TEOTWAWKI: The Long Walk Home, ch.5 “A Biblical Perspective on Disasters”
After the data center manager had finished his farewell to the employees and had given a good, historical summary of muslim attacks on the West, saying that the reason for the attack’s success today was our politicians’ unwillingness to take what our enemies have said seriously, it was now 3:30pm, 3 and 1/2 hours since the first airplane had crashed and all the power had gone out, and I was to give a short sermon to the 60-70 folks who would soon depart for home on foot.
A few of the crowd drifted away, not the least interested in hearing a sermon, but most of my co-workers stayed close to hear.
I opened my Bible and read from Luke 13:1-5
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Today, November 6th, 2012, is a day that will live in Infamy along with 9/11/2001 and Dec. 7, 1941. We have been attacked by an enemy and perhaps many thousands have died across this land, and, in all likelihood, many thousands more will die soon.
As we prepare to go our separate ways I want to explain disaster, tragedy and evil from a biblical perspective, offer a biblical view of dealing with it, and then I want to offer you the hope that is in the Gospel.
I. Why Is There Evil, Pain, Suffering and War?
The critics of Christianity would say that we Christians believe in a God who is both all Good and all Powerful. The problem then, is the presence of evil. Evil does exist so either the good God is unable to eliminate it, and thus is not all powerful, or he is able to powerfully eliminate evil, but chooses not to, therefore proving himself to not be good.
Today we are without question facing raw, hellish evil. At least 4 jetliners have crashed in our immediate area. The smoke I see over by the airport tells me more have likely crashed over there. One of our own died right here in the parking lot. All electrical power is out and all communications with the world is down; our cars won’t even start. We might have been propelled back into the 19th century in the last 3 and a half hours. Today we are confronted with evil. Where does that evil come from?
In Gen. 1:31, at the end of 6 days of creation, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” We have the assurance from God’s Word that everything was not just good, but Very Good.
Psalm 86:5 says, “For you, O Lord, are good” and Psalm 119:68 “You are good and do good”. Jesus himself said in Mark 10:18 “No one is good except God alone”. Scripture says scores of times that God is good, that he is righteous, that he is loving, merciful and just. Why then does evil enter into his universe?
Scripture does not DIRECTLY answer that question, and that is why so many object to the Christian answer. But the Bible does give us many very good points to consider in seeking an answer.
1) God created everything for his Glory.
Romans 11:33 “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36″ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
We believe that God created because he wanted to, not because he was compelled to from anything outside of himself. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Isaiah 43:7 “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” And in John’s Gospel ch.9 in the story about the man born blind, the disciples wondered who sinned, the man’s parents or the blind man himself. But Jesus said “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed though him.”
If God then created all things good, and the heavens declare his glory and all people are created for his glory, and even something as horrible as being born blind is part of God’s overall plan, we see that the universe is not man-centered, it is God-centered; it is all designed to somehow give God glory as the Creator.
2) Therefore, even allowing evil into his universe through Satan, and through the sin of Adam and Eve somehow gives God glory. This is a hard truth but must be brought out. In what possible way could the Devil’s rebellion and Adam’s sin give God glory?
We believe God is ultimately just. Now we know there is very often no real justice in this world. The just seem to suffer and the unjust prosper all too often. Nonetheless, our very idea of justice and all our efforts at obtaining and administering justice point to something bigger than us, outside of us, that is just. God is just, he will finally, at the end of time, on the Day of Judgment, mete out justice. Evil will one day be punished and righteousness exalted. That will give God glory. His holy justice will be on display for all to see. So in that sense, allowing the presence of evil will ultimately serve to display God’s justice and bring him glory for his justice. When a notorious criminal in our day gets caught, goes on trial, and gets sentenced, we all do have a sense of satisfaction that justice has been served.
Now the problem for us is the timing. In this world we do not always see justice, so we complain against God that he is not just and that evil exists. Did the thousands of people who died today deserve to die in our eyes? No. this attack was a gross injustice. We want justice immediately. But for the Christian, we understand that there is coming a solution for the problem of evil. God is eternal, outside of time, the creator of time, and he will execute justice on the day of His choosing. The answer then, to the problem of evil, is that this Good God who is indeed All-Powerful, will Ultimately bring about a just resolution to the problem of evil in his timing. In other words, while we are complaining about the problem of evil, we are not looking at it from God’s eternal perspective; God is not finished yet, evil is temporary.
