(Tim, w/thanks to Mark K.) John Piper has put just the right point on the presence of God's holiness and wrath in this present world. Here's his blog post on the rogue tornado that struck the Lutherans meeting in Minneapolis at the very hour they were to undertake the legitimization of sodomy.
Read the comments and you'll find John excoriated for making such a boringly Biblical point. Why are insurance companies permitted to call earthquakes and floods "acts of God" while pastors are denied this privilege? No pastor dare open the mind of God in notorious judgments, and yet he is expected to open the mind of God in blessings and may lose his job if he refuses.
"God has blessed America with peace within our borders, and the greatest prosperity the world has ever seen; God bless America, now and always. Amen."
We've all heard a superabundance of such statements made by believers and pastors without a single protest that "this or that pastor claims to know the mind of God in speaking of God's blessings."
Who would ever object to the specific declaration of God's blessing? I've never heard anyone claim God's blessings are inscrutable.
But His judgments? Oh my, yes.
When it comes to blessings and grace and mercy, men speak with omniscience concerning God's will and agency, but when it comes to God's judgments, somehow everything becomes inscrutable and the man who dares to interpret those "acts of God' is a monster.
We all need to read Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana, or The Great Works of Christ in America, Book VI, titled, "A Faithful Record of Many Illustrious, Wonderful, Providences, Both of Mercies and Judgments on Divers Persons in New England--In Eight Chapters."
While acknowledging the caution that must be exercised in the interpreting of God's providences, good and bad, lest we take the Name of the Lord our God in vain, Mather goes on to list God's providences, blessings and judgments. And doing so, he's boringly normal across all Church history.
Consider, for instance, his two sermons titled, "Terribilia Dei: Remarkable Judgments of God, On Several Sorts of Offenders, in Several Scores of Instances, among the People of New-England: Observed, Collected, Related, and Improved; in Two Sermons, at Boston-Lecture in the Month of July 1697" on this text:
My flesh trembles for fear of You, And I am afraid of Your judgments. (Psalms 119:120)
Two excerpts from these sermons' twenty-six pages:
We are assured in 2Peter 2:9,10, "At the day of judgment shall be punished chiefly they that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness." And it is no rare thing among us to see judgment in this world also overtaking them...
We have seen many, many, many to "die in their youth;" because their life has been among the unclean. We have seen 'em to mourn at the last, when their flesh and their body has been consumed. We have seen 'em getting a wound, and a dishonour, and a reproach that is never wip'd away. It may be, the just God says upon the unclean "Write this person childless." Or, it may be, the Lord says, "I will kill their children with death." Or, 'tis possible, some very miserable disasters have attended their offspring: peccatum seminus punitur in semine (the sin of the seed is punished in the seed)...
And how many young women have been executed among us for murdering their bastard-infants! But, at their execution, this has been their exclamation: "Oh, that all young people would beware of the snares of uncleanness! By continuing in those awful snares, without any speedy repentance, we have been ruined!" One of the first in this land that came to such an end (her name was Martin) had yielded unto a wicked man soliciting her chastity; said, "if ever she were overtaken again, she would leave herself unto (God's) justice to be made an example." She remembered not her vows, but was again overtaken. She conceived, she travailed, she privately destroyed her child, using two several attempts before she could wholly dispatch it. Afterwards ...the murder strangely came to light... She own'd the whole truth, and she dy'd for it...
But our Indian wars are not over yet: We have too far degenerated into Indian vices. The vices of the Indians are these: They are very lying wretches, and they are very lazy wretches, and they are out of measure indulgent unto their children; there is no family government among them. We have shamefully Indianized in all those abominable things. Now, the judgments of God have imploy'd Indian hatchets to wound us, no doubt, for these our Indian vices.
A thousand more such things may occur to a serious observation. Sirs, consider the wondrous works of God.
The hand of God is everywhere, and normally, the man who denies it is telling us more about his own presumption in the face of God's holiness than his own meekness and humility in the face of the sanctity of God's Name and the secret things belonging to Him, alone.
To buy Mather's The Great Works of Christ in America