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Does Disaster Come to a City… Unless the Lord Has Done It?


There’s something about our hearts. They don’t like submission. They don’t like authority. They rebel against the notion of being under someone else’s rule. Anyone with teenagers has seen this in spades, but it is true for all of us to some degree. And it’s even true when the One ruling over is God Himself. We seem to have the darnedest time humbling ourselves before Him and yielding to His will. Our chief sin is… that we don’t love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

God isn’t first in our desiring and loving and choosing. We are.

But God’s love is so great (how does CS Lewis put it…) that He is quite relentless in His determination that we be cured of our sins – “at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity, book Three, chapter 9, last paragraph) I’m afraid that the necessity of turning our hearts away from that which will destroy us and back to the God who is our life and our truest and greatest good requires some pretty drastic measures at times. Much like a surgeon who has to amputate a leg to save the life of her patient. Something is lost – something precious – and that something must to be lost if the person would be saved; it must be lost if something much more precious is to be preserved.

Yeah. That’s rough. God’s love is like that. Sheldon Vanauken called God’s operative love “a severe mercy.” We don’t like to think that way, primarily because we don’t like to think that we are that stubborn or that resistant to God, or that we are really that far off the mark in terms of what’s good for us. For the Bible’s commentary on this stubborn hardness of the human heart and our love for what we want rather than for God, see Psalm 78 and Amos chapter 4. There are many other references, of course, but these two are just so explicit you can’t miss the point (except you can – but you can’t really…).

So there was this little prophet named Amos, a shepherd from Tekoa of all places (wherever that was)…. God called him away from the flock of four-footers and made him a prophet thundering forth the judgments of God. Speaking through Amos, God states rather matter-of-factly:

“I gave you cleanness of teeth… and lack of bread…. I withheld the rain from you….”

And then we read, “‘YET YOU DID NOT RETURN TO ME,’ declares the Lord.”

God was after something, but the people didn’t give it. He wanted them to come back to him, but they resisted. So, the sad litany of disaster and repeated resistance continues:

I struck you with blight and mildew, and your trees the locusts devoured.

Yet you did not return to me.

I sent among you a pestilence.

Yet you did not return to me.

I overthrew some of you as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

Yet you did not return to me.

By the way, Amos is also the one God spoke these words through: “Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord has done it?” (3:6)

Sadly, far too many folks read things like this in the Bible and take them as a commentary on the nasty character of God – that He is somehow violent and tyrannical, a spoilsport and killjoy, One who rules with an iron fist crushing all that don’t cower before Him. But the commentary in these passages really isn’t about God. It’s a commentary about us. It’s about our stubborn hardness of heart. It’s about our making our lives about anything and everything but God. Which is screwy, because God is the One who gives us life, and He is the One we were made for.

By the way, the kicker in Psalm 78, which bears some resemblance to Amos, is this: “When he (that is, God) killed them, they sought him; they repented and sought God earnestly.” (Ps 78:34)

What’s the right response to disaster – whether economic or biological, whether war or famine, whether natural or man-made? The right response is always to repent. The right response always is to turn from all the things that we think give us life, and to turn (or return) to God and find that He has been, and always will be, our Life.

Why are we so stubborn, when God is so good and so patient and so gracious and so loving? In these days of uncertainty, fear, and restlessness, what do you say we NOT go in for a Psalm 78:34 kind of ending.

Let’s seek the Lord today….