What on Earth is Happening?

Natural disasters are becoming more frequent.

In late 2004 an earthquake registering 9.2 on the Richter scale sent tsunami waves into coastal regions of Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India. The tsunamis, like the earthquake, gave no warning and brought death and destruction to all in their path.

More than 200,000 people were killed, and millions were displaced. The tragedy, grief and ongoing suffering caused many people to question.

Catastrophes such as these are confronting. We are challenged with the reality that despite our best technologies we are powerless to stop a tsunami. Tragedies like these are a chilling reminder that a disaster can strike at any time. Ultimately, we are faced with the truth that we are not in control.

Many criticize God, and accuse Him of a lack of compassion. They argue that if He were a God of mercy then He would have averted the catastrophe.

Indeed, many lose sight of the fact that they have chosen to go their own way, preferring to turn away from God. They choose not to honour God but when disaster strikes they blame Him.

Sadly, many are so consumed with finding fault with God that they are blinded to what He is showing to all of us. The tragedy is therefore compounded even more.

Whilst we may not comprehend the reason for natural disasters, it is important to respond to God.

God is certainly in control of the forces of nature. He created the Seas and the dry land. He is indeed merciful. His mercy endures for a thousand generations. He is the One who is long-suffering. He alone provides forgiveness, deliverance for all who call on His Name.

Who has not heard of the Exodus from Egypt?! With an outstretched arm and mighty works, the God of Israel delivered and redeemed His people from the land of bondage and suffering. And who has not heard of how He provided for them in the wilderness for forty years? And who has not heard that He gave them His Law, commandments and statutes at Mt Sinai?

Surely, these are sufficient to make one wise concerning natural disasters.

Since God is merciful and all-powerful, what purpose could catastrophes and natural disasters serve?

These are actually signs which tell us that the Messiah is Coming, and that the end of the age is near.

"And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places." (Matthew 24:7) the Master told His disciples when they asked what would be the signs of the end of the age and of His Coming. (see Matthew 24:2) Natural disasters would be frequent.

Furthermore, we are to be aware that these events would signal "the beginning of sorrows". (Matthew 24:8) This is a phrase which was used to refer to a woman in labour. It is a term which relates to the time of Israel's greatest suffering, known as "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7) and "the great tribulation" (Matthew 24:21).

Whilst the reference concerns Israel, it does not mean that the nations will escape. Indeed, because Israel suffers, so too will all the nations.

Famines, pestilences and earthquakes are the first signs. These tragedies point to the soon-coming end of the age.

They are a signal for everyone to look up and to prepare for the times ahead. The King will come therefore the future holds hope, for all who look forward to His Coming.

Let us consider the signs:

"And Yeshua answered and said to them: 'Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, "I am the Messiah," and will deceive many.

"And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

"All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake.

"And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.

"And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.'" (Matthew 24:4-14)

Whilst the signs will include all nations and will be seen by all nations, yet it is the return of the Jewish people to the Land of their forefathers that provides the backdrop against which the signs have meaning and substance.

The prophet Jeremiah declared that prior to the time of Jacob's trouble, (Jeremiah 30:3-7) the people of Israel would return to the Land and possess it.

Likewise, the Master warned that prior to the same period of time that Jeremiah spoke of there would be wars, kingdom against kingdom, and nation against nation.

Together, the prophecies predict a time of turmoil and upheaval for Israel and the nations.

Today, most nations are familiar with conflict and occupied with hostilities at home or abroad. It has become a necessary part of the process of working toward peace. However, only one nation has the assurance of one day living in peace and security – Israel.

"Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and the peoples shall flow to it.

"Many nations shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; he will teach us his ways, and we shall walk in his paths.' For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." (Micah 4:1-4)

The people of Israel are expecting peace and security; the King Messiah shall reign over all the earth and nations will come to Jerusalem, to the house of the LORD to worship because He has brought peace and security. Nations will no longer war, violence will be a thing of the past.

Significantly, all nations will enjoy peace when the nation of Israel has received her King. Therefore, we see that Israel, the people and the Land are a key to understanding the signs.

