This article was written few years ago after the Tsunami that struck Southeast Asia. However, the content is relevant to the recent, devastating earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, that I thought it might help someone find an answer or meaning to such an earth-shattering devastation. No pun intended.
NATURAL DISASTER: AN ACT OF GOD OR MAN?
By: Bodé Adeboyejo
At the end of the day, when the total count of the dead is in, the latest Tsunami that hit Southeast Asia and some parts of the East Coast of Africa may go down as the deadliest Tsunami in recorded history yet; maybe next to the very first and greatest disaster in human history -- the Flood in Noah’s days.
If we had no idea what it was like in the days of Noah, this Tsunami kind of gave us a peak at what it might have been at that time. It gave us an idea of what a deluge of water could do. This Tsunami has left in its path of destruction, almost 150,000 people dead (and still counting); several thousands injured and about five million people homeless. The destructive tide was so quick and severe that a Washington Post staff writer, Michael Dobbs, who was vacationing in Sumatra when it happened, described it as a scene from the Bible. Dobbs wrote of his experience…
“In less than a minute, the water level had risen at least 15 feet, but the sea remained calm, with barely a wave in sight. Within minutes, the beach and the area behind it had become an inland sea that rushed over the road and poured into the flimsy houses on the other side. The speed with which it all happened seemed like a scene from the Bible, a natural phenomenon unlike anything I had experienced.
As the waters rose at an incredible rate, I half expected to catch sight of Noah's Ark.”
While Dobbs didn’t see Noah’s Ark, he sure wished he was in one, safe and protected from the rising deluge.
From monsoons to hurricanes, twisters to earthquakes, wildfires to mudslides and landslides, natural disasters have plagued humanity since the Fall of Adam. Recent of which were the four, back-to-back hurricanes that ravaged Florida last year.
Whenever a natural disaster occurs, people (insurance company agents especially) say it is an act of God. Another way of saying, “God is responsible.” The dictionary defines an act of God as, “A natural event, not preventable by any human agency, such as flood, storms, or lightning. In other words, forces of nature that no one has control over, and therefore cannot be held accountable.” For instance, when a grandmother was killed by a tree uprooted by a tornado in Britain late last year, the coroner said, the accident was an “act of God.”
But then, are all natural disasters “acts of God” or “acts of Man”?
Granted there are some examples in the Bible of natural disasters that qualify as “acts of God,” especially in the Old Testament. Like the flood in Noah’s days, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the 10 Plagues on Egypt before the Exodus of the Israelites; etc. In the New Testament, the greatest and the most devastating natural disasters, greater than the Tsunami, greater than the Flood of Noah’s days, will occur during the Tribulation, as prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24:21-22, and in Revelation, by John the Revelator.
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened. Matthew 24:21-22
However, when one looks at it from the viewpoint of the sin of Adam, one can explore the notion that natural disasters are indirectly acts of man, not God!
When Adam sinned in the Garden, his sin did not only have repercussion on humanity, but the whole of creation. In Genesis, when God passed judgment on Adam, He cursed the ground (earth), to punish Adam. “Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Genesis 3:17
Also Apostle Paul, speaking about the effect of the sin of Adam on creation, wrote in Romans 8:22, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”
Before the Fall of Adam, the whole of creation was in perfect peace and harmony. But since the Fall of Adam, the whole of creation has been out of whack – creating an ecological imbalance in nature; and a relational imbalance in man. Therefore, today’s environmental catastrophes are still the resultant effect of the sin of Adam.
On the other hand, however, if we explore the notion that natural disasters are acts of God, we can then say that they are the fulfillment of biblical prophecies. Therefore, this Tsunami could be one of the earthquakes, floods or pestilence Jesus warned about before the Great Tribulation in Luke.
But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately. Then He (Jesus) said to them, nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. Luke 21:8-10
Commenting on the rise of major catastrophes in the world, even Munich Re, the world’s largest insurer, agreed with the Bible without realizing it. In its 2003 Annual Review: Natural Catastrophes 2002 wrote, “Also, the trends that were observed last year (2002) again confirm the fear that Munich Re has expressed on repeated occasions: that the insurance industry must be prepared to face quite new loss dimensions in terms of natural catastrophes because the loss trends will continue to grow worse.”
