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Haiti Earthquake--Why?


Pat Robertson's comments after the Haiti earthquake caused both secularists and theists to quake. He claimed Haiti was under a curse since a leader of the Haitian slave rebellion of 1791 made a pact with the devil in a voodoo ceremony sacrificing a pig; and the participates drank its blood mixed with human blood. The voodoo priest promised the slaves would serve the devil if they won their freedom from their French masters. In 1803 the first black "republic" was established in the Western Hemisphere. Robertson did not claim that Haiti experience God's wrath; yet he was still vilified by Christian leaders for being insensitive and unrepresentative of Christian thought.

Spiritual explanations for cataclysmic events are not tolerated in our secularist society. Even within the Church spiritual interpretations of earth shattering events have become unaccepted.

In 1906, a holiness minister and author, Frank Bartleman, shook the West Coast by declaring that the great San Francisco earthquake was the judgment of God.

Three thousand died in the quake and the fires which it ignited. It is considered the worst "natural disaster" in US history.

Bartleman wrote, "Nearly every pulpit in the land was working overtime to prove that God had nothing to do with earthquakes and thus allay the fears of the people. The Spirit was striving to knock at hearts with conviction, through this judgment. I felt indignation that the preachers should be used of Satan to drown out His voice."

To counteract this influence a few days after the earthquake, Bartleman wrote the tract, 'The Last Call,' which called the earthquake God's judgment. Within three weeks 75,000 tracts were distributed in Southern California and 50,000 more in the Bay Area.

Bartleman became the chronicler of the Azusa Street revival which started in Los Angeles on April 14, 1906. The San Francisco Earthquake hit on April 18, 1906. The fear of God sparked by the earthquake helped fuel the Azusa Street revival which in turn was the catalyst to spread Pentecostalism throughout the world in the 20th Century.

Bartleman concluded, "The San Francisco earthquake was surely the voice of God to the people on the Pacific Coast. It was used mightily in conviction, for the gracious after revival. In the early 'Azusa' days both heaven and hell seemed to have come to town."

Robertson is one of the few national voices that suggested a supernatural explanation for the earthquake in Haiti. Most Christian authorities accept and teach natural explanations for the earthquake and assure people that God had nothing to do with the quake. Likewise except for Robertson virtually all Christian spokesmen refused to declare hurricane Katrina a manifestation of God's wrath. It is interesting to note that New Orleans has a significant connection with voodooism.

Modern man has been conditioned by naturalism, which teaches that nature is all there is or at least first looks to a natural explanation of events. Secularists do not want to even consider supernatural explanations for events. Preachers and theologians are intimidated by the naturalists (scientists). Ministers fear being considered uneducated bumpkins, more than they fear the one who is Sovereign over the natural world. To be more charitable, some teachers in their zeal to defend God's love and longsuffering are concerned that if they declare that a calamity is God's judgment or even suggest such a thing, they know that the world will find fault with God instead of putting the blame on man for provoking God's wrath.

Jeremiah challenged, "Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it (5:1)."

In early America such men could be found. The Puritan, Cotton Mather, said of the earthquake that shook Boston in 1727: "Let the Natural Causes of Earthquakes be what the Wise Men of Enquiry please: They and their Causes are still under the Government of HIM that is the GOD of Nature. Shall we say, All this is but a Chance that happens to us or the mere unguided Motion of Matter? Ah, profane Philistine! — 'Tis a Language for none but a Philistine. A Christian cannot speak so. No, He is one that will be sensible of GOD in these things. Verily, In them, Lo, GOD sends forth His Voice, and that a mighty Voice unto us. . ."

In 750 B.C., Amos, the herdsman and fruit gatherer turned prophet, dated his prophesy by an earthquake which he predicted two years before it happened; he warned that God would shake down their houses (3:15). Though he first prophesied that the LORD would "send fire" against the nations bordering Israel, the Syrians, the Philistines the Tyrians, the Edomites and the Ammonites.

Amos asked, "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it (3:6)?"

Like Robertson and Bartleman, Amos was opposed by the religious establishment. Amaziah the priest of Bethel accused Amos of sedition for prophesying the death of King Jeroboam by the sword and Israel captivity by the Assyrians. Amaziah demanded that Amos return to Judah and prophesy there. But Amos refused to listen to him and prophesied that Amaziah himself would die in exile.

In exile on the isle of Patmos, John the Revelator taught that when God opens the sixth seal in the last days he will judge with a earthquake (Rev 6:14). And John further warned, "When the seventh angel pours out his vial into the air there will be "a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake and so great . . . (Rev 16:18)"

The venerable John Wesley in his sermon "The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes," written in response to Lisbon earthquake of 1755 said, "Of all the judgments which the righteous God inflicts on sinners here, the most dreadful and destructive is an earthquake. This he has lately brought on our part of the earth, and thereby alarmed our fears, and bid us 'prepare to meet our God!'"

Furthermore Wesley preached, "Now, that God is himself the Author, and sin the moral cause, of earthquakes, (whatever the natural cause may be,) cannot be denied by any who believe the Scriptures; for these are they which testify of Him, that he is God, 'which removeth the mountains, and overturneth them in his anger; which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.' (Job 9:5, 6.) 'He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.' (Ps. 104:32.) 'The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.' (Ps. 97:5.) Earthquakes are set forth by the inspired writers as God's proper judicial act, or the punishment of sin: Sin is the cause, earthquakes the effect, of his anger."

