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DR. JIM DENISON, PRESIDENT
AUGUST 25, 2011

Earthquakes, hurricanes, and providence

Is God angry at the East Coast? As you know, a magnitude-5.8 earthquake rocked the region on Tuesday, sending tremors as far south as North Carolina, as far north as Buffalo and Boston, and as far west as Detroit. Now the area is preparing for Hurricane Irene, a storm with the capacity to produce six to ten inches of rain, lashing the region with damaging wind gusts and heavy surf.

What is going on? Jonathan Turley, a legal scholar at George Washington University, noted tongue-in-cheek that the earthquake’s epicenter was in the district of Republican Congressman Eric Cantor, who has tried to cut the budget of the United States Geological Service. With Irene approaching, Turley is worried since Cantor also defended cuts to the National Weather Service budget.

We could blame a congressman, or we could decide that the region is under divine judgment. However, such natural disasters are not confined to the East Coast. On the same day the Virginia earthquake struck, another earthquake, magnitude 5.3, caused nine tremors which shook parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. There were also earthquakes that day in Guatemala, India, and southern Greece. And Hurricane Irene has already afflicted the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.

We might also note that biblical disasters which expressed God’s wrath were preceded by prophetic warnings. Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” who warned the people while building the Ark (2 Peter 2:5). Moses repeatedly admonished Pharaoh to release the Hebrews lest the Egyptians face escalating plagues from God. Jesus warned the rebellious Jewish people that their temple would be destroyed (Matthew 24:1-2). I am not aware of any prophetic warnings preceding Tuesday’s earthquakes or Irene’s approach.

If God did not cause these events, he at least permitted them. For what redemptive purpose? Could he be using them to remind us of our need for his protection and strength? The world’s only superpower is powerless against tremors and storms. For all our military and economic might, we can be paralyzed by a single natural event we can neither predict nor control.

French bishop and theologian Jacques Benigne Bossuet was right: “The greatest weakness of all is the great fear of appearing weak.” By contrast, Jesus taught us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). His phrase is better translated, “Blessed are those who know their need of God” (New English Bible). Paul heard God say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). As a result, he learned that “when I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10).

How weak are you today?

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