Even though I am as hurt, scared and angry as any of you at this unjust attack on our country, I have confidence that ultimately God will judge the perpetrators.
3) God is also loving, gracious, forgiving and merciful. God’s love and grace are poured out upon us in the context of suffering, pain and evil. This contrast of God’s Goodness while still allowing evil also gives God glory as he displays his attributes of Goodness- lovingkindness, forgiveness, grace, steadfast love. I believe that ultimately, God’s justice and his love will both be on display for his greater glory.
We see this most clearly in the cross of Christ. On the cross we see God’s Son suffering an unjust penalty by men. Jesus was sinless, but we sinners condemned him to death on the cross. At the same time, God the Father was allowing his Son to die in our place, as our substitute. He bore our guilt and shame and he received in himself God’s justice that we deserved. Jesus was punished for our sins when he himself was sinless. So on the cross we see the holy and just wrath of God and the utter depravity of man along with the sinlessness and perfect obedience of God the Son. But since the cross is God’s chosen means for our salvation, we also see the love of the Father poured out on us through the blood of His Son. In the cross then, is the solution to evil. God’s wrath and love both on display in one act.
II. How Should We Respond to this Great Evil?
We know that because God is sovereign, he allows evil to happen in his providence to accomplish his plans for the nations and for individuals. Isaiah 46:8-11
“Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
9 remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
11 calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.
Somehow, then, the evil we have suffered today fits into God’s sovereign purpose. Does this mean that God is judging America for her wickedness? I think that is possible. God allowed his own people, Israel, to be invaded time and again in the Old Testament as a result of their sins. Sin does deserve to be punished, God is just, and sometimes he allows a great disaster to befall nations, perhaps because of their sinfulness.
But I would also say that this should do for us exactly what Jesus said in that Luke 13 passage I read earlier. In that passage Pontius Pilate had executed some Galileans unjustly and a tower collapsed in Siloam that killed 18. One tragedy caused by an evil man, another was an accident. But how did Jesus say people should respond? Repent. Repent. Repent.
The hardest truth for us to face is that we humans are all sinners, each one of us has chosen to disobey God. We are sinners by birth, we have inherited a sin nature. Each of us is a part of the problem of evil because we too do evil things and have evil thoughts and desires. Paul writes in Romans 3:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
And in Romans 6
23 For the wages of sin is death
(It was at this point that some of the crowd turned and walked away)
Folks, the idea of sin is proved in each of us every single day. We all do that which we know to be wrong and we fail to do that which we know to be right. The greatest commandment is from Mark 12:28-33
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Which one of us ever loves God with all our hearts, souls, minds, or strength? Which one of us ever loves our neighbor completely as we should? We all fail because we are all sinners by birth, choice and environment.
You see the evil that we experience from others, like these terrorists, also lurks within our own hearts. When we complain about the presence of evil, we should acknowledge that we are part of the problem. If we clamor for justice from God for the evil that afflicts us from others, we must also understand that we stand guilty of evil before God the Judge. We too shall face the judgment.
Now do not get the idea that I am saying this attack today is our fault and that we, the victims, are just as guilty as the terrorists. They have perpetrated a greater evil today than perhaps any since 9/11. But I am saying that all of us are natural born sinners and that the proper measurement is not measuring my sins against yours, or our sins against the terrorists. The proper way to measure sin is against the sinless, perfectly holy Jesus, the Son of God.
Our response to the evil we see today should begin with our humbly seeking God in repentance.
Secondly, we must help one another. We are in all likelihood facing a life threatening situation for several of us. If the power is indeed off for weeks or months, or longer, it is The End Of The World As We Know It. We cannot make it on our own, we must help one another. There will be those who will automatically resort to violence and barbarism. We must resist them and fight for civilization.
III. The Good News
Finally, let me tell you that there is some good news. In this terrible situation, God still offers us salvation in his Son Jesus Christ. In the face of so much death and destruction we must repent and turn to Jesus as our Savior and Lord.
