Joseph Herrin (08-31-08)
Is it presumption to declare that Gustav is the staff of God being manifested as a rod of correction upon a wicked nation and church? To go even further, is it wrong to see any tropical storm or hurricane as an act of divine judgment upon a people who are walking in sin? These are important questions to answer, and questions that should be examined closely, for there are many widely divergent opinions on the matter today.
A large segment of the church comprised of both tares (false Christians) and wheat (true Christians) have embraced thoughts of a happy (joyful) God who is loving, merciful, forgiving and patient. These truly are attributes of Yahweh’s character, but they are not all the attributes of God. A church who lives careless lives focused upon the pursuit of material possessions, pleasure and ease would very naturally tend toward a view of God as one Who is predominantly happy and positive in all of His thoughts toward mankind. Yet such a lopsided, unbalanced view of the character and nature of God is very ill advised and many who embrace such a view will suffer great loss. Apart from the fear of God men do not learn righteousness, and it is the fear of God that is glaringly absent from the thoughts of a great many people today.
Behold then the kindness and severity of God…
Recently, the Spirit of Christ led me to give a series of talks to a group of Christians gathered in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The theme of the week was “The Cross and Surrender.” In the cross we can see clearly both the kindness and the severity of God. It was His great kindness that led Him to send His own Son to the cross to pay the penalty for all sin and to provide a merciful covering for mankind.
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…
Such passages as these are exceptionally wonderful. To imagine a grace, a love, and a mercy so profound that God would send His dearly beloved Son to die on behalf of sinful man is incomprehensible. There cannot be too much said about the depths of the love of God. We should all make it the goal and aim of our life to comprehend as much as possible the marvelous love, mercy and grace of Yahweh and His Son. A lifetime of exploration would fall far short of encompassing the breadth, height, length and depth of the love of God.
Indeed, it is largely because of such an extravagant love being poured out for mankind that God is righteously indignant toward those who refuse to avail themselves of the depths of grace revealed through His Son. If God had not given so much, if He had not gone so far beyond what any could have imagined in reconciling sinful mankind to Himself, then there would be less reason for His wrath to be manifested toward those who treat His kindness and love with little regard.
How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
God has carried forth a plan of inestimable cost. The very blood of His Son was used to redeem the fallen race of man. Can any understand the terrible cost the Father and Son both paid when Yahshua went to the cross? When the Son cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” He was uttering words that pierced the heart of His Father in heaven. All of heaven surely wept at that darkest of all hours when all the punishment for the sins of mankind were laid upon the back of the spotless Lamb of God.
Having paid such a cost, do you suppose the Father is pleased when He observes His children continuing in the sinful acts that brought such a great pain to His heart and that of His dear Son? Does not the Father consider those who are careless about the sin in their lives to be regarding as an unclean thing the blood of His Son? Does He not rightly perceive that those who continue in sin are insulting the Spirit of grace freely given to them?
God has given the world all things necessary for them to be restored to fellowship with Himself. He paid the price when man could not do so himself. He has provided all grace to His children for them to live overcoming lives, devoted to Him, pursuing righteousness, and ever living to please the One who gave all for them.
Yes, there truly is a loving and merciful and gracious aspect of God’s nature. Because He has gone so very far in manifesting these attributes of His character, even to the sacrifice of the One who was most precious to His heart, He is righteously indignant with all those who turn aside from His great gift. He is justly wrathful at all those who continue in sin after having been made partakers of the gift of God.
What shall we say to all this? Are we to remain in sin in order that God’s grace (favor and mercy) may multiply and overflow? Certainly not! How can we who died to sin live in it any longer?
Most emphatically, the apostle Paul declares that those who have been purchased by the blood of Christ are to devote themselves to purity and righteousness. They are no longer their own. They belong to the One who purchased them at so high a cost. Their lives are to ever more be lived to satisfy the pleasure of God who has done so much on their behalf. They are to take up their cross and follow in the footsteps of the firstborn Son of God.
But what if they do not? Will God continue forever manifesting grace and mercy and love? Will He not be justified to punish those who treat with despite the great sacrifice He has made?
