Irene & Jonah

Posted on August 31, 2011 · Posted in Current Events, Worldview

The spectacular events of life grab our attention—particularly “natural” disasters, such as tsunamis, earthquakes, and tropical cyclones. The 24/7 news outlets swing into action, as they did this past weekend. Hurricane Irene made headlines as it moved up the eastern seaboard of the United States. For a while it appeared that Irene would strike large cities, from Washington, D.C. to Boston, with the power of a major hurricane. There was a collective sigh of relief as the storm approached land and weakened. But even in its weakened condition, over 40 people have died, millions are still without power, trees were uprooted, tornadoes were spawned, and news reports of inland flooding are still coming in. As significant as this damage is, it could have been far worse.

Presidential candidate Michele Bachman made a comment that perhaps, with the rare East Coast earthquake and Irene in close proximity to each other, God was sending a message to get the attention of politicians. Her office has scrambled to reassure the press that Bachman made her comments in jest. After all, how unsophisticated would it be to think that God had anything to do with natural disasters or the running of governments? Such a notion would require one to believe that God is somehow directly involved with the events of our daily lives, and that he actually cares about moral issues. In other words, the Bible’s account of God might actually be true. How outdated and politically incorrect!

Well, not everyone thinks that way. Jonah, fresh from his own encounter with “natural disasters,” grudgingly went to Nineveh to preach a message of destruction. The Bible says that Nineveh was an “exceedingly great” city—just like several cities that encountered Irene this past weekend. The Scripture says that Nineveh was also a place of evil. The Ninevites were confronted by a foreign prophet predicting that Nineveh had forty days before they would be overthrown.

If this happened today, perhaps the political response would have been something like this:

Upon hearing that a prophet had arrived, predicting complete government overthrow, the king immediately called upon his political prognosticators to conduct polls to see if the average Ninevite believed the shouting Hebrew. His press secretary then began to release stories to the press, revealing that this man was deranged, saying he was swallowed by a great fish after he was thrown overboard from his ship during a raging hurricane. Finally, the king called a press conference and proclaimed that he would not allow a narrow-minded religious zealot to sit in judgment on the people of his great city and on their sexual preferences. The king was shocked that anyone would be so intolerant as to think that the Ninevites would be judged by a Deity that they did not worship.

Isn’t this what we have come to expect if something like the above scenario happened today. The modern media – the press, movies and novels all frequently espouse the viewpoint of our fictitious king.

God showed his vast power and mercy this past week. First, he shook the ground, and then he sent a storm that was far less devastating than it was predicted to be. How do we know that God did this? A quick reading of Scripture will attest to God’s control over the earth. Specifically, in Matthew 8:27 we are told that Jesus is the master of the winds and waves. The path and strength of Irene were not random occurrences. That is good! Do we really want to believe that God is not in control of the “forces of nature?”

In all the national news that I witnessed, never was any gratitude given to God for sparing the major cities of the East. Certainly, there was no talk of repentance for sexually perverse lifestyles, the slaughter of unborn children, the removal of God from educational materials, and remorse for having no fear of God in daily life, political or otherwise. Anyone talking like this would be branded a religious crackpot. Political candidates would have distanced themselves immediately from such intolerance. Yet, can any serious Christian deny that gratitude and repentance are exactly what the response should be to the earthquake and Hurricane Irene?

As you know, the king of Nineveh immediately tore his robes and repented. He knew that the actions and habits of his city were sinful and evil. He recognized that there was a God that his people had rebelled against. He didn’t need any polling data to know he and his people had offended a holy God.

Parents, this is a way you can show the relevance of God in everyday life to your children. Pray with them for repentance in our country. In regard to Irene’s weakening, Christians know that God was merciful. Your neighbor might think that the National Hurricane Center just blew the forecast—but the weather isn’t controlled by predictable forces. The Lord can bring devastation to a proud land at any time of his choosing—or he can extend his mercy to an undeserving land.

Such events provide an opportunity to talk about the power and holiness of God. Talk about Jonah and how Nineveh responded to his warnings. Talk about Irene and how people should respond now. We know from the Bible that God is aware of the sins of the nations. There is no reason to think that He is not aware of the sin of this and other Western countries, countries that have known his Word and come to despise it. Pray for the nations. Pray for our own nation. Who knows what the next storm may bring?

 

 

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.