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Where Was God On March 2?

March 11, 2012 Pastor: Don Green Series: Selected Scriptures

Topic: Sunday Sermons

70-001

Where was God on March 2? I like to ask the hard questions. I like to go into the Bible and answer the hard questions and not avoid them, not to evade them, because the Scriptures tell us that they are perfect and the Scriptures have everything that we need for life in godliness. The Scriptures makes the man of God adequate, equipped for every good work. Well, if we're going to face such an awful disaster, then we should expect to be able to go to the Scriptures and find a perspective that would help us be able to think through this, and primarily today, I think what we're going to do is just see an exercise in Christian thinking, an exercise in working out a Christian worldview in the face of some of the more difficult questions that we can come up with.

Nine days ago, 56 confirmed tornadoes ripped through the region of the Midwest leaving behind 39 fatalities, at last count, 26 of those in Kentucky alone. The injured are not so easily counted, to say nothing about the lost homes and the emotional toll that such a calamity leaves in its wake. I know that some of you actually picked through the debris of homes that were lost. As we were driving over to my mom's in North Vernon, Indiana, we went through the little town of Holton and saw buildings that had been wiped out and a church of historic significance just twisted on its foundation and tilted over, and you have seen all of the images even more than I have, and part of the reason that I wanted to address this and why I was so receptive to Cecil's input on this is that I don't have a feel yet for all of you. I haven't been here long enough and, you know, to fly in on Saturday and fly out on Sunday, I don't have a feel yet for how you think, how you respond, and so I don't want to take anything for granted to how you would respond to this or what you would think about God in light of this. So this is a new pastor trying to work through issues together and to think through them.

Where was God on March 2? Well, first of all, let me say just at the start: this is a great tragedy. We don't have to as Christians diminish the destruction and the human loss that has taken place. Our sympathies are with those who lost their homes. Our sympathies are with those who lost their loved ones. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:15 that part of Christian character is that we weep with those who weep, and so we take their loss seriously, but we want to do more than that, we want to work out what it means to think as a Christian in light of such things. Where was God on March 2? You know, to really answer it well I think is a harder question to deal with because there is so much nuance that you want to bring out, there is more to the question than simply giving a brief answer. We need to think through a few different things but this is a question that certainly deserves an answer and I'm going to give you four points this morning to help structure your thinking because it's so important for us to think through this well.

The first point that I would say is this: when you are addressing the question of where was God on March 2 which is really the question of how do we explain this theologically, right? That's the question we're asking: how do we explain such a natural disaster theologically. Well, first of all, I want to remind you of the origin of death. The origin of death. We won't spend much time on this but simply to say that death and destruction was not part of the original creation. Genesis 1:31 says that God completed his work of creation and he saw everything that he had made and behold it was very good. It was very good. There was no death and destruction in the original creation when God put man in the Garden of Eden. But as you know, Adam fell into sin and God cursed the ground as a result. Genesis 3:17, "cursed is the ground because of you," as he was administering the divine discipline on the human race for disobeying his command. And Romans 5:12 is probably up on the screen or maybe will be here in just a moment, Romans 5:12 says that, "just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin," it was like a locomotive and pulling cars behind it, sin entered the world, and death followed on the tracks, "death entered through sin and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." That was the starting point of death. In a moral sense, man is responsible for the introduction of sin into the world and the introduction of death into the world and we just need to realize this, that we as the human race bear the responsibility for that, that it was the consequences of sin and that because all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we all share in the consequences of that. As death spread through the human race, we all share in the consequences of that. This gives us a sense of how serious sin is that one sin introduced such chaos into the creation that God created as good.

That's the origin of death. We go back and we remember that but now I want to transition. While sin introduced death into his creation – this is so very important for us to grab hold of and to hold onto and to let it orient our thinking through everything else that we say today – while sin introduced death into the world, it did not knock God off of his throne. God still rules over creation in unchallenged sovereignty and unchallenged supremacy. God is God. That means that God rules, God reigns, and while sin introduced a foreign element to the original creation, it did not create a system where there were competing deities who were struggling to have control. God is always on his throne. God rules his creation in supremacy. And this is where I want to spend a good bit of our time here this morning. Point 1 which we went through very quickly was the origin of death. Now secondly, I want us to consider the overseer of creation. The overseer of creation, and to spend some time here on this and to work through a number of different passages. God is God. God rules over his creation, not the devil, not man. God is the one who rules over all of creation. God reigns over everything and now you're going to need to limber your fingers up as we go through a few different passages here together. I'm going to try to keep them in canonical order to make it easier for you to follow along here.

