2013 marked Californiaâ€™s worst year for rainfall in recorded history. 2013 also marked the 40th year of abortion being legalized, and the year same-sex marriage was fully legalized in California.
Are these major, historic events just a coincidence?
Or are they a sign of judgment.
Although rarely heard today, in Americaâ€™s recent past, both leaders in the church and civil government regularly called people to examine their ways and repent after tragedies like drought, disease, war, and other catastropheâ€™s once known as â€œActs of Godâ€, but today called â€œnatural disastersâ€.
A remnant of this forgotten perspective can still be seen today if one looks through our legal codes and observes the term â€œAct of Godâ€ still mentioned. Law dictionaries define this term as â€œa legal term for events outside human control, such as sudden floods or other natural disasters, for which no one can be held responsible.â€
This legal term originates from the past understanding that God is in control of nature â€“ including droughts, as Amos 4:7 says, â€œI have withholden the rain from youâ€¦ and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.â€
Summarizing early Americaâ€™s view of the Bibleâ€™s teaching on the source of droughts and other calamities, Pastor Jacob Cushing preached in a 1788 sermon, â€œAnd it may be noted, in general, that when public calamities were inflicted upon them, whether by the more immediate hand of heaven, as drought, pestilence, famine, and the likeâ€¦ it was always as a just punishment for their national iniquities; their idolatry, irreligion and abounding wickedness. And upon their repentance and reformation, these calamities were removed, and their prosperity restored.â€ (1)
Another example is found in Pastor Whiteford Smithâ€™s response to an 1849 deadly disease outbreak in South Carolina, who called on people to â€œhumble ourselves in the dust, to repent, to fast, and to pray, if peradventure God may turn away his anger from us, and in wrath remember mercy.â€ (2)
In the Bible â€” and many of these older sermons â€” we often see a focus on personal repentance, but we also see that when Daniel was told by God of an impending 70 year judgment, Daniel responded by confessing the sins of his whole nation, saying: â€œWe have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgmentsâ€ (Daniel 9:5).
Although we must exercise caution in presuming to know Godâ€™s specific purpose in a calamity, perhaps it is best to see it as an opportunity to examine ourselves, confess our known personal and national sins, and enquire of the Lord as David did in 2 Samuel 21:1, â€œThen there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD.â€
end notes:1.Â Sermon: â€œDivine Judgment Upon Tyrantsâ€, Jacob Cushing, 1798. 2.Â Sermon: â€œNational sins: A call to repentanceâ€, Whitefoord Smith, 1849.