"All the effects of the curse are God’s judgment upon the sin of humanity, and [are] God’s continual, providential engagement with creation (cf. Isaiah 24:1-13, Lamentations 3:37-39). God’s involvement in governing creation has not ceased upon the introduction of sin, but continues ...When the scourge of the curse befalls his people, our reaction should be to evaluate our lives in light of God’s holy judgment." - Ref21
Some Christians have always been troubled by God’s command to the Israelites to kill all the pagan inhabitants of the Promised Land. Moses ordered the people to “devote them to complete destruction,” (Deut 7:2). Why would God do this? Where’s the mercy? Where’s the love?
There are at least two reasons why God did this.
First, God did it because of the terrible sins of the pagan nations
Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob (Deut 9:5).
But, it’s not as bleak as all that. God told Abraham his descendants would eventually become slaves in Egypt for 400 years. Afterwards, “they shall come out with great possessions,” (Gen 15:14). Why would God not just give them the Promised Land immediately? Because, in Abraham’s time, “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete,” (Gen 15:16).
So, God kept the Israelites in Egypt for 400 years specifically so the pagan’s subsequent destruction would be justified. This suggests God allows us to “fill our cup” before He metes out judgment (cf. Mt 23:32; 1 Thess 2:15-16).
These are sobering, uncertain, and anxiety producing times. I can recall nothing this severe in my lifetime. The coronavirus is a danger unlike anything our nation has faced for many decades. Some have likened it to conditions during World War II, and I can well imagine that to be the case. Nearly everyone is concerned about scarcity of supplies as they survey empty store shelves. Many are afraid of sickness and possible death. Others are panicking about the sudden evaporation of their retirement accounts. Fortunes have vanished in a moment. Some fear the break-down of law and order with rioting and looting. Gun sales have soared over the past several weeks. News report usually begin with pandemic updates along with accusations, finger-pointing, and blame-shifting. As Christians, we need to listen less to the voices around us, and more to the wisdom of God. Thinking biblically is the best remedy for our fears.
The expression “the Day of the Lord” is sometimes thought to refer to the time of the end of this age.2 Unquestionably, there are passages which do refer to the eschaton, and we shall look at them, but not every usage of the phrase can be slotted into the last days—the locust plague in Joel 1 being a case in point.
In Joel 1 the Day of the Lord speaks of Yahweh using things in the natural world to punish His people. Four descriptions of the locusts are given in Joel 1:4 and 2:25 (which could describe four separate varieties of locust). This appears to tie together Joel 1 and 2. Additionally, Joel 1:6 depicts the teeth of the locusts as lion’s fangs, which is figurative, so we must take into account similes when reading about the appearance of the army in Joel 2:4 as like horses.3 For reasons such as these, Thomas Finley believes that Joel 1:5- 2:25 describes a contemporary locust infestation.4
Satan’s encounter with Eve in the Garden is fascinating and very important for us to understand. His temptation of Eve, recorded in Genesis 3, represents several firsts:
It is the first instance of an epistemological alternative to God’s design. Satan offers to Eve a different way to have God-like knowledge. Satan argues that God is actually deceiving Eve into ignorance by keeping her from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan’s plan was both clear and appealing: Be like God by the assertion of your own will, and be free from God’s restrictive design. Declare your independence from God by doing it your own way—the result will be the same.
Satan’s temptation of Eve is also the first instance of a hermeneutic alternative to God’s design. Satan’s temptation of Eve was the first recorded instance of a non-literal interpretation of God’s word. Satan asks Eve, “Has God said … ?” and then proceeds to distort what God had actually said (3:1). In contrast, Genesis 1-12 represents roughly 2,500 years of history, and during that time, of the roughly 31 references to God speaking, this is the only instance (besides Eve’s fumbling in response to Satan’s challenge) in which God’s word isn’t taken at face value.
Earlier this year, the massive loss of life and utter devastation to property that afflicted northern Japan as a consequence of a massive earthquake and tsunami were appalling by their massiveness. In subsequent weeks and months, a series of property-destroying and death-dealing tornadoes repeatedly afflicted the heartland of America, most recently in Joplin, Missouri. While the death and destruction in Japan were much more extensive than all the storms collectively in America, the much closer proximity of these American storms to us in south central Kansas, particularly the tornado in Joplin (a city just three-plus hours away by car , and one we have driven through dozens of times), gives them a much greater immediacy. What did happen there could easily happen here.
The prominence of such tragedies in recent news raises a serious question: Why? What cause was behind these disasters? Can a direct line from cause to effect be traced? What was God’s divine purpose in all this?
The first and natural (and usually wrong) impulse is to say, “It must have been deserved. Something these people did brought this on themselves.” That was the theory of Job’s friends in trying to reason through the cause of his multiplied calamities. That was the speculation of Jesus’ disciples, too, when they saw the man born blind in John 9. Surely his parents or he himself committed some specific sin (which in the case of the man himself assumes divine foreknowledge of a future heinous sin and a preemptive strike, of sorts, by God).