Are Boston Bombings Another Warning From God?

Today, two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Casualties are uncertain, but mounting. It was another horrific shock for America. I pray for those impacted by this bloody violence. Still, I wonder, is it possible that this is another warning from God?

The lion has roared;
who will not fear?
The Lord God has spoken;
who can but prophesy?
Amos 3:8

In America,

  • we kill over a million unborn children per year, call it choice, but we expect God to save our lives
  • we made Fifty Shades of Grey (trilogy about sadomasochism) the runaway best sellers of the year (all 3 books), but we expect God to not judge
  • we care more about media celebrities and athletes than we do about pastors, teachers, doctors, and other helpers, but we expect God to provide for our needs
  • we think science offers better explanations for life than its Creator, but we expect God to enrich our lives
  • we try to redefine God’s gift of marriage, but we expect God to bless our families
  • we spend money we don’t have, personally and at all levels of government, but we expect God to prosper us
  • we glorify lust, violence, greed, and selfishness, but we expect God’s blessings
  • we divorce for no reason, commit sexual immorality for any reason, and push back God’s limits as out of date, but we expect God to strengthen our relationships
  • we spend our time and treasure on entertainment, but we expect God to solve our big problems
  • we trust in technology, neglect prayer, but we expect God to answer anyway

Why do we think that God’s judgment is not imminent? Amos, a rancher in the 8th century BC, saw similar problems in his nation (Judah) and in the neighboring nations. God sent him to give a warning to the nation of Israel in about 760. It was two years before a powerful earthquake (archaeological evidence suggests it was an 8.2 Richter scale disaster that destroyed several cities). Amos announced that God, the Lion of Zion, was roaring in warning, but the people paid no attention. Within a generation, the northern kingdom, Israel, was completely destroyed. In 722, Assyria removed what was left of its people and decimated the capital, Samaria. America needs to learn from this example or it faces the same perilous judgment from God.

Would God really send a disaster like these bombings as a warning to America? Amos faced a similar question about God’s chosen people. Certainly, God would not allow harm to come, right? God, through Amos, promised the opposite: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” (Amos 3:2)

Is a trumpet blown in a city,
and the people are not afraid?
Does disaster befall a city,
unless the Lord has done it?
Surely the Lord God does nothing,
without revealing his secret
to his servants the prophets.
The lion has roared;
who will not fear?
The Lord God has spoken;
who can but prophesy?
Amos 3:6-8

What did that punishment (and warning) look like? What was God trying to do? Listen again to Amos:

I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities,
and lack of bread in all your places,
yet you did not return to me,
says the Lord.

And I also withheld the rain from you
when there were still three months to the harvest;
I would send rain on one city,
and send no rain on another city;

yet you did not return to me,
says the Lord.

I struck you with blight and mildew;
I laid waste your gardens and your vineyards;
the locust devoured your fig trees and your olive trees;
yet you did not return to me,
says the Lord.

I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt;
I killed your young men with the sword;
I carried away your horses;
and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils;
yet you did not return to me,
says the Lord.
Amos 4:6-10

Natural disasters, drought, famine, warfare – all were warnings from God so that the people would return to Him. And yet, they would not. Is America as ignorant and prideful? What if Katrina, Sandy, droughts across the midwest, the financial crisis, the Newtown shootings, and today’s bombings are all part of God’s warning to America? What happens if we still refuse to turn to Him?

Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel!

For lo, the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind,
reveals his thoughts to mortals,
makes the morning darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth—
 the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!

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Focus on the Cross – Psalm 22 (Psalms Project)

Do you have struggles or pain today? Do you wonder where God is in the midst of it all? Has He forsaken this world? Today is Good Friday, and it is a good day to face these questions.

The disciples of Jesus recorded seven sayings of Jesus from the cross. Probably the most famous is “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” While there are some staggering theological implications in this cry, it is foremost Jesus quoting from Psalm 22. One thousand years before the crucifixion, David wrote this psalm that so vividly describes it. As the gospel writers recognized, it is one of the clearest evidences of fulfilled prophecy from the Old Testament. While David certainly could have experienced some of the anguish depicted here, its description moves beyond the events of his life and points forward to the cross. Watch how its focus unfolds and challenges us to a new focus.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

David starts focused on himself and his pain and suffering. He feels forsaken by a silent God and restless. Have you been there? Have you wondered where God is in the midst of your pain?

David quickly moves to his knowledge about God. He addresses God directly assuming He is listening. God is holy; He is present in worship. He has answered His people in the past. Their trust was not in vain. However, David is not yet accepting this truth for himself.

But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

Here is where it gets so interesting! At the cross, this is precisely fulfilled by the people, the thieves crucified with Jesus and even the religious leaders. The leaders quote this section of the psalm as a taunt to Jesus on the cross. (see Matt 27:38-44) They miss the irony of how Jesus is going to exactly fulfill the rest of the psalm. The focus doesn’t stay on despair, but moves to trust.

Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

David’s focus has now moved off his own anguish to his personal experience with God. In his own life, he has been able to trust God. He calls on God to do what He has so often done before. Are you so aware of God’s work in your life that you will trust Him to do it again? Even when the circumstances are extreme? Listen…

Many bulls encircle me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

Was there ever anyone who experienced this more than Jesus on the cross? Surrounded by evil doers, tortured and disfigured, physically drained and dry, despairing to the point of death, an object of ridicule. Where would your focus go? What would your cry be?

But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.

The last phrase is actually a one word exclamation: you-have-rescued-me! God’s saving power has come. After such a deliverance, it is surely time for a rest and some private gratitude, right? This is where the whole psalm turns and challenges our normal selfish focus, even after God has acted.

I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!

Not only is David declaring the praise of God in front of everyone; he prepares a meal for the poor as a demonstration of his gratitude. This is not limited to David, though. Hebrews 2:12 quotes this part of Psalm 22 as being fulfilled in Jesus. He is the one declaring the praises of the Father to his brothers and sisters. Jesus did not focus on His own suffering. He chose it as a fulfillment of God’s greatest plan – the plan to offer salvation to all. Somehow David glimpses this in the triumphant conclusion to Psalm 22:

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.

To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.

To all nations and generations, Jesus has proclaimed deliverance. He has proclaimed it from the cross. God has not truly forsaken us or forsaken the world. His arms are still stretched wide for all who will raise their focus off of their own pain and embrace this One who bore all our pains. It is finished! He has done it! Will you focus on Him today?

My own poem for Good Friday, “We Call it Good?