Turn to Psalm 103. It is where we are going to start. Psalm 103:19 is a blanket statement of the sovereignty of God, that the fact that God rules over all. We're going to approach this view of the overseer of creation in three details. We're going to look at it in general, and then in the details, and then in the weather and try to get right to the point.

In general, Psalm 103:19, "The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all." There is no room for exceptions in that statement. There is no exclusion. It's not like an insurance policy that has exclusions to the coverage. Here is a blanket statement that the sovereignty of God rules over everything that happens and the Lord has established his throne in the heavens and from there he reigns. Look at verse 21, as a result of that, because of his grandeur, because of his greatness, our response is to, "Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You who serve Him, doing His will. Bless the LORD, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion; Bless the LORD, O my soul!"

Now, with that introduction, turn over to the book of Isaiah 46, a very important passage on the greatness of the sovereignty of God. Isaiah 46. We are going to begin in verse 8, "Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors." So God is speaking to sinners here and asserting the glory of his majesty, asserting the certainty of his sovereignty. Verse 9, "Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it." God could not say that he has made plans and they will certainly be accomplished if any other element could interfere and introduce something that was not part of his plan, something that was outside of his power, that there was some kind of unaccounted for variable in the circumstances that could throw things off. God says, "I have planned it, surely I will do it. I will bring it to pass." Ephesians 1:11 says that he "works all things after the counsel of His will."

So God in the greatness of the supremacy from which he rules from heaven, the greatness of his rule over his creation, we can see in these, of course, they are just illustrations, illustrative passages, we can see that the Bible asserts God's sovereignty in unqualified, unmitigated terms, and even the sin of man does not ultimately frustrate the purposes of God. That's a whole other discussion but I just want you to see that for now. We do not serve – get this, this is how you should think as a Christian in the response to everything in life. This is how you should think when a natural disaster happens that gets really close to home. We do not serve a weak deity who struggles to keep up. We do not serve a weak deity who is responding to unexpected events that he hadn't planned on. We serve a God who reigns. We serve a God who has everything under control. He is in control of what happens and he directs it to fulfill his purposes. That's really important. It's not just that he has things in control, but he directs it to fulfill his purposes, to accomplish his plans which he established before the foundation of the world. That is how great God is.

Now, I realize that in some circles people want to see a miracle. You know, you can gather a crowd of 20,000 together in an arena and promise them supernatural healing. Well, you know, that stuff is bogus to begin with but what is totally missed in that fascination with the elaborate and the fascination with signs and wonders, what is totally missed is that ongoing day by day there is a far greater display of the wisdom and power of God in that he is providentially in control of the quadrillion of things that are happening on a moment by moment basis. As men go about their business unaware of the hand of God, God is directing their choices and actions, God is directing all that happens in creation to fulfill his purposes. That is a great and majestic God. That is a God before whom we should bow in worship. That is the starting point of right Christian thinking, is that right Christian thinking starts with the person and the character and the attributes of God.

Now, we've said this in general. Does the Bible back that up with its discussion of details? Well, yes it does and it goes into details that you and I would consider insignificant. So we've talked about the overseer of creation in general, now I want to look at it in the details. This would be subpoint B if you are trying to keep track of notes, as I like to say, if you're keeping score at home. Turn to Matthew 10:28. I love this passage. We could have gone to Matthew 6 as well. Matthew 10:28. We are answering the question, "Where was God on March 2?" and we are setting a context of biblical thought in order to be able to answer that with intelligence. We don't want to be superficial thinkers, we want to understand why we believe what we believe. We want to see it in the text of the Bible for itself. And part of the responsibility I feel at a time like this, is simply to be a voice to the Bible, you know, because you're not going to get this from the media, you're not going to get this from people who are simply responding emotionally to tragedy. We need to give voice to the Scriptures. We need to honor God by giving voice to his word. That's what we're doing here this morning.