In the first recorded sermon of Jesus in Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
To repent is to have a change of mind and heart, to change the direction and focus of your life. Repentance is looking at yourself the way that God sees you and agreeing with God, then turning from the path you are on. God sees all of us as sinners. Each one of us has rebelled against him, violated his holiness and brought his just wrath upon our own heads. We are guilty before God and deserving of hell.
This is humbling and we naturally reject this out of pride. We see ourselves all too often as being better than other people, or as being not as bad as some. We think we are good enough to be welcomed by God into his presence. We think this way because we know not the holiness of God.
We tend to focus on the quantity of our sins, telling ourselves we are not so bad, our good must outweigh our bad. We look at what big sins we have not done and pat ourselves on the back. But that is not how God looks at sin. God looks at sin as rebellion. A little sin is still rebellion. He looks at sin as a sickness. A small sin is still sick. God’s standard always remains 100% perfection and he does not ever lower his standards. Sin is kind of like if I had a large supreme pizza right here, ready for us to eat. Then, I went over to the gutter by the street, scooped up some gutter dirt, and sprinkled it over the top of the pizza. In that gutter dirt was some tiny shards of glass, some small rocks with oil deposits on it, maybe tiny bits of tire rubber and lots of germs. The amount of that gutter dirt is a fraction of an ounce while the pizza weighs about 3 lbs. So the amount of dirt is very tiny percentage of the whole. But, I doubt if any of us would want to eat that pizza. Why? It is not the amount of contamination, it is the mere presence of contamination that renders the whole pizza unpalatable and even dangerous. That is what sin is like. It is offensive to God.
For us to repent is to acknowledge that God is holy and we are not, nor can we ever be on our own. It is to understand that no matter how small or how few my sins are, I am still on the wrong path, the broad road that leads to destruction, and that I must change directions. To repent is to admit that I have been the focus of my life instead of God being the focus.
Then, we must place our complete trust and faith in Jesus Christ. The sermon Jesus preached said we must repent and believe. What does it mean to believe in Jesus?
First of all it means more than simply believing the simple facts about him, that he is the unique Son of God who was born of the virgin Mary, lived a perfect life without sin, died on the cross as our substitute and rose again from the grave. That is the beginning point, but that is not all there is to faith.
We must also accept this as more than a head knowledge, we must accept it personally. Jesus is not just THE Savior, he is My Savior. Paul writes in Romans 10:13 “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” We must place our faith in Jesus personally. This is a heart response that goes beyond the head knowledge.
But even then, many people have a head knowledge and and warm emotional feelings about Christ, but are not saved. The 3rd and final part of faith is Trust, commitment. Back in Mark 1, after verse 15 that speaks of repentance and faith we see Jesus walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and he calls the 4 fishermen to follow. Verse 18 says that “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
Thus, faith is a proper knowledge of who Jesus is and what he has done, a heartfelt response to Him, and a committed following of him as the Lord of your life. This shows a changed life, a new set of priorities, a new life focus. Jesus says in Luke 9:23 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
To take up your cross in the times of Jesus meant to accept a death sentence. We must die to self as we trust in Jesus and follow him.
Do not think that this is anything that we can naturally do on our own. Salvation is always from God alone, it is a gift of his grace. We cannot conjure up enough faith on our own, we cannot follow him on our own, we cannot even repent on our own. Eph. 2:8-9 says, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Salvation is not going to church, getting baptized or anything else you can do. These things are instead to come after salvation as signs of a changed heart, mind and life.
Do not think that Jesus is just one out of many paths to salvation. Do not think that you can just add a little bit of Jesus to your life, as some kind of a good luck charm, and your life will instantly get better. Jesus is the ONLY way to salvation. In John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And in Acts 4:11-12 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” And Paul writes in 1Tim. 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
What I am telling you is that there is hope for salvation, but that hope is only in Jesus Christ and that salvation is only by God’s grace received by us only through faith.
Folks, I would urge you today, in the face of all the death and destruction we have seen, to repent of sin, and call out to God in his mercy for salvation, to trust in Christ alone for your salvation and determine to follow him from this day forward.
