Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. The video images of skyscrapers in Tokyo, swaying back and forth during this weekend’s monster earthquake, demonstrate this point. The fact that these buildings swayed, but did not fall, is a tribute to Japanese technology and planning. The problem is that there are few skyscrapers in the city of Sendai, which lies along the eastern coast of Japan, just miles from the epicenter of Friday’s massive earthquake. The most prominent structures in Sendai are homes, businesses, and nuclear power plants. These were all ravaged by the devastating force of the 8.9 earthquake and the tsunami that followed. Breathtaking videos showed the raw power of God, as boats, cars, trains, and whole villages were swept away.
If you watch programs on the History Channel or the National Geographic Channel, you have undoubtedly seen shows about attempts to make buildings and even cities earthquake proof. While these efforts are fascinating, wise, and appropriate, they will not guard against the power of God. Even the skyscrapers of Tokyo would not likely have withstood a direct hit from a 9.0 earthquake. I fear that many of the attempts to make things earthquake proof or hurricane proof or “nature proof” are misguided attempts to make things God-proof.
As we gain more information about the situation in Japan, we have learned that much more happened than just one of the most powerful recorded earthquakes in history. The quake initiated a powerful tsunami that sent a 30-foot wall of water into one village, killing perhaps as many as half of its 17,000 inhabitants. The tsunami also impacted several nuclear power plants which actually withstood the initial quake, causing several of them to have catastrophic failures. In addition, there have been hundreds of additional aftershocks. All of these factors have combined to create a radiation emergency that may be more devastating than both the quake and the tsunami. Japan planned well, but no one could have planned well enough to protect themselves from the power of God.
Modern conventional wisdom is offended at the idea of a God who is personal and who takes disobedience to him seriously. In our post-modern, enlightened, politically correct world, man thinks he has no moral limitations beyond his own choosing. In this world, other gods can be worshipped, alternative sexual and family lifestyles can be embraced, God can be ignored as the author of history, and we can all think, speak, and do as we think best, as long as we are politically correct. In all of these choices, no one seems to stop and think whether or not God is offended by political correctness. Isaiah speaks of a God who does not need the approval of men, who is not intimidated by human desires and assertions.
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.
“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Isaiah 40:21-25 NIV
The message from Japan is clear: the Living God of the Bible can humble man and his accomplishments at any moment of his choosing. It is dangerous thinking to assume that we can know the particular reasons for the powerful events that took place in Japan this past weekend. However, it is equally dangerous to assume that these events have nothing to do with God. What happened in Japan can happen anywhere. Major fault lines cover our planet. In 1950 there was a 9.5 earthquake off the coast of Chile. In 1964 there was the 9.2 Good Friday earthquake in Alaska. In 2004 a 9.1 earthquake and accompanying tsunami struck Southeast Asia and swept away 240,000 people. Will the next major quake strike in this next week or in one year or in ten years or in 100 years? No one knows but God. What Christians do know is that God will not be ignored. He will not be mocked. There is no divine entitlement that says that man can live in defiance of God without consequeces.
God’s people alone know that God will glorify his name. We have an obligation to tell others the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has shown his power and gotten the attention of the world. Yet, the world will not see the power of God for what it is if the church does not become salt and light. With all of the devastation and tragedy this weekend, the media headlines also gave major coverage to the tragic life of Charlie Sheen. How easily distracted is the mind of man!
Tell your children about the power of God that was displayed in Japan. Pray for the unspeakable loss that thousands and thousands have suffered. Find appropriate relief organizations through which you can help financially. In addition to all of that, tell those whom you know that God is an awesome God who will not share his glory with another. Tell them about Jesus Christ, who has taken the wrath of God upon himself to pay for sin. Let others know that no amount of planning and technological skill can make any region of our planet God-proof.