So in the details, look at Matthew 10:28. Jesus is speaking and he tells his disciples, "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent?" And look at this, "And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." A bird doesn't die except under the sovereign hand of God. The details of God's sovereignty are worked out in every aspect of his creation, down to which we would consider too insignificant to trouble ourselves with, let alone to trouble the majestic God of the universe with, and yet here it is, Jesus, our Lord Jesus, the one who could only speak truth, who was truth incarnate himself, saying a sparrow does not fall to the ground apart from your Father. Then it goes on, again, the details. Verse 30, "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows."

Look, in light of that passage alone, we could have just gone to this passage and spent time talking about it and dealt with the whole thing from this passage alone, understand that Christ is saying that God's sovereign hand is directing the life and death of a sparrow. Well, how much more then, this is the point, how much more then is he directing the life and death of the pinnacle of his creation? As individual men live and die, how much more is he directing the circumstances of that? You see, you can't deny that without coming right into direct conflict with what Christ says. You can't deny that without direct conflict with the one that you call Savior. I'm not saying that any of you are doing it, I'm using "you" in the generic sense, but I just want you to see, I beg you to see because this is so life transforming, is to realize that the sovereignty of God applies to the details of all of life. It applies to all of the details of creation and the person who turned right and avoided the storm and the person who turned left and entered into the storm, God was directing that. He's not acting as one who runs a marionette and is just pulling strings like that, but God is orchestrating everything that happens in order to accomplish his purposes.

Now, what about the weather? I was, frankly, surprised at how much that was to see about this. What about the weather, which is what is the topic of our discussion today? What about a massive storm and multiple fatalities in the wake of it? Well, I want you to see several passages that assert God's control over nature; the cumulative impact of these passages is quite impressive.

Look back at the book of Job. Go to Job 37, beginning I believe in verse 5. We're going to read a few extended passages. And let me say this as we get into these passages: the question, "Where was God on March 2?" almost implies an accusation, doesn't it? "Why didn't God do something to stop this destruction and the sorrow and all of that?" It almost creates an accusation against him that he was somehow less than loving or somehow less than good or somehow less than sovereign. "Where was he? Why was he asleep at the switch?" What I want you to see as we go through these passages by way of introducing, there are about five of them that I'm going to read here, what I want you to see in these passages is that the Scripture views that from a completely different perspective. The Scripture views this from looking at the greatness of storms, the greatness of winds, the greatness of the power of nature, as an expression of the overall greatness of God. So rather than seeing something that would cause us to question his goodness, Scripture teaches us to see these things and to see his greatness; to look at this and say, "Wow, this is a power far beyond anything that I could know or understand. There is a power at work in nature that is far greater than I and I am defenseless and helpless against it." That's where Scripture takes us as we think about these things.

Job 37:5, you all have turned there, right? Job 37:5, "God thunders," we're going to read through verse 13, "God thunders with His voice wondrously, Doing great things which we cannot comprehend. For to the snow He says, 'Fall on the earth,' And to the downpour and the rain, 'Be strong.' He seals the hand of every man, That all men may know His work. Then the beast goes into its lair And remains in its den. Out of the south comes the storm, And out of the north the cold. From the breath of God ice is made, And the expanse of the waters is frozen. Also with moisture He," God, God is the subject of the verb here, "with moisture He loads the thick cloud; He disperses the cloud of His lightning. It changes direction, turning around," get this, "by His guidance, That it may do whatever He commands it On the face of the inhabited earth." That's pretty clear, isn't it? That's just a direct assertion of the sovereignty of God, the hand of God working through the natural elements to accomplish his purposes.

But that's not the only place that you see it in Scripture. Far from it. The Psalms are filled with these kinds of references, all done to magnify God as these things are recited. Psalm 135, beginning in verse 5. The psalmist writes, "For I know that the LORD is great." There it is again. "And that our Lord is above all gods." He has made a general statement about the greatness of Yahweh. So what does he do to support that general statement about the greatness of God? How does he build his case? How does he support that statement as he continues on in this Psalm of praise? Verse 6, "Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; Who makes lightnings for the rain, Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries."

