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When Lightning Doesn't Strike

A caricature of God that many of us shed in our early-teens is that, if we do something really bad, we’ll get struck with lightning.

We soon discover that it’s more likely for that to happen if we challenge a thunderstorm with a golf club, fishing rod, or umbrella.

I remember the day my daughter and I were fishing on a quiet lake when, under blue skies, a flash of lightning and crash of thunder scared the daylights out of us. I’d heard of lightning reaching out ahead of a storm, but had never experienced it before.

In any case, it doesn’t take most of us long to discover that, whatever the mysteries of lightning, it is not a predictable arrow in the hand of an angry God. The result is that we tend to be emboldened in thinking that we can violate our conscience, and the laws of God, without being struck dead–as so many cartoons have portrayed.

But that raises a question. Does the Bible itself try to scare us into obedience? It begins with the warning to our first parents that “in the day you eat of that tree, you will surely die” (Gen 2:17). In fact, Adam and Eve lived for a long time after eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

But then I’m also thinking of thinking of two other events, one that happened just after the children of Israel came into the promised land, and the other, at the dawn of the church age.

In the first, a man named Achan disobeys God by keeping some of the spoils of the fall of Jericho for himself (Joshua 7). According to the Bible, by an act of God, he is soon found out and subjected along with his family to a quick death. The second incident happens to a couple named Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). According to the book of Acts they sell a piece of property and say that they are giving all of the proceeds to the church. (They actually were under no obligation to give anything). But they play the hypocrite, make like they are giving it all, and then secretly pocket some of the sale for themselves. Within hours, both fall dead. Acts 5:11 says that “Great fear came upon all the church”. Yet over time, there was no pattern of such a quick death. Others played the hypocrite, or the rebel, without getting struck by lightning.

So, If someone had said, remember what happened to Achan, or to Ananias and Sapphira. If you sin, God will strike you dead, the threat soon would have become a talking point of unbelievers. Before long, someone would have tested the warning and found it to be an empty threat. The fear of God would soon have been something to laugh at.

So let’s talk about it. What do you think? Why, according to the Bible, did God–at the beginning of each era– make such warnings– or carry out a threat–without making the result a predictable pattern? Is that something you’ve thought about?

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22 Responses to “When Lightning Doesn't Strike”

  1. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Good Morning everyone, Mart, i believe God’s bottom line for what ever He does is centered around love.
    God says He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, each one of us deserve Justice, it is only in God’s wisdom is mercy and grace given to us.
    God’s timing in having mercy and grace is always perfect, when it is needed, and for a righteous reason.
    I believe the deaths in the two events mentioned were God’s children and were taken to be with their God because they would have been a terrible witness for Him if they would have continued to live.
    I believe God does not desire for me to be worrying about the way i am living, but desires for me to always be acknowleging Him in more of my life every day, all day long, keeping God in the center, always knowing i can never fool God, not for a second, as those mentioned must have thought they could keep some thing from God, Impossible is the thought i believe God desires for me to know from these two events, God cannot be mocked, or fooled.

  2. desert rose says:

    You have a very interesting thought provoking blog today. I’ve often wondered why David and Bathsheba were not punished according to the laws given by God. Grace is something that comes to my mind. God’s riches at Christ’s expense.

    In the new testament Jesus gives us a parable about the men coming to work in the fields. And the man who came early in the day was not satisfied that the man who came only a very short time received the same amount of money. From a world’s standard, it does not seem fair.

    God, in his great mercy, is God and He had recorded what is written in the Bible. I am reminded in Revelation that the world could not contain all the books written about God and Christ.

    We are only given a small picture of what goes on in the supernatural world. Do we understand why when the Israelites captured a city they would put to death everyone-which includes innocent children etc. Yes, it was not to corrupt the Israelites, but today that would be unthinkable to our minds.

    Fear of God, I understand is a state of mind where we show reverance and love to Him mindful that we are in a total state of awe by His love for us and mankind. We are His children, if we have received Christ by faith, and just as our children do not understand everything so it is with God and us His children.

    Trust – that is what we must do when we do not understand.

