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Judgement on New Orleans?


Do you think Hurricane Katrina could have been God’s judgment on New Orleans, like the fire on Sodom and Gomorrah?

Steve Answers:

Yes, I think it could’ve been, but I don’t think it actually was. I’m wondering why you think it may have been God’s judgment on New Orleans.

You can find the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 and 19. After Abraham hosted the Lord and a couple of angels cloaked in human form, the Lord told Abraham, “I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me” (Genesis 18:20, 21). That’s what I call a “hands-on” type of God!

I’m sure glad I wasn’t part of Sodom and Gomorrah, aren’t you? But then I read in Romans 1 that God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all of the godlessness and wickedness of men (verse 18). Could that be you and me?

In Romans 2 Paul writes about those who are followers of God. He says that we are “without excuse,” and we’re “just as bad” (see verse 1 in various translations). If you can make it all the way through Romans 3, you’ll get to the punch line that was probably a memory verse for you years ago—verse 23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Why aren’t more people zapped? The answer is in the same passage, in Romans 2:4: “Don’t you realize how patient he [God] is being with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see that he has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (TLB).*

You can count on two things: God is in the saving business—He wants to save everyone. And, for those who don’t accept the salvation God offers, things will eventu-ally get even worse than the “natural catastrophes” that we’ve recently seen. If you want a glimpse of how bad it will get, check out Daniel 12:1; Revelation 14:9-11; and Revelation 9:18-21!

You asked specifically about Hurricane Katrina being a judgment on New Orleans, but after Hurricane Katrina other hurricanes unleashed their fury during the rest of last year’s “hurricane season.” Was God “punishing” the whole Gulf coast? What about the Caribbean islands and the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico? And don’t leave out the earthquake in Pakistan that killed more than those who died in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. (Adventists point to the Lisbon earthquake as a sign of the “terrible earthquakes at the end of time.”)

When something catastrophic happens, we recognize we’re not God. We may turn to God for help or to cast blame or to simply ask Why? Even those who claim not to believe in God seem to blame Him when terrible things happen. I suppose that since God is ultimately “in charge,” He gets the blame. He seems to be able to take it, even though things like this will continue—and even get worse—before this whole conflict between good and evil comes to a close.

I want to point out that Jesus doesn’t place an immediate cause-and-effect relationship between tragic events and judgments from God. Notice His comments in Luke 13:1-5: “About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were sacrificing at the Temple in Jerusalem. ‘Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than other people from Galilee?’ he asked. ‘Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will also perish unless you turn from your evil ways and turn to God. And what about the eigh-teen men who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will also perish’” (NLT).† Here’s my rough paraphrase. Don’t think that every tragic death is a direct judgment from God. What counts is whether or not you’re committed to God, not how you happen to die. Until this earth’s history comes to an end, there will be both calamity and opportunity to minister God’s goodness and glory as Paul said in Romans 8:21-23, “All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us” (NLT).

Until then, anticipate the new earth, hand out God’s mercy to others, and be thankful that God is a judge who’s full of mercy—for you as well as for those who are suffering.

*Verses marked TLB are taken from The Living Bible, copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois. Used by permission.
†Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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