Look at Psalm 147, and I edited these down for the sake of time. Psalm 147, beginning in verse 15, again, another Psalm of praise. Verse 1, "Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant and praise is becoming." Well, in verse 15, "He sends forth," speaking of Yahweh, "He sends forth His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes. He casts forth His ice as fragments; Who can stand before His cold? He sends forth His word and melts them," look at this, "He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow." His wind, it belongs to him and he directs it and causes it to accomplish his purposes.

Psalm 148, beginning in verses 7 and 8, again, the context is praise. "Praise the LORD from the earth, Sea monsters and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind," what, "fulfilling His word." There it is and one of the great demonstrations of the deity of Christ was seen in his sovereign control over the elements.

Look to the Gospel of Mark and we're almost done here with this part about the weather. The Gospel of Mark 4, beginning in verse 37, "there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, 'Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?'" Look, right there is the reason that we need to answer this question, "Where was God on March 2?" because when natural disasters threaten, when they intervene and we suffer the consequences of them, the human heart goes to this question and says, "Don't you care? Is it a matter of indifference to you that we are perishing?" And it's all wrong. That's entirely the wrong perspective and we as believers in Christ must have built into our minds, built into our hearts, such a firm conviction on these issues that our spontaneous response is different from that. We have to be distinguished by our confidence in the goodness and sovereignty of God and the only place that you get that is from seeing these things in the Scripture.

"Don't you care that we are perishing?" And I love this, verse 39, Jesus "got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Hush, be still.' And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm." It was no taxing of his power. He just got up and said, "Shh," and a magnificent storm instantly became a sea of glass. That is absolute sovereignty. That is complete control over the natural elements. Look at what happens here in verse 40, "And He said to them, 'Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?' They became very much afraid and said to one another," they got the lesson out of this, they said, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"

How does the Bible answer the question, "Where was God on March 2, 2012?" Go to Psalm 104, beginning in verse 3. Where was God? Well, it wasn't a lack of control, was it? You all see that, right? It wasn't that events had spun out of control. That could not possibly be it and have any bearing on the God of the Bible. It wasn't that. So where was he? Verse 3, "He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters," and the psalmist goes to this poetic language, "He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind; He makes the winds His messengers, Flaming fire His ministers." Where was God on March 2? He was riding the wings of the storm. He was in charge. He was accomplishing his purposes. The Scripture teaches so clearly that God directs the weather to accomplish his purposes.

Acts 14:22 even says that the seasons become a testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of God. Acts 14:22, the regularity of the seasons, the predictability of the seasons in the different regions of the earth become a testimony to the sovereignty of God, his control over all things, and his goodness in doing it.

Beloved, a sparrow does not fall to the ground apart from him and now we reason from the lesser to the greater. If the lesser sparrow doesn't fall to the ground apart from him, then a tornado does not fall to the ground apart from him as well. The fact that those 56 confirmed tornadoes from March 2 left tremendous death, sorrow and destruction in their wake should not cause us as Bible believing Christians to back away from what the Scriptures so clearly teach. When it is most difficult, that is when we most have to take our stand on what the Scriptures say.

Now, point 3. There is an objection to this, I understand that. There is an objection to this perhaps even from some of you in the audience here today. I don't know. We just don't know each other that well yet, do we? That's all right, we're going to get to know each other. Point 3 here is I want to answer the objection. The objection answered, to keep my alliteration and my points. The objection answered. And it was interesting to me in light of planning this and reading through some of the hundreds of comments on some of the news stories about it and it quickly gets into this theological discussion, "How could God do that? How could a loving God do that? Why didn't he intervene and stop it? That's not fair! Preacher, don't you understand that a 20 month old toddler was found in a field 10 miles from her home and then died a few days later? Where is your God of love in that? I thought God was a God of love and what I see you describing, what I hear you describing is something that I am not interested in. It seems arbitrary, it seems unkind. If I was in charge of the universe, I would do it differently and there wouldn't be this kind of pain and sorrow and destruction around." Look, those emotional arguments, at one level, are very powerful. Many Christians will sacrifice the sovereignty of God at this point in order to evade the objection. Beloved, we cannot do that. We will not do that in this fellowship. There are biblical issues here of colossal importance that are at stake. We have to get some perspective. We have to think. You can't respond to those challenges on that emotional level, you have to step back as a Christian and come back to the Bible and think through it in a way that gives you understanding and gives you confidence and gives you a settled sense of peace.

