When Nature Rages


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We awoke Tuesday morning to the terrible news of the tornado outbreak that struck Nashville, Mt. Juliet, and Putnam County. In the middle of the night, as a front passed through the mid-state, perhaps the most terrifying of all storms, nocturnal tornadoes left a wide swath of destruction. As the week has pasted, our screens have been plastered with images of destroyed homes, business, and school. But we’ve also seen the number 25, a number that represents the total dead, yet cannot capture the totality of their lives. We’ve seen their pictures, we’ve heard their names and we’ve read their stories. While contractors can rebuild broken buildings, but broken hearts can only be healed by God.

It’s not uncommon in times such as these that people ask such questions as: Where was God? Why didn’t He save these people? Why did He let this happen? The sadness and heartache can even test the strongest of faiths. These are tough questions no doubt and they require faithful answers. That’s what we’ll do as we consider the topic When Nature Rages: A Biblical Perspective on Natural Disasters and the Christian’s Response.

  1. Three Foundational Facts about God and His Creation:
    • God is good (Mark 10.18)
    • He is creator (Genesis 1.1)
    • Therefore, our good God is in control of His creation
      • In response to Job and his friends God demonstrates His power and authority by highlighting His control over creation (Job 38-41).
      • Jesus holds the creation together because as God He controls the creation (Colossians 1.16-17).
  1. Examples and Reasons of Natural Disasters in the Bible:
    • The Flood – For Judgement (Genesis 6.17)
    • Famine, Drought, Blight, Pestilence – For Repentance (Amos 4.6-13)
    • Hail Storm – For Deliverance (Joshua 10.11)
    • Earth Quake – Death and Resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 27.51; 28.2)
    • Windstorm – Used by Satan to Tempt Job (Job 1.18-22)
    • Any disaster – Time and Chance (Ecclesiastes 9.11-12)
    • There are many more examples we could cite but these will suffice to show that there are many different reasons God has used or allowed natural disasters to occur.
  1. Why did God allow THIS disaster?
    • There are no easy answers or simple platitudes that will suffice to answer the question why did God allow THIS disaster happen.
    • Unlike the examples we just cited, we don’t have divine revelation as to the reason for this disaster.
    • Why did Josh, Erin and Sawyer Kimberlin die? Then a few doors down, why was little four year old Hatti Collins ripped from her parent’s arms? Then not far away from these deaths, how come the Grooms family survived, despite the fact they’re home was completely blown away. How does one make sense of this?
    • Eric Grooms said it this way, “God just put His hand down and said nope you’re not taking these today. I mean literally you take the floor and the house and leave the people. Nobody can do that but God. Nobody.” So true.
    • Even without clear answers as to who lives and who dies and the why behind a disaster, we still trust our God and worship Him just as Job did when tragedy befall him (Job 1.20-21).
    • In the end, no matter the reason for the disaster, God will show His glory through any tragedy (cf. John 9.1-3). David Begnaud, a reporter for CBS, said this, “There was a resilience that seemed to bond them [the people of Cookeville] together which was inspiring to me… Every single person I talked to mentioned God.” God is showing His glory.
  1. How should Christians response to natural disasters?
    • WEEP WITH THOSE WHO WEEP. It’s easy to become detached from the world around us, but God calls us to empathize with those who hurt (Romans 12.15; Hebrews 13.3).
    • HELP THOSE IN NEED. It’s also a time for us to help those who have lost so much. We certainly help the brethren (Acts 11.27-30) but our hearts must extend to all persons who need assistance (Galatians 6.10).
    • DRAW NEAR TO GOD. James 4:8 reminds us to, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” Disasters should lead us to draw closer to God.
      • Psalm 46.1-3 with hyperbolic language regarding natural disasters, the Psalmist calls for us to turn to God as our “refuge and strength.”
      • As with many disasters, some people live and some people die within close proximity to each other. No doubt God was with those who “miraculously” survived, but He was also with those who died in faith. He is the “refuge and strength” of the living and the dead.
      • Clint Pit said of his sister Erin and her family, “As terrible as it sounds they wouldn’t want to live without each other. They’re all together not and that’s all we can really ask for.” God was their refuge.
  1. CONSIDER OUR OWN SPIRITUAL STATE. Our lives our short. We appear for a while and then we vanish away (James 4.13-17).
    • In response to a political and structural disaster of His time, Jesus challenges us to look past the why a disaster happened to what our response should be (Luke 13.1-5).
    • Whether it’s a nocturnal tornado, or an earthquake, or a raging fire, or perhaps a car wreck, etc. our lives can, and are, upended in the blink of an eye. When tragedy strikes someone else, we must take stock of our own spiritual state because it could be us next.

