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    Where Do Calamities Come From?

    by Laurence A. Justice

    Amos 3:6b  “…Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?”


    What part if any does God play in the great disasters that plague the cities of this earth from time to time?  The answer of Tom Elliff, former President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, Oklahoma is that the great tornado that demolished large sections of the Oklahoma City metro area  killed numbers of people in the Spring of 1999 was not an act of God but an act of nature. In an article in “Light” magazine dated July/August of 1999 Elliff stated “They ask, Why would God do this? My response has been that the storm was an act of nature.  If you want to see an act of God, look at what God is doing through his children all across this city.”

    There are a number of attitudes of people towards calamities today that seek to remove God from his own works!  Some say that calamities are a matter of chance and that sooner or later some disaster will hit every city just as a matter of the percentages.  Some say that Satan sends calamities upon us.  He brings disasters and causes death.

    Most people credit the calamities that happen to the laws of nature. This is basically what Tom Elliff has done concerning the Oklahoma City tornado.  These people seem to think that the laws of nature have sufficient power to carry the world, to make it function. These people actually see the universe as a cold mechanical machine.

    Viewing the world like this is like viewing a child as if he were raised by a robot rather than his parents.  His cradle is rocked by this robot for so many hours each day.  When it is time for the child to wake up the robot shakes the cradle.  The robot feeds the child his meals and changes his clothes.  Everything is done mechanically by the robot.  But the child receives no parental love.  He has no tender mother, no loving, guiding father.  He feels no soft hand, no warm hug, no loving voice. He is raised by a soulless, lifeless robot!

    Praise God this is not the case with this world and the things that happen in it!  Praise God, He moves and uses the laws of nature to feed us and preserve us and chastise us as his dear children!  Yes, we recognize that there are laws by which God’s creation functions but we also know that these laws are meaningless without God’s power to carry them out.   Praise God there is purpose and concern and love and feeling and compassion in the working of our heavenly Father through the laws of nature!  One of the real wrongs of these people who would credit the laws of nature with bringing the calamities that come in this world is that they want to take God away, to remove him from the scene just at the hour of a city or a nation’s danger!

    The word of God teaches a very different and encouraging doctrine in which those who have eyes to see it can take great comfort and can rejoice.  God’s word teaches that God is sovereign over evil, that he is actively involved in the calamities that come in this world.


    “…Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?”  The term evil is used here in the sense of adversity, not in the sense of moral evil. This is a physical, outward evil, evil of a temporal nature such as wars and storms and earthquakes and diseases like cancer and heart trouble and epidemics.  This evil is the evil of calamities.  We might properly paraphrase our text like this: Shall there be a calamity in the city and the Lord has not brought it about? Shall there be a disastrous tornado in Oklahoma City and it not be an act of God?

    This verse of scripture is a rhetorical question, a question whose answer is so obvious that an answer is not even given.  This question is from the lips of the eternal, almighty, sovereign God: “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” The answer to this question is obviously, No!  Shall there be calamities in a nation, a city, a family, a life that God has not appointed and brought to pass?  No!  All evils that come in a city are of God!

    And God has a purpose in the evils he sends!  From reading God’s word it is clear that there is a God in heaven who works all things after the counsel of his own will.  Many times God uses evil in a city to punish sin, as judgment on sin.  In the context of Amos 3:6 God says that he would execute the evil of punishment on the sins of Israel by the hands of the Assyrians  in 7:22 BC.

    This text and all of God’s word teaches two important things in relation to the evil that comes in the cities of this world:   1. God has done it and 2. God has a purpose in doing it.  The basic teaching of this text is this: When there is evil in a city, God has done it.  Calamity, affliction, judgment when it comes is by the order and appointment of God and is inflicted by Him.  Whatever the instruments of those calamities might be, God is the principal agent of them.  God has done it, either directly by his own hand or else indirectly by the means of whatever instruments he employs.

    God let the nation of Israel know in our text that all the calamities they had already experienced and were about to experience were from the hand of God and from the counsel of his will.  The title of Charles Spurgeon’s sermon on Amos 3:6 reveals that he saw the cholera epidemic that swept London during his ministry as being from the hand of God.  The title of Spurgeon’s sermon  was “The Voice Of The Cholera.”


    In light of the confusion over this matter even among Christians, it is literally amazing how clearly and how often God’s word points out God’s sovereignty over evil, that calamities in this world are the work of God.

    Let us look first of all at some direct statements in God’s word that calamities come from God.  Look first at Isaiah 45:7.  Here God is speaking and he says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”  When peace exists and continues in a nation it is God that has made this peace.  When war or other distress comes in contrast to the former peace, it is God that sends it.

    Look next at Jeremiah 4:6.  Here God is warning Judah of the Babylonian invasion of their land when he says, “Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction.”

    Now Jeremiah 11:23.  Here God says, concerning his judgment on the city of Anathoth, Jeremiah’s home city, “And there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation.”

    In Jeremiah 18:11 God is threatening calamitous judgment on Judah when he says, “Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.”

    In Jeremiah 19:3 God  tells the prophet Jeremiah what to preach when he says to him, “And say, Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle.”

    In Jeremiah 21:10 God has reference to the city of Jerusalem when he says, “For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.”

    In Jeremiah 26:3 God is speaking to the people of Judah when he says that if they will turn from their moral evil, he will turn from the evil of calamity that he had purposed to send on them.  “If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings.”

    Turn to Jeremiah 39:16.  These are God’s words concerning Jerusalem.  “Go and speak to Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee.”

