Although it seems like it occurred only a year ago, four years have passed since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
With a death toll of over 1,836 and damages in excess of US$89.6 billion, Katrina was the costliest storm in United States history.
After watching television footage of the devastation in New Orleans—a city known for its abundance of sexual promiscuity and voodoo religious practices—I couldn’t help asking, Did God Do It?
One of today’s readings touches on the topic.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Genesis 28:1-5. In light of yesterday’s post, Isaac finally asserts himself as the proactive father and encourages Jacob to marry within the family—according to his father Abraham’s desires. Isaac doesn’t seem angry in the least bit that Jacob had usurped the family blessing from Esau. My hunch is, Isaac was so upset with Esau’s choice in women that he had resigned himself to Jacob carrying on the family line. Finally, Esau gets the message and tries to fix his mistake…albeit too late (Genesis 28:6-9).
Genesis 28:10-22. The New Bible Commentary comments on this section, “Personal crisis is often the occasion for deep spiritual experience.” Incidentally, this story presents the original rendition of “Stairway To Heaven.”
Genesis 29:11. This is a significant verse: “Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud.” Jacob didn’t kiss Rachel because he had fallen in love with her, he wept because he had reunited with his father’s family. Despite his deceptive ways, Jacob understood the importance of marrying within the family.
Genesis 29:14-30. Jacob worked for Laban for seven years because he lacked the dowry to marry Rachel. Of course, Laban deceived Jacob in the same way that Jacob deceived Esau, so in the end, Jacob worked 14 years for Laban.
Genesis 29:17. Leah’s “weak” eyes didn’t mean her eyes lacked something. The Bible Background Commentary explains, “The term used is generally considered positive and speaks of fragility, vulnerability, tenderness or a delicate quality.” Rachel, on the other had, had more going for her than just beautiful eyes.
Genesis 29:35. Consider this: Jesus was born through the lineage of Leah, Jacob’s unloved wife.
Matthew 9:37. Jesus is looking for workers—more than pastors or priests or even leaders. Anyone can be a worker.
Psalm 11. This is a cry for help. But in the midst of the psalmist’s cry the writer says “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.” In other words, my life sucks, but God is still on the throne.
Psalm 11:3. This is a pretty well-known phrase from the Psalms: “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” You ever wondered what the answer to the question is? Take refuge in the Lord (Psalm 11:1)
THE WORD MADE FRESH
After the Hurricane struck four years ago, I asked a pastor whom I respect, “Do you think Hurricane Katrina was God’s judgment on New Orleans?”
“No,” he said. “Because Jesus bore our judgment on the cross, God no longer does that to people.”
While I couldn’t find a passage in the Bible that clearly supports the statement, I believe it’s true. However, I can’t seem to shake Proverbs 3:11-12 in today’s reading:
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
The Hebrew word for discipline means “discipline” or “chastening.” Taking that definition into the verse, it means God not only allows us to feel pain, he causes it.
“But that’s mentioned in the Old Testament,” someone might protest.
Perhaps, but the Scripture is quoted in Hebrews 12:5-11, word-for-word.
Here’s my take on it: There’s a difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment is rendered as a form of retribution. In other words, if I punish one of my daughters, I inflict pain without any intention of using the pain to bring a change in my daughter’s character or behavior.
Discipline, on the other hand, is rendered with the goal of changing a person’s character and/or behavior. I discipline my daughters because I love them. Punishment has little to do with love (see 1 John 4:18).
So where does this leave us with tragedies like Hurricane Katrina?
I’m not sure. I do know that God loves everyone affected by the hurricane. I also know that Adam and Eve’s sin introduced pain and hardship into our fallen world—apart from God’s intervention. We examined this last week.
I can’t answer for anyone else, but I know for me that I want to respond to pain with the attitude that God loves me and will do anything to bring our relationship into greater alignment with him.
- How did today’s reading speak to you?
- Describe a time when you experienced God’s discipline. How did you respond. Did it draw you closer to God?
- What kind of a relationship do you see between Jacob’s personal crisis in Genesis 28 and our study in Proverbs 3:11-12?