Several years ago I was on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida’s panhandle near Pensacola. It was right after Hurricane Andrew and we had driven out to Santa Rosa Island. In my opinion they should not even call these gulf islands; ‘islands’. They are nothing more than sandbars sitting in the path of Hurricane Alley. In the wake of Andrew the ‘island’ had moved 10-15 meters north. The houses that survived were now standing in the water. They had hired earth movers to bring the sand back to the windward side of the island.
Spotting a man cleaning up his rubble I asked him if he was going to rebuild his house. “Of course, this is my home and I am not leaving. This is the third time I have lost it in 15 years and I am not moving.” Well, give the man full points for stubbornness, zero for sensibility. The house next door had disappeared completely and the lot was for sale. “How much for this vacant lot?” I queried. “$400,000,” He replied. “Is that with or without the beach?” (Now on the other side of the island.) I asked in a sort of smart alecky kind of way. “Without,” he explained, “you have to bring back the sand yourself.” I will leave my opinions as to what I think of building homes on sandbars or below sea level to your imagination.
It seems like almost every week some devastating occurrence happens somewhere in the world …earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, cyclones, volcanoes. The latest of course, being the incredible earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan. The images of vehicles and buildings being tossed casually against the shoreline like they were nothing more than little plastic toys was shocking to say the least and of course heart wrenching when considering the loss of human life.
If it seems like these kinds of natural disasters are becoming more frequent, that is because they are. Hollywood has picked up on it and they continue to make apocalyptic disaster movies like, The Day After Tomorrow, Volcano, Flood and 2012. They seem to think the earth is going to end in a bang not a whimper. Even a casual read through the book of Revelation will reveal that on this one they got it right.
So what is going on in these days which we are living? The Apostle Paul gives us an important clue. “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Romans 8:22) These increasing natural disasters are the planet itself groaning and travailing in anticipation of the end. We often think of the earth as a inanimate object, nothing more than a collection of elements brought together by time and chance. Not so. There is something dynamic, arguably personified about our planet. Paul explains that creation itself is restless and is waiting for God’s people to be revealed in the purpose for which we were created; to worship Him. “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19-21)
In the book of Leviticus God gave his people a list of abominable behaviour. Things like bestiality, homosexuality, incest, etc. Some of which we consider normal today. He warned them saying to avoid them… “lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” (Leviticus 18:28) Again the earth is personified and seems to care how we live. This is about the point where some will react and say, ‘are you trying to say that these innocent people are bringing natural disasters on themselves?’ No, I don’t think that would be helpful to say at all. If that is the case Hollywood should have been hit with the ‘big one’ a long time ago. I prefer the way Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz put it after 9/11 when she was asked where God was in all of it. She graciously responded;
“I would say also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection. We need to turn to God first of all and say, God, we’re sorry we have treated you this way and we invite you now to come into our national life.”
Lotz was correct. That is exactly what the scripture requires. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” Abraham Lincoln put it another way. “I fear for my nation when I remember that God is just.” Yup, me too.