Ever since sin entered the world, disasters have been a part of the human experience. We won’t always be able to make sense of why they happen but we can look to our good God for help to see us through. For He is “our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth give way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3).

 

Overcoming Serpents


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Many people are scared of snakes. Not me, I just hate them. I really, really hate snakes. In my book the only good snake is a dead snake. Therefore, Numbers 21.4-9 makes a real impression on the psyche. Just picturing thousands of poisonous snakes slithering around and biting with their venomous fangs sends chills up my spine. That’s the scene in our text this morning. On the heels of a great victory of the Canaanite king of Arab (Numbers 21.1-3), the children of Israel once again complain to Moses. They hate everything about their existence and they blamed Moses and God. Fed up with their insolence, the Lord sent poisonous snakes into the camp to kill the complainers. Yet, in His mercy God provided a way for them to be healed and to live. We should pay attention to this story because it mirrors our own attack from a fiery serpent the devil (cf. Revelation 12.9) and the healing and salvation God offers us.

Overview of Numbers 21.4-9

  • 4-5 | The people complained
  • 6 | God sent “fiery serpents”
  • 7 | The people repented
  • 8 | God provided the people a way to be healed
  • 9 | Those who followed God’s plan were healed and lived

This Old Testament provision for Israel’s healing was a foreshadowing of the salvation the Father provides to us in the cross of Jesus Christ. In His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus gives us a richer meaning to this story, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3.14-15).

Three Parallels Between Israel’s Situation and Our Own:

  1. THE SERPENT’S BITE KILLS:
    • 6 | Just as the serpent’s bite was deadly to Israel the great Serpent’s bite is deadly to us. Through different images, Paul, Peter and James describes Satan’s desire to kill us.
    • Ephesian 6.16 | Satan attacks us with flaming darts (arrows).
    • 1 Peter 5.8 | Satan is like a roaring lion seeking to maul and kill us.
    • Jams 1.14-15 | Satan is like hunter seeking to lure us in with temptation.
    • The serpent’s bite kills, it’s deadly but God has left us to die He’s provided a remedy.
  1. GOD PROVIDED A REMEDY:
    • 7-8 | God didn’t take away the serpents, but instead, He provided a remedy for the bites, the bronze serpent*.
    • Genesis 3.15 | It’s no different with us. From the “first bite” of sin, God has promised a remedy would one day come.
    • John 3:14; 12.32 | Jesus is that remedy. Just as the bronze serpent was lifted up, so to Jesus was lifted up on a cross to take our place and die for our sins.
    • Romans 3.22a-26 | We’ve all been bitten by sin. We can only be saved by God’s grace.
  1. THE REMEDY WAS UNMERITED BUT CONDITIONAL:
    • 9 | Moses fashioned the bronze serpent and lifted it up for all of Israel to see. The nation had sinned, yet God graciously gave them a remedy. But, to receive the healing they had to look by faith at the bronze serpent. The same is true for us.
    • Ephesians 2.1-10 | Our salvation follows the same order. It’s unmerited but conditional. We’ve all sinned, yet God graciously give us salvation, yet we must receive it by faith. How do we express that faith? Baptism.
    • Mark 16.15-16 | God’s grace is available to all, yet we must believe and unite ourselves to Jesus through baptism. Baptism is not a work (no more than looking on the bronze serpent would have been a work), rather it’s an act of faith just as looking at the serpent was an act of faith.

Just as God gave the Israelites the ability to overcome the fiery serpents of the desert, He has given us the ability to overcome Satan, the serpent of old. The question is, will we obey God or will you argue or complain about God’s ways? Do you want to be healed from the serpent’s bite and live? If yes, then here’s what you do… Look to Jesus! He is our remedy. He is our salvation. He is our hope. Look at Him lifted up on the cross dying for our sins. See Him overcoming death rising from the tomb. He’s calling for you to come and be healed and live for Him. But maybe you don’t want to be healed and live. Maybe you don’t think you’re sick but that doesn’t change the diagnosis. Maybe you don’t like the cure, it doesn’t matter. We’ve all been bitten by the serpent. I beg you, look to Jesus and live. If not, then you’ll die in your sins.

* According to 2 Kings 18:4, the bronze serpent became an idol, “[Hezekiah] removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).”

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