Now, understand that these are not arguments that are going to appeal to unbelievers who are perhaps emotionally grieving in the loss of a loved one. We covered that already. Look, we are the friends of those who are suffering. Biblical truth is the friend of those who are suffering and so I'm not picking a fight with people who do this. My point here today is to help you as a Christian think through these things in a way that gives you understanding and deepens your spiritual maturity. That's what matters. That's the job of a pastor, is to build up the saints.

Now, so how do we answer that powerful objection, that objection that kind of at first glance would seem to put us on our heels, make us a little bit defensive? I saw a video of an atheist attacking somebody who was supposedly defending a Christian position. It was not an effective defense. He said, "Did your God cause this hurricane?" And she said, "Absolutely not. No." "Could he stop it?" "Well, no." Well look, as soon you do that, just close your Bible and go home. If you're going to do that, there is no point in even having this discussion. But we're not like that here. Our question is: what does the Bible say? How can we think through this? How do we think through that objection as believers in Christ who have submitted our minds to the Scriptures, who have given our lives to the Lordship of Christ, who want to honor him and we have pledged our loyalty and allegiance to him no matter what? Someone who has consciously refused to do that, they are not even a Christian.

So what do we do, those of us who have submitted to the Scriptures, who have submitted ourselves to the Lordship of Christ? We know that he can go to the sea and say shh and it stops. How do we think through this in a way that is edifying and strengthening and encouraging? Well, let me take you through three points here. How do we answer that objection? And really what we're trying to do is not answer an argument from an unbeliever, an emotional argument from an unbeliever, what we're trying to do is we're trying to think from the perspective of a Christian worldview. That's what we're trying to do here because that's what we're committed to as believers in Christ.

All right, how do you answer that objection? First of all, first subpoint, you have to remember that death comes to everyone. Death comes to everyone. Our minds naturally recoil at sudden multiple fatalities whether it's dozens in a natural disaster, whether it's thousands in a terrorist attack, we just naturally recoil from that. We're not wired to process something of that magnitude. It's just part of our intrinsic human weakness that we can't get our minds around that. But I want to suggest to you that we have to think beyond our emotions. We need to go back to the Scripture and think about these things clearly and rightly so that we can be strong, so that we can be mature, so that we can be the kind of people that God would have us to be, unflinching in our praise and trust in him.

Hebrews 9:27 says, "it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment." Now, what I'm about to say, I don't say flippantly. I say it with as much compassion as I possibly can, but understand this, this is not what I would say in a counseling situation to one of the victim's families but this is how we think through it as believers. And I probably ought to clarify that: we weep with those who weep and so if I was with a victim's family, I would be showing compassion, not trying to give them this kind of didactic instruction on the first time that I showed up at their house when they are making funeral arrangements. But that's not what we're doing here today, we are not making funeral arrangements, we're trying to think as Christians.

Hebrews 9:27, "it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment." Understand this, beloved: no one died in those tornadoes who was not already appointed for death, right? We are all going to die because we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Ezekiel 18:20 says, "the soul that sins, it shall die." No one died who was somehow going to live forever. It seems premature and sudden from our perspective, but in the big context of biblical teaching, understand that death is our lot as part of the human race. It is the consequence of our sin. These deaths were not arbitrary. And in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 it says this, "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted." In the ultimate outcome of life, this didn't change anything. It's just different than what we expected on the front end before these tornadoes swept through, right? We can look at anyone and sometimes I do this in the airport or in places where there is a mass of people just walking by, walking by. You know, I sit and think, "They are all headed to death." It doesn't make me a very cheery person to be around, I guess. "So, Don, what are you thinking about?" "Well, you know, all these people are going to die." "Oh great, yeah, let's go to a movie." But we have to think biblically. We have to realize what's really at stake, what's really happening here is that everyone who died was going to die sooner or later anyway. God has appointed a time for death. Psalm 139 teaches that he has numbered our days.

