Warning of Judgement

One of the things that strikes me as I read or listen to the news is how often “nature strikes back”, “the earth is warning us”, or other such phrases occur. They are trotted out when there are heat-waves, or flooding, droughts, bushfires, cyclones, tornadoes, pandemics, or almost any other natural disaster. And the message we are supposed to be hearing is about using fossil fuels, global warming, carbon emissions, deforestation … the list goes on. There is plenty the earth is telling us.

This does not mean that there is not a message to learn about environmental degradation, poor planning decisions, pollution, or anything else. There may well be things we should pay attention to in those areas.

The thing that does strike me is how the Bible talks about these sort of events.

Famines, plagues, earthquakes, floods (as well as wars) and warnings of disaster are regarded as messages. Messages of judgement from God. Warnings about sin and its consequences.

I don’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned about the environment, or that it doesn’t matter how we use natural resources, or that there are no negative environmental consequences for human activity on the earth.

I do mean that we need to be careful not to ignore the warning God has for us in these events.

Jesus talked about this in Luke 13:1-8. People were telling Jesus about some Jews from Galilee whom the Roman governor had executed, mixing their blood with their sacrifices. Jesus’ answer indicates that the people talking to him were under the impression that this was a specific judgement of God on these particular Jews for their unique sin.

Jesus explains that this event, and another tragedy (the collapse of a tower in Siloam, which killed 18 people) were not signs of unique sin or guilt, but signs of God’s judgement to come on all people. That everyone has destruction and death coming to them, and the only way to avoid the ultimate judgement of God is to repent of your sin. To turn to God for mercy, and trust Jesus for salvation.

This doesn’t mean that there weren’t other lessons in those events that shouldn’t have been learned. Lessons about submitting to the ruling authorities, obeying the law, construction standards or capacity limits in tall buildings, or things like that.

But if that is the only thing we think about, the only lessons we seek to learn – how we can prevent disaster – then we miss God’s message: disaster is coming to everyone because of our sin. We can’t prevent that disaster, but Jesus can. So we need to turn to him and trust him to be saved.

In Australia we seen to have had a pretty bad run of very large disasters over the last decade or so. Droughts, bushfires, floods. All on huge scales. I’m sure there are lessons we should learn about fuel loads, forestry management, water conservation and allocation, global warming, and so on. But the biggest lesson we should learn is our sinfulness is bringing God’s judgement upon us, and we need to repent. As Jesus said in Luke 13:5 “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

God is warning us, everyone around the world, of the judgement to come because of our sin. Because of our rejection of God and rebellion against him. But God in his mercy, along with his warning, has sent us a saviour. Someone to protect us from the disaster that is coming. God sent his Son, Jesus, to take our sins on himself and pay for them on the cross. And our only hope is to recognise our sinfulness, our need for salvation, and to trust that Jesus has done it all for us, and to repent (turn away) from sin.

Environmental regulations, building codes, zoning requirements, water conservation, decarbonisation, diplomacy – these things may or may not prevent some disaster and death falling on us here on the earth. But Jesus will prevent the disaster of God’s judgement, the second death, hell, falling on us on that final day.

When you see disasters on your screens, read about them, or hear of them, don’t miss the true message that they contain: God’s judgement for sin is coming, and Jesus is the only hope for salvation.

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