Acts of God?

The whole world is suffering a catalog of climatic catastrophes. Is destructive weather just a freak of nature?
From the September-October 2002 Trumpet Print Edition

Acts of God, in legal and insurance circles, are catastrophic natural events—floods, hurricanes, earthquakes. They cannot be predicted or prevented, and they occur without human intervention. It seems the world has been suffering the gamut of acts of God lately.

August saw Europe, for example, hit hard with fierce flooding.

Germany has suffered the worst flash floods in a century, with mighty rivers such as the Elbe bursting their banks.

The Czech Republic watched aghast as its rivers swelled to three times their normal level. Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla was quick to declare a state of emergency and deploy 4,000 soldiers across the country. Bridges were washed away; others were declared impassable. In Prague, authorities made a desperate attempt to minimize architectural damage to centuries-old gems, as 50,000 people were evacuated and the swollen river Vltava cascaded through the Czech capital at 300 times its normal speed.

People, animals, cars, bits of trees and homes—in fact, anything moveable—was washed away in sweeping currents as thousands of people across Central and Eastern Europe were forced to escape rising floodwaters.

“Parts of Austria’s capital, Vienna, were underwater, including the Copa Cagrana region along the banks of the Danube that hosts dozens of bars, clubs and chic shops. The German city of Dresden was among the hardest hit as more than four inches of rain in 24 hours caused the River Elbe to burst its banks after it rose 16 feet above normal levels. The city’s Zwinger Palace art museum was flooded and waters lapped at the sides of the Semper Oper opera house …” (Times, Aug. 14).

Shoppers saw a man washed away in a tidal wave in the nearby town of Reichstedt. “Further south, in seven Bavarian districts, roads and bridges have been smashed, crops destroyed and villages flooded” (ibid.).

Fifty-eight people died in Russia due to storms on the Black Sea that swept tourists away.

These freak weather conditions have caused billions of dollars worth of damage in lost crops, structural damage, lost tourist income and economic paralysis.

But as bad as Europe’s weather woes are, the U.S. is not far behind. 2002 has been an ongoing nightmare of freaky winter weather, hellish wildfires, floods and droughts nationwide (see p. 22).

Nor have other parts of the world escaped. The flood season in China this year is turning into the worst in recent years, with close to 1,000 people having been killed in three months. In South Asia, floods and landslides have killed more than 900 people. Twenty-five million people have been stranded or forced to leave their homes.

Why has the weather been so adverse this year—and indeed for the past several decades? People everywhere are looking for a cause—or, even better, a solution.

The Impact of Disasters Today

There’s no question about it: Weather patterns are changing—for the worse. The whole Earth, to one extent or another, has experienced extreme climatic fluctuations over recent decades.

What’s more, never before has there been such potential for human suffering due to weather upsets. The tremendous increase in population the past century has placed more people at risk when an extreme weather event occurs. Rapid growth in coastal populations places more people in harm’s way when hurricanes or tropical storms strike. Also, a significant increase in the number of homes and businesses built in flood plains over the past 50 years increases the risk and frequency of high-cost flooding events.

Because of these societal trends, cost-per-disaster figures have risen. In the U.S. alone, 39 weather-related disasters occurred during the decade of 1991-2001 in which overall damages reached or exceeded $1 billion at the time of the event. The total damage costs exceeded $134 billion (see p. 24).

How We Affect the Weather

In addition to magnifying the impact of natural disasters, the population of this age is also directly contributing to weather problems as a result of worldwide industrialization.

For decades, air pollution has been a chief contributor to weather upsets. Chlorofluorocarbons, smog from industrial activity, smoke from slash-and-burn deforestation in developing countries, widescale replacement of green and open land surfaces by pavement, asphalt and buildings, and the exhaust of jets, cars, trucks, trains and ships have contributed significantly to climatic variation.

There are many other suspected weather modifying agents, such as crop irrigation and the creation of man-made lakes, which affect the heat balance of the atmosphere by adding water vapor to the air. The influence of diverted rivers, dams, drained swamps and underground aquifers is significant too because of the effect the water vs. land ratio has on the heat balance.

Not only that, now man is attempting to intentionally change weather through various experiments. For example, “cloud seeding” is intended to either produce needed rainfall or prevent cloud water from condensing into raindrops and snowflakes in an effort to head off severe storms and prevent flooding.

But who really is in control of the weather? Who allows the havoc that we see? A dimension exists beyond the physical realm, though most refuse to acknowledge it.

True Power Over Weather

There is a great, all-powerful God in heaven who created everything in the universe. He designed and established laws that regulate Earth’s climates.

The biblical book of Job records the account of a man who thought too much of himself. Job epitomized the pride and vanity of humans in their abilities. And so, God had to humble him. One of the ways God proved that His abilities were greatly superior to those of Job (and of all mankind) was by pointing out, through Elihu, that He has absolute control over the weather.

“God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend. For He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth’; likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength. … From the chamber of the south comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds of the north. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen. Also with moisture He saturates the thick clouds; He scatters His bright clouds. And they swirl about, being turned by His guidance, that they may do whatever He commands them on the face of the whole earth. He causes it to come, whether for correction, or for His land, or for mercy” (Job 37:5-7, 9-13; New King James Version).