Sometimes God himself judges a nation through earthquakes other times he uses other means. Jeremiah in the Book of Lamentations mourns over the desolation of Jerusalem by the armies of Babylon. However, Babylon or its armies are not even mentioned in the book. Jeremiah sees the destruction as a result of the judgment of God for the sins of God's people, "For the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions (1:5)."

Jerusalem "came down wonderfully (1:9). The LORD hath done that which he had devised...he hath thrown down, and hath not pitied (2:17). The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets: my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword: thou hast slain them in the day of thine anger; thou hast killed, and not pitied (2:21)."

Jeremiah laments that those who were slain by the sword are better off than those dying of hunger. Conditions are so horrible that mothers are cannibalizing their own children.

Yet, through it all, the prophet concludes that "it is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness (3:22-23). The Lord is good (3:25). He will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies (3:31-32). For he doth not afflict willingly (with delight) nor grieve the children of men. Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the LORD commandeth it not? Out the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good? Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins (3:37-39)."

Should we think that America or that the Church shall escape the judgment of God that we have seen in Haiti; or should we believe that we are better than this accursed island?

A fundamentalist street preacher named Jesus helps us to answer this question when he commented upon "the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:1-3)."

Paul said, "Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not know that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance (Rom 2:4)?"

Jeremiah was able to see God's goodness and mercy in the destruction of Jerusalem in that the city was not utterly consumed. Survivors still had the opportunity to repent and be forgiven in the midst of their solitary, restless and desolate condition. They had the opportunity to hear of a new day of restoration.

We should recognize God's goodness in bringing destruction upon Haiti as evidence that he cares enough about such an exceptionally poor country that blind men believe to be completely forsaken of God. Whereas Jerusalem, "had none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies (1:3)." Haiti has many nations, especially the United States, and charitable organizations from all over the world coming to her aid. This also is the mercy of God.

Jeremiah saw Jerusalem's destruction as a call for her people "to search and examine our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens (3:40-41)."

Thus we see that God's judgments are good for they demonstrate that God still cares enough to make a desperate attempt to get men's attention before it is too late. He chastens us "for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness (Hebrews 12:10). But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons (Heb 12:8)." Haitian Christians should be thankful that God does not consider them as illegitimate children despite the power of voodooists in the country. There is an often repeated hyperbolic saying, "Haiti is 70% Catholic, 30 % Protestant and 100% voodoo." Voodoo is officially recognized in Haiti.

David sang, "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be excellent oil, which shall not break my head (Ps 141:5)." He also wrote, "Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth (Ps 46:8)"

Four times in Psalm 107, David cries, "Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"

David understood that God's judgments were part of his wonderful works, "He turneth rivers into a wildernesss, and the watersprings into dry ground; A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein (33-34)."

Moses also saw God's wrath against Pharaoh and Egypt as God's wonderful work. "Who is like unto thee, LORD, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders (Ex 15:11)?"

God is the author of natural evil, but not moral evil. God's will is always done in the physical world. Isaiah affirmed God's sovereignty over nature, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things (Is 45:7)" God governs the physical world by cause and effect. God is the ultimate cause of all natural events. Alas, God's will is not often done in man's realm for he is governed by moral law; which he has the power to resist.

Isaiah shouted, "O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; the counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. For thou hast made of a city a ruin . . . Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee (25:1-3)."

Let the strong glorify God for this wonderful earthquake that has devastated Haiti. Let the foolish give glory to Mother Nature. Let the strong call men to repentance and faith in our terrible God. Let the foolish assure men that our God would not bring calamity.

Jeremiah asked, "O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return. Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the LORD, nor the judgment of their God. I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the LORD, and the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds (5:3-5)."

Where are the Bartlemans, the Mathers, the Wesleys, the Amos, Isaiahs, and Jeremiahs today? The heads of the great denominations and the learned theologians of the seminaries refuse to declare the judgment of God; and the ministers of renown if they declare the judgment God, they are soon shamed into silence if not an apology.

Let the strong "Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee. All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah. Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men (Ps 66:3-5)"

Blame men for these judgments on account of their sins; but do not fail to give God the glory for his astonishing works of judgment. Away with the euphemism that "God allowed it." No, God did it, praise his holy and wonderful name!

In his tract, "The Last Call," which helped to bring a world-wide revival, Bartleman asked, "But what had God to do with earthquakes? He answered by quoting Isaiah, "When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (26:9)."

If we are going to learn righteousness from the recent destruction of Haiti preachers must once again warn the world that the same righteous God who judged Israel and the nations in the Bible will judge America and the nations of the world today. Jesus warned that in the last days "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. And all these are only the beginning of sorrows (Matt 24:7-8)" As prophet of old said, "Prepare to meet God (Amos 4:12)"

Jeremiah sums it up, "Fear ye not me? saith the LORD: will ye not tremble at my presence? But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone. Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest. Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you. . . Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this? A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof (5:22-25; 29-31)?"


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