If we are to develop our people with the whole counsel of God, particularly as it relates to the cycle of revival and awakening, we must address the issue of His judgment. A heavenly understanding of God’s ways with nations is critical for us to evaluate well and navigate properly in this present culture.
As pastors, we must be like “the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32 NASB).
God’s Predictable Pattern
As we study Scripture, we see that God always brings pain when necessary. He calls to us when we run from Him. It is an act of His love and a means of His grace.
The judgments of a perfect God are always exactly right. He never applies these if not needed, and He never applies them incorrectly. His acts of judgment to a life, a church, or a nation alert us to what is wrong and needs correction.
Sometimes He dispenses judgment by simply allowing us to have what we want. He gives us over to our own choices, providing never-to-be-forgotten illustrations of the futility of uninspired desires and unsurrendered directions.
Romans 1 describes this downward spiral. Pain inevitably ensues from humanistic choices, because “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
Often God’s judgments are more active. He intervenes by any means He deems necessary, all without committing any sin or evil.
As the sovereign King of the universe, He has everything at His disposal. He can use human rulers to accomplish His purposes. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart and later stirred Cyrus’ spirit to bring judgment and relief (see 2 Chronicle 36:22-23; Isaiah 45:1-3).
The writer of Proverbs reminds us, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1).
We tend to look at natural phenomena from a world-centered view. But when we peer into heaven, we see that even the natural elements are all in His hands:
From the breath of God ice is made, and the expanse of the waters is frozen. Also with moisture He loads the thick cloud; He disperses the cloud of His lightning. It changes direction, turning around by His guidance, that it may do whatever He commands it on the face of the inhabited earth. Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen (Job 37:10-13).
If we choose the short-sightedness of a merely lateral view, we see nothing, learn nothing, and adjust nothing. But what if we would take any current weather phenomenon and set it in the context of the Old Testament? How would it read? What would God be saying? And what should be our response?
It’s fascinating that one of our most oft repeated verses about revival, in it its context, involves natural disaster and financial downfall:
If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).
The Purpose of Pain
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain).
The One who made us knows us. He understands what it will take to bring us to repentance. And He knows that it will often take pain.
We can turn to Him anywhere along the cycle, and we must realize that His judgments are not evil; they are essential and good. When we recognize God’s judgments on our nation, we should thank Him that He loves us enough to do that which will bring us to repentance.
We need to ask God what He is saying and proclaim it boldly to those around us. And then we must quickly adjust to His plans.