  3. dachshund says:

    It is good for all generations to remember that God can swiftly institute such judgment in reponse to sin. It is just as crucial to be aware of the gradual insidious results of starting down a path that leads to destruction. I can see this daily when I turn my attention to things other than God. And it is certainly apparent with “larger” compromises of what we know to be right. Andy Stanley preached a powerful sermon maybe 15-20 years ago entitled “Time Will Tell” (available through his web site) about the “innocent” company lunches between a man and a woman and subsequent seemingly harmless interactions eventually leading to an affair. At the beginning, neither person was intending such a result. This is what is striking: the first steps down a path do not often “feel” wrong. Is this one show of His Grace, as he yearns for us to know, choose and focus on Him? This is important information about which to remind and encourage each other. Although lightning can strike, the destruction we enter into is often more subtle. Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  4. worshipfulreader says:

    Hey there Mart,
    I think that it goes along with our skewed view of who God truly is. God is holy, we don’t really have an accurate grasp on that in our finiteness. We think so many times that if we do enough good things we’ll balance the scales, if we do bad, well God’s definitely “gonna get you”.

    Growing up I can remember that caricature of God being portrayed, I thank the Lord that in his sovereign grace, he chooses to reveal who he is through his son.
    We are worse off than we think we are but we are more loved than we will ever know. God has judged our sin in the substitutionary death of his son, God’s wrath has been satisfied and now we can be truly free in Christ! He is truly good!

  5. bamatex says:

    Good morning all. Mart, you certainly know how to ask challenging questions! It is interesting that each of these situations occurs at the beginning of an era. Perhaps it is God’s way of saying to us, “I am not going to take away your freedom of choice” – because He wants us to choose Him of our own free will. “But remember what you have seen here (or, what has been passed down to you in story form) – the wages of sin truly are death.” And these examples show us that death happens in more than one way. Although Adam and Even did not immediately experience physical death, they did die spiritually. We never again read of God walking with them in the cool of the evening – I cannot imagine how they must have longed for that communion during the ensuing years. In the case of Adam and Eve, because they lived they were able to tell their children about the special relationship they had previously enjoyed with God. Their continued existence provided a vivid picture – or contrast – of the difference between communion with God and separation from God.

    For the two later examples, Achan, and Ananias and Sapphira, sin (separation from God) was already rampant in the world. So, their spiritual death might not have had the same impact – it might, in fact, have gone unnoticed; or worse, they could have contributed to the downfall of others. Perhaps the best way to impress upon all of us the seriousness of the choice we all have to make, was by swift (Achan), unexpected, unexplained (Ananais & Sapphira) physical death.

  6. pegramsdell says:

    We are all clay in the Potter’s hands. He can do what he pleases with us. Some were made for honor, some for dishonor.
    I agree with what Desert Rose said about trusting….. especially when we do not understand. This life is basically temporary anyway, then we will live forever.
    And then we will understand everything. Amazing.

  7. drkennyg says:

    Well 10 out of 10 people die meaning that we are all sinners just by human nature. However, God has shown us the Way through His Son, Jesus Christ. His mercy and love for us endures forever. His Word reveals to us the power that He has and His commandment to obey – a tall order but one that we can aspire to daily.

  8. Mart De Haan says:

    Am thoroughly enjoying your thoughts and insights.

  9. daisymarygoldr says:

    Lightning bolts are beautiful only to behold just like the lovely pic! Not aware about ‘the being struck when doing bad’ thing but grew up with the myth that lightening strikes the firstborn and being one I always hide when the skies flash!

    “Does the Bible itself try to scare us into obedience?” No, it does not but we dare not defy and willfully sin with ‘a high hand’ against God the Holy Spirit. God does not strike us with death, but the presence of sin is the absence of God which is the absence of life and the presence of death- which happened in Eden!

    I agree with you about God’s warnings in the beginning of each era but I also see a very definite predictable pattern of the consequence of hypocrisy found in the Body of Christ. Don’t we witness massive church congregations once vibrant and throbbing with Spirit-filled life suddenly succumb to lifelessness? Aren’t there living examples of a blatant mockery of worshipping God resulting in places existing as whitewashed graves looking beautiful and entertaining from outside but spiritually dead from the inside? Is it any wonder that people do not want to go to church any more because the living cannot fellowship with the dead?

