The current global financial crisis is affecting many of earth’s inhabitants. Indeed, most of our 6 billion plus people will feel its effects either directly or indirectly. It certainly is shaking things up, and it is not clear if and when things will get back to normal (if there is such a thing as normal in this case).
It is certainly possible that this financial crisis can be seen as the judgment of God. We cannot know this for certain, but a good case can be made that this might be so. That was the subject of the first part of this article. In this second part I want to refer to another clear teaching of Scripture, namely that God quite often will use hardship and adversity to get our attention.
And given what hardship and adversity this current financial crisis is having on so many people, it could well be the case that God is in fact quite involved in the whole scenario. It may well be his way of getting the attention not only of those who do not know God – and who very much do need to know him – but of those who do. God loves his own people too much to allow them to put anything in the way of a love relationship with him.
Thus he may well be using this crisis as a means of freeing us all from our false gods and false securities, and getting us back to where we should be: with our eyes steadfastly fixed on him. Indeed, God seems quite prepared to use any and every means to rouse us out of our slumber, to prick our consciences, to warn us of dangers ahead, and to bring us back to himself.
Scripture is quite clear as to this process of God. It is simply part of his nature to woo us back to himself, and if need be, to use the big stick to get our attention. God is far too committed to us to allow us to wander away from him, and he is more than willing to use adversity – including economic adversity – to get us back to where we belong.
There are many passages which speak to this truth. Let me just focus on one. The entire book of Judges is an obvious example of this. The book describes several centuries of Israel’s history, and is replete with stories of divine judgment used on a wayward people. There is a recurring cycle of events recorded here: sin and apostasy, oppression and servitude, supplication and cries to Yahweh, deliverance and freedom. Numerous examples of this fourfold pattern are given throughout the book.
Judges 2:11-19 is the first case of this sad pattern, repeated so often in this book. It tells of how Israel forsook Yahweh and went after other gods. As a result, God handed them over to raiders who plundered them. Israel is unable to defeat them, so in their distress they cry out for help, and God raises up judges, or deliverers, to get them out of their predicament. But then the whole sorry affair is played out all over again soon thereafter.
As Arthur Cundall comments, the judges’ “influence was short-lived. The Israelites had short memories and when the immediate crisis was over they forgot both their earlier misery and the state of temporary repentance which it had induced. Their ‘turning to the Lord’ was thus a superficial expedient.”
The really tragic thing about the message of Judges is how hard-hearted Israel is, and how slow they are to see their need of Yahweh. When things are going smoothly, they have no need of their Lord. They quickly degenerate into sin and idolatry. It is only in their oppression and misery that they finally turn to Yahweh.
As Paul House remarks, “There is no movement toward Yahweh until the people have been oppressed by Yahweh through the foreign nations. When all else fails, Israel turns to God.”
The sad truth is, we are no different today. We too can just coast along as believers. We are quite happy to pursue our trivial pursuits, and offer only half-hearted commitment to Christ. It is only when things really start to hot up, as in a world-wide financial crisis, that we finally start calling out to God, and start thinking about what is really important in life.
The message of Judges is really the message of the church. We are in the same boat. We are just as bad as Israel was. And the question must always be, what will it take for us to wake from our slumber, and quit our foolish games, and start getting serious about our Christian discipleship?
It is clear that God can either bring about difficult circumstances, or at least use them, to get his people’s attention, to snap them out of their stupor, and to realign them with himself and his word. Scripture has plenty of examples of this.
In the light of such divine dealings with his people, we can rightly ask if the current global financial crisis is something either orchestrated by God or at least used by God to get us to wake up and return to him.
The only problem is, will we call upon God only to get us out of this financial crisis, and go back to business as usual, or will we allow this shaking to really get ourselves back to where we are meant to be. Recall the words mentioned about Israel under the judges: “when the immediate crisis was over they forgot both their earlier misery and the state of temporary repentance which it had induced”.
As Cundall goes on to explain, “How easy it is to use Almighty God as a kind of emergency, crash-aid service! Gratitude for deliverance, both for Israel of old and the spiritual Israel of today, ought to be expressed in lifelong dedication (cf. Rom. 12:1ff).”
There are two responses believers can have to this financial crisis. One is to seek God’s help so that the crisis will finish quickly and we can get back to doing what we were doing before. Or we can see this as a divine wakeup call and a warning from our heavenly father that we really need to get our priorities straight here. There can be no return to ‘business as usual’. It is time to start getting serious with our Lord.
And I suspect that until we do start getting serious, this financial mess may drag on for quite some time, or be repeated all over again in the very near future.