Calvary Road Baptist Church

“DROUGHT AND FIRES IN CALIFORNIA”

Thank God for some relief from the fires in seven Southern California counties that raced across almost 500,000 acres - about 772 square miles - this last week. They were fanned by Santa Ana winds producing gusts topping 100 mph. Of the 1,800 homes lost so far, 80 percent were in San Diego County, where several fires remain far from being fully contained. The property damage there alone surpassed $1 billion.[1] According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, more than a million people were evacuated and, for some, the threat has not yet completely passed.[2]

Though at least one fire is reported to have been set by an arsonist, there is unanimous agreement among experts that the main cause of the devastating fires has been California’s severe drought conditions over the last few years. Jeff Kightlinger, speaking for the Metropolitan Water District, said, “We’re in the eighth year of a drought on the Colorado River. We had one of the driest years, probably THE driest year ever reported in Southern California in Los Angeles, and we have an incredible drought in Northern California down to less than 30-percent of snow pack.”[3]

How should the Christian reflect upon this extended drought and the horrors of this last week? As always, believers turn to the Word of God. When we consider eight years of drought in California and the fires that accompany them, what does the Bible reveal to us in terms of context and spiritual considerations? I want you to consider three ways in which God has dealt with people over the centuries by means of what we so oftentimes call nature. The weatherman refers to Mother Nature, an allusion to a feminized view of what are commonly termed the forces of nature. However, it is more accurate to recognize that our God rules not only in the affairs of men, but also by means of weather and climate. I could speak of earthquakes and typhoons, tornadoes and hailstorms, but this morning we limit our considerations to three things:

First, GOD JUDGES SINS WITH WATER

Though many people deny it these days, God has always judged sin. Those familiar with the Bible know that there was once a time when God severely judged the sins of mankind by means of a worldwide flood.

Ponder, if you will, four things related to God’s judgment of sin with water:

First, the wickedness of mankind. Read Genesis chapter four and you will be shocked by the wickedness of two men. First, there was Cain, the first child born to Eve, who became the first man to commit murder when he took his brother’s life. Next, there was Lamech, who not only took two wives, but also bragged about killing a man in retaliation for bringing some type of harm to him. Try to convince yourself their sins were minor and isolated if you want to, but there are two pieces of evidence attesting to the prevailing wickedness of the human race, suggesting those two men represent the sins of many more unnamed men: First, there is God’s verdict of man’s condition, Genesis 6.5: “. . . GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Second, there was an almost complete rejection of the pleading, the preaching, and the prophesying of two great men of God, Enoch and Noah.

This brings me to the second thing related to God’s judgment of sin with water, the warnings of God’s two preachers I have just mentioned, Enoch and Noah. We learn of Enoch’s preaching in Jude 14-16:

14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,

15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

16 These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.

Notice that prior to the Flood, Enoch preached about the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ long before the first coming of Christ, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly. Sadly, there is no record of anyone repenting of their sins in response to his anointed preaching. We learn of Noah’s preaching in Second Peter 2.5, where we are told simply that he was “a preacher of righteousness.” Since that same verse tells us that the judgment of the Flood was “brought upon the world of the ungodly,” it is safe to say that Noah’s message also went unheeded, except for his wife, his sons, and his son’s wives.

Third, the wrath of God in the form of that worldwide Flood is recounted in Genesis chapter seven. For the sake of time, I will read only three of those verses:

10 And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.

21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:

22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.

Imagine the destruction. Every man, woman, and child on earth died as a result of the Flood, suffering the wrath of Almighty God for unchecked sin.

Fourth, however, after the Flood God left a witness, a rainbow in the sky as a reminder so we will never forget.

Genesis 9.14-15: 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:

15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

God has not promised never to judge sin by means of water again. He has promised to never again judge the whole earth by means of a worldwide flood again.

Next, GOD JUDGES SINS BY DROUGHT

Because of time constraints, and because you are familiar enough with the Bible that I can remind you of certain details that are common knowledge from the Bible, permit me to mention four things:

First, let me remind you of something usually overlooked about the Middle East and North Africa. You older kids will remember history and geography lessons about a region known as the fertile crescent, arching from the mouth of the Euphrates River at north end of the Persian Gulf, northward to what is now southern Turkey, and then southward along the Mediterranean coast through Phoenicia, Israel, and into Egypt. Notice the picture on the back of your bulletin. No one talks about the fertile crescent anymore, because it no longer exists. The entire region, except for portions of Lebanon and Israel, is now a bleak desert, just as the northern portion of Africa is covered by the Sahara, the largest desert in the world. Geographers and climatologists would argue with me about the causes of the climate changes in those regions, but as a Bible believer I am firm in my conviction that the idolatry of those regions, and the Islam of those regions, have incurred the disfavor of God. What used to be garden spots are now regions of vast desolation.