Now, so death comes to all. Now, secondly, and this is where the real conflict comes with this second subpoint here on answering the objection. This is a tough one but it is right at the core of right Christian thinking and I'll state this point as a question: should sinners complain against a holy God? Should sinners complain against a holy God? As I said earlier, the question, "Where was God on March 2?" implies that he acted unrighteously, depending on how you frame the question. Certainly any of those attitudes in the world are hostile questions, not really seeking understanding but simply making an accusation that God acted unrighteously. Beloved, we can't go there. We can't go there. On a grand scale and responding, thinking through a natural disaster, we can't go there on a personal level either.

Turn to the book of Job again, Job 38. The events of Job were among the first events in biblical history. You know the story of Job. There was a discussion in heaven between God and Satan. Satan said, "Job only serves you because you treat him well." God says, "No, that's not true and I'll give you permission to test him and it will prove my point." Job wrestled throughout the first 37 chapters with bad counselors and occasional windows of good counsel, but increasingly wrestling with the question, "God, why?" Well, how does God answer that to Job? He doesn't give him an explanation and say, "Oh, well, let me tell you. Sit down here and I'll tell you why I did everything." Job never got the true answer. God hid the reasons from him all the way through the end of the book. Our point for here today in chapter 38 is to simply see the total folly of a sinner questioning the ways of God.

Chapter 38, verse 1, "the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, 'Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge?'" You do not know what you're talking about. "Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!" You've questioned me long enough, now let's turn the tables and I'll ask you some questions. Verse 4, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know." There is a little bit of sarcasm there. "Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone." Verse 8, "who enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb." Verse 10, "I placed boundaries on it And set a bolt and doors." Where were you when I created the heavens and the earth? Later on he says, "Have you ever in your life commanded a morning? How would you do that? How would you orchestrate creation? I did it with no trouble," God says. "How would you command morning to come from night? You have no idea, do you?" And all of a sudden when you see it from a biblical perspective, when you see it from the right perspective, you realize instantly that we are not qualified evaluators of the ways of God. Isaiah 55:8 and 9, his ways are higher than our ways.

We can't evaluate this. We don't know. And it's not just our comparative insignificance compared to God, Lamentations just after the book of Jeremiah, between Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Lamentations 3:38 and 39, "Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That both good and ill go forth?" Things that outwardly appear good, it's not saying that God directly causes moral sin, moral evil. Scripture always carefully protects the holiness of God in these things. It's talking about ill in the sense of adverse circumstances. Verse 39, "Why should any living mortal, or any man, Offer complaint in view of his sins?" It's not just that we are qualitatively unable to evaluate the ways of God, we just don't have the mental capacity to begin to question that or to assess it. We could never replicate the actions of God in creation. But it's more than that. It's that we have rebelled against him. We are sinners and sinners are not in a position to judge the mind and actions of a holy God.

Romans 9:20. I'll just read it. You can go there if you want to. Romans 9:20 says this in the context of God's sovereignty even in salvation, it says, "who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this,' will it?" I say this gently, not with harshness: it's not a matter of us putting God in his place, we have to put ourselves in our place and we have to say, "I don't have the mind to begin to understand the greatness of God. I am disqualified by sin, from questioning his motives because I've shown that my own motives are corrupt because I rebel against my Maker. I have sinned against my Maker and I am not in a position, it is not for me to answer back to God. It is for me in the midst of such a colossal natural disaster to put my hand over my mouth and say, I don't know. I can't explain this but what I do know is this, I do know that God rides the wings of the storm. God accomplishes his purposes. God is in control of his creation and I am not in a position to try him," try in the legal sense, "I'm not in the position to put him as though I am the prosecutor and he's the defendant and I'm going to prosecute God for his actions? Please." When you see it from a biblical perspective, you realize how totally inappropriate that is, right? We can't do that. Can a sinner with limited perspective judge the ways of God who cannot do wrong? To ask the question is to answer it.

Now, let me help you have a little perspective on where I think people go wrong on this. Matthew 5:45. Jesus said that God causes the sun and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, right? It's a statement of what we call common grace, that God shows grace even to people who are unbelievers, even to people that he knows will never believe in his name, he still shows and permits them to enjoy earthly comforts. He provides them, as he pours out his goodness on believers, there is a spillover effect and unbelievers enjoy that as well. God sends the sun and unbelievers, people who have no desire, no interest in him, enjoy the benefits of a warm sun; they enjoy the benefits of human family relationships; they enjoy a good meal; and they have experienced the common grace of God on an ongoing basis.

