The Great Earthquake in Japan – And God

Referring to the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, yesterday’s edition of The Burlington Free Press reported that 7,197 people had died-exceeding the deaths from the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Another 10,909 were reported missing. One week later the earthquake and tsunami spawned a nuclear crisis. The entire world was on alert, watching for any evidence of dangerous spikes in radioactivity, or that damage to the Japanese economy might send ripple effects around the globe.” “BBC News had previously reported that “The quake was the fifth-largest in the world since 1900 and nearly 8,000 times stronger than the one which devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, last month. The tsunami rolled across the Pacific at 500 mph-as fast as a jetliner-before hitting Hawaii and the US West Coast, but there were no reports of major damage from those regions. Thousands of people were ordered to evacuate coastal areas in the states of California, Oregon and Washington. The biggest waves of more than 6-7ft were recorded near California’s Crescent City. A tsunami warning extended across the Pacific to North and South America, where many other coastal regions were evacuated.” “A wave struck Sendai, deluging farmland and sweeping cars across the airport’s runway. Fires broke out in the centre of the city. Japan’s most powerful earthquake since records began has struck the north-east coast, triggering a massive tsunami. Cars, ships and buildings were swept away by a wall of water after the 8.9-magnitude tremor, which struck about 250 miles north-east of Tokyo.

Making sense of natural disasters with the love Almighty God has for all human beings often creates a very challenging dilemma for Christians. Are you and I prepared to handle that challenge? We should be because God wants us to.

“… in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) .

Let’s start first with what in my view are very poor defenses of our faith. We will conclude with what you and I know is the most awful. There are Christians who will simply admit they just don’t know. Nobody does! These folks will tell the unbeliever that as far as he or she is concerned, they will wait until he or she gets to heaven and finds out. In the meantime, they are going to trust Him. Others are embarrassed by these calamities and attempt to get God off ‘the hot seat.’ They offer explanations that God was just as surprised and heartbroken as we were. He created the world and is now sitting on His throne up in heaven watching to see how things are going to turn out. In other words, God doesn’t know anymore than we do. Others insist that Satan rules this world and quote passages such as John 12:31 and 14:30 about Satan being described as ‘the prince of this world’ in hopes of their point. Some will admit they don’t know

because God hasn’t revealed that information to us and cite the following passage from Deuteronomy before attempting to change the subject.

the secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law,” Deuteronomy 29:29 (ESV) .

Some satanically deceived judgmental Christians will insist that the inhabitants of that particular section of Japan must have been worse sinners than those in the rest of the world. Then they will bombard the hapless person with a litany of Hell-fire and brimstone passages to scare the life out of them and warn him or her to accept Christ right on the spot while there is still time.

As a Bible believing Christian, a person who respects the Bible as being our Creators inerrant written revelation of Himself to His human creatures; what Scriptures would you folks share with a non-Christian who is a sincere seeker of truth, a person who asks you how the recent earthquake in Japan and the tsunami that followed squares with the fact that Almighty God is infinite in love? Don’t forget that the person God brought into your life is a fellow human being created in His image and likeness, and who is also a sinner just as you and me. Nevertheless, if he or she has not yet accepted his or her forgiveness for their sins through Christ’s atonement on His cross, they are condemning themselves to Hell. In other words, I’m referring to a fallen human being, some of whom we love dearly. That person is destined to suffer infinitely greater throughout eternity than what is occurring as a result of that recent tragedy unless he or she accepts the love and forgiveness of the Risen Savior. To start with, I suggest that the satanically deceived judgmental Christian I mentioned a moment ago was greatly mistaken and offer the following teaching of Christ in rebuttal.

Luke 13:1-5 (NIV)
1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.
2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?
3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Commenting on these verses in his famous Daily Study Bible, William Barclay writes that “if Jesus’ hearers did not repent they too would perish. What did he mean? One thing is clear–he foresaw and foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in A.D. 70 (compare Luke. 21:21-24). He knew that if the Jews went on with their intrigues, their rebellions, their plotting, and their political ambitions that they were simply going to commit national suicide. Jesus knew that in the end Rome would step in and obliterate the nation, and that is precisely what happened. So what Jesus meant was that if the Jewish nation kept on seeking an earthly kingdom and rejecting the Kingdom of God they could come to only one end.”

