Lip-smacking bad

Amid Y2K concerns, pray that God will show mercy

Issue: "Y2K: Binary blowout?," Aug. 22, 1998

The Y2K bug and our reactions to it: That is now threatening to be the most remarkable providence of 1999 and 2000, and it's easy to see why. God's sense of irony often leads him to bring down leaders and civilizations by what we most idolize, whether it is power, sex, or computers. That we often worship our gods of technology is plenty of reason for the Lord of heaven and earth to put them, and us, in our place.

But just because God can act in this way, we should be careful not to assume that he will, and we should pray fervently that he will not. A few head-for-the-hills Christians are cheering for a Y2K collapse, because through it they say God's power will be displayed in a way that will lead to a re-Christianizing of America, an end to the abortion industry, and so forth. But suffering in societies that have lost their moorings can lead to increased demon-worship rather than a turning to Christ, and abortions can readily be done in low-tech ways.

The most important reason not to go around smacking our lips about disaster is that God tells us not to. Jeremiah 29:7 gives the word of the Lord to the Israelites in Babylon, a minority in a disbelieving land as Christians are in America today: "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." And God himself often says that he takes no delight in the destruction of even the wicked, let alone many of his own people; God, we often are told, abounds in mercy and compassion.

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One classic example of God's mercy comes in Jonah's story of Nineveh, where arrogant Assyrians miraculously took to heart preaching by a foreigner from a small country. The residents of Nineveh from the king on down repented, and God withdrew his intended punishment, much to the chagrin of Jonah, who thought God would show his power through fire and brimstone. But the Lord patiently instructed him: "Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"

It would be wonderful were such a marvelous turnaround to occur in our cities in 1999-but the Nineveh response is rare. The American experience of the 1990s is more common: Many citizens becoming aware of hollow lives, but no decisive, unified, Nineveh-like turning. Instead, some have turned to Christ, but others have turned to eastern religions or a vague spiritualism. Many have tried to meld a bit of Bible with mixings from various cults or crazes, sticking all the while to sinful behaviors. But doesn't God show his glory by displaying patience with tens of millions who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well?

Those who have a limited familiarity with the Bible complain about a supposedly vengeful Old Testament god, but consider: God was willing to spare Sodom if only five righteous men were present within it. (Those who preach the imminent destruction of America should wonder: Is there not at least a remnant in our cities that could cause God to stay his hand?) Some say a Y2K collapse will show forth God's power, much as hurricanes and tornadoes do. But that is seeing God only in the whirlwind, not in the still small voice.

Consider: When we think of the way God not only created the universe but governs and sustains it daily, we see his power primarily displayed in the way life goes on, not in the way it is violently disrupted. The continuation of human society despite our sins is the greatest display of God's power because it illuminates his slow-to-anger character, heavily loaded toward mercy. Were some of us gods, we would not have compassion strong enough to let mercy overcome frustration.

We should not smack our lips over-or even expect-a Y2K collapse, thinking that is the way in which God will best be glorified. Realizing that disasters can happen, within God's providence, we should also apply the wisdom of Proverbs 30:25, which praises ants as "extremely wise" because they "are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer." It is good and right to take a few steps to protect our families by storing some food that, if God is merciful, we will joyfully eat in January, 2000, amid light, warmth, and peace.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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