“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matt. 24:36-42)
On Sunday, December 26, 2004, at about 7:00 am, the largest earthquake to strike the globe since 1964 caused devastating tsunami waves, to kill thousands in south Asia. The 8.9-magnitude quake that hit December 26, off of the coast of Indonesia, triggered extremely large waves that brought massive flooding, damage, and loss of life in the region. Waves as high as 20 feet, traveling at 500 miles an hour, crashed into the coastal areas near the Bay of Bengal. Among the worst affected countries were Sri Lanka and India, as well as Indonesia and Thailand. Over 160,000 people were confirmed dead, with thousands more that were still missing. The sights and sounds of the disaster staggers the senses, so horrific were the effects of this event. What is instructive is that people were living life without any sense of impending danger. Then came sudden death.
The subject of death, and dying, is not a topic that is enjoyed. Nevertheless, life must be lived in light of eternity. Life must be lived with a sense of urgency because there is impending danger everywhere. Speaking to the people of His generation, Jesus warned of impending danger for the people of Palestine. Israel was in danger because the people had cried out for Jesus to be Crucified. Israel had committed the horrific crime of Deicide. They had willingly killed the Son of God.
Prior to his death, Jesus called individuals to repentance, and warned the nation of an impending destruction that would come suddenly upon them because they would not be prepared for judgment.
Christ appealed to Noah’s flood, to warn people against living carelessly, and without any thoughts of eternity.
The words of Christ should have been listened to because in AD 70, the Roman legions came upon the city of Jerusalem with great force, and destroyed the sacred temple, while slaughtering over a million people. The people were unprepared, not because they had not been warned, but because they failed to listen to the truth. The people preferred to listen to another messenger, other than Jesus.
Prior to the fall of Jerusalem, there were false prophets telling people that everything was going to be all right. Then came the legions of Rome, like a flood, to hunt, and hurt, and kill.
By way of application, the words of Christ should be listened to in our day, for Jesus does not lie. Suddenly, destruction can come to a nation. Unfortunately, it is possible to live under a national delusion.
It is also possible to live under a personal delusion. A person may think they are kind, considerate, and gracious, when really they are not. All it takes is the right circumstance to bring forth the mean and vindictive spirit, hidden in the heart. Sometimes, God gives a person a sight of themselves as He did Isaiah, Peter, and St. Augustine. When a sight of self is clearly seen, then there is hope for change.
One morning, in 1888, Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, awoke to read his own obituary. The obituary was printed as a result of a simple journalistic error. It was Alfred’s brother that had died, and the reporter carelessly reported the death of the wrong brother.
Any man would be disturbed under the circumstances, but to Alfred, the shock was overwhelming, because he saw himself as the world saw him. The world called him, the “Dynamite King,” the great industrialist who had made an immense fortune from explosives.
This, as far as the general public was concerned, was the entire purpose of Alfred’s life. None of his true intentions, to break down the barriers that separated men and ideas for peace were recognized, or given serious consideration. Alfred Nobel was simply a merchant of death. For that alone he would be remembered.
As he read his own obituary with horror, Mr. Nobel resolved to make clear to the world the true meaning, and purpose of his life. This was to be done through the final distribution of his fortune. His last will and testament stipulated there was to be an endowment of five annual prizes for outstanding contributions in physics, chemistry, physiology, or medicine, literature, and peace (the sixth category of economics was added later).
Rewarding contributions in these areas would show the true expression of Alfred Nobel’s life, and ultimately would be why he should be remembered. That was the end game.
Today, ostensibly, valuable prizes are given to those who have done something to advance the cause of world peace.
The world esteems those who receive a “Nobel Peace Prize.”
Alfred Nobel had a true sight of himself, and decided he wanted to change, so that when he did die, his life would have purpose and meaning. In the end, Alfred Nobel began to live a life of urgency.
It would good if each of us asked ourselves, “What is the purpose of my life?”
Historically, Christians have believed that the chief end of man is to know God, and enjoy Him forever. Here is a grand purpose for life. To know God, to love Him, to obey Him, and to enjoy Him forever. Tragically, those who reject God, those who dismiss the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, in effect, commit afresh the sin of Deicide. After committing the sin of Deicide, life can then be lived without any sense of urgency. Life can be given any meaning a person wants to give it, including a life of hedonism: “eat, drink, and be merry.” To such sad souls comes a principle, established by Jesus so long ago when He warned Israel of the judgment to come upon them. The principle is this: grace precedes judgment.
Grace refers to unmerited favor being freely given to the undeserving. During the 2004 tsunami, Americans, founded upon a Judeo-Christian philosophy of doing good to others rushed to help the flood victims. A television camera captured the image of American’s helping victims of that terrible flood. In the middle of one picture of some relief packages being given out, was a young man wearing a T-shirt with the image of Osama Ben Laden. And there you have it. In that part of the world that applauded the destruction of 2, 996 Americas on September 11, 2001, in the midst of a people that encourage terrorist activities against this nation, suddenly, in the blink of an eye, these same people needed American resources. These people needed grace. They received it.
Why? Because deep within the ethical value system of people in this nation, the words of Jesus are heard saying, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:44-45).
However, let this truth be told also. There is a limit to grace. There is a limit to how long God will let people live without any sense of urgency, repentance, or acknowledging Him. Judgment will come and it will come suddenly. This is not to try to scare people into heaven, though that is better than be laughed into hell. It is a simple truth.
From this passage of Scripture there are several important principles to reflect upon. Consider first, the universal effects of sin, reflected in the Flood during the days of Noah, and local floods today. Had there been no Fall, there would be no death, and destruction. There would be no floods. Consider second, the trustworthiness of the Bible, and thus the promises of God. Following the Flood in Noah’s day, God promised not to destroy the earth again by a flood. Floods are local, though devastating, and are contained. Consider the need to live life with a sense of urgency. Consider the need to be prepared for eternity. Finally, consider the value of responding to God’s grace.