Now, follow me here: they have experienced that year after year after year after year, never giving thanks to God, but still receiving the benefits of his goodness just in an earthly sense and without even thinking about it, without realizing what they've done, they think that they are entitled to it. They think they deserve it. And so when something intervenes and takes away the blessings of common grace, they think that they have been wronged. But they haven't been wronged at all from a biblical perspective. Listen, we as a human race, we have forfeited our claim on God's goodness. We are sinners. His wrath abides on us, talking as the human race. Justice would require our immediate punishment, right? That would be just, and yet we have gone along enjoying the grace and goodness of God, enjoying human life, earthly life, and we think we deserve it, and we have a totally wrong view of our standing vis-à-vis God.

When we say, "Where was God on March 2?" in an accusatory tone, we're totally missing the point. The point is completely different. The real question is not why did this disaster happen, the real question isn't where was God on March 2, the real question is this: why don't we feel these disasters more often? The real question is: why does God show goodness to men who will never love him? Why is that? That's the right way to look at it. That's the right perspective because then you have stepped into the realm of no longer a sense of human entitlement to the goodness of God, you realize that the human entitlement is really to the justice of God and yet he spares us and gives us good things over a long period of time even if we never believe in him, never come to Christ. They still feel the goodness of God in their lives. They experience good things from his hand and the question is why is that the normal experience of the human race instead of asking the question how does God justify his actions on one of these natural disasters? That's the right way to look at it because then you're looking at it and saying, "Okay, it's not my entitlement. God has been good. God has been gracious." And the kindness of God expressed in those terms should lead men to repentance, Romans 2:4.

So, one more thing. What spiritual lessons do we take out of that? What is the right response? If the accusations against God are the wrong response and as we answer the objection, what should sinners take away from an event like March 2? Well, turn over to Luke 13. What is the right response? What should we take away from a natural disaster? This is always a good passage to go back to, Luke 13:1-5. "Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.'" Verse 4, "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Listen, when you see 46 people die in a natural tragedy, it's not that those were worse sinners than any of us, and the truth is that these natural disasters kill Christians and non-Christians alike. It's not a question of comparative righteousness or unrighteousness that they were worse sinners and therefore they suffered that fate and we were spared from it. Jesus says that's entirely the wrong perspective. It's not meant to make us think horizontally and look at those that died and try to speculate on the causes of God's providence like that. The lesson that Jesus says that men should take away from this is to realize, "Oh," 1 is that this is a reminder that life is short, life is fragile, and we don't control the beginning and the end of our days. It should put us in a position of humility and it's a warning to those that are left behind that unless you repent, you're going to perish. Unless you repent, unless you fundamentally turn away from sin, fundamentally recognize your sin and your rebellion against God, and fundamentally turn away from that, then you are going to perish just like them and the eternal consequences of that will be great. That's what we're supposed to take away from it. "Oh, this is a reminder. This disaster was a reminder of the brevity and the uncertainty of life, and as a result, I need to examine myself to make sure that I have been reconciled to God through faith in Christ."

Now, that's the objection answered. Now, I don't want to leave it there because you could leave it there and say, "Okay, I get all that. I understand it but it's a little bit heavy, right?" Well, look, who is it that is orchestrating this? Who is it that is riding on the wings of the storm? Point 4, I want to take you toward the orientation toward hope. The beauty of this is that we can trust the one who rides the wing of the storm. He has established that beyond all question. Look, we have to think about these things in context. You can't look at a snapshot of a one day natural disaster and begin to rightly understand it at all. You have to put that single frame in the context of a great movie, the great unfolding of the purposes of God. And just for a little bit of context on that, first of all, the orientation toward hope: remember first of all, remember the cross. Remember the cross of Christ.

Turn to 1 John 4, if you would, at the end of your Bibles. The question is: can we intrinsically, implicitly trust the character of God no matter what? That's the question. Do we ever have grounds for flinching off of trusting him? And the answer is no, we don't. We are never justified in distrusting God.