Next, allow me to be more specific in recounting the prophet Elijah in the northern kingdom of Israel. After the civil war that resulted in the division of the united Kingdom of Israel into the idolatrous northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, the northern kingdom went into a spiritual nose dive. Listen to the pronouncement of the prophet Elijah in response to Israel’s wickedness under king Ahab, in First Kings 17.1: “As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” Thus, drought was a means of inflicting judgment for sin. First Kings 18.1-2: “And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth. . . And there was a sore famine in Samaria.” Read through this chapter and you will see that Elijah confronted the false prophets of Baal, and that after they were slain God sent abundance of rain to the land. However, the point that I seek to make is that God used drought to judge a people’s sins.

Another case of God using drought to judge sin was after the Babylonian captivity, when Jews were returning to their homeland after seventy years away from the Promised Land. Of course, this was centuries after the time of Elijah, and roughly four centuries before the birth of Christ. Haggai 1.10-11 records God’s dealings with the Jews in and around Jerusalem who had refused to rebuild the Temple, but who focused their attentions and efforts on building their own houses instead:

11 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.

12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD.

Remember, if you will, that this had once been a land flowing with milk and honey, back when Joshua first brought them out of the wilderness. However, as a result of the many judgments of God, this being one of them, what had once been a region lush with vegetation became over time a bleak wasteland.

As you might imagine, there are spiritual parallels to these bleak climate judgments. David wrote in Psalm 32.4, in connection with God’s dealings with him in the aftermath of his terrible sin with Bathsheba, “For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.” As well, Isaiah 58.11 reads, “And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” So, you see that when God withholds His blessings from a man’s life, it is likened to drought. When God blesses a man’s life, it is likened to “a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” Scorn and be cynical all you want, but I am persuaded that if the people of California turned to Christ in repentance and a forsaking of their sins of fornication, adultery, and greed, God would send gentle rains and moderate weather. There used to be marshes in many areas of the Los Angeles basin, and marshes had to be drained once upon a time to built LAX. How do you think the La Brea tar pits originally came into existence? But that was all before California was dominated by the gold lust that began in 1849, the sex sins that followed those gold rush men, and the lawlessness that made Los Angeles the number one gun fighting city in the Old West.

Finally, GOD JUDGES SINS BY FIRE

Remember Sodom and Gomorrah? I will not take the time to recite the litany of horrors that comprised the sins for which those two wicked cities were infamous. Instead, I will let you moms and dads explain it as best you can to your children at home. Genesis 19.24 provides a brief summary of God’s dealings with those wicked cities: “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven.”

Then there is Hosea 8.14: “For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof.” How much different was Israel than present day California? Has our state not forgotten her Maker? Do we not build our temples, such as Staples Arena and QualComm Stadium, to worship in on Sundays and on other holy days? Rather than build multiplied fenced cities, our modern versions are called gated communities. Are there not gated communities in Malibu, and in Rancho Bernardo?

But these scenes of temporal judgment by fire speak of greater horrors, of eternal judgment by fire.

Psalm 21.8-9: 8 Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies: thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee.

9 Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the LORD shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them.

Luke 16.22-24: 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

Matthew 25.41, 46: 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Revelation 20.14-15: 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

These four passages show us some things: First, David showed that God judges sins eternally by fire. Next, the Lord Jesus Christ showed judgment of sins by fire when He told us of the rich man, and declared that such judgment will be eternal in the lake of fire. Finally, John’s Revelation establishes eternal judgment of sins in the lake of fire following the Great White Throne judgment.

Though I have focused on God’s judgment against sins, rather than the glories of His holiness, it is because God is holy that He is constrained by His nature to judge sins. Though not limited to these means, we have seen that God judges sins by flood, by drought, and by fire, though He has promised that He will never again judge the whole earth by water. He that hath eyes to see let him see.

SERMON:

There are two views of the world in which we live, and the experiences that form our lives. One view presumes that all is coincidence, that events are nothing more than accidents and chance occurrences. The other view is that there is a Superintendent who is over all, who governs not only the infinite universe, but also the infinitesimal within the universe.

Let us briefly review these two views in light of the present drought and the terrible fires of this last week here in Southern California.

First, IS THAT WHICH HAPPENS MERE COINCIDENCE?

Is that what you believe, that there is no meaning to drought, and that apart from the one fire that was started by an arsonist, the burning of a half million acres of land and the destruction of thousands of homes, means nothing?

I am not saying that you are cruel and indifferent to the suffering of a million people who were displaced from their homes when they were threatened by conflagration. However, to be perfectly honest, would you tell those folks that there was no intelligence behind anything that happened, and that the loss of their homes, and the obliteration of their family records, and keepsakes, and cherished pictures, has no meaning of any kind?