    God is longsuffering and full of grace but that does not lead us to believe that one can be complacent about sinning to grieve the Holy Spirit. Ananias and Sapphira’s story is an example of what the Bible tells about judgment to begin in the house of God. Therefore, it is wise to constantly self-examine and humble ourselves before God. There is an appointed day for judgment of all sin “For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other, so it will be on the day when the Son of Man comes.”(Luke 17:24)!

  10. Jeph says:

    The judgment of the LORD has visited many throughout the bible. Korah and his followers and the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lets not forget the entire human race with the exception of Noah and family. It still goes on today and can happen at any time. Think about it. God does not change. The God that created the universe and all things created lighting as well. If lightning strikes are random, it is so because thats the way he wants it, if not?… Then on the other hand there is you and me. “The wages of sin is death” So it would seem God’s judgment is upon us as well. Thank you JESUS!! Because of Him I can look forward to “THAT DAY” with anticipation instead of fear. “Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing”. 2 Timothy 4:8

  11. Gena says:

    I have often wondered why some people get what’s coming at ’em and others don’t. Then I think boy on judgement day, it’s coming. I try not to rationalize the possibility of going ahead with a plan that goes against everything God stands for by having a healthy reverance for Him. Never been struck by lightening, but I just don’t want to be standing before Him having to explain my actions – altho’ there is going to be plenty to answer for anyway.

  12. Elaa says:

    I believe I’ve said it here before that growing up, for me, ‘the fear of my mother was the beginning of wisdom.’ And that stemmed from the fact that yes, God’s punishment was not as glaring as my mother’s.

    But I knew that if mother could punish, then God could most certainly punish me, so there was never the issue of taking His love for granted.

    Personally, I’m big on commitment. As per commitment, every last time I’ve checked, it was not illegal to be an unbeliever. So, if I choose of my own free will to be a believer, I don’t think God needs to be holding a stick over my head for compliance.

    And even though I believe in ‘he whom the Lord loves, He chatiseth’, so that it makes sense to think of God punishing me, I think more of unpleasant situations as me moving out of under His covering. So, it’s usually, a question of me getting my act together for my sake, and not out of dread.

    And when I think of the times when not only didn’t God send lighting to strike me, but He also protected me when I walked out under the lighting (by omission or commission), I can’t help but marvel at His love.

  13. halfpacked says:

    Hi All,
    First time blog for me. Choice! Seems to me that God left the question of how he would deal with our individual sins at the moment in doubt so as to give us the chance to choose to do good or evil. If we know that he will strike us dead for certain, then we lose the ability to make a choice for God based on our love for HIm. It would be based on our love for our selves,ie our love for our own life.

  14. dachshund says:

    “Elaa” and “halfpacked” – You are speaking of His Grace! Yes, His love and truth drew me to Him, not fear. Staying in awareness of and connection with this amazing grace is the key to all the good He has for us.

  15. chaplain tomk says:

    The conclusion of the matter of sudden destruction upon some in the Bible and others is God leaving us a distinct awareness of His judicial hatred of sin. If we did not have these testimonies and the like we would be totally clueless to the Holiness of His nature. That being the case then our sin nature would carouse to the limit of our own wants with the end result of Noah’s time: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Gen 6:5. His ‘wrath’ is mentioned often enough to soberly remind us of this reality; for some, that lightening will strike, for none of us are immune to being singled out as an example of His discipline/judgment. The Father constrains His wrath in love, but constraint does not change His hatred and judicial condemnation one iota. There are verses that convey this truth so that we maintain a proper perspective of our Father: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” Heb 12:28-29