I suggest that we share with sincere seekers of truth about a man named Cyrus. Thousands of years ago God revealed vitally important information to him. Unknown to Cyrus, and working behind the scenes throughout his life, God made certain that Cyrus was fully prepared and thoroughly equipped to assume the high position of being a very special king. The Lord had supported, strengthened, guided and directed and strongly inclined and enabled Cyrus to do exactly what He wanted to accomplish through him. This man was destined to be used by God as a human instrument to do great things, especially in delivering the Jews from captivity and restoring them to their own land. As you read these verses you might say; everything he touched turned to gold. Despite being privy to such wonderful foreknowledge, as far as we know, Cyrus left this world in the same spiritual condition as when he entered it—a pagan, just as many unbelievers He uses to bless you and I do. Nevertheless, God revealed to Cyrus profound truths including one which, as we are about to see in Isaiah, will never take God off of the hot seat!

1 “This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:
2 I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.
3 I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
4 For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me.
5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me,
6 so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.
7 I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.
8 “You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the LORD, have created it.
9 “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’?
10 Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What have you begotten?’ or to his mother, ‘What have you brought to birth?’
11 “This is what the LORD says– the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?
12 It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.
13 I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the LORD Almighty,” Isaiah 45:1-13 (NIV)

Concerning natural disasters, Brian H. Edwards in his excellent work entitled ‘Not By Chance’ explains that, “the Bible everywhere teaches that God must and will punish sin. Christ claimed to have ‘authority to judge’ (John 5:27), Paul spoke of the day when ‘God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ’ (Romans 2:16). Hebrews 9:27 reminds us that man is ‘destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.’ James warned that ‘Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful” (James 2:13). Peter looked on a time when men ‘will have to give an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead’ (1 Peter 4:5). John encouraged Christians with the reminder that they will have confidence on the ‘Day of Judgment’ (1 John 4:17). And Jude expected a day when the Lord would come’ to judge everyone (Jude v 15). The result of that judgment for those who do not trust in Christ for salvation is almost too terrible to describe. Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul referred to it this way: ‘They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and the majesty of His power’ (2 Thessalonians 1:9). John put the matter plainly when he wrote, ‘if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire’ (Revelation 20:15).”

“So, what has all his to do with natural disasters? Just this: every natural disaster is not merely a reminder of the immediate result of sin, but a solemn warning of the ultimate result of sin. The tragedy of… [the earthquake and tsunami in Japan] …was not because those… [Japanese]…were a more sinful people than anywhere else, but it was, and is, a serious warning that sin brings judgment from which none can escape. Natural disasters are the Day of Judgment written small. They are effectively God’s trumpet sounding an alarm that all is not well with the world, that man cannot control his world and that man is responsible and answerable to a God who punishes disobedience. The reason for the disaster is once again positive and constructive: it is intended to point man away from himself.” I can best explain the horror of hell and the joy of heaven by recalling that Christ left heaven and lived and died on this sinful earth in order that he might save us from hell and bring us to heaven. God knows what hell is like.”

Now allow me to share excerpts from a sermon that was recently sent to me via email. It was preached in Hanover County, Virginia, on June 19, 1756, by Samuel Davies. In this sermon, Davies is referring to the Great Lisbon Earthquake which took place on November 1, 1755. Contemporary reports state that the earthquake lasted nearly six minutes, causing gigantic fissures 15 feet wide. Approximately forty minutes after the earthquake, an enormous tsunami engulfed the harbor and downtown. It was followed by two more waves. In the areas unaffected by the tsunami, fire quickly broke out, and flames raged for five days! Tsunamis as tall as 66 feet swept the coast of North Africa, and struck Martinique and Barbados across the Atlantic. Let’s take a look at the following two verses from Isaiah where we read that,

“Those who flee in terror will fall into a trap, and those who escape the trap will step into a snare. Destruction falls on you from the heavens. The earth is shaken beneath you. The earth has broken down and has utterly collapsed. Everything is lost, abandoned, and confused. The earth staggers like a drunkard. It trembles like a tent in a storm. It falls and will not rise again, for its sins are very great!” Isaiah 24:18-20

Davies continues: “The works of Creation and Providence were undoubtedly intended to get their attention and for the contemplation of mankind, especially when God comes out of his place and departs from the usual and stated course of his providence — to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquities. It behooves us therefore to observe the operation of his hands with fear and reverence which the Psalmist repeatedly calls us to do.