God has the power to do all this—and more!

He continued to humble Job by asking, “Have you entered the treasury of snow, or have you seen the treasury of hail, Which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? By what way is light diffused, or the east wind scattered over the earth? … Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you set their dominion over the earth? Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that an abundance of water may cover you? Can you send out lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, ‘Here we are!’?” (Job 38:22-24, 33-35, nkjv).

God is in charge of the weather, but just as He allows man to interfere with it, so also He allows the “god of this world” (ii Cor. 4:4) to impact it. A probable source of some of the “freakish” weather we have witnessed in recent years is the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). The account in the first chapter of Job indicates that, when God permits it, this powerful being—Satan—can use atmospheric phenomena to wreak havoc. Freak weather could certainly be part of the “great wrath” Satan uses to afflict the inhabitants of the Earth (Rev. 12:12).

A Warning in Weather

God certainly allows nations to reap the natural consequences of weather caused by wrong agricultural practices or the abuse of the environment. He allows governments to make foolish political or environmental decisions that lead to unnecessary famine or agricultural disruption. He allows nations to experience the consequences on weather of huge, paved-over metropolitan complexes, cloud seeding and other such scientific experiments.

When mankind interferes with God’s climatic laws, he suffers the effects—upset weather. Humans have done (and are doing) their share to bring droughts, floods, windstorms and other extreme weather conditions on themselves. The end-time prophecy in Hosea 8:7 surely must include our polluting and wasteful ways among man’s misguided endeavors: “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal ….”

But God is not only in command of the weather by means of the laws He has set in motion; He directly intervenes when He sees fit and uses the weather to bless or punish human beings according to their actions. “And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord” (Amos 4:7-8).

God intervenes in the weather to punish nations for their sins.

The Bible defines sin as the transgression of God’s laws (i John 3:4). Idolatry is serving or worshiping anything above the true God and His laws.

The U.S. and Britain (and the other modern nations of Western society) are overflowing with material goods and technological gadgetry that millions worship in the place of God. Immorality, crime, family breakdown and racial hatreds continue to increase. God is warning us through adverse weather to change what is in our hearts!

Passing Up God’s Blessings

Today, the world is dependent primarily on the U.S., Canada, Australia and parts of Western Europe to supply the surplus foodstuffs necessary to meet the shortfalls elsewhere in the world. Another bad year or two of weather for these nations would have a disastrous impact on the rest of the world!

What hope can we have for safety from the devastating weather disasters that are sure to come about in the months and years ahead? Only one: The protection God gives those who obey His laws. He is indeed “a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall” (Isa. 25:4).

A good climate is one of the blessings God gives any nation that follows His ways and submits to His government. He promises, “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day … all these blessings shall come on thee …. The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow” (Deut. 28:1-2, 12).

Of course, no modern nation has taken God up on that offer. And so, no nation has the right to expect dependable, seasonal weather.

There was a time when a nation faced with the prospect of bad weather did actually do something about it. That nation was ancient Egypt, the most powerful nation of its day. You may recall from the biblical account how Joseph was inspired by God to interpret the pharaoh’s dream. Later, Joseph was put in charge of preparing the nation during seven prophesied years of plenty for the lean years to follow. It was indeed a critical role, carried out by a God-fearing man. But perhaps we overlook that Joseph was able to do what he did because he had the full support of the man above him. Pharaoh was wise and insightful enough to take good advice and to approve the necessary actions to implement that advice (Gen. 41:33-40). God strategically positioned this humble man as king over Egypt at a crucial time in world history. Had this pharaoh been arrogant or hardheaded, millions would have starved.

Today we have no such pharaohs in power. Leaders today generally make decisions based on what is popular or convenient, not what is necessarily right or best for the nation in the long term.

And so, in America and in the world today we can expect to experience worsening economic and human losses due to floods, droughts and other weather-related disasters. Few are interested in repenting of their sins and obeying God’s laws.

Almost a decade ago, Editor in Chief Gerald Flurry wrote in the Trumpet about the continuing disasters: “God said He would send floods and droughts at the same time. Five times in Amos 4, God says, ‘Yet have you not returned to me, saith the Lord’! These disasters are going to intensify until we repent! You can stake your life on that!” (Sept./Oct. 1993).

As many biblical prophecies reveal, future divine intervention in already upset meteorological conditions will play a prominent part in the tumultuous events bringing this age to a close. Weather disturbances of catastrophic proportions will be the result (Rev. 6:12-17; 8:5-12).

The Future

In the World Tomorrow, however, it will be different. When the violent weather conditions accompanying the end of this age are wreaking their destruction, Jesus Christ will return to rule the world. Under His perfect government, all nations will be forced to live at peace. They will finally forsake their idols and other sinful pleasures and submit to God’s government. At the start of the new Millennium, there will be some stubborn people who must be persuaded to submit to God’s rule. One of the ways this will be done is through divine climate control (Zech. 14:17). Eventually everyone will see the benefits of God’s ways.

Once they do, the prophecy of Ezekiel 34:24, 26-27 will come to pass: “And I the Lord will be their God …. And I will make them … a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase.”

With reporting bystephen m. hill