  16. Becky M says:

    In the scriptures it says that the creation can never know what the creator knows. Can the clay say to the potter,why do you make me like this? God has dealt with us all these many generations with love because in fact He could have destroyed us and started over or never started again. But, He loved\loves us so He decided to discipline us instead. That is to make us ready for His everlasting,holy kingdom. He wants to walk in the cool of the evening and in the breeze of the day with us forevermore. He wants us to share His glory as was seen when Jesus was with Moses on the mountain where the Apostles wanted to put tents up and feed them but quickly Jesus was found alone and as He was before they went up the mountain with Him. Jesus did say to one He was crucufied with,”You will be with me in paradise.” God has reminded us thru all the scriptures that He does mean business and you can’t fool Him and He will do what He promises. Praise Jesus for humbling Himself and becoming lower than the angels as man to exprience firsthand the thoughts,feelings,and emoitions of His creation so He can represent us thru our prayers and come for us again so we may be where He is.

  17. filrccj says:

    The question are..does God scare us into obeying him? and how come some people get it and some don’t? hmmm. Well, I don’t understand a lot of things but one thing i know is….That all of us christians commit sin everyday and I think that everyone can agree with me on that. If we got what we desrved then we’ll all be unhappy, disgruntle and surely dead.

    There is something about the GRACE of God which I cannot fully undrstand and grasp. The GRACE of God is trully amazing. God is good.

    Desert Rose said “trust-that is what we must do when we do not understand” I like this.

  18. knownmercy says:

    First time on the blog here.
    Hello Matt/everyone,
    I’m totally impressed by the wisdom everyone has shown in their write up. You are all right of course – if I may dare to to pass my humble opinion. This again goes to show how “iron sharpens iron”. Gale at the very beginning said it all “God will have mercy on whom He will …” and Desert Rose’s comment about “Trust” puts a final seal on things – for me.
    I believe God deals with us as “individuals” – awesome- considering the number of humans on the face of the earth. He said to Abraham (Gen 12:3)”I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse”. The second I grasped what this meant, from a very young age, I stopped feeling any form of jealousy for anything material someone might have that I didn’t have; I stopped being careless in my treatment of people not knowing the “covenant” the Good Lord might have with them; I stopped copying any “SIN” hoping to get away with it because “ABZ” did the same thing and nothing happened to him/her. I realised we all had different “rope” in a manner of speaking where God is concerned for the simple reason that He has a better view of each person’s life and is all knowing, all seeing etc, etc.
    There is no doubt that God is wonderfully gracious but I also know that He is absolutely Just – let everyman be a liar and God be the only truthful one. Is He not the one who lets the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the “righteous” and “unrighteous”? Those of us who understand what He did for us in Jesus Christ can only marvel at this God we serve; this God who is love and has held back his wrath for so long because He knows we are nothing but dust – this is one reason I believe “Lightening doesn’t strike.” Even as I write this I bow the knees of my heart before Him in awe at His longsuffering concerning our choice for sin over obedience to Him. A God who is so strong and yet has chosen to be “mild” for a season at least. Behold the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and yet The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Yes, Lightening does not strike because He loves us to bits. Did Jesus Christ not demonstrate this love in His meek behaviour? Let us all pray that He fills our heart with such love for Him that we are moved to sin less and less and bring joy to Him our creator.
    Love you all.
    (Promise not to go on and on next time I visit this blog)

  19. lbbw says:

    God is a jealous God. He is supposed to be first in all our thoughts and ways. As we grow in Christ, we must give our Lord all the glory and be thankful for what we have- that He has provided for us. In the Lord’s prayer it says “Hallowed be thy name” . We must be serious in trying to walk in His ways. He doesn’t like to be mocked. So, yes, I fear the Lord, but with reverance.

  20. Olderkid says:

    I read most comments. King David and his children suffered because of David’s sin. The Holy Spirit helps us to become more like Jesus and we are chastised when we stray too far. God told the Israelites who roamed in the desert 40 years that the older ones would not enter into His rest. I and most Christians do not believe Jesus spoke idlely. In the Revelation of Jesus, God the Son gave a warning about people being removed from the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 3:5). I would rather love Jesus and the Father and strieve to obey than run the risk of finding out what was meant in Rev. 3:5. Yes Grace! Yes Justice! Yes the cross and forgiveness! Yes, obedience and love as my highest desire!

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