Does God Cause Disasters?

November 20, 2013

“When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?” (Amos 3:6) Anyone who reads the Old Testament can see that God certainly sent calamity to cities and nations as punishment for their wicked deeds. For God hates sin and evil, oppression and violence, injustice and perversion. Consequently, He does “march out like a warrior” (see Isa. 42:13) and “lay waste the mountains.” (v. 15) “He humbles those who dwell on high, He lays the lofty city low; He levels it to the ground…” (26:5)

The Lord does these things to punish, but also to warn, for He says, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ezek. 33:11) Devastations and hardships have a way of turning people to God and repentance. As Isa. 26:9 says, “When Your judgments [O Lord] come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.” Not everyone learns it, though, and how quickly many forget that God is to be obeyed and feared. (v. 10) For though the Lord graciously spares the wicked, they go right on doing evil. (same verse)

“See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, a driving wind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back until He fully accomplishes the purposes of His heart…” (Jer. 30:23,24) “When… they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot Me. So I will come upon them like a lion… I will attack them and rip them open.” (Ho. 13:6-8) God “calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land [tsunamis, etc.] –the LORD is His name– He flashes destruction on the stronghold and brings the fortified city to ruin.” (Amos 5:8,9) In view of such verses, it should be undeniable that God does bring stinging judgements to those who “turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground.” (v. 7)

But are all disasters –from nature, accidents, the economy, or evil people– caused by the Lord? No, for there are verses that teach otherwise, though being we know that God is sovereign over the whole universe and everyone and everything in it, He can keep any event from happening if He so chooses. In Isa. 54:15, He says, “If anyone does attack you, it will not be My doing”, revealing that all troubles are not from His hand. Even so, in the very next verse, God says, “…it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc.” (v. 16) Indeed, God insists that He is the one who brings prosperity, creates disaster, and commands both calamities and good things. (Isa. 45:7 // Lam. 3:38)

So which is it? Has the Lord sent the “natural disaster” or is it a case of how “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”? (Mt. 5:45) And if He is the one who sent it, is He punishing the wicked, or refining and testing the righteous, or warning and teaching the world to fear Him? Is the city or nation being judged, or is it a case like that which Jesus spoke of concerning the tower in Siloam which fell and killed 18 people, though they were not, as Jesus stated, more guilty than their fellow townsmen? (Luke 13:4)

So, what should we conclude? How should we view “natural disasters”? I believe there is no set answer that applies across the board, and that this is why people continue to disagree about this issue. God’s Word definitely teaches that God uses, even sends, judgements to the earth in the form of whirlwinds, floods, famine, drought, and war. But we also know He has set in place the laws of nature.

Therefore, when each calamity comes, we should ask the Lord to instruct us about it. And rather than wait until after the tragedy, we should call out to God to divert it while being sure that we are walking in obedience to Him at all times. For though “God is a righteous Judge, a God who expresses His wrath every day,” (Ps. 7:11), He is also “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4:2)

with love,

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