Of course, if such tragedies are mere coincidence, then your advice would not be to resort to prayer for any reason, except as a means of psychologically relieving pain. Do I understand you correctly? The drought, and the fires, and the forced evacuations, and the loss of personal treasures and mementos, and family heirlooms, is just dumb luck?

Pardon me for being persistent about this, but this is not the way you normally think. You may think like this about tragedies and unpleasant occurrences on a vast scale, but you never think like this when bad things happen on a smaller scale. If you came home from work tomorrow and your house was burned down, you certainly would not think to yourself, “Bad luck today, I guess.” As well, if you stepped outside to get into your car and head for work tomorrow morning, and saw that your car was charred beyond recognition, I promise that you would not think to yourself, “What an unfortunate coincidence, that such a thing would happen to my car today.”

Want to know what I think? I think you would flip out if that happened to your car, or if that happened to your house. I think you would go nuts, as least for a few minutes. Then you would start looking for answers. You would want to know who was responsible for this. Want to know why you would look for answers? Because you would know that what happened to your house or to your car could not possibly be your fault.

When it is not your fault something bad happened, and it cannot possibly be your fault that something bad happened, you naturally want to know whose fault it is, and why it happened. But when, in the deep recesses of your mind, there lurks the possibility that the fault for a great tragedy is somehow yours, you are not quite as curious to find out the who and why as you were before. That, my friend, is why people in Southern California want the drought and fires to be coincidence.

The Alternative Is THAT WHICH HAPPENS COULD BE PROVIDENCE

Since the word providence is seldom used these days, why don’t we spend a moment or two defining what we mean by providence? In the old days, several centuries ago, Christians would sometimes use the word “Providence” as a reference to God. But “Providence” was also used in reference to God’s dealings, and it is that meaning I want to develop for you. Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his eight volume Systematic Theology wrote, “Providence is the divine outworking of all decrees, the object being the final manifestation of God’s glory.”[4] Baker’s Dictionary Of Theology indicates that “the doctrine of providence tells us that the world and our lives are not ruled by chance or by fate but by God.”[5] Perhaps the most useful definition of providence can be found in Noah Webster’s First Edition Of An American Dictionary Of The English Language, first published in 1828. In it he wrote, “In theology, the care and superintendence which God exercises over his creatures. He that acknowledges a creation and denies a providence, involves himself in a palpable contradiction; for the same power which causes a thing to exist is necessary to continue its existence. Some persons admit a general providence, but deny a particular providence, not considering that a general providence consists of particulars. A belief in divine providence, is a source of great consolation to good men. By divine providence is often understood God himself.”[6] My own definition, given to you on many occasions, is that providence is “The unseen hand of the invisible God, moving behind the scenes in the affairs of men to accomplish His will.”

Now that we have a handle on what providence is, we need to ask ourselves that is its design. The overarching design of providence has to be God’s glory, as Revelation 4.11 clearly shows to be the purpose behind all God’s doings. However, the design of providence in your individual life can be found in Galatians 6.7: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Depending on how you live, this verse is either a promise or a curse. Coincidence or providence? What do you think has been at work this past week? Has all this, the long drought and the destructive fires, been meaningless, and mindless? Or is there intelligence at work, ripping away from men and women that which interferes with their contemplation of God?

God, Who governs our lives in a providential manner, which is to say that He normally does not use miracles, signs, and wonders, is a God of order. So orderly is God’s government of this universe, and so predictable are the events which occur, that we have come to refer to the uniformity of God’s universe in terms of the laws of nature.

Though such terms are entirely appropriate, there is a danger in gradually coming to think that God is somehow absent from His creation, and that He does not exercise direct control over everything that happens. He does. Though His involvement is typically uniform and not miraculous, so as to astonish and amaze us, He has miraculously intervened on a number of occasions in the past, with the most amazing intervention consisting of the involvement of His Son, Jesus Christ, in our midst. He was born of the virgin Mary. He lived among us as a man. He took upon Himself the sins of men and carried them to the cross. On the cross, He suffered in payment for those sins and died. Then He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven in a great victory.

This drought and these fires are God’s providential involvement in His creation. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was God’s miraculous involvement in His creation. Though nothing providential can save sinners, God does use His providential dealings with men to alarm sinners, to awaken sinners to the hand of God in men’s affairs, and to turn the attention of sinners to the miraculous things Jesus did to lay the groundwork for saving men’s sinful souls.

My prayer is that the drought and fires will be used by God to make you attentive to spiritual matters, and that perhaps you will someday come to Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.



[4] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. VII, (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1976), page 260.

[5] Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1960), page 427.

[6] Noah Webster, An American Dictionary Of The English Language - Facsimile Edition, (Anaheim, CA: Foundation For American Christian Education, 1967).

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org