Is Hurricane Sandy Judgement From God by Rob Schenck

Somebody asked me today, “Do you think the hurricane is a judgment from God?” I had an answer, but I’ll tell you what it was in a minute. First, it’s important to look at what judgement means in this context. The theological term is often used in a punitive way. In other words, God “judges” people when they do wrong. However, the biblical use of the term is more expansive. In reference to suffering, St. Paul said to the Thessalonians, “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God . . .” (2 Thess 1:5a ESV) The “righteous judgment of God” is part of God’s goodness and grace–it is a gift to humankind because it reminds us of who is really in charge.

The fingerprint of God?

After nearly twenty years of ministry to America’s top elected and appointed officials, I’ve seen plenty of political grandiosity. It’s easy for those at the pinnacle of earthly power to believe they can control everything. All it takes, though, is a tropical cyclone–something that has happened since time immemorial–to remind us we are not all-powerful. In fact, as happened today, rising air, blowing winds, and whirling clouds can bring the most powerful political forces on earth to a standstill. While the loss of life and property already tied to Hurricane Sandy (and the prospect of much more to come) is reason to weep with those who weep, yet there is a silver lining to this otherwise dark and menacing cloud. Hurricanes remind us just how dependent we are on God, on each other, and even on nature. Such calamities give us perspective; they humble us; they remind us of how small we really are when compared to the Lord who “sits enthroned on the flood.” (Psalm 29:10)

A CNN anchor opined today, “Hurricane Sandy has thrown a real monkey wrench into the presidential campaign. ” I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, I think it’s exactly the opposite. This storm took the two presidential candidates off the campaign trail eight days out of the election. That has enormous consequences for both. Now, I’m not so naive that I don’t to see how the incumbent president is using the situation to his advantage. Nonetheless, it’s a good thing for the country to see top tier politicians at least pause in their contest to give attention to something much bigger than themselves. This hiatus is a gift from God. Politics–and the politicians at the core of it–can become smaller and smaller as a campaign approaches its conclusion. This is an opportunity for them–and more importantly for all of us–to recalibrate hearts and minds.

So, what was my answer to the initial question of whether or not Hurricane Sandy is a judgment from God? Of course it is–as is everything we know in this world. Nature is both punitive and redemptive–reflecting two attributes of its Creator, the One whom our American founders called, “The Supreme Judge of the World.”

For those who have forgotten God–or, worse, who may be confused if they are God–this storm is an awesome reminder and a corrective measure. For those who know the One that controls the seas, it is an opportunity for awe and worship. Both outcomes are consistent with the purpose of judgment. This event is beyond our control–and that is a powerful way to learn who indeed is.

But God made the earth by his power;

he founded the world by his wisdom

and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.

When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar;

he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth.

He sends lightning with the rain

and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

Everyone is senseless and without knowledge;

every goldsmith is shamed by his idols.

His images are a fraud;

they have no breath in them.

They are worthless, the objects of mockery;

when their judgment comes, they will perish.

He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these,

for he is the Maker of all things,

including Israel, the tribe of his inheritance—

the Lord Almighty is his name.

– Jeremiah 10:12-16 NIV

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