Hello everybody and welcome in to episode 194 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Luke 13 today and our focus is on Does God Send Calamity and Natural Disasters on the Worst Sinners? + The Pharisees Help Jesus?! . We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Gothenburg, Sweden, Berlin, Germany, Nueva Loja, Ecuador, Newfoundland, Canada, Western Australia, Evansville, Indiana, Houston, Texas and Fairbanks, Alaska. Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
The Pharisees – they are the worst, right? The massive big villains of the Bible. Except…that’s not 100% true, is it? As we’ve talked about before, after the resurrection of Jesus, many Pharisees actually believed the good news, and joined the church. (Some of them did, of course, push for circumcision to be added to the Gospel, which was bad, however) But in our passage today, we actually see a group of Pharisees concerned for the well-being of Jesus – they even WARN Him that Herod wanted to kill Jesus. Amazing!
31 At that time some Pharisees came and told him, “Go, get out of here. Herod wants to kill you.” Luke 13:31
So, maybe these guys weren’t all bad, all the time.
A much deeper question is also raised in this chapter, and in a very remarkable and surprising way by Jesus. He points to a couple of recent tragedies that involved significant loss of life: One a ‘natural’ tragedy of sorts (what the insurance companies used to call, “an act of God.”) in the falling of the Tower of Siloam on a bunch of people, and the other, a human initiated disaster, in which bloodthirsty Pilate killed an unspecified number of Galileans in a terrible way. Do these disasters indicate that the victims were loved by God less, or were worse sinners, or were favored by God less? NO! says Jesus, but unless we repent, we might be faced with the same thing. What an interesting and almost inscrutable answer! John Piper, writing about a terrible natural disaster in Bangladesh in the early 90s, addresses this big question: Does God allow bad things to happen to people who deserve it more?
In 1991 storms and flooding caused a huge loss of life in Bangladesh. Hundreds of thousands died. It was like thousands of other catastrophes in history, but it caused me, more than usual, to search the Scriptures for help in dealing with it.
The Bible reveals to us that life is given freely to us by God (Acts 17:25; Job 1:21). Life is not something we possess by virtue of our merit. We do not “own” our life in relation to God. It is a “loan,” as is implied in Luke 12:20 where the soul (life) is required “back” by the Lord. Life is God’s and is on loan to us freely so that we might enjoy glorifying God with it. It is always and totally at his disposal, never rightfully at our disposal. Life belongs to God.
The Bible reveals that God is the one who takes life as he is the one who gives it (Job 1:21; 1 Samuel 2:6; Deuteronomy 32:39; 2 Kings 5:7). As God’s rightful possession, life is God’s to take when he pleases. He does not need to consult with anyone else because his authority as Creator, Sustainer, and Owner of life puts it totally at his disposal. He is not doing any evil when he takes back the life he gave whenever he chooses.
In some sense the devil is the one “who has the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14, RSV). And in Job 1:12 God seems to give the life of Job’s family into the hand of Satan, even though Job rightly says, “The LORD [not just Satan] has taken away” (1:21). So there is a sense in which God’s sovereignty overrules but also uses the death-dealing work of Satan in the tragedies of the world. We must come to terms with both the sovereignty of God and the truth that Satan, on God’s leash, is involved in the miseries of pain and death.
When Jesus was asked about a tragedy in which a tower in Siloam fell on eighteen people and killed them, he answered, “Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4–5, RSV). This means that God’s purpose in suddenly taking life is not necessarily to show a group’s greater sinfulness. Rather, in dealing with them in a just way according to his authority and ownership of life and his right to rule the world as Lord of all things, one of his purposes is to warn the rest of us that our lives are in his hands and that we should repent of sin and be ready at any time to die.
The Book of Revelation reveals that in the last days God will release terrible devastation on the earth and many millions will die. For example, Revelation 9:13–21 describes the death of one-third of the world’s population by the “four angels” (verse 15). Verse 20 says, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands.” In other words the catastrophic loss of life was meant to bring the world to its senses so that it would reckon with the one true and living God and repent.
Ezekiel 18:32 reveals that God does not have pleasure in the death of anyone. Jesus weeps over the Jerusalem that does not recognize the time of its visitation (Luke 19:41–44). The heart of God is large and complex. He is able to be grieved over the pain of his creatures, while at the same time ordaining that this very pain and death take place for a higher and greater purpose that brings him more joy than if he had run the world in another way.47
Our response therefore should be to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) and not to delight callously in the destruction of anyone in this age, but to extend the love of Christ and the hope of salvation as long as we can to those who live.
John Piper, A Godward Life: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All Life (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1997), 268–269.
Let’s read our passage, and then close with our Scripture memory verse for July.
Bible Memory verses for the month of July: 47 “I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built.” Luke 6:47-48
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