Jonah 3:3–5 Now Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
Some have suggested that the disasters which have occurred in the United States, both natural and man-made, are specific judgments of God through which he is punishing certain people for their sins. The attacks of 9/11 and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina are a couple examples.
Some dismiss this conclusion and criticize those who say such things. They call them bigots and racists for suggesting that God is punishing our nation for the sexual excesses of spring breaks or Mardi Gras. They call them kooks for saying that on 9/11 we reaped what we’ve sown.
How does a Christian answer that? Does God punish nations or people because of their sins? Well, God sent Jonah to Nineveh to say, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” Likewise, go back through Genesis and read about Cain, Babel, and Sodom. Or consider that God told the Israelites he was using them to punish the Jebusites, Hittites, Amorites, and the other wicked nations of Canaan. In the same way, the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans punished the Israelites when they sinned against their Lord. And God punished each of those nations in return for their sins.
On the other hand, where has God specifically announced that 9/11 and Katrina were such judgments? Recall how Jesus dealt with such a question. When asked if the people killed in Pilate’s Galilean massacre or the Siloam tower tragedy were “worse sinners” than the rest and were being specifically punished, Jesus said, “I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). In other words, “Quit what you’re doing or this will happen to you!”
We rejoice today in the incredible blessings God has showered on our country. As for the tragedies that come on us, they can be viewed as general examples of God’s final judgment on incorrigible sinners. Even more important, we should view them as warnings that God will not be mocked. In love he is warning of that, and he is calling people to listen, repent, and turn to his love and mercy in Christ.
Eternity is a long time to think about where you went wrong.