    Now look at Jeremiah 51:64.  Here God speaks of the calamity he will bring on the city of Babylon.  “And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her...”

    In Ezekiel 6:10 God says concerning Israel. “And they shall know that I am the LORD, and that I have not said in vain that I would do this evil unto them.” In Ezekiel 14:22 God speaks of his judgment on the city of Jerusalem.  “Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and

    their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it.”

    Now consider Amos 9:4.  Here God says concerning Israel, “And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I command the sword, and it shall slay them: and I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good.”

    One more direct statement from the scripture here concerning the fact that evil or calamity in a city comes from God.  Turn to Micah 1:12.  This speaks of God’s judgment on Jerusalem.  “For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem.”

    All of these statements speak of more that the fact that God merely grants permission for calamities to happen.  They speak of God sending them. 

    Besides these and many other direct statements of this fact, there are a lot of concrete examples in God’s word of His actually sending calamities.  God sent fire down from heaven on the cities of Sodom and Gomorra.  God sent death on all the firstborn of Egypt and God caused all the great cities and empires of the ancient world to fall.  Babylon and Jerusalem were destroyed and God did it. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece and Persia fell and God did it.  It cannot possibly be said that these cities and empires fell without God being directly involved.

    In Deuteronomy 32:39 God says, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.”  Look at Isaiah 54:16.  Here God says, “Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.”

    When military invasion comes it is God who sends it and it will not cease till God orders it.  Look at Jeremiah47:6-7. “O thou sword of the LORD, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest, and be still. How can it be quiet, seeing the LORD hath given it a charge against Ashkelon, and against the sea shore? there hath he appointed it.”  Isaiah 46:11 says that military invasion is brought on by God.  Here God refers to the invading armies of Cyrus the Persian who should invade and conquer Babylon.  Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”

    Habakkuk 1:6-9 tells how God brought the Chaldeans against the nation of Judah.  “For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves. Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat. They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.”

    Haggai 1:11 says that it is God who brings famine and drought on a land. “And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.”

    In Amos 4:10 God says that he is the one who sends disease.  I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt...”  Diseases are God’s servants.  He says to one, Go and he goeth and to another, Come and he cometh.

    When there is evil in a city, God has done it!  When calamities come, God is the one who brings them!  This is the clear and unquestionable teaching of God’s word.


    I want to suggest six proper responses to the fact that  calamities come come from God:

    1. First we should realize that calamities are not ultimately matters of the laws of nature nor of chance nor of Satan’s work.

    We have seen in God’s word that tornadoes and  draughts and other calamities are not merely matters of the laws of nature taking their course but are the acts of the sovereign God according to his purposes.  Accepting calamities as being the laws of nature at work and not as acts of God is not godliness and is not a spiritual outlook!

    Many people credit adverse events to chance but God’s word teaches that these things do not happen by chance but come instead from the hand of a sovereign God.

    Some people credit the calamities of life to Satan but Satan does not do these things!  He may sometimes be the instrument by which God sends calamities but the calamities still come from God.  Satan does not swing the rod!  It is the Father that chastises his children that fear him. Nor is it Satan that has the keys of death and of hell.  Jesus Christ has conquered Satan and delivered us from the fear of death.  Spurgeon said that Satan is the prince of the air but not the King of Kings!

    2. Second we should respond to this fact that calamities come from God by believing it to be true! 

    God’s word says it.  We must believe it!  Many people refuse to believe that God could be involved in the evil things that come in this life.  “A God of love would never allow such things to happen” they often say!

    In the August 1995 edition of “Focus On The Family Magazine” Al Jannsen wrote an article under the title of “Who Is Sovereign?”  In the article he grapples with the horrendous calamity of the atomic bomb being dropped on the city of Hiroshima and he says,“If man is sovereign, man acts and gets results like Hiroshima.  The lesson?  Let God be sovereign!”

    Listen my friends!  God’s sovereignty does not depend on whether men let him be.  God is sovereign whether men let him or not!  Our responsibility is to believe what God’s word says about his sovereignty over evil and to act in light of that!

    3. A third response we should make to the fact that God brings calamities is that we should consciously view such things as coming from the hand of God.

    We should think of national calamities or private afflictions with a reverence inspired by an awareness that God has done it.  What an awesome thing, to realize that when disaster comes, God is in it!  We must not only feel the hand of God in our difficulties and calamities, we must realize that it has been applied to us for a purpose as well.

    God often sends calamities as punishments for our sins, as judgments. Hebrews 12:6 says “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”  If anything ought to make us feel God’s chastening rod it is the fact that it is not the rod itself that strikes us but God himself who swings the rod.

    4. We should respond to calamities by resting with quiet confidence in God, with resignation as this virtue used to be called.

    Job was thus resigned to his suffering because he saw it as having been sent by God.  “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” he asked in Job 2:10.  We can never resign ourselves to God in the time of suffering if we do not see these things as coming from God in the first place.

    It was not the storm that destroyed those buildings and killed those people in the Oklahoma City tornado.  That storm was just the instrument.  It was God who swept across Oklahoma City that afternoon.  It was God who walked down those streets and through those buildings that day!  The fact that God brings such evil ought to cause us to seek to patiently bear our share in such calamities and seek for God’s purpose in them.

    5. Finally we should respond to God’s sending of calamities by openly praising God for his sovereign working in this world.

    If the Lord has done it then every calamity ought to strike awe in us!  When we realize that it is God’s work when calamity comes we ought to feel a great sense of awe and wonder.  This in turn ought to cause us to praise God for his sovereignty over evil.  Ours should be the testimony of praise in Psalms 47:7,  “For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.”

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