Come, see the glorious works of the LORD: See how he brings destruction upon the earth!” Psalm 46:8.

Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!” Psalm 66:5.

This world is like a school of discipline for the eternal world. Therefore, chastisements of various kinds and degrees are to be considered as being the ordinary works of Providence. Pain, sickness, losses, bereavements and disappointments are the usual scourges of the divine hand, which our heavenly father uses every day, to chastise his wayward children. But when these are found to be too weak and not effective to persuade them to change, or when, because they are so frequent and common that people begin to think them as being just another part of life and not acknowledge the divine hand in them; then the universal Ruler departs from his usual methods of chastisements, and uses extraordinary executioners of his vengeance to wake up a slumbering world, and make it aware of his hand in it. Through these horrendous events, God throws his world into turmoil. God either controls its established laws, or carries them to execution. This method was formed only for extraordinary occasions.” In so many words, Davies was referring to what is known as the Sovereignty of God which Arthur W. Pink in his classic work of that name defines as being “…his eternal, unchanging purpose concerning everything which he has made, and which would be brought about by a predetermined means to their appointed ends. Concerning this, God expressly declares,

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is to come. I say My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please,” (Isaiah 46:10).

This is the absolute effective will of God. It’s always effective, and it’s always fulfilled. Whatever God has determined to do before He created the world, whether to do it Himself, or to do it by others, or to allow it to be done in the course of human history, knowledge which is known only to Himself, and is not made known by any event in ‘providence,’ (which J. I. Packer defines as being ‘the unceasing activity of the Creator whereby, in overflowing bounty and goodwill, He upholds His creatures in ordered existence, guides and governs all events, circumstances, and free acts of angles and men, and directs everything to its appointed goal, for His own glory. Pink explains: “these things are not known by precept or by prophecy because it is His ‘secret will.’ Such are the deep things of God, the thoughts of His heart, and the counsels of his mind, which are incomprehensible to all creatures. But when these are made known they become His ‘revealed will’ as is the case of almost the entire book of Revelation, wherein God has made known to us things which “must soon take place.” These are the things that must soon take place, because He has eternally purposed that they should.”

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, Revelation 1:1 (ESV).

None of us are able to go to Japan and help those poor suffering people and we may or may not be able to send funds to Christian ministries that do. However, we can all pray! I would like to express my appreciation to two friends of mine, Guy Rossi of Reformed Bible Church for letting me know about a certain wonderful prayer by John Piper, and to Bob Terranova from our own Harvest Time for quickly taking the time after that fellowship ended last week to go home and look for it on Piper’s web site and sending it to me. I will conclude this message with that prayer. Let’s bow our heads.

Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees.

O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you.

And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.

Have you not encouraged us in this? Have we not heard a hundred times in your Word the riches of your kindness, forbearance, and patience? Do you not a thousand times withhold your judgments, leading your rebellious world toward repentance? Yes, Lord. For your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts.

Grant, O God, that the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Grant us, your sinful creatures, to return to you, that you may have compassion. For surely you will abundantly pardon. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, your beloved Son, will be saved.

May every heart-breaking loss—millions upon millions of losses—be healed by the wounded hands of the risen Christ. You are not unacquainted with your creatures’ pain. You did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all.

In Jesus you tasted loss. In Jesus you shared the overwhelming flood of our sorrows and suffering. In Jesus you are a sympathetic Priest in the midst of our pain.

Deal tenderly now, Father, with this fragile people. Woo them. Win them. Save them.

And may the floods they so much dread make blessings break upon their head.

O let them not judge you with feeble sense, but trust you for your grace. And so behind this providence, soon find a smiling face.

In Jesus’ merciful name, Amen.

Please visit www, GraceGems.org where you can browse and freely download thousands of choice devotional books, sermons and quotes, along with select audio messages.

Lord willing, I’ll be back in this pulpit on April the 3rd.

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March 20, 2011 Posted by Categories: Uncategorized 3 comments

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