Destruction often shows up in seasons of transition.
When we see the impacts that these kinds of disasters have, it is difficult to imagine that God would allow it. After all, the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Matthew 5:45). Even if the intent of these events is some kind of just punishment, their effects are felt by the innocent just as much as the guilty. So how can this be divine, and how are we to respond when destruction and devastation come for us?
We like to think about God in His “goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control” box, and we forget that this is the same God who killed the firstborn sons of Egypt in order to set His people free.
Jesus is most often imagined as the Lamb of God, peacefully abiding in the care of His heavenly Father. We forget that the Lamb of God is also the Lion of Judah.
He is King. Kings fight wars, and wars leave collateral damage. Wars are destructive.
How can destruction be divine, and how are we to respond when destruction and devastation come for us?
And my friend, we are at war. As we sit here, sipping coffee, having conversation, war wages all around us. Destruction is taking place in realms that our eyes cannot see. There is an enemy prowling around, seeking one that he may devour. And he leaves a trail of destruction in his wake.
Have you ever read Acts 16? Maybe you don’t know it by its reference, but you most likely know the narrative: Paul and Silas are imprisoned for sharing the gospel. While they are chained up, they begin praying and singing songs to God. Suddenly, around midnight an earthquake shakes the prison to its core and the chains of all the prisoners – including Paul and Silas – are broken.
I once preached on this passage (I’ll link that teaching below for those interested in hearing) and one of the most surprising things I learned in my study was that earthquakes in this part of the world were actually more common than we might expect.
We forget that the
Lamb of God is also the
Lion of Judah.
I say this surprised me, but truthfully, I was shocked. Growing up in the church, I’d heard this story multiple times before, and the earthquake was always presented as this unexpected, miraculous event. I imagined it as the worlds’ first earthquake. No precedent. Completely divine.
It is divine, in that no man can manufacture it. But it’s common. And it’s still destructive.
For Christians, this is a story about how God set the prisoners free. But it rains on the righteous and the unrighteous, right? That earthquake – one strong enough to shake the prison to its core – could not have been isolated to the prison where Paul and Silas were worshiping. The depth of impact equates to the breadth of destruction; anything that shakes you to the core also carries a ripple effect.
So how did the guy selling his wares down the street from the prison feel about the earthquake? Did it represent freedom to him too? Did he survive it? Scripture doesn’t tell us, and there’s no way for us to know for certain. The point I’m making is that even destruction, when wielded by the hands of a gracious and merciful God, can carry divine implications.
Even destruction, when wielded by the hands of a gracious and merciful God, can carry divine implications.
But how can we describe a God who would allow for such devastation as gracious and merciful?
Because He is not only gracious and merciful. He is just. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He saw it coming. He planned for that earthquake from the foundations of the world. He designed the layers of earth to converge at the exact time that a quake would be needed to free Paul and Silas.
Sometimes the miracle isn’t in the big event; sometimes the miracle is in the provision made long before a miracle was necessary.
I realize that it isn’t fun to think of God being destructive in any way that doesn’t immediately appear to gratify our need for vindication. I understand that thinking of God as someone who would knowingly inflict pain challenges our theology and our church doctrine and – to be quite honest – frustrates our experience with Him.
Totally get it. Also, totally don’t care.
He’s God. Think about that.
G O D.
Sometimes the miracle isn’t in the big event; sometimes the miracle is in the sovereign provision made long before a miracle was necessary.