Comparing the last ten years (1993-2002) with the 1960s, the company's statistics showed that the number of major catastrophes has increased by a factor of 2.6 from 27 to 70. Munich Re reported that in 2002, approximately 11,000 people lost their lives due to natural disasters, about half of which was flood related. Now, compare that to the almost 150,000 people lost in one disaster alone in the Tsunami in 2004!
So, if natural disasters are acts of God and/or fulfillment of biblical prophecies, I believe that they are not just fulfillments of biblical prophecies, but meant to warn us to get ready for the end time or ready to meet our Maker; and be ready to give an account of our sojourn on earth. So, as devastating as the Tsunami may be, like any other “act of God,” it is a warning to the living!
In the Old Testament, natural disasters served two purposes: to punish unrighteousness and to warn those still living, but still flouting and disobeying God’s Law. In our time, natural disasters serve the same purposes: punish unrighteousness and warn those who are disobedient to God’s Law. That is, warn those who have established their own form of righteousness; those without a relationship with God through Jesus Christ; i.e., warn them to establish a genuine relationship with Him, while they still have time.
Now, the question is this, “Will those who survived the Tsunami, who didn’t have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, read the handwriting on the wall, I mean waves, and establish a genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Or will they continue in their old ways, and soon it will be business as usual?” Better yet, will the rest of the world, which didn’t experience the Tsunami but have had other lesser catastrophic disasters, heed the warnings of those disasters before a disaster worse than a Tsunami hits us?
Let me say that the Tsunami did not hit Southeast Asia and parts of the East Coast of Africa, because those people are greater sinners or more evil than the rest of the world. In fact, Jesus made this point clear in a passage in Luke 13:1-5, that a natural calamity is not the barometer for measuring sin in a person’s life.
There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
Also, Jesus reemphasized this same point in John 9, when His disciples asked Him about a man born blind. The disciples asked Jesus who sinned (the parents or the man) that the man was born blind. Jesus replied to them saying, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him”. John 9:3
I believe that the same can be said of a nation.
Now, whether the Tsunami was a punishment on the affected countries or whether it was just so that “the works of God should be revealed in those countries,” only God can say. And why He chose to use such a devastating Tsunami to punish or reveal His work in those countries, only He knows. He alone, in His sovereignty and omniscience knows best! He is God, the creator of heaven and earth, and He can do what He wants, when He wants! All we can do, as mere humans, is speculate.
We may not know why natural disasters happen, when they happen or where they happen. One thing we should know, however, is that natural disasters of the magnitude of the Tsunami can happen anywhere, anytime (especially if they are indeed of God). Forget about all the warning systems the U.S. has in the Pacific Ocean!
Perhaps, you ask the same question most atheists or agnostics ask, “Why would a loving God allow this kind of tragedy to happen?” Well, let me answer that by reminding you that death is one sure thing we all are promised. The death ratio is one to one! Seeing then that we are all going to die, as cold as this may sound, let me then say that God is not really concerned about how we die, but where we spend eternity after we die -- whether in hell or heaven. Whether we die by accident, heart attack, cancer, diabetes, drowning, plane crash, gun-shot, lethal injection, sickness, fire, etc; bottom line is we all die!
As tragic as the Tsunami disaster is, with more than a hundred thousand people dead, God is more concerned about where those victims would spend eternity than He is about how they died! I mean, if God would not spare His own Son (Jesus Christ) to die an agonizing death by hanging on a Cross, what makes you think He cares about how we die? Have you ever asked yourself why Jesus had to die on the Cross? True, He came to the world to die for the sins of humanity, but He didn’t have to die by crucifixion. He could have died by some other less cruel means.
But God, in His infinite wisdom, determined that that was the way He would die. So also was it with some of the early disciples who died by terrible means; some by stoning, beheading, crucifixion, etc. But God allowed it all. So, it doesn’t matter how you die or when you die. What matters is where will you spend eternity?
Now, whether you see natural disasters as acts of God or man or not, at least you can agree that they serve as a warning to those of us still living. Like death, they should remind us to do a self examination of our own lives; whether we have a genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ or not. And if we were to die today by whatever means, where would we spend eternity?
To that end, let me ask you a question. Will you heed these warnings by examining your life to make sure that you have a genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Or would you rather just be another victim, unconcerned about where you spend eternity?
On a comforting note, let me say that while you may not have control over natural disasters or death, you do have control to choose or determine where you spend eternity – whether in hell or in heaven. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” John 14:6
Seeking refuge from the eternal “flood”? Get in Christ – the Ark of Safety!