Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?
If God has a quarrel with America, wouldn’t Washington, D.C., or Las Vegas, or Minneapolis, or Hollywood be a more likely place to show his displeasure?
We do not ascribe such independent power to Mother Nature or to the devil. God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.
“The wind of the Lord, shall come, rising from the wilderness, and it shall strip Ephraim’s treasury of every precious thing” (Hosea 13:15).
“The Lord turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea” (Exodus 10:19).
“God appointed a scorching east wind” (Jonah 4:8).
“God commanded and raised the stormy wind” (Psalm 107:25).
“Even winds and sea obey Jesus” (Matthew 8:27).
But why Maryville and not Minneapolis? Why Henryville and not Hollywood?
God has spoken about these things. Consider three ways he addresses — all of us.
1. Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job’s ten children died because “a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people” (Job 1:19).
Job cries out to God, “Why have you made me your mark? . . . Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? . . . Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?” (Job 7:20; 13:24; 21:7).
In other words, Why Henryville, and not Hollywood?
God’s answer to Job is not that he was a worse sinner than the “wicked” — or that Maryville had some dark secret.
His answer was, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’” (Romans 11:33–34; Job 15:8; 36:22f).
Job’s loss was not a measure of his immorality. “Job was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1).
In fact, perhaps God chose Job for that deadly wind because only the likes of Job would respond: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
2. Luke 13:4–5, “Unless you repent.”
A Tower fell and killed 18 people in Jesus’ day. Jesus spoke into that situation: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4–5).
This is a word to those of us who sit safely in Minneapolis or Hollywood and survey the desolation of Maryville and Henryville. “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Every deadly wind in any town is a divine warning to every town.
3. 1 Peter 4:17, “God’s own people are not excluded.”
We are not God’s counselors. Nor can we fathom all his judgments. That was the lesson of Job. Let us beware, therefore, of reading the hand of providence with too much certainty or specificity. God is always doing a thousand things when he does anything. And we see but a fraction.
But stir into your mental framework this truth: When a time for judgment comes, it usually includes, and begins with, God’s own people. That’s what the apostle Peter says.
“It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17; Jeremiah 25:29; Ezekiel 9:6; Amos 3:2).
Therefore, God’s will for America under his mighty hand, is that every Christian, every Jew, every Muslim, every person of every religion or non-religion, turn from sin and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus rules the wind. The tornadoes were his.
But before Jesus took any life in rural America, he gave his own on the rugged cross. Come to me, he says, to America — to the devastated and to the smugly self-sufficient. Come to me, and I will give you hope and help now, and in the resurrection, more than you have ever lost.
You can show your partnership in suffering, and help lift the load, at Samaritan’s Purse.
(This is a full reprint of John Piper’s Fierce Tornadoes and the Fingers of God, in response to the tornadoes on March 2-3, 2012)
He that can dash whole worlds to death,
And make them when He please,
He speaks, and that almighty breath
Fulfils His great decrees.
His every word of grace is strong
As that which built the skies;
The voice that rolls the stars along
Speaks all the promises.
O might I hear Thy heavenly tongue
But whisper, “Thou art Mine!”
Those gentle words shall raise my song
To notes almost divine.
How would my leaping heart rejoice,
And think my heav’n secure!
I trust the all-creating voice,
And faith desires no more.
Hymn: Begin, My Tongue, Some Heavenly Theme~ Issac Watts, 1707