As the world is shocked by the hopeless situation in Haiti - many are organizing relief efforts. The scripture speaks of much greater calamity in the near future - are we giving hope to those around us to help them become "wise unto salvation?"
Welcome to another edition of the Bible in the News.
During the past two weeks the world’s attention has been focused on the devastating 7.0- magnitude earthquake in Haiti that has killed as many as 200,000 and left 1.5 million people homeless. Images of the devastation have flooded the media of the western world – images of death and destruction, of heart breaking sadness as a nation is completely brought to its knees. A huge humanitarian relief effort has been organized. As the world grapples to contemplate the devastation that has gripped the poorest country it the western Hemisphere and tries to make sense of it all we turn the Bible.
Often people tend to subconsciously consider natural disasters as divine judgments against the specific victims. Christ was presented with a similar notion and his response is recorded for us in Luke 13:1-5:
“There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
He dismisses the notion that natural disasters are divine retribution brought on by the moral condition of the victims. Rather he points out that all mankind is in a tenuous position –every single one of us lives under the sentence of death – and unless we all “turn around” or repent we will “all likewise perish.”
Similarly, the whole world around us is in just as precarious a position as the poor people trapped in the rubble. Haiti’s need is immediate, but this natural disaster bring into focus the frailty of human life – and how much devastation there is around us every day. We live comfortable lives far away from the immediate crisis – but without the hope of the gospel every one of our neighbors are “strangers from the covenants of promises, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). We are all moved by compassion when we see the images of the helpless, homeless and hopeless in this natural disaster – but what do we see when we look across the street? The young family that lives next door, or the older couple up the road, or the successful business man - all completely oblivious to the hopeless situation they are in – and all facing the same fate?
One of the notable events in the Haitian disaster is the lack of “official” help due to the complete destruction of hospitals and government infrastructure. Injured, dead and dying lying on the streets together. Often, the people wondering around on the street are the only hope the victims have.
If there was an earthquake in our neighborhood and we were safely delivered, yet no government help could reach those around us – would we not jump in and deliver our neighbors from certain death? No doubt, we would be moved with compassion. As aid agencies flock to the crisis and hold out immediate life-saving aid such as, food, water, and medical supplies to the needy – are we willing to “shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life” (Phil 2:15-16) to those around us who are in an equally precarious situation but don’t even know it? As rescue crews rush to the rubble to extract those who are not able to save themselves, buried alive – do we rush to save those around us who are living under the immanent sentence of death? Do we view our role and mission with the same importance? Or are we unresponsive and indifferent to the fate of the families, young and old who live all around us? We may be the only eternal relief agency available to them, the only source of the water of life and the bread from heaven. What are we going to do to ensure the “aid” we have at our disposal is delivered to those desperately in need?
All these things shall be dissolved
The Apostle Peter’s words about the end of the Jewish society leading up to AD70 have great importance to us today as we stand on the edge of the dissolution of modern society. He draws an analogy between the collapse of the Jewish world of his day and a natural earthquake in 2 Peter 3:7, 10-13:
“But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men….But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
Like Peter, we live at the end of an age which is about to be destroyed by a political earthquake, clearing the way for the establishment of a new society “wherein dwelleth righteousness.” What manner of people should we be? We have witnessed an increasing number of disasters during the past few years such as the Tsunami in Indonesian and this Haitian earthquake. There have also been political and economic earthquakes. These are all a glimpse of the turmoil that is soon to descend upon the world. Frequency of such events seems to be increasing like the birth pangs that come upon a woman in travail. They get stronger and the distance between them becomes closer as the day draws nearer. Paul writes,
“But of times and season, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye brethren are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of the darkness, Therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober (1 Thes 5:1-5).”
Daniel writes of a “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” that will coincide with the deliverance of the nation of Israel and the resurrection of the saints. Zechariah describes an earthquake in Chapter 14:4 that will split the Mount of Olives in two, lifting Mount Zion above the surrounding mountains. Scientists have estimated an earthquake of this magnitude would register as a 10 on the Richer scale. Israel is located at the meeting place of the tectonic plates and the chain reaction could level all buildings across the world higher than 2-3 stories. This will end society as we know it, bringing down the infrastructure that supports and undergirds corrupt governments as it did in Haiti – and preparing the way for the establishment of righteous rule upon this planet.
Huge cities like Toronto have only a couple of days of food supplies should the border between the US and Canada close – let alone if all the highways were shut down as the overpasses collapsed and closed off the city from the outside world. What would happen in your neighborhood without food, water, electricity, gasoline, natural gas or oil? How long would food supplies last when the refrigerators and freezers begin to thaw out? How would people escape with no fuel on highways that were rendered impassable? Where would they go?
It will not be long before the apocalyptic images we see in Haiti will be repeated and magnified all over the world. We know this is coming – along with terrible battles such as Armageddon. How will your neighbors fair? How about the people you work with, or go to school with?
If we knew in advance of the impending disaster in Haiti, surely we would have warned the citizens to get out of their homes. We are fully aware of a coming disaster on a far greater magnitude. So what are we going to do about it? If we truly have compassion or love for our neighbors – we are bound to warn them about the situation the world is about to be plunged into and extend to them the invitation of the gospel – the good news of the kingdom of God which is able to make them wise unto salvation.
As people around the world ask the question WHY? Let us give them no reason to ask of us WHY WE didn’t warn them of the coming apocalypse this world will face.
Like Noah’s day – we don’t expect a huge response. Noah is described in Hebrews 11:7,
“By faith, Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, preparing an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”
We have been warned of things not seen as yet – and need to be equally moved by a healthy fear of what is coming, and become “preachers of righteousness”. The same way God “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” neither should we be.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (1 Peter 3:9-10).
While the earth will not be literally destroyed, corrupt society as we know it “will be dissolved.”
So let us have the same fervor as those who are struggling to save the lives of Haitians and bring hope to the hopeless – to hold for the word of life to those around us, who “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, having no hope and are without God in the world”.
For the Bible In The News – this has been Jonathan Bowen.