that was a really negative thing), it is only because of the general silence on the topic from the most publicly visible churches in the nation.

     

    Apart from this, I hope that these events will wake people up to eternal reality

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