Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind

“If God is using these storms to bring people to himself, maybe we shouldn’t pray against them?”

A friend asked me that last week. After all, so many hurting people seem to be turning to the Lord in the aftermath of all these hurricanes / tornadoes / earthquakes / floods / fires – and even a horrendous shooting attack by a madman.

But there is a huge flaw in that idea: these disasters are killing many people and sending some of them to hell. That’s not the way God draws people to himself.

“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (KJV)

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9

Questions and more questions need to be answered, in considering that first one:

  1. Who is the prince of the power of the air? The one trying to murder people?
  2. What are the wages of sin?
  3. Who are the workers for those wages?
  4. When did the law of sowing and reaping go into effect?
  5. What is judgment, anyway?
  6. Can anything stop it?
  7. How can it be stopped?

Answers:

1. “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:” Eph. 2:2

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” John 8:44

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Eph. 6:12

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith…” I Pet. 5:8-9

2. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. 6:23

3. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” Rom. 6:16.

4. “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Gen. 8:22

5. Judgment is God allowing the eternal law of sowing and reaping to take effect, unless someone / something stops it.

“Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.” Job 4:8

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind…” Hosea 8:7

6. Intercession, pleading for God’s mercy, based on the knowledge of His character and will, can stop the law of sowing and reaping. And that is God’s will! Mercy, not judgment.

“That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Gen. 18:25 (Abraham’s intercession)

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” II Chron. 7:14

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6

“Who (God our Savior) will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” I Tim. 2:4

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” Ezek. 22:30

“And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.” Isa. 59:16

7. (a) Intercession, i.e. asking God for mercy, asking him to send Holy Spirit conviction that results in repentance; and

(b) The body of Christ taking proper authority over the enemy who is seeking to kill as many people as possible.

“For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:23-24

“He replied, If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” Luke 17:6

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12

Advertisements

Justice? I just don’t get it…

The Equalizer

“Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer!”

Leverage

“The rich and powerful take what they want. We steal it back for you.”

The Shadow

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

Superman

“The never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.”

Underdog

“Never fear, Underdog is here!”

Even Underdog! Then there’s the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Green Hornet, Red Rider, Zorro… not to mention my all-time favorite, the A-Team.

What do all these have in common? The demand for justice. Fairness. “What’s fair is fair.” Because people know what is right, what is fair, what is equitable.

From the very beginning, they knew that some things were wrong. Like killing, stealing, lying, destroying.

How did they know? They were created to know, and they were given to know. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)

Along the way (beginning in the Garden), God’s definitions of right and wrong were questioned, then perverted by some. And people still cry out for justice, as they have from the beginning. God himself said that Abel’s blood cried out from the ground (Genesis 4:10). The perversion of justice demanded a penalty – death. (Genesis 2:17, Romans 6:23)

The oldest of civilizations devised codes of laws and systems of justice, attempting to get back to the beginning, to the Garden, perhaps.

Back in the 1980’s when Tim and I first got involved in politics, an irate woman shouted at us in a meeting, “You can’t legislate morality!” She was angry at our stances on various issues. Especially our pro-life stances. (We were actively, vocally opposed to removing the pro-life plank from the state and national Republican Party platforms.)

“Sure you can,” I answered, when I could get a word in. “That’s what legislation does.The question is, whose morality are you going to legislate?” I may not have persuaded her that day, but I hope she thought more about my question. Whose morality? Whose justice?

In the scriptures, the words justice and righteousness come from the same root word. Justice is a principle and a system of right and wrong as defined by the Creator. Righteousness is a state of being right in God’s eyes, in his opinion.

God gets to define “right,” and he gets to decide who is right. (When the word is translated justice, another word – judgment – is often found in that verse, meaning the decision and legal declaration of justice.)

Is justice always doing the right thing, never doing the wrong thing? But I couldn’t live up to that standard, no matter how hard I tried. So then, what is justice, to God? What is righteousness?

“Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3) Hebrews 11 lists the “Heroes of Faith,” men and women who believed what God said to them and thus were considered righteous by God.

Now, I believe, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (II Cor. 5:21). Jesus took the penalty of sin, instead of me.

Consider:

  • Having their conscience seared as with a hot iron – I Timothy 4:2
  • Having their senses exercised to discern good and evil – Hebrews 5:14
  • Let justice roll – Amos 5:24
  • There is none good but God – Matthew 19:17
  • There is none righteous – Romans 3:10
  • Vengeance is mine, I will repay, said the Lord – Romans 12:19.

And he did. Jesus got the penalty in my place, satisfied God’s requirements of justice, and I get his grace instead.

Why was he surprised?

nehemiah-praysI’ve re-read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah recently, trying to get the timelines straight in my mind.

It started with curiosity about disappearance of the Ark of the Covenant. Exactly when did it vanish (about 587 BC), I wondered, and what was going on at that time? (Babylonian conquest, exile, etc.)

This post isn’t about that, though.

Sermons I’ve heard in the past have mentioned the rebuilding of the Temple (Ezra’s project) or the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah’s project), though usually not in the same sermon.

Reading these books now, I realize that completion of the rebuilt Temple and restoration of the city wall were only 13 years apart. The people involved knew each other. Ezra and Nehemiah knew about each other’s work and they eventually worked together.

Why, then, was Nehemiah surprised?

“The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.

They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.’

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (Neh. 1:1-4)

It had only been a few years since the Temple in Jerusalem had been rebuilt, with the sacrifices and worship restored. A great deal of money and materials had been donated (and spent) to achieve this, but it was only the first step toward rebuilding the great city.