For if the word spoken through messengers proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
The apostle is here referring to the Law which had specific penalties for every type of transgression, and these things could not be altered. He argues that those who neglect, treat as common, the great salvation God has provided through His Son, will surely not escape the penalty of their actions. To whom much is given, much is required. Those who are in Christ have received so much more than those who lived before Christ. We have been made partakers of the Spirit of Christ who dwells in these vessels of clay. Will we not be deserving of a far greater penalty if we live careless lives, demonstrating our contempt for the great sacrifice of Christ?
America has had the truth of the gospel proclaimed among its people from its founding as a nation. Until recently the Bible was taught in schools and the ten commandments were posted in every courthouse. America is a nation that has received a profound witness of the truth of God. Yet the nation in her prosperity and great material blessing has settled on her lees. She has given herself to the pursuit of many impure things, and the church in America has lost her savor as salt that is without taste. The great salvation of God is trampled in the streets. Sin is broadcast continually over the airwaves. Filth fills the Internet. Moral decay is boasted of in her cities as is observed in the homosexual festival called Southern Decadence held in New Orleans, and as in Las Vegas, another den of iniquity that boasts in the nickname “Sin City.”
Truly God is a God of love. He could not prove His love to any greater extent that to send His Son to die in the place of man. He is also a God of righteousness, holiness and judgment. Consider the two verses that follow and the message they contain of God’s kindness and severity.
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
II Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
It is the kindness of God that leads men to repentance, but it is in the fear of God that holiness is perfected. Where is the fear of God among a people who are flaunting their sin openly? Where is the fear of God among a church that is living lives indistinguishable from that of their lost neighbors? Where is the fear of God among Christians when they are running after ministers who promise some mystical experience, some drunkenness of spirit, while the ministers themselves are fleecing them for every dollar they can extract and when away from the “revivals” they are getting drunk and engaging in sexual sins?
There is equally a carelessness of walk among those who are called by the name of Christ as there is among those who comprise the masses of America. There is no fear of God before their eyes. Yahweh has been sending many warnings over a very prolonged period of time. He has allowed a nation that was once the world’s greatest lender to become the world’s greatest debtor. He has sent wasting diseases among those who are indulgent in their lifestyles. He has given America the most costly medical system in the world, devouring the wealth individuals had saved up all their lives. He has afflicted America with fires, floods, hurricanes, droughts, pestilence, and many other calamities in order to turn her away from her headlong pursuit of sin.
Yahweh has sent a decline in the vaunted business sector of America. Her businesses which were once the esteem of the entire world are now crumbling into dust. General Motors was for decades the largest and most profitable business in the world. Now it is on the verge of bankruptcy. Industry has fled overseas. The housing market is collapsing and over a million homes are in foreclosure. Major banks are failing, and the stock market would have collapsed long ago if it were not for the intervention of the governments plunge protection team.
Families are falling apart. Sexually transmitted diseases are running rampant. It is estimated that genital herpes alone is afflicts one out of five women and in some ethnic communities the number is one out of every two women. These numbers do not include those who have not yet been diagnosed, which is estimated to be 80-90% of all actual cases. (Source www.herpesclinic.com)
Sexual relations between individuals is treated as a very common thing. There is no longer any taboo against pre-marital or extra-marital sex. Even homosexual sex is being publicly portrayed as normal and states are granting homosexuals the right to marry and adopt children. When a nation openly adopts homosexuality it is in the end stages of having fallen away from the fear of God. Such open tolerance for sexual perversion is a sign that God has given a people over to depravity, having ceased striving with them due to the hardness of their hearts.
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them… For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Is this not the sin of New Orleans? Her people know the ordinance of God, but have no fear of God. They not only tolerate much ungodliness among their own people, but give hearty approval to others. This is what the festivals of Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence are all about. It is a people boasting in their wickedness, and giving hearty approval and an open invitation to all others to come and participate in the same deeds, which are worthy of death in the eyes of God.
