I am writing this in the midst of news about the devastation poured out on parts of the Caribbean and the State of Florida by the mighty hurricane, Irma. Again and again it has been referred to as the worst storm that this area or much of the world has ever seen. It has virtually levelled Barbuda, Antigua, and the area known as the Virgin Islands. Though it has weakened somewhat after making landfall in Florida, the hurricane is causing extensive damage in that state as well.
This follows several days, a couple of weeks earlier, of a similar storm, Harvey, that rocked the city of Houston, Texas. That storm caused the loss of about 60 people and, it is estimated, up to 180 billion dollars worth of damage. Other smaller, but similar storms, have also been noted in the region. And this is only the beginning of a weather-volatile season that usually lasts up to three months.
Though it has received less news coverage because of these storms on the American coast, a larger than usual monsoon in the northern region of India (including Bangladesh and Nepal) at this same time, has also caused huge devastation and cost of lives. Reports are that as many as 1000 people have lost their lives and altogether some 41 million people have been impacted by the storm’s fury.
Meanwhile, here in British Columbia, Canada, and other parts of North America (as well as Europe), it has been one of the worst forest fire seasons on record. It’s been a smokey summer in BC where thousands of people have had to be evacuated from various communities in the Central Interior because of the oncoming fires. Fighting the fires has engulfed almost 10,000 square kilometres of forest and cost the province more that 500 million dollars this year alone. Many people’s lives have been extremely unsettled by these events this summer.
There have been various attempts to theorize about the reason for the upsurge in these unusual weather patterns. Most often the explanation has to do with some reference to climate change caused by the impact on our atmosphere by human activity especially in fossil fuel consumption. And so it is that huge political efforts are being made to curtail the world’s carbon emissions for which, of course, international cooperation is required. But for a variety of reasons many are not in agreement with this solution.
Though I have not studied the matter extensively, it may be possible that there is some truth to the notion that increased population and human carbon emission activity has contributed some to our current climate concerns. It seems evident that such a conclusion begs a human solution to something that is actually more divine.
That perspective was brought graphically home to me this week in reading Isaiah 24 — a pretty specific prophecy concerning the devastation that God Himself will bring upon the earth because of the sin of the world’s peoples. Verse 1 of that chapter reads like a description of much that is happening at the present time. The New Living Translation puts it this way: Look! The Lord is about to destroy the earth and make it a vast wasteland. He devastates the surface of the earth and scatters the people.
The first part of verse 4 adds, The earth mourns and dries up, and the land wastes away and withers.
And further in verses 18b t0 20a, we see these words: Destruction falls like rain from the heavens; the foundations of the earth shake. The earth has broken up. It has utterly collapsed; it is violently shaken. The earth staggers like a drunk. It trembles like a tent in a storm.
And the reason for this devastation is given to us in several other verses including 5 and 6 where we read: The earth suffers for the sins of its people for they have twisted God’s instructions, violated his laws, and broken his everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse consumes the earth. Its people must pay the price for their sin.
In many ways it could well be that humanity’s bad stewardship of the earth’s resources is partially to blame for what has come to be known as climate change. But it’s possible that such an explanation is only a small part of a much bigger one. This chapter of Isaiah gives us the impression that the earth suffers as it does due to the rebellion against God in the hearts of people all over the world. I think it needs to be seriously considered that the severe weather patterns of our time are forms of God’s judgement upon a world that has increasingly ignored His existence, truth, and grace. And though God is extremely long-suffering in His attitude toward humanity’s indolence and indulgences, there is an end in view.
It is my hope and prayer that people all over the world will read something more in what is happening than mere human-caused climate change. I think it’s important to consider that these extreme changes in our weather patterns can’t help but remind us of God’s great power and our accountability to Him. The sooner we are led to consider the meaning of what it is to truly “fear the Lord,” the sooner we will experience the beauty of God’s great wisdom.