The LORD: the Author of Calamity
The LORD uses calamity to punish sin and enforce righteousness.
As I mentioned in the Introduction, a necessary result of the LORD’s sovereignty is that He must also be the LORD of calamity.
The LORD can’t be sovereign if there are events outside His direct intentions; chapter 1 of this series made that point very clear from the Scriptures with numerous examples not directly related to calamity. The purpose of this chapter is to detail from the Scripture the equally clear point that the LORD is also—and must be!—the author of calamity.
Imagine how ridiculous this text would be if there are elements outside the LORD’s expectation or control:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and laid bare before the eyes of Him before whom we give account.
All that one would need to say to sidestep his/her inevitable accounting to and judgment by the LORD would be to claim something like
“LORD, even you, the Infinite, didn’t expect what happened. So, how is it even possible could I be held responsible when I am finite?”
Many years ago, this text caught my attention:
Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey? Does a young lion growl from his den unless he has captured something? Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground when there is no bait in it? Does a trap spring up from the earth when it captures nothing at all? If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?
The common point of the text above is that Amos asked several questions which expect very obvious, “yes/no” answers. They are culminated with a question regarding calamity: regarding calamity, the obvious answer is that, of course, it is a direct result of the LORD’s work. It can’t be otherwise because there is nothing outside His direct control.
The following are just a small sample of this great truth; subsequent chapters will focus on more specific categories.
The LORD brings calamity because of sin and rebellion.
[This is such an obvious point, but modern "theologians" and "apologists" go out of their way to sidestep this simple, biblical truth. It seems that they would prefer some reason other than sin, so they trade the just actions of the sovereign LORD for something—anything—else.]
Now the generation to come, your sons who rise up after you and the foreigner who comes from a distant land, when they see the plagues of the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it ... ... All the nations will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land? Why this great outburst of anger?’ Then men will say, ‘Because they forsook the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom He had not allotted to them. Therefore, the anger of the Lord burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book; and the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger and in fury and in great wrath, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.’
Is it not laid up in store with Me,
Sealed up in My treasuries?
Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,
In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near,
And the impending things are hastening upon them.
[This is the central text of the well-known sermon by Jonathan Edwards which he preached in July, 1741 during the Great Awakening, in Northampton, MA.]
Therefore thus says the LORD,
“Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity
From which you cannot remove your necks;
And you will not walk haughtily,
For it will be an evil time."
The face of the LORD is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
Because I called and you refused,
I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention;
And you neglected all my counsel
And did not want my reproof;
I will also laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your dread comes,
When your dread comes like a storm
And your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
[This is a common theme: calamity follows foolishness and obstinance.]
A worthless person, a wicked man,
Is the one who walks with a perverse mouth,
Who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet,
Who points with his fingers;
Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil,
Who spreads strife.
Therefore his calamity will come suddenly;
Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.
For their calamity will rise suddenly,
And who knows the ruin that comes from both of them?
The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the Lord who does all these.
The ancients understood that the LORD uses calamity to punish evil.
How often is the lamp of the wicked put out,
Or does their calamity fall on them?
Does God apportion destruction in His anger?
For the wicked is reserved for the day of calamity;
They will be led forth at the day of fury.
Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way;
He who hates reproof will die.
A rebellious man seeks only evil,
So a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
He who returns evil for good,
Evil will not depart from his house.
He who has a crooked mind finds no good,
And he who is perverted in his language falls into evil.
For there will be no future for the evil man;
The lamp of the wicked will be put out.
How blessed is the man who fears always,
But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
Consider the work of God,
For who is able to straighten what He has bent?
In the day of prosperity be happy,
But in the day of adversity consider—
God has made the one as well as the other
So that man will not discover anything that will be after him.
Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him,
For what he deserves will be done to him.
The LORD may use disease to inflict calamity.
And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.”
The Lord will remove from you all sickness; and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you.
He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt of which you were afraid, and they will cling to you.
The LORD brings calamity through various means, including people.
Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals, and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the Lord to anger. So they forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had spoken and as the Lord had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed.
Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; and the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim.
Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years. The power of Midian prevailed against Israel.
Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: … 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.
If a rebellious people repent, the LORD withholds or removes calamity.
So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.
if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.
if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it. So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.
‘But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh,’ declares the LORD, ‘but I will give your life to you as booty in all the places where you may go.’
[The LORD promised to spare Baruch from calamity (which surrounded him at that time in the destruction of Jerusalem) because of his obedience and service to the LORD's Word and Jeremiah.]