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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Are these floods judgement from God?

The highest river levels in Worcester
Hylton Road/River looking out of town
As I write this blog the river level is 5.63m (at a place called Barbourne) and rising: the highest level at this point was 5.64m in 2007 [normal level for this place, 0.6 -3.4m].  Local bridges are closed and many roads need renaming, "New Road Brook", "Hylton River", and so on. What shall we make of these unprecedented floods, called "biblical" by the Prime Minister David Cameron?

Are they judgement from God?

No and Yes.

On the one hand, they do not come into the category either of the Genesis flood which wiped humanity from the earth, or the waterine destruction meted out to the Egyptian army as it tried to cross the sea in pursuit of Israel. In both these cases the "flooding" was by direct command of God as a response to wickedness - of all mankind in the first instance, and of the haughty Pharoah in the second.

We do not say the days of such 'supernatural' destruction and judgement are over, for the earth will one day be destroyed with fire, according to the Scriptures (1 Peter 3:10). But we do not live in the era of  a national theocracy any more.

Under the Old Covenant (Old Testament), Israel was God's chosen nation and the means of judgement upon wicked nations. In case someone is offended, other nations became God's instrument of judgement upon Israel, when Israel turned wicked. Under the New Covenant (New Testament) God's kingdom is no longer of the world, according to Jesus (John 18:36). His kingdom is spread across the world and resides in the hearts of those who follow him and bow their knees to his loving rule (Luke 17:21). There is no nation any longer on the earth through which God wields "political influence and power." Vatican cities and crusades are redundant - and non-sense - in the new and glorious kingdom of God's Son.

But there is more to it than that. First, there is what we might call the passive judgement of God. We reap what we sow. If we abuse the earth and alter the atmosphere and increase the global temperature of the earth with our wasteful pursuit of stuff, then the consequences are increased sea levels and new - and potentially disastrous - patterns of weather. We mustn't blame the government, we have only ourselves to blame.

Second,  God is still the sovereign ruler and Judge of the earth. Nothing happens in the world that does not cross his desk. Even Satan has to get permission (Job 1) from the King of kings and Lord of lords. If God allows something in his infinite wisdom, it is for a purpose and the mere fact that people are seeking a purpose is a good thing. Why has God allowed this? What is he saying?

The loving Purpose is Warning
On one occasion people came to Jesus with a recent tragedy - the Romans had massacred some Jews. Nothing new, but it had affected the people and they came to Jesus asking if it was a specific judgement on those people. They thought that the ones who had been massacred were worse than those who had escaped. No, says Jesus, adding "Unless you repent you too will all perish." In other words, "Don't get caught up in the good/bad people debate, but instead see this terrible thing as a warning for you: if you don't turn to God, a greater fate will befall you - you will perish", meaning hell (Luke 13).

In other words, the singular lesson everyone should take from tragedies of all kinds is this: they are designed to lead us to God. They are purposed to make us think, "Am I right with God? Because if I am not, then an even greater tragedy lies ahead of me."

The Reason in Repentance
So these floods, and every other tragedy that befalls us has God's loving purpose in mind - to turn us back to God and spare us from the certain judgement that is to come.

Repentance means "turning to God", repentance means "change of mind towards God", repentance means, "turning away from our sins", repentance means, "seeking righteousness.

The floods say one thing: Turned to God in repentance and faith.

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