OH GOD, SAVE ME!

Psalm 69:1-3, NIV: SAVE ME, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail…”

This week was the week for “America’s Tsunami,” as I call the terrible Hurricane Katrina that ripped ashore off the Gulf Coast and destroyed what we know as civilization in New Orleans, Biloxi, Mississippi, parts of Alabama and, heartbreakingly, so many other American communities in the affected area.

This awful storm with winds of more than one hundred-fifty miles per hour has created a modern nightmare of enormous proportions. Now, a week after the destruction, dead bodies are being retrieved from vast cesspools under which were once busy streets and productive fields.

In the aftermath, looting rampages have emptied stores and warehouses of everything of value. Armed gangs have had shootouts with the police and shoot-to-kill orders were finally put into place. During the first days hospital entryways were being guarded by heavily-armed police to keep marauders at bay. The governors and mayors involved have cried for federal help: troops, money, food, water, clothing– every form of relief. It was slow in coming. Now a vast network of help of every kind is being formed.

In the earliest days, often alone and without power or water, heroic doctors and nurses worked around the clock to do all they could for victims. Workers and patients were alike stranded in flooded hospitals. Police officers, far outnumbered, worked heroically to place themselves as guardians of civility into dangerous situations. It is reported that at least two of their number have committed suicide.

As this staggeringly unbelievable event has unfolded before our television-fixed eyes, I am sure many have asked: “Why?” What possible good thing could come out of such tragedy?

WHO’S IN CHARGE OF THE WEATHER?

In last year’s tsunami some of us, who wondered aloud if God was teaching the world a lesson, were shouted down by the voices of soft moderation. “After all,” wrote one Baptist pastor, “three religions were practiced by the various people involved in the tsunami-stricken areas– which was He trying to deal with, if God had anything to do with it?”

It is time to ask ourselves a simple question regarding this mot tragic event, “Who’s in charge of the weather?” Often, in introducing the weather report, the television announcer will say something like:
“Well, Clade, what kind of weather do you have planned for us this weekend? Be sure to bring us something nice.” With a broad smile, the good-natured weather man will often brag about the upcoming weather he “is going to bring” us. But, I noticed that nobody took personal credit for this event! We all know that no human being is the world is capable of bringing or changing the weather anywhere on this planet.

So, if men are not in charge of the weather, who is? In a couple instances in the annals of American warfare during World War II prayer was offered regarding the weather. In one case, General George Patton, a man given to good leadership and extremely bad language even ordered one of his chaplains to pray for good weather.

On the other hand, some leaders have assured us that “God has nothing to do with natural disasters.” Do we, therefore, attribute good weather to God and the bad weather to something or someone else? Who’s in charge of the weather?

Listen to these words of Maltbie D. Babcock’s eighteenth century hymn:

This is my Father’s world, and to my list’ning ears, all nature sings and round me rings,
The music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world, I rest me in the thought,
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas, His hand the wonders wrought.

Isn’t that beautiful, so peaceful and serene. Do you think it is true? Of course it is.

But wait, hear also these words from William Whiting, another eighteenth century hymn writer:

Eternal Father, strong to save. Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to Thee for those in peril on the sea.

That passage, from “The Navy Hymn” expresses puny man’s total dependence upon an all-powerful God. Tell me, is it true? Of course it is.

So, I ask again, “Who’s in charge of the weather?” Years ago, in my hometown in Ohio, a Bible
preacher was leading his small congregation to erect its church building. One dark night, early in their building program, a storm of wind came and swept away the first walls the church had erected for its building. One man came and said to his pastor, “Pastor, do you think God did this to us?” The pastor looked at his anguished brother and said, “Can you blow that hard?” Of course, God is in charge of the weather.

According to I Samuel 12:17: “He sends thunder and rain.” Listen to these words from the book of Ezekiel: “Therefore this is what the sovereign Lord says: In my wrath I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury. I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundations will be laid bare. When it fall you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the Lord. (I Samuel 13:13, NIV).

WORDS IN GOD’s MOUTH

One leader has said, and this was in connection with the Tsunami of 2004, “No one has a right to put words in God’s mouth.” And, of course that is right. However about this, however: “No one has a right to retract words that God has spoken.” Is that not also true? Therefore, it is our Christian duty to examine the truths of Scripture to see if God has a message for us in all this. If we fail to do this, especially the household of faith, we merely insure that God may take more drastic action to get our attention.

Every single Christian, every church, every Christian enterprise, ought to be concerned about the plight of the suffering masses of humanity in the South where this hurricane hit. How dare we sit in judgment of others when the cleanliness of our own skirts is in question. Jesus looked at the suffering multitudes and His response was invariably: “He had compassion on them.” So must we! And I don’t mean pity. That is cheap. We need to give help. Help will be needed for a long time. We need to commit ourselves to help in the wisest way we can. But, first we be careful to take in the lesson God has for us in all this. To merely throw a few dollars at this problem may salve our consciences but it would not be doing what God has called us to understand and to undertake.