People, we are very remiss if we focus only upon the love, mercy and grace of God, but we do not regard His holiness and justice. Yahweh demands righteousness from the nations, and He will chastise severely those who give themselves over to a pursuit of wickedness. History records the judgment of one decadent society after another, beginning with the flood of Noah, then Babel, then Sodom and Gomorrah, followed by a list too long to enumerate.
How is America any different? She has been given more light than most of these others who have perished. God will hold her accountable for the light that was given.
Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You shall descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
I want to conclude this post by putting Hurricane Gustav in its proper context. God has been carrying forth a conversation with America and the church within her for some time. In 2005 New Orleans was struck by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I have shared much about them. The name Katrina means “pure” and she struck two days before Southern Decadence was to be held. Decadence means “moral decay.” Futhermore, Katrina made final landfall at the mouth of the Pearl River, and pearls all throughout Scripture speak of that which is holy and pure.
Through this hurricane God was bringing a message that He demands purity from the nations and He will judge severely that nation and people who flaunt their immorality and even boast in it. Just as New Orleans was recovering from Katrina and was boasting of being back in business in time for Mardi Gras, Rita struck and flooded the city again. The name Rita means “pearl.” With this second witness God revealed that He demands purity and He has not found it among a people who boast of being a Christian nation.
New Orleans as a city is greatly diminished from her pre-Katrina days. Over half her population has departed. Her business revenue is significantly down, and few are willing to invest large amounts of capital in a city that is prone to such devastation. At the same time crime has risen to new heights. Murders are rampant in the city, as are all manner of crimes, for New Orleans is a city that has given herself over to decadence.
I have spoken of a related transgression of America being that she has been urging Israel to divide up her land to create a Palestinian State. In the presentation “Touch Not My Anointed” I shared that Hurricane Katrina formed the very day that Israel was completing the forced removal of Israelis from the Gaza communities they had occupied for a generation. (http://www.heart4god.ws/id568.htm). It seems more than coincidental that Gustav became a tropical storm the same day (August 26) that Condoleezza Rice was in Israel proposing that Jerusalem be divided with East Jerusalem being given to the Palestinian people. (http://focusonjerusalem.com/newsroom.html). For the sin of impurity and for the sin of dividing up His land, God will judge America.
Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land.
New Orleans is merely a reflection of what can be observed throughout America. It is Yahweh’s mercy that He would afflict a part of the nation in order to give the rest of the country time to repent. He has done so.
In 2006, the year after Katrina, there was one land-falling hurricane to strike America. This was Ernesto. Ernesto means “earnest.” As an adjective the word earnest means “intensely serious.” As a noun it means, “a pledge, a token of things to come.” God was signifying after the devastation of 2005 that He was giving America time to repent. What had occurred before was a pledge, a promise and a token of far worse things to come if America does not repent. Yet America has not repented, and neither has the church. The recent debacle in Lakeland, Florida, a very unclean work that many were proclaiming to be a work of the HOLY Spirit was a mockery of God’s holy character. God is right and just to bring severe judgment upon both the nation and His people in this nation.
But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
Those who only want to hear about a happy God need to heed the words of Christ spoken to the churches. Yahweh has been patient and longsuffering. He has extended His hand all day long saying, “Why will you not repent,” yet there has been no repentance. This week Southern Decadence is once more being held in New Orleans. Much evil is being conducted openly in the city, and the mayor sent out a proclamation welcoming all revelers to the city’s celebration of moral decay. (Source: http://www.southerndecadence.net/mayor.htm) Hurricane Gustav cut the revelry short. The hotels have been evacuated and all visitors told to leave before the event could be concluded.
Is it difficult to comprehend that Yahweh uses hurricanes as a form of judgment upon a wicked and unrepentant people? God has been sending many signs of great judgment falling upon America. The past two years Miss USA has fallen while walking on stage during the evening gown part of the Miss Universe pageant. In front of other women representing all the nations of the world, Miss USA fell.
Surely this is one more sign of the tremendous judgment coming to America. Gustav is merely one stroke in that judgment. As the name Gustav signifies, the stroke falls from “The Staff of God.”
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