Topical Studies

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What the Bible says about Calamity, God Creates
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Isaiah 45:7

Until this point, the prophecy foretells a wonderful event, but verse 7 introduces a sobering side of God's work: He creates calamity! He links two contrasting sets of events: light and peace—representing constructive, hopeful, encouraging events—against darkness and calamity—representing destructive, fearful, discouraging circumstances. God creates both "good" and "bad" circumstances for His people and purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)

Isaiah 45:9-14

Verses 9-11 anticipate that there will always be those who murmur throughout the often calamitous ways God chooses to work out His salvation. Perhaps here God is specifically targeting the anticipated displeasure of some Jews disturbed that He would use a Gentile king, Cyrus, to free them. People who would not dare to grumble against God were they face to face with Him will do this, not realizing that God actually caused some of their discomfort in the calamities they experience. Israel did this in the wilderness. Deuteronomy 8:1-3 plainly says God caused them to hunger. The Israelites grumbled repeatedly, not realizing God was making them go hungry for their good (verses 3, 16). People ask, "Where is God? If He really cared, He wouldn't allow this to occur."

In reality, God cared about far more important things than the hunger pangs the Israelites endured. People frequently blame God with little understanding and in the wrong attitude. He indeed may be "guilty" of causing the calamity. Sometimes He may be blamed for doing nothing, when in reality He may be "guilty" of doing everything because He has a much greater end in mind! The problem with those who dare to accuse God is that they have a vague and weak understanding of how much He is involved.

Verses 11-13 are simultaneously a rebuke and a challenge to those who take this confused and whining approach. What God does is done in righteousness, and He will follow through with His will regardless of their opinions. He challenges them to ask Him about this prophecy and, if they think He cannot bring it to pass, to notice the power He displayed in His creation. The unstated question is, "Who is going to stop Me?" Further, Cyrus will not have to be bribed to perform what God has decreed—he will rebuild Jerusalem, just as God wills.

Passages like these clearly establish that God initiates calamitous events that on the surface appear to be disasters. But such passages also inspired Paul to formulate the well-known and oft-quoted Romans 8:28: "All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." We most need to understand that God creates these events to produce a result in harmony with His purpose. Thus, they are always good whether or not they appear as such on the surface. This in no way means they are fun to go through. By definition, a calamity is not fun, invariably producing the destruction of things we may hold dear. It may be quite painful and frightening! But, if we believe God, and if we are coming to know Him, then we will strive to work through it in patient hope, trusting His wisdom, love, and power.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)

Jeremiah 15:1-8

Chapter 15 records Jeremiah's second complaint. Here, the prophet experiences a crisis as major—if that could be—as the crisis Judah's king and people were experiencing. Jeremiah's was a crisis in belief so dangerous that it threatened his position as God's prophet. Chapter 15 opens with what can only be characterized as a sensational word-picture of God's rejection of Judah. Indeed, only a man after God's own heart, with a super-robust conviction of God's ultimate beneficence, could stomach such a mammoth calamity, seeing God's hand in it.

Charles Whitaker
A Tale of Two Complaints (Part Two)

Amos 1:2

In the wild a lion roars just as it is about to pounce on its prey. Symbolically and metaphorically, the roar of a lion or the crack of thunder shows the imminent intervention of God in human affairs (I Samuel 2:10; Isaiah 29:6; 31:4; Hosea 11:9-11; Revelation 16:18).

In the mid-eighth century BC when Amos preached, Israel's economic base was largely in agriculture, but a drought had begun to destabilize that foundation. The pastures had already begun to feel the effects of God's roaring, as had Carmel, the most verdant part of Israel, and incidentally, the supposed stronghold of Baal. Amos proclaims that the drought is the result of God's judgment.

The prophet uses this drought to illustrate that God is not an absentee landlord. He governs His creation (Psalm 104; Matthew 6:26) and knows everything that happens in it (Psalm 139; Matthew 10:29). He has neither abdicated nor delegated these responsibilities. If calamity strikes, God is involved in some way, possibly executing judgment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)

Amos 5:19

One calamity occurs after another. It seems as if a person escapes one of them, only to become caught in a worse calamity. The Day of the Lord will be a time of unending catastrophe and trouble.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Three)

Philippians 2:14-15

Comprehending God's sovereignty should begin to produce another necessary yet difficult quality: complete resignation to God's will. We Israelites have gained quite a reputation with God for being unwilling to accept life without griping.

Human nature naturally complains when it feels it has been deprived of what it had its heart set on. We think that our possessions are ours unconditionally. We feel that we are entitled to success when we have done something well. We believe that, when we work hard and competently, we deserve to keep what we have accumulated. We hold that, when surrounded by our happy family, no power may enter our beloved circle and strike down a loved one. We can even think that we should be immune from bankruptcy because God must honor our obedience! However, understanding and accepting God's sovereignty includes His right to do or allow anything He wills.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sovereignty and Its Fruit: Part Ten


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