SOME FACTS MUST BE FACED

The earliest pictures of this terrible event’s damage showed gambling casinos which had been completely destroyed, beaten to pieces. Buildings were gutted. Thee were slot-machines floating with the other debris. In describing this “industry” that was obliterated by the wind and water the words “gaming, casinos, gambling,” and the like were most often heard. Sexual sin has been the stock-in-trade of downtown New Orleans all my life. Everyone knows this.

Am I saying, “God has poured out His judgment on this area for its many sins?” No, I am not saying that. I am simply trying to connect the dots called facts. While it would be wrong to absolutely conclude that Hurricane Katrina was the handmaiden of God’s judgment, it would be equally wrong to conclude that God had nothing to do with it.

Another fact to be faced is the realization that the United States of America has received a great humbling. News reporters have wondered over national television how this could happen in America.

We have created the illusion that since we are the world’s only superpower, that there is nothing we cannot do. I love my country very deeply and consider myself a loyal citizen. But, we have, as a nation, turned our backs upon a holy God and His Word. Whether God brought this humbling directly or indirectly matters little. Our vaunted power has been humiliated. Now it is time to listen to God.

I do not consider it insignificant that Alabama was one of the states hit with the hurricane. Alabama’s chief Supreme Court justice was relieved of his post because he would not give up defending the posting of the Ten Commandments in the capitol of that state. In an era of moral relativity anything goes. Is that why rampant looting has been taking place in the aftermath of this terrible storm? I don’t know. I do know that stealing of any kind is a breach of the seventh commandment. At least one looter was conscious of this and while taking for his family’s desperate needs, kept a list of thing he took in order to replace them some day.

Listen to this quotation from Luther’s Small Catechism as to the meaning of the seventh commandment: (A later editor has brought the catechism up to date in modern terminology:
“The grossest forms of dishonesty are robbery, burglary, embezzlement and forgery. There are recognized by all as wrong. But, it is also wrong to bring our neighbor’s property into our possession by unfair dealings and fraudulent means, such as concealing stolen property, withholding lost or borrowed property, evading taxes, refusing to pay debts, willful idleness and beggary, betting and gambling, lotteries and chancing, bribery, useless lawsuits, negligent management of another’s property, stealing car rides, unfaithful labor, insufficient wages, cornering the market, overcharging, usury, adulterating goods, giving short weight or measure and cheating of any kind.”

Now those are not specifically the words of Scripture but would you care to hazard a guess as to what Book Martin Luther may have been reading as he formulated that paragraph? Is it any wonder we are in trouble?

Poor people hae very little political clout. Many of the victims of the hurricane, hit hardest, were the poorest among us. Matthew chapter 25 is absolutely clear that we, as believers, are to give aid and comfort to the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned, the terribly poor. Perish the thought that is should be true of a Bible-preaching church that we could fail in our duty to the poor.

We have exhibited on television screens the most wicked of sexual sins. And now we are appalled that God should allow an area where much of this perversity is carried out to be decimated. We have not trained our youth in righteousness but in unrighteousness. Thank God for every Bible-preaching church in this area of so much sorrow. I am sure many a pastor has pleaded for people to live above all the sin and violence displayed on television. But now we are surprised that God would come in and visit such destruction upon people. My great surprise is not that it happened but that it hasn’t happened all over the country. We need to get back to God and to His Word.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO?

Since this happened, we have been impacted with the terrible suffering of our fellow Americans in the South . Pleas of “Help us!” have been heard everywhere. People, in those first awful days were desperate for the simple necessities of life like water, food and shelter. Anyone unmoved by these horrors would have to have a heart of stone. But, there is one cry of desperation I have not heard. Many have called for America to save them, but I have not heard anyone cry “Oh, God save me!” Probably some have, perhaps many. I hope so. I know one thing, while America can and is helping, yet only God has the real answer.

It would be wrong to diminish or take for granted the desperately difficult work many are doing in the midst of this stricken area. Thank God for every one of them. On the other hand, this is a golden opportunity to turn in repentance to God over sins committed which break His heart and bring His wrath.

I would like to list some things that every blood-bought child of God can and should do to help in this awful emergency. These are things all Christians can do. These are things the love of Christ ought to drive us to do

I believe there are at least five things every Christian can do in light of the awesome power of God displayed in Hurricane Katrina. There are grounds we should and must occupy for our Lord. Here they are:
(1) We must be sure we are on praying ground. No unconfessed sin may be in our lives (Psalm 66:18).
(2) We can and must pray in faith that God will help and bring His will into this situation in the lives of all that He is calling to Christ. Pray that many will come soon (John 6:37.

(3 We can and must make some sacrifice ourselves and we will if we are genuinely saved (Matthew 25:34-35).

(4) We can and must see this as a wake-up call to alert us to the eternal danger every person is in who is outside of Christ (Ezekiel 3:17-19).

(5 We can and must stay informed and stay concerned about this human tragedy that will stay with us for a long time to come. Help us, Lord Jesus! Amen.