Pray for rain…and repent

Last Sunday we joined churches across the southern states in praying for rain in the southeastern region of the country. The fires out west and the storms that recently ripped through the heartland have also left many people homeless and in very dire circumstances. Compassion compels us to pray to the One who controls wind and rain and to plead to Him for mercy.

Drought has a way of exposing the limitations of human strength and ingenuity. It calls us to remember our Creator, which is precisely one of His designs in withholding rain. Scripture is full of teaching that gives this perspective (1 Kings 8:35-36; 17-18; 2 Chronicles 7:12-14; Jeremiah 2:3-5, etc.). The prophet Amos spells it out in unmistakable terms.

“I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered. 8 So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, But they were not satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD (Amos 4:7-8).

Drought, like hurricanes, floods, plagues and other natural disasters are warning shots fired by our Creator to awaken us to the fact that wrath awaits all who continue in rebellion to Him. They are, as even modern insurance companies recognize, “acts of God.” People may live without fear of God for awhile, but He will not be forever ignored.

Jesus confirms this interpretation of natural disasters and shows that they are tools in the hands of God for all people and not merely His Old Testament covenant nation. When asked about the victims of an atrociously immoral act Jesus took the opportunity to teach that not only moral evil but also natural disasters are God’s call to repentance.

“Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? Luke 13:5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5).

Droughts, storms and fires, then, should awaken us to consider our ways in the light of God’s revealed will. They should show us our weakness and and remind us our sinfulness before God. If we respond to them properly we will humble ourselves before the Lord of wind and rain and confess our sins, and seek His forgiveness by entrusting ourselves wholly to Jesus Christ.

So, when the heavens are shut up and there is no rain, when people are made to suffer because of natural disaster, what are we to do? We are to pray to the only One who can help and plead for mercy. And in our praying we are to repent of our sin against Him–“our” sin, not “theirs”–recognizing that something eternally more devastating than a drought awaits all those who continue to turn away from God.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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