It is getting late and we need to go, but if anyone desires to speak to me about the state of their soul, I will remain here to talk with you.
Let me close in prayer: “O Lord, we thank you that in the presence of this great evil, this attack that has wrought death and destruction upon our city and our nation, we thank you that you are still on your throne and you are sovereign and in control. I pray that you would take this word of yours that has been proclaimed and that you would use it to draw people to you in repentance and faith. I pray for these friends as we all go our separate ways into the darkness, that you would provide comfort and strength for what lies ahead. We pray for safety for our loved ones and for ourselves as we begin the Long Walk Home. We pray for our nation’s leaders that they would guide us out of this mess. Most of all dear Jesus, we pray for your grace and peace upon us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Stan, I will turn this back over to you.
The data center manager, Stan, came forward and said, “Thank you Ryan, you have given me some things to think about that I have never heard before.”
“Folks, at this point, it is about 4:00pm and the sun will be setting around 5:33pm so it is going to get dark in just an hour and a half. We better start walking toward home. Take everything with you that you can carry. Good bye, and good luck.”
With that there were some hugs and tears as people said their goodbyes. A couple of folks came up to me and thanked me for the sermon, but they were already Believers. No one else came to talk about salvation. Perhaps the Lord would use the Word preached to weigh on their hearts on their long journeys home.
Instead of going to my car to get my things I brought my chair out of the lobby to the front sidewalk and watched everyone else preparing to leave. The two older cars that were still running were packed with people; too bad they were both smaller cars. I watched as some set out even without coats; they were so used to just getting into their cars in their warm garages and driving to work in a heated car, and getting inside the building quickly that several people never wore coats in the winter. They had a long, cold night ahead of them. It was supposed to get down into the twenties tonight; maybe some would not even make it due to the cold. This was going to be Bad.
My partner, Liz, returned from her car with the few things she had to carry and asked, “Are you just going to sit there? Come on, we need to go!”
Liz lived even further away than I did, but she was west-northwest while I was west-southwest; it was about 35 miles to her house. Presumably she wanted us to walk together until her turnoff to the north, about 6-7 miles down highway 26.
“I am not going to go yet,” I told her, “I am going to wait until later tonight to leave.”
“Why? It’s goin’ to get dark in just an hour and a half!”
“I know that, that’s why I am waiting.” I replied.
Right then, John approached and he asked the same question.
John and I had talked about just such a situation as this time and again; we shared an interest in survival issues. I knew that he was likely prepared as was I. And that he was armed.
“I’m going to wait until about midnight to leave,” I told John and Liz. “The moon is coming up just after midnight. Now it’s in its final quarter so there won’t be much light, but it is supposed to be clear and cold so that little bit of moonlight will be good. I still have excellent night vision. And, most importantly, I want to avoid the herd.”
John chipped in, “Yeah, there will be a crowd trying to get home this evening, and I don’t like crowds. It will be best to wait, just like we talked about before.”
“Well, can I walk with you guys then?” asked Liz.
“Sure,” we both said.
“We have about 8 hours before we leave then, we need to take an inventory of our gear and get our loads ready,” said John.
“Yeahhhhh,” I said, “but let’s wait till everyone here is gone. I don’t want to show my hand with everyone still here.”
“Cool. That makes sense. We can do it in the dark if we have to.”
“Yeah, we have some flashlights and chemlights. We could even take a nap, then get up, eat a bite and then leave.” I said.
As we waited over the next 30 minutes or so the crowd slowly departed as groups of 3-4 people banded together according to where they lived and set out on their trip. Soon the parking lot was empty. It was now about 4:45pm; sunset was coming in just about 45 minutes.
I got up and headed toward my car and John went to his; Liz followed me. In about ten minutes I got my gear out of the car and began carrying it back to the building sidewalk in the gathering shadows. Liz was opened jawed as she looked at what I had in my car. I gave her one large bag to carry.
“OK,” I said, “Let’s go through this stuff and see what all we have. I am going to change clothes too. Then we ought to discuss our plan for tonight.”
“Right,” said John.
At that point, the inventory began…
(Next: ch.6 “The Inventory”)