This week in my country God showed His mercy in a most dramatic way. And if after He, and only an Almighty God could have done this, performed this miracle, people still do not believe in Him, then Scripture is being fulfilled. Tomas, downgraded from a Hurricane to a tropical storm, after wreaking havoc in St. Lucia and Grenada, was headed for Jamaica. And the good Lord knew that we could not take anymore rain after Tropical storm Nicole had resulted in so many deaths, and did so much damage to our road infrastructure. But praying Jamaicans were equally cognizant that, if the storm turned away from Jamaica, it would head straight for Haiti, and they, with over a million people living in tents in Port-Au-Prince after the devastating earthquake earlier this year, were in a far worse position that we were. So we prayed for mercy for both Jamaica and Haiti. And God who is the real " driva", not our Prime Minister, who took on to himself that sobriquet during the run up to the last elections, steered this massive system, right through the passage between Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba. So that, we in Jamaica, hardly got any rain and even less wind, and the people in Port-Au-Prince were spared, even though others suffered somewhat. What a Mighty God we serve!
So if God is this merciful why does He not respond to prayers all the time. Why did He not save the life of a great Jamaican, Professor Barry Chevannes, who not only was an icon at the University of the West Indies, but did great work with fathers in many inner city communities, worked assiduously to reduce violence in these areas and was also a great cultural icon? Why did the Lord not respond to the prayers of the family of Norma Shirley, an internationally acclaimed chef who died suddenly this week, after a brief illness. Why didn't the Lord respond to the prayers of the people of St. Lucia or Grenada? Why did He not respond to the cries of the many families whose loved ones have been cut down by the bullet in my country. Or those who suffered loss in that Cuban airline disaster, or the folks in Indonesia who were killed by the Tsunami? Or my friend, the Baptist Minister who died because of injuries sustained during a crash on the road, and whom we buried just yesterday? Or the Prime Minister of Barbados who was buried this week as the storm threatened Jamaica? Why?
The Lord led me to read again this week, a very profound verse of Scripture, which although revealed in a particular context, provides much food for thought, if not a direct answer, for all these questions.
" And then what shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses:
I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and will have compassion on whom I have compassion.
It does not therefore depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: " I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me; " Then why does God still blame us? For who can resist his will?" But who are you O man to talk back to God?
Romans 9:14-20 NIV
A big part of the problem in Jamaica, and indeed across the world, is that mankind thinks it has every right to " talk back to God", instead of falling on its face, like John who wrote the book of the Revelations, in reverence before the Creator of heaven and earth, the Alpha and the Omega. So we draw cartoons happily suggesting that icons like the late Michael Manley of Jamaica, and the late Forbes Burham of Guyana, both socialists of International repute, gained entrance "through the pearly gates", and are busily reorganizing heaven. Or that another icon, the late Professor Rex Nettleford danced his way into heaven also or even " the cool ruler" Gregory Isaacs had the same " luck". In the same way Presidential hopefuls and those who make it to the White House, regardless of how obedient they are to God's Word, and even here in Jamaica, all of them invoke the blessings of God on the nation.
Later on in that book of Romans, the discourse on mercy - involving the Jews and the Gentiles and indeed all of mankind - ends with a most profound statement:
" God has bound over all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them.
O the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God.
How unsearchable judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God
that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him
are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11:32-36 NIV
The reality is that God's mercy reached its zenith in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus on the cross of Calvary. And not matter how " well" one lives on this earth, no matter how much "good" you do, if you do not accept God's mercy as offered to all mankind by Christ, then it counts for nothing. This is what happened to the Jews, as " they stumbled over the rock which was Christ". Hence despite " their zeal for God", that zeal was not based on knowledge, as they did not submit to God's righteousness - Christ who is the end of the law. Romans 10:1-4 NIV.
This then is the challenge for my country and its leaders. Not just to come to a full understanding of who the real " driva" is, but to understand the full extent of God's mercy. A mercy that transcends the shifting of hurricanes, and the provision of material comforts in life and even the healing of the body from disease, even to the point of rescuing people from death. But rather, a mercy that brings peace with God, and rescue from sin and death unto everlasting life, by the shed blood of the Lamb. This is the reason why we should love Jesus, not just because He is a provider - as the popular refrain goes - but because like Job in Him we can say: " I know that my Redeemer lives". So its all about Jesus and His sacrifice for us on Calvary, and I read a meditation this week which really captures the full extent of what should be our attitude once we come to this full understanding of God's mercy:
EXPERIENCING THE LORD A. B. SIMPSON MATTHEW 17: 8
Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, now it is his word;
Once it was the gift I wanted, now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, now himself alone.
Once 'twas painful trying, now 'tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, now the uttermost;
Once 'twas ceaseless holding, now he holds me fast;
Once 'twas constant drifting, now my anchor's cast.
Once 'twas bust planning, now 'tis trustful prayer;
Once 'twas anxious caring, now he has the care;
Once 'twas what I wanted, now what Jesus says;
Once 'twas constant asking, now 'tis ceaseless praise.
Once I hoped in Jesus, now I know he's mine;
One my lamps were dying, now they brightly shine;
Once for death I waited, now his coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored safe within the veil.
Only Christ I'll sing;
Ev'rything is in Christ,
And Christ is ev'rything.
Finally a Word from the Lord which kept my mind free of anxiety this week in particular, and which was given to me many months ago by a child of God, and which I posted on Facebook and sent to my Blackberry contacts as the storm approached. And which verse of scripture formed part of the text for the sermon shared by the Minister at my friends funeral yesterday.
" You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." Isaiah 26:3 NIV A Word to cure all anxieties, as Tomas and all other storms of life threaten our peace. But the key word is steadfast - a continuous and unwavering looking to god for guidance and being obedient to Him.
I pray God that we will all be steadfast in our desire for Christ and Christ alone.