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Praying for New Orleans
August 30, 2012

On the Wednesday morning of Isaac’s landfall into Louisiana, I prayed. Not for judgment and destruction. Not for God’s wrath against New Orleans to be displayed. I prayed that God would be merciful and that the distraught people, whose lives were in one way or another affected by the hurricane would turn to Him with all their hearts and find strength through faith in Christ. Desiring calamity and retribution upon others for their sin, regardless of the nature and enormity, is not the heart of God and exposes a wrong spirit. In the Old Testament, the prophet Jonah displayed unrighteous anger towards God and the people of Ninevah when he was commanded the second time to preach judgment to Israel’s fierce enemies. He knew that if they repented of their evil, God would forgive them. Jonah wanted them annihilated. That was not the heart of God. In the New Testament, Jesus rebuked James and John, His own faithful disciples when they requested to call down fire upon the Samaritans to which Jesus replied, “You don’t know what spirit you are of”.  In other words, that was not His Spirit working in them, but the devil’s. We need to be careful not to play God’s advocate, in the sense that we know how He should act towards those we detest. In Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, both the priest and the Levite passed by the wounded traveller as he lay dying on the Jericho road, assaulted by thieves. It was a despised Samaritan who showed compassion and came to the helpless man’s aid. Perhaps their religious minds convinced them that “He must have got what he deserved, sinner that he is!”

Years ago, when I would read the account of David and Nathan the prophet, who finally confronted the King of his covered up sin with Bathsheba, I read it imagining that fire and brimstone were pouring out of Nathan’s nostrils as he pronounced God’s judgment against David’s wickedness with lightning bolts shooting out from his smoking mouth. I saw him absolutely hostile, red in the face and full of rage in his fierce indictment, “Thou art the man!” Thank God, I don’t believe that anymore. Psalm 145:8 reveals God’s true heart and nature towards sinful man. “The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy”. And so once again, with Isaac, mercy triumphed over judgment. I believe the prayers of God’s people had much to do with the reprieve of judgment upon New Orleans. But what will they do with that mercy? Will they acknowledge their sin and turn to God in repentance? Let’s go further-- Will we, as God’s people, acknowledge our sin and turn to God in repentance? Remember that judgment begins in the house of God. The only safe place is to be living clean in daily repentance under the shadow of His wing. Hurricanes, earthquakes, famines, wars and diseases will continue to increase upon the earth in the remaining four months of 2012 with more intensity and frequency all in an effort to turn wicked hearts back to God’s grace, mercy, love and forgiveness.

And so we pray with the prophets of old, “In Thy wrath, O God, remember mercy!” That is His constant heart. Yes, we reap what we sow and there will be present and eternal consequences to our unrepentant sin—but pray that mercy will still triumph over judgment according to God’s heart while the door of grace remains opened. In the end, the Judge of all the earth will do right according to His justice and His unchanging Word for which at that point, we will be without excuse.


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