The LORD: the Author of Calamity
Centuries ago, the LORD told Isaiah:
I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.
The LORD of the Scriptures is sovereign!
For this statement to be true, it must mean that the LORD can do anything He pleases, that there is nothing beyond His power or wisdom, that He can never be frustrated, surprised, alarmed or fearful. It means that everything that occurs in all the universe is planned and, therefore, it also must mean that nothing is left to chance. If you’ve spent any time on this site, you’ll know that I frequently reference this wonderful, life-changing and life-grounding truth.
[An example is the sovereignty of God is demonstrated in the truth of the election of grace. I present this great truth in a full chapter in the series The Humanism of Evangelistic Apologetics , chapter 5, The Election of Grace.]
A natural consequence of the truth of the LORD’s sovereignty is that He also is—and must be!—the Author of Calamity. If you think about this for even a moment, you’ll realize that this must be the case—unless, of course, you foolishly think that the LORD is sovereign over everything that is “good” but has no involvement in those events that are “not good” (at least by any humanistic definition)—and, in fact, may even be surprised when they occur. That is, you assume that “bad things” happen that were not intended by the Almighty. In this wrong-headed scenario, you then must place the LORD into a reactive mode: He responds to somehow “fix” whatever it was that happened outside of, and perhaps contrary to, His “good” intentions.
This thought is stunningly common in the thinking of modern, so-called “Christians”. The refrain is typically expressed as “How could God let this happen!?”, as if He was blind-sided by the unforeseen event and we, mere, unfortunate mortals, must endure the consequences of the LORD’s lack of foresight.
[EDIT April 7, 2019:
I encountered an example of just this type of thinking in a video posted by Cross Examined, Why does God Allow Natural Disasters?. The "apologist", Frank Turek, completely avoided the biblical answer and, instead, proceeded down the unthinkably irresponsible rabbit trail of something he termed the "ripple effect".
In the video, Dr. Turek mentioned three times that "God allowed" a particular action—in direct contradiction of the Scriptures which I present in this article, as you'll see.]
Moreover, this thinking usually is based on the arrogant premise that mankind deserves better than to endure the sufferings of wide-spread calamity.
That entire line of thinking is contrary to the truth of the Bible and is nothing less than active contempt for the LORD, His Word and His power.
A wonderful text from Isaiah comes to mind that illustrates this typical, upside-down, unbiblical thinking:
Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the Lord,
And whose deeds are done in a dark place,
And they say, “Who sees us?” or “Who knows us?”
You turn things around!
Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay,
That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”;
Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
In approximately 1887, Lord John Acton is reputed to have made the well-known comment:
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
The implicit context of his commentary was the venue of human rule and power. However, Lord Acton was wrong on two counts:
- No human has absolute power—but the human is very corrupt. (cf., Rom 3.9-23: “There is none who does good …”)
- While Acton was obviously referring to humankind, it must be stated that only the LORD has absolute power, a power inextricably intertwined with His absolute holiness and perfect wisdom.
You should be easily able to reason from the texts referenced in this series that only a Being with absolute power—the LORD!—can be absolutely holy and incorruptible!
Lord Acton got it very wrong…
The thought that calamity often falls upon the sinner is both common and justified; many throughout the ages have assumed that “bad things” occur because the person(s) affected is(are) sinful. While that is often true, it is not unconditionally true, as the Lord Christ taught many centuries ago:
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
[The Lord’s point here is the call to repentance to avoid perishing.]
As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
[The man was born blind so that the Lord Christ would perform a miracle and thereby demonstrate the “work of God”.]
Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.
Now it was the Sabbath on that day. So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.”
[The inferences here are clear: the Lord Christ knew something about the man He healed which is not mentioned in the text. Whatever the sin was, the clear warning was that the man should repent and forsake his former manner of life or expect something even worse to befall him.]
The first example does not deal with calamity resulting from sin; rather, it really is a warning that divine judgment falls upon all sinners who do not repent.
The second example demonstrates the sovereignty of the LORD. It pleased Him to ensure that the man was born blind in order that a powerful miracle would be performed by the Lord Christ as a witness to the religious elite of His day. The miracle demonstrated both the power and grace of the LORD to a group of “religious” leaders who were as morally bankrupt as they were thoroughly corrupt. Ultimately, they sought to murder the Lord Christ in the futile attempt at justifying themselves.
The third example is a demonstration that the LORD may afflict a sinner with some disease as temporal punishment. The warning of the Lord Christ made this very clear.
The LORD alone determines if, how, why, when and where He uses calamity.
The purpose of this series is to detail from the Scripture that calamity is not an “accident” or “something that happened” outside of the LORD’s purposes, but rather is one of the necessary aspects of His sovereign rule over all things. All calamity comes from the perfect purposes and intentions of the Almighty, the Author of Calamity.
This series is presented in 7 chapters:
- The LORD is sovereign.
- The LORD is patient and merciful.
- The LORD uses calamity to punish sin and enforce righteousness.
- The LORD brings calamity to nations and peoples.
- The LORD brings calamity to individuals.
- The exceptional case of Job’s calamity.
- A Call to Repentance.