In Luke 12:55-56, Jesus rebukes the Jews, because they could read the weather signs, but they could not discern the times in which they were living. They knew that when the south wind blew, the weather would be hot, but they did not understand what was happening in their own city.
Jesus comments must have aroused their curiosity. Luke 13:1-5 records how they asked about two events that had happened recently. In the first, some Galileans had been killed by Pilate and their blood mingled with Roman sacrifice. In the second, eighteen people had been killed when the tower of Siloam had fallen on them. Jesus said that the sins of the people killed in these tragedies were no worse than those of other Galileans, or other people living in Jerusalem, but he said that unless they repented they would all perish.
Jesus explained that theses two events were signs to the city of Jerusalem. The city was placing itself under a curse by hardening its heart against Jesus, the Messiah whom God had sent to them. The two events they asked about were signs of the judgement that would come, if they did not change their attitude to Jesus. This is what did happen. The Jews hardened their hearts against Jesus; they crucified him and persecuted his followers. These actions placed them under the wrath of God. In A.D 70 the Roman army besieged Jerusalem, smashed down its walls and slaughtered those who survived. The blood of many people was used in Roman sacrifices.
The principle Jesus taught is that when a people are under judgement, God often gives a warning. Sometimes he speaks by his prophets. At other times he speaks by allowing unusual or spectacular events to occur. Because they are unusual, they will be noticed by most of the people. These warning events will be on a much smaller scale, but typical of the judgement which will come if the people do not turn Back to God.
God is merciful, and even when a people are full of sin, he gives warning of his displeasure by advance judgements, to save his people from something worse. If the warning is heeded it will produce repentance and reformation, and the future will bring blessing. If the warning is not heeded, then judgement will take its course. These warning events are tokens or types of the approaching judgement.
A radio commentator recently stated that New Zealand is a post-Christian society. He said that while many aspects of our society are rooted in Christian values, it has ceased to be overtly Christian. This is a historian's perspective.
From God's perspective, this nation that he has blessed so abundantly, has turned its back on him. It has bitten the hand that feeds it. Deuteronomy 28 warns of the consequences for a nation that rejects God. Everything that it does will go wrong.
In terms of Deuteronomy 28, New Zealand is under a curse. That curse is already being experienced by the weak, the poor and the helpless. These are people who have messed up their lives, been overwhelmed by the trials of life, or who have just failed to get started. However, instead of turning to God, they have looked to the state to be their saviour. It has provided some relief, but it has not relieved their misery. For most, life is still going wrong.
The curse has not yet effected the strong and the wealthy, but God is warning that they cannot escape it.
Jim McCaulay the chairman of Mercury Energy in the early days of the Auckland Electricity Crisis said that it was an "Act of God". He was correct! Although he was using insurance jargon, he was unwittingly speaking as a prophet!
The energy crisis is a sign of the times in which we are living. It should be understood in the same way as the two events that Jesus was asked about. There are three features of the Auckland energy crisis that are important
The crisis was totally unexpected.
The strong and the wealthy were effected economically.
The best technology could not remedy the problem with the electricity cables.
The central government was powerless.
The people of Auckland are no worse sinners than anyone else in New Zealand. However, they have been more ostentatious and blatant in rejecting God than the rest of New Zealand.
The electricity crisis was a warning to the rest of the nation of a judgement that lies in the future. Unless we turn Back to God, something similar will happen to the entire nation, but on a far larger scale.
It will be totally unexpected.
It will be an economic disaster.
The best technology will be unable to resolve it.
It will especially effect the strong and the wealthy. They have treated those who depend on social welfare with contempt, calling them bludgers and parasites. Things will be so bad that they will call on the government for help.
The government will not be able to find a solution.
Most of all it will effect the strong and the wealthy. They are confident and bold. They consider that they have made their own success, through their own wisdom and hard work; they don't need God. They are not afraid of God. Like a child scoffing at a parent, they boldly mock him and use his name as a curse. When these troubles come, their laughter will die on their lips and anguish will be written on their faces. They will call on the government for help, but it will be powerless.
At this time, if the people of New Zealand cry out to God, he will hear their prayer and pour out a spirit of humility and repentance. God's purpose in sending judgement is not to punish people, but to shake them up, so that they will look to him for salvation. Sometimes, he has to pull all other props away, so that people will call on him. Revival is almost always preceded by shaking.
Waves of Revival
A writer in a New Zealand surfing magazine noted that soon after the Auckland CBD was plunged into darkness, the west coast of the north island experienced some of the best surf of the summer. These large perfect waves symbolise the waves of revival that will come after New Zealand is plunged into the darkness of economic crisis. When the people of New Zealand turn to God, the Holy Spirit will be poured out and will bring wave after wave of blessing.
Here we see the tremendous mercy of God. At a time when he was sending a warning event, he also sent a sign of blessing and hope for those who have eyes to see. The Auckland Energy Crisis is a warning of what lies a head for this nation. However that future is not fixed. If we heed the warning and call out to God, he will have mercy and our future will be changed to one of blessing.
We must be certain of one thing. God wants this nation back. He will keep shaking until we wake up to his calling and turn Back to him. The more we harden our hearts, the harder he will shake up. I hope that we will not be like the people of Israel, who could read the weather signs, but could not understand the times in which they were living. I hope that we will heed the warning that he has given and seek his mercy and blessing. That is our best hope.
On the evening after I had finished writing this, my wife and I went to see the film Titanic. I was disappointed in the film, but I was struck by the significance of the event. The sinking of the Titanic was a very striking incident, which would have been noticed by everyone. It was a warning event of the type Jesus described in Luke 13.
The Titanic sunk in 1912. During the late 19th century and the early 20th century Britain was in spiritual decline. God poured out his spirit in the Welsh revival, but this move of God was resisted by the established church and the nation at large. The consequence of this decline was judgement. I believe that the sinking of the Titanic was a warning of that judgement.
In Britain, people were amazed, but they did not understand the times, in which they were living, and did not heed the warning. Consequently two years later in 1914, Britain was plunged into the most terrible war that the world has known.
The key features of the sinking of the Titanic are as follows:
The sins of the people on the Titanic were no worse than any others living at that time, but they were typical.
The ship builders, the owners, the officers and crew were quite arrogant. They were totally confident in the Titanic, believing it to be unsinkable. Yet their mistakes were the cause of its sinking.
The disaster was totally unexpected; yet the unthinkable happened.
There was terrible loss of life: 1500 people drowned.
The loss of life was greatest among younger men and the lower classes who were trapped on the lower decks.
Hundreds of women were widowed and many children were left fatherless. Many watched from the life-boats as their men drowned in the cold sea.
The parallels with World War 1 are obvious.
Two years after the sinking Britain was locked in a titanic struggle with the nations of Central Europe.
The war was unexpected. Right up to the outbreak of war, the people and politicians believed that war would not eventuate. Yet the unthinkable happened.
The British military leaders were also arrogant. They believed that they could win the war easily. Yet their many tactical and operational mistakes contributed to the tragedy of the war.
Although some military leaders suffered, the greatest cost was borne by the young conscripts and lower classes who fought the war in the trenches.
The casualties were enormous. 10 million died. Twice that number were injured, many being maimed for life.
Thousands of women were widowed and numerous children were left fatherless. The women of Britain heard about the suffering in Europe from a distance.
The sinking of the Titanic was a warning of the terrible events that would follow. Sadly the significance of the event was not understood, and the warning was not heeded. This is a pertinent reminder to us that the principles that Jesus outlined have not changed.