Calamity is defined as:
an event causing great and often sudden damage or distress; a disaster.
This week I am talking about observed calamity as opposed to experienced calamity. My desire is to talk about the condition of humanity and not about personal suffering.
I want to start by considering humanity’s relationship with God. To do so, I will start with Psalm 2.
Psalms 2 says:
Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ ” Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. (Psalms 2:1-12 NKJV)
The nations rage. The rulers of the earth take counsels together against God.
The Lord asks why.
In another place the Lord says:
“I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ To a nation that was not called by My name. I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts; a people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; who sacrifice in gardens, and burn incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves, And spend the night in the tombs; who eat swine’s flesh, and the broth of abominable things is in their vessels; who say, ‘Keep to yourself, Do not come near me, For I am holier than you!’ These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day. “Behold, it is written before Me: I will not keep silence, but will repay— Even repay into their bosom—”Isaiah 65:1-6 NKJV
God stretches out His hands to a rebellious people.
The key to understanding the attitude of the rulers of the earth and the attitude of those to whom God has stretched out His hands is this word “rebellion.”
The history of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament gives us an example to understand the results of this attitude toward God. This is helpful for all of us, because we are all born with self-will.
Just to be clear that this applies to us all, I want to quote for you Romans 3:10-12.
As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12 NKJV)
This describes the rebellion against God in the human heart.
If we go back to Psalms 2, we see that the rulers of the earth say,
Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.
What causes people to view the statutes of the Lord as bonds to be broken? Speaking of the commandments of the Lord the Psalmist says in Psalm 19,
More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalms 19:10-11 NKJV)
If the commandments of the Lord are so good, why do the rulers of the earth rage against God?
Isaiah 65 that we just read gives us a hint. It says. “Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts.” We want to do whatever pleases us. The answer lies in the human heart. At the core, each of us starts out as an idol worshipper, and the idol is the self. Some people desire comfort above all else and will do anything to get it. Others desire pleasure and still others crave security. Those who see money as the way to get what they want are in danger of treating money as a god, while those who view power as a way to get what they want are likely to do anything to gain power. Still others crave acceptance and will do anything to be accepted by others. The Bible describes these cravings as coming in three types:
- The lust of the flesh
- The lust of the eyes
- The boastful pride of life.
These lusts are reflected in the rebellion in the heart.
As I started to say, the history of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament serves as an example of the results of rebellion against God. Returning to Isaiah 65, I want to focus on just a few words. In verse 5, it says of the attitude of the people of Israel,
These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day. (Isaiah 65:5 NKJV)
God was expressing His displeasure with the attitude and behavior of the people. He was stretching out His hand to them but they were rebellious and would not listen. Isaiah was a prophet, and he warned the people of what was coming as a result of their rebellion. God sent other prophets over a long period of time until finally the promised calamity struck.
The northern kingdom of Israel was attacked and conquered by the Assyrians. This great calamity could have been avoided if the people would only have listened to the prophets, repented and sought the Lord.
The southern kingdom of Judah saw what happened to Israel and yet they also refused to listen to the prophets and finally, a little over 100 years after Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, the Babylonians conquered Judah.
Isaiah is the first of the prophets in the Old Testament Scriptures. His words were well known in Israel. They would have known the words we have read today, including these words from Isaiah 65:6:
I will not keep silence, but will repay— Even repay into their bosom.
When calamity struck the northern kingdom, the southern kingdom could have taken warning, but instead, they were proud and said, “We are better than them.” So, calamity eventually struck them as well.
Jesus warned of an attitude of pride. Luke 13 tells of two calamities that happened in Israel during the days of Jesus.
About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.” (Luke 13:1-5 NLT)
Jesus was talking about two calamities that happened in His day and saying that the people that observed those calamities needed to take warning and repent of their sins.
Psalm 9 is a Psalm that speaks of God’s judgment against the wicked. Psalm 9:11 says:
Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds! (Psalms 9:11 ESV)
The deeds this Psalm is talking about are God’s judgment of the ungodly. For example, verses 5-6 say:
You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever. The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins; their cities you rooted out; the very memory of them has perished. (Psalms 9:5-6 ESV)
Consider carefully these words. “You have made the wicked perish; You have blotted out their name forever and ever.” God is not a passive observer in the affairs of men. Ephesians 1:11 assures us that he works everything according to the counsel of His will. Blotting out their name forever reminds me of God’s judgments against Babylon and against Petra and against Tyre. All these cities came to tragic ends just as God foretold through the prophets.
The Psalmist also gives another truth. Look with me at verses 9 and 12.
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted. (Psalms 9:9, 12 ESV)
The Lord is a helper for the oppressed.
The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. But God was not deaf to their cries for help. He sent Moses to tell the Egyptians to let His people go. The ten plagues gave Egypt ten opportunities to repent. But, they would not, and in the end, Egypt was all but wiped out.
The Lord is a helper for the oppressed.
I want to quote for you what our 16th president said concerning slavery in their United States. In his second inaugural address President Lincoln said:
The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope -- fervently do we pray -- that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether."
President Lincoln viewed the Civil War as the judgment of God on this nation for its sin of slavery.
The targets of 9/11 represent our false gods. Our might and our prosperity mean everything to us. We are so busy pursuing success we forget about the treasures of heaven. The calamity of 9/11 served as a wakeup call and we must be careful not to forget what is really important, our relationship with God.
I fear even greater calamity for our nation. We will not escape the judgment that is coming because of the killing of babies in the womb.
The godly died along with the ungodly in the attacks on 9/11. The difference is that the ungodly passed from this life to face judgment for sins that they had not repented of. But the godly died having been forgiven of their sins and passed into the presence of the Lord which is better by far than anything we have here on earth. The Bible tells us:
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. (Psalms 116:15 ESV)
The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; (Isaiah 57:1-2 ESV)
Death is not a punishment for the one who has put his/her faith in Christ. As the Apostle Paul said:
My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Philippians 1:23 ESV)
Calamities remind us that judgment is coming.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:9-10 ESV)
Since judgment is sure to come, we must take the advice Peter offers:
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:11-13 ESV)