Surely 13 years later, all the work was finished – including repairing the wall – and the city well on its way back to prosperity, flourishing even. But it wasn’t.

Several generations had come and gone since Cyrus first allowed the Jews to return to their land. Most recently Ezra had led a large group back, had instructed them in the law, then led them in prayers of repentance and vows of obedience.

But people have short memories, don’t they? The same sins that had got them killed, captured, exiled and enslaved in the first place, were besetting them again.

Disobeying the plainly stated words of God, they thumbed their noses at the Lord like unruly children. It was like laughing in his face, shouting “na na na na na na” and not expecting that he would really respond. Inviting judgment.

What about all those past disasters? “Mere coincidences, nothing to do with us.” Sounds a lot like some folks today.

Nehemiah had expected good news from Jerusalem, news of wall-building, house-building, job-building, family-building, faith and worship and prosperity. He shouldn’t have been surprised to hear just the opposite, but he was. The bad news broke his heart. He was grief-stricken.

So he did then what the church should be doing today. He wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed. Okay, some in the church have been doing those things…

But then Nehemiah went a step further. He confessed HIS sins, HIS wicked actions. He confessed for himself, for his family and for the nation.

“…I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.” (Neh. 1:6-7)

Had he been an unrighteous, ungodly, unrepentant infidel? Most of us would say no, surely not. What exactly had he done wrong? Well, what had the Israelites been doing wrong?

Compromising the word of God.

Nehemiah took the situation personally. His failure to speak earlier, failure to act, failure to pray, had made him part of the problem too. Even if he himself had not married an idol-worshiper or worshiped a false god, he was guilty.

In those moments he recognized the enormity of Israel’s ongoing rebellion, and recognized the enormity of the consequences they were risking. He acknowledged it, took the guilt upon himself and confessed it. He followed that up with action.

Why is the church surprised by the state of society in America today? Entire denominations have compromised the word of God, risking enormous consequences as a result. Risking judgment.

“If you keep on doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve been getting.”

Joel’s warning could just as well apply to us, here, today.

(Originally published 7 July 2012. Still appropriate.)

The Old Testament book of Joel has been on my mind the last week or so, especially with the severe weather and drought conditions in the US. My thoughts are in italics following the verses.

Joel 1
New International Version (NIV)

1 The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel.  No-one knows who Joel was, or even when he lived. To me, that says God can speak to the everyday man or woman, not only to the well-known pastors or prophets.

2 Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors?  God is speaking to everyone, religious leaders and everyday people. He mentions the elders first, however. More responsibility on their shoulders?

3 Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.   Although the people and their land will suffer, obviously some people will survive. Even generations of people will survive.

locusts4 What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten.   Some scholars think actual insects are meant by the word locust, although no-one is quite sure what the qualifying adjectives refer to; other scholars think foreign countries are meant. But I wonder if locust could also refer to natural disaster? Several kinds, or several stages of natural disasters? Neither insects or foreign soldiers cause drought, after all.

5 Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips.   Has the current crop of grapes suddenly failed? New wine can’t be made without fresh grapes. Only the drinkers and drunkards would care about that failure, so far…

6 A nation has invaded my land, a mighty army without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness.   Fires started by lightning? In one day recently thousands of lightning strikes occurred and many, many fires were started, destroying dozens of homes along with thousands of acres of forest and cropland. Flames and hot ash jumped from tree-top to tree-top, starting new blazes faster than old ones could be doused.

7 It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white.  Sand storms can do this. So can tornadoes and the freak hurricane strength straight-line windstorms that recently struck the northeastern United States.

8 Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the betrothed of her youth.

9 Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the Lord.  No grain and no wine means no grain or drink offerings. In today’s economy, loss of livelihood means no giving to the church.

10 The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the olive oil fails.  Not just grape vines and grain, but the actual dirt is damaged and the fields are ruined. Olive trees are affected, too.

11 Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed.  Vines take a while to produce – despair seems to mean that the vines themselves are lost. Even for fields that have already been harvested, the grain in the silos is destroyed. Disease? Fire? Animals?

12 The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree — all the trees of the field — are dried up. Surely the people’s joy is withered away.  All the vines, all the fig trees, all the other trees are dried up. That means no food for anyone; nothing for farmers to sell, no income for the growers, no way for them to support their families.

13 Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God.  Surely the religious leaders worry – will the people blame us for what is happening? Fear, grief, mourning must lead to seeking God for help.

14 Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.  Cry for what? I hear lots of prayers for revival, but that’s not what we need. Mercy is! Repentance for not listening to God’s warnings, like these in Joel. It will take God’s mercy and a supernatural move of His hand to restore the natural and spiritual damage we are seeing in the world today.

15 Alas for that day! For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.  As long as His people obeyed him, God kept them aware of the enemy’s tactics, and forewarned is forearmed. When they ignored God and disobeyed him, they effectively took themselves out from under his shield of armor. There is a warfare going on for this planet. Woe comes to the unprotected who find themselves on the wrong side of this battle.

16 Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes — joy and gladness from the house of our God?

17 The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods. The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up.  Seeds already planted need water to sprout; if they don’t get it, seeds rot. Without rain, growing plants wither and die. This disaster has to go on for a long time if even the storehouses are ruined. Starving, desperate people will storm storage facilities and take everything they can.

18 How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering.

19 To you, Lord, I call, for fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness and flames have burned up all the trees of the field.

20 Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness.

Sounds a lot like what is happening in America’s heartland today, 2012, doesn’t it? Just today I’ve seen sad news images of starving, thirsting animals, fish dying in the dried-up streams and rivers, and corn cobs with few or no kernels.  See my 20 July 2012 post in www.Tapister.Wordpress.com.