When does God use the signs of nature to call nations to repentance?
Now, more often, God uses signs of nature as remedial judgments to call nations to repentance. Both the Bible and history attest to the fact that God has a pattern for working with nations.
First of all, the Bible teaches beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is the one who raises up nations and He is the one who sets their boundaries. He is the one who gives them purpose and that when a nation begins to rebel against Him, the first thing He will do is raise up prophetic voices to call the nation to repentance. When I say prophetic voices, I'm not talking about people with supernatural knowledge of the future. I'm talking about the gift of prophecy as it operates today, and the way it operated today is that God gives to certain individuals supernatural ability to take the word of God and apply it to contemporary events. When you find a person who can take the word of God and preach about abortion, or preach about the national debt, or preach about same sex marriage, that's the gift of prophecy. There are people who have that gift.
God raises up prophetic voices to call a nation to repentance. These are people who look at the Word of God and they see the nation is in violation of the Word of God. They know from the Word of God what's going to happen, not because they have supernatural knowledge of the future, but because they know that God deals with nations according to a certain pattern, and that He will deal with that nation if they don't repent. And so, they call the nation to repentance.
If the nation refuses to repent, then God sends remedial judgments. He will send one after another after another. These can take many forms. It can be economic calamity. It can be military defeat. It can be weather phenomenon. And finally, if the nation sets its jaw against God and refuses to repent, God will then deliver the nation from judgment to destruction. The Bible says this over and over. It uses a very special phrase. It says that God does this, "when the wound becomes incurable." That's used by nearly all of the prophets. When the wound becomes incurable is when God moves a nation from judgment to destruction.
There are examples of remedial judgments all throughout the Bible. Of course, the first ones that come to mind are the plagues that God put upon Egypt. Plague after plague after plague called Pharaoh to repentance, calling Pharaoh to bend his knee and give in to what God had ordered through Moses, and finally he did.
When the children of Israel got ready to enter the Promised Land, there was a land use covenant. God said through this land use covenant, "This is your land. It's for you to use. If you are faithful to me, I'll give you certain blessings. But, if you are unfaithful, and for example intermarry with the women of that land and you start worshipping idols, then here's what I'm going to do to you. I'm going to put curse after curse after curse on you." God would then list all of those curses, and there's a tremendous number of curses. He talks about how their children would become rebellious, and there would be an epidemic of divorce. He talks about economic failure. He talks about military defeat, and He also talks about weather phenomenon. He said there will be crop failures, there will be pestilence and there will be drought if they were not faithful to Him.
I think of Elijah and Ahab. Elijah confronted Ahab and in summary said, "You are leading this nation to worship Baal. There is only one true God, Yahweh. I'm going to prove it to you! I'm going to speak and it will not rain until I speak again." And, he spoke! For three and one half years it did not rain until he came back and spoke again. In Texas people would just shake their heads and say, "Man, that guy was a great weather forecaster. We wish we had him on our station." But, no, this was a supernatural phenomenon of God.
Also, take for example Joel. Joel was the prophet who warned about a locust invasion. You read the book of Joel it's all about the worst thing that could happen to an agricultural society having a locust invasion that stripped the place bare. These locusts ate the bark off the trees and even the clothes off the clothesline. They had nothing left to offer to God, nothing to feed themselves with, and nothing to feed anybody else with. The people started wringing their hands and saying, "Oh, what bad luck, what bad luck." Joel got up and said, "I've got news for you. It has nothing to do with luck. God sent the locusts, and if you don't repent, God's going to send something worse than locusts, He's going to send an army!" And, they died laughing, because do you know what God did? He sent the army and they were defeated.
Also consider Haggai, a man probably in his mid 80's who at the time was a very elderly man. I call him "the Harry Truman of the Old Testament." He was a man who spit words like bullets. The children of Israel had gone into Babylonian captivity, and God in His grace and mercy had brought them back to the land. They immediately laid the foundation of the Temple, and then lost interest. For 16 years the Temple foundation stood there bare while they built and paneled their houses. Finally, God raised up this prophet and He came out one day and said, "I've got news for you, listen to me, have you noticed that every time you plant your crops the root rot gets them. Notice that when you replant them a flood comes, and when you replant them again the hail comes, and when you replant them again a windstorm comes." He said, "Did you know that God sent every one of those disasters, and He's sending them to you to call you to repentance? Get your priorities in order! Rebuild the Temple of God." For once people paid attention. They dropped everything and went over there and rebuilt the Temple, and God began to bless them once again.
In the next segment of this "God, Judgment and the Weather" series, we'll look at exactly who is behind the signs of nature calling people to repentance.