June 17, 2017

The Purpose of Disasters?

1 Kings 8:22-24, 37-40

Forgive and act . . . so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors.

—  1 Kings 8:39-40

When mildew makes its debut in my garden, my first response is anger. I am indignant when bugs or worms or fungi come to ruin my plants. I get exasperated when I see evidence of animals invading the garden and stealing my harvest. Then, as rationality returns, I look for causes and remedies. I rarely, if ever, search my heart for wrongdoing or any fault of my own as a possible cause behind disasters in my garden.

Our verses today are part of King Solomon’s prayer. The occasion is the grand opening of a splendid temple that the king and the people have built. After praising God’s virtues, Solomon’s prayer shifts to the predictable failings of God’s people. Weaknesses—much less sins—are not readily detected or searched out. Most of us grow to realize our own faults slowly and painfully. By God-gifted wisdom, Solomon knows this. He also knows that disasters in God’s garden—like blight or locusts—can help bring us to our senses. So he prays, “When famine or plague comes to the land . . .”

Now, it would be a mistake to see every disaster as God’s judgment on our sins. But seeing nothing of God in the disasters and struggles that come our way would be shortsighted. Mini­mally, God intends that disasters will prompt us to examine our hearts, extend our hands in prayer, and seek to honor him all the time.

Lord God, whatever disasters may come our way, turn our hearts to seek you and your mercy. May it always be our greatest desire to honor you and walk in your ways. Amen.

About the author — Don Byker

Don Byker has been a pastor since 1984 in various churches and institutional settings. Don and his wife, Donna, are the parents of four adult children, two of whom are married. Donna and Don are also the glad grandparents of three granddaughters. Currently Don is serving in a rural church in Michigan full of gardeners.

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