When the Master says, "Take heed that no one deceives you," it is relevant and applicable for the people of Israel.

If the people of Israel are deceived then there can be no hope for the nations.

In an article entitled, Be Strong and of Good Courage , Rabbi Dov Begon, made the following observation:

"Our prophets and sages taught us that when the Messiah's footsteps can be heard in the End of Days, with the ingathering of the exiles and the arrival of millions of Jews in the Land, with Eretz Yisrael flowering and yielding its fruit for the Jewish People – precisely then there will be a terrible crisis in Israel, from within and without (see Sanhedrin 98).

"From within: impudence will increase; the government will become heretical; 'the border dwellers', i.e., the settlers who sacrifice themselves for the Jewish People, will wander from city to city and be shown no grace. The moral level will deteriorate, Torah wisdom will be loathed, there will be no rebuke, the G-d-fearing will be scorned and the truth will disappear.

"People will not show one another respect. Youths will insult their elders and the family unit will be in a state of crisis. Sons will dishonor their fathers, daughters will rise up against their mothers and daughter-in-laws against their mother-in-laws. A man's household will be his enemies (see Sotah 49).

"From without: the nations will pressure us and will make plans to drive us out of our land and from Jerusalem, heart of the nation. As King David said, 'Why are the nations in an uproar? Why do the peoples mutter in vain? The kings of the earth join ranks, the rulers take counsel together against the L-rd and against His anointed.' (Psalm 2:1-2) They will not resign themselves to the rebirth of Israel in their land, and they will fight us to snuff out the candle of Israel, just as they did before and after the State's establishment, and as the Prophets Ezekiel and Zechariah describe regarding the wars of Gog and Magog."

Why should God use natural disasters and wars as signs, why not allow something that will cause much less suffering and grief? The reality is that we do not listen. We refuse to see, hear and act upon the more subtle promptings. Quite simply, for many of us, it takes a tragedy to get our attention. Even then, some prefer not to act. Many have turned from God's light and are walking in darkness.

Significantly, the Master points to lawlessness as providing the environment for all these natural disasters. Wars, rumours of war, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, the rise of false prophets and so on are because lawlessness will abound.

"And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold." (Matthew 24:12)

It is because God's Law, the Torah is not observed. The Torah is more than a set of rules and regulations. It is the word of God, and it is life to all who walk in it. The Torah points to the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. From the Torah we learn of the ways of God and a knowledge of His Messiah.

The Torah teaches us to love our neighbour as ourselves. When these important building blocks are put aside, replaced, then conflict and wars will happen. Love for others grows cold.

Nations create their own laws and philosophies which inevitably divide communities. Despite good intentions, man-made laws build a framework for ongoing conflict and hostility. Subsequently, families become dysfunctional, individuals are abused, relationships are broken and reconciliation difficult to find.

The Torah, however, teaches the truth about relationships and how families can function successfully. The Torah reminds us to honour our parents. God's word teaches us to care for the widow, the orphan and the elderly within the fabric of family and community. The conclusion: Happy is the nation who keeps the Word of God.

"Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law (Torah) of the LORD!" (Psalm 119:1)

When the Messiah came, He kept and upheld the Torah. As the Messiah, Yeshua fulfilled the Torah. He was the living Torah – the Living Word who dwelt among us. "He is the Way, the Truth and the Life…" (John 14:6).

Lawlessness abounds because the Torah is dismissed. Nations suffer the ravages of war as a consequence of being indifferent to the Torah, the Word of God. The nations walk in darkness because they live according to their own philosophies and not according to the Word of God.

The signs are designed to wake the nations, and to help us prepare.

"Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

"Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

"But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be." (Matthew 24:15-21)

The signs are for all. Natural disasters and wars are tragic. A tragedy can only be worsened by ignoring God. Receive them as a sign from God that the end is near and the King Messiah is coming.

Respond to Him. Wake up! Walk not in the darkness. Return to God and His Word, and walk in His light.

What will you do if a greater tragedy strikes? Return to Him before it is too late!