Look at 1 John 4, beginning in verse 7, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." It's intrinsic to his very character. Now, how do we know this love? Verse 9, "By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." Listen, any time that you are tempted to question the love of God, make your mind go right back to the cross of Christ, make your mind go right back to that ultimate manifestation of the goodness and the love of God, that he sent on his own initiative and despite our undeserving, he sent Christ in order to be the propitiation for our sins. He sent Christ to be the sacrifice that would turn away the wrath of God against our sins so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God. God did that on his own initiative without any influence from you or me and he did it in order to provide a great salvation for everyone who would ever believe in Christ. You and I cannot rightly ever question the love of God once that is imprinted on our minds. Whatever else happens that we don't understand, "Okay, I don't get the tornadoes exactly. That's a hard one but I have a surer reference point to understand that God's motives toward me must always be good because it was established forever at the cross of Christ." And you say, "Okay, God is a God of love. He works in ways that I don't always understand. Do you know what? I'm not going to question him, I'm going to trust him."

Now, that's looking back. You can look forward. You can look forward and I think this is so important and what is too often missed in these discussions about natural tragedies. Remember that we said that God is working everything together to accomplish his purposes. Well, his purposes for those of us that are in Christ are shown in Revelation 21. What is the ultimate outcome of this walk of faith? What is the ultimate outcome of the Christian life no matter what tragedies may intervene between now and then? The ultimate outcome is that we are going to be in heaven, we are going to see God, he will dwell among us. Revelation 21:3, "we will be his people and God will be among us and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will no longer be any death. There will no longer be any mourning or crying or pain, the first things have passed away." Verse 5, "He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.'"

That's the outcome for us. This ends up well. This ends up in glory. So you have to put these snapshot days into a context that looks back and says, "I see the love of God expressed in the cross of Christ. That settles his intentions and motives toward me for all eternity. Nothing can contradict the love of the cross and I look forward and I see the outcome is glory. No more death, no more crying, no more pain. I don't understand what happens, everything that happens in between but now I don't have to because I see the context and the context is one of wonder, love and praise. There is a context of such manifest goodness of God that I can rest my hope in the things that I know to be true because they are revealed in the Scripture, and I can rest in that even when the storms blow fiercely around me." All right?

Then between the cross and between glory, Romans 8:28, in all things in between God causes what? All things to work together for what? For good for those who love Christ and are called according to his purpose. I want to emphasize this point somehow. God has good intentions toward those who are in Christ always without exception. Nothing ever contradicts that and you, as it were, can take that to the bank and you can build your life on that and even the worst natural tragedy, natural disaster, cannot contradict that and so that has a big impact, that has a significant impact, that takes away the sense of fear as we look to the future. The next time the sirens are blaring, the next time the storms are coming down and the radar is showing purple heading your way, you go back to this and that doesn't mean that it's not crazy, tense and scary. I'm not suggesting that at all, but underlying that, your heart is anchored in a foundation of truth that will act as a fortress around your soul. That's why we believe. That's why we take the time to think through these things. We don't want to be like the disciples who say, "Master, we're perishing!" No, we take what the Scriptures say and when Jesus said, "Where is your faith?" this is what he's talking about: take the things that you know to be true and apply them to the circumstances in front of you and then come to a position of peace, strength and confidence. That's where your faith is.

So where was God on March 2? He was right where he's always been: reigning over all, working all things together to accomplish his purposes, and working all things together for good to those who know Christ and believe in him.

Bow with me in prayer.

Father, we humble ourselves before the majesty of your greatness, the majesty of your being. We humble ourselves before these great spiritual realities and we freely acknowledge, freely confess, that we are not qualified to question your ways. We forfeited our claims on your goodness a long long time ago in Adam, we forfeited them in the outworking of our own lives, and yet here we are, God, here we are secure in Christ, experiencing your blessing, and able to know you and the great deep things of your word. We set aside our objections, Father, what might have been our objections, we set aside our questions and we simply say that with glad, willing, trusting, loving hearts toward Christ, we trust you. We honor you and we pray that you would use us to proclaim the excellencies of your glory for as long as you give us breath. Thank you for your faithfulness to us. We commit all these things to you in Jesus' name. Amen.

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