"Oil collection on the gulf is halted due to fire aboard containment vessel. Lightning hit it."
"A bolt of lightning struck the ship capturing oil from the blown-out BP well in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, igniting a fire that halted containment efforts in another setback for the embattled company in its nearly two-month struggle to stop the spill, the company said. The fire was quickly extinguished and no one was injured. BP said it hopes to resume containing oil from the well sometime Tuesday afternoon."
In the previous two entries to this series, we examined scriptures that illustrated how and when God uses His signature events, hail and fire/brimstone to judge, to warn, or to speak to His people. Since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and since the bible prophesies future events with hail, brimstone, and lightning (among other events) it's a good idea to get a biblical basis for how and when He may be using those phenomena now, and whether they are signs.
The Language of God: Hail
The Language of God: Fire and Brimstone
Today we are looking at lightning. A keyword search for the word lightning yields about 55 results. Here are a few:
Psalm 18:14 - He shot his arrows and scattered [the enemies], great bolts of lightning and routed them.
2 Samuel 22:13 - Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth.
Job 36:32 - He fills his hands with lightning and commands it to strike its mark.
Job 37:3 - He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth.
Daniel 10:6 - His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.
Matthew 24:27 - For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Matthew 28:3 - His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow
Revelation 8:5 - Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
It is clear that lightning is part of God's vocabulary. He looks like lightning, He causes lightning, and He hurls lightning. He uses it to vanquish enemies, to inspire awe, and to announce His coming.
There's a story this week of a tragedy atop a mountain in North Carolina. A man and woman in love were hiking. When they got to the top of the mountain, they stopped to admire the view. Though cloudy and a bit thundery, it was gorgeous nonetheless. Unbeknown to the woman, the man had a ring in his pocket and was going to propose. Very much in love, he watched her as she took in her surroundings. Turning to him, she said, "Isn't it beautiful?"
Those were the last words she spoke.
Waking up a few minutes later on his back, the soles of his feet smoking, he saw his beloved laying on the ground a few feet away. She was dead. A lightning bolt had struck them both and though the man performed CPR for many minutes, she could not be revived. In despair, he put the ring on his beloved's finger and said his goodbyes.
Did this incident have a direct Divine Cause? Did God hurl a lightning bolt to earth and cause this girl's death? Let's look to the bible for that answer.
In this day and "tolerant" age, bible students and Christians in general like to claim that God is all-loving and would never hurt a flea. This claim is usually preceded by the claim that there is no hell and a loving God would never send any of His children there. Aside from the fact that hell exists to hold all unforgiven sinners of all eternity and for all eternity, and that God IS loving, let's take a look at the uncomfortable fact of some of His direct interventions.
"Then Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him. (Genesis 38:6)."
Yes, that's my reaction, too. How about this, just a few verses later: "The next brother in law to marry Tamar also was wicked, and four verses later, we see again, "And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also." In 2 Samuel 6:7, Uzzah touched the Holy ark of God, and "Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God." The bible does not record exactly how these were killed, but in in 2 Samuel God routed whole armies using thunder, rain, and lightning.
It is clear that in God's inestimable perfection, He sees fit to directly cause the death of one or more people at a time. It seems harsh, but it speaks more to man's disobedience. The people were told how to carry the Ark, which was the visible throne of God and contains the presence of God between the angels' wings (Lev. 16:2). It speaks to God's holiness. The New Testament incident of Ananias and Sapphira is proof that it isn't "just the Old testament God" who takes things so very seriously. The pair lied directly to the Holy Spirit and were killed because of it and for a lesson in how hypocrisy infiltrating the church from the inside can cause tremendous damage.
So do I think that the girl on the mountain was directly killed by God? I don't purport to know the mind of God but I do know in His consistency that He tells us beforehand of His expectations. In the most severe abridgment of his expectations, precepts, laws, or commands, He directly intervenes.
In the unfortunate case of the girl who died, I think the truism that "lightning seeks the ground" is brought to bear here, rather than conclude whole-heartedly that it was any direct smiting or was a sign in particular. Whatever the case of it may be, we can learn from what happened to her.
Your death could come at any moment, and at that moment, it will be too late to decide for Jesus. Your lack of decision will have been the decision. As the end of the age draws near, now every time I hear of a death, I can't help but wonder if that person was saved or not. As the girl on the mountain admired the beauty of creation, did she know her creator? More importantly, did she know her Savior? Do you?
Lightning is in the news today in the mid-section of the nation. The King of Kings statue located at Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. The statue is 62 feet high, presents only Jesus's torso with arms upraised, causing the aptness of the nickname "Touchdown Jesus" to be all too ruefully honest. The statue is in a baptismal pool and at night, is lit from underneath from multi-colored lights. It is gaudy and not to my liking, and not to many of the locals' either: 75% of those polled said it was in bad taste and reflected poorly on the city of Monroe.
"Monroe firefighters said the lightning strike set the statue on fire around 11:15 p.m. Monday. Firefighters said at their tallest, the flames reached 100 feet. The sculpture, which was 62 feet tall, showed Jesus from the torso up and was nicknamed Touchdown Jesus by some because of the way his arms were raised. Church members said the lightning strike and destructive fire stunned them, many thought it was a sign they need to pay attention to. Kevin Jones said, "I'm thinking it's a sign from Jesus that we need to learn something, as Christians, as a whole, we're not doing something right." Ashley Morgan said, "It scares me, it really does, I think about what that symbolizes, to me that's a sign and not a good one." The steeple wasn't touched. Nor was the cell phone tower next door.
The statue reminded me of the Buddy Jesus from the movie Dogma, a sarcastic and mocking look at the 'loopholes' in Catholicism, and the alleged farcical nature of religion in general. Avowed atheist George Carlin is the actor playing a Bishop who bemoans the depressing-ness of the crucifix image, and creates a new campaign, "Catholicism Wow!" with a 'friendlier' Jesus as a newly branded image of the Deity.
Some may say that the lightning struck because the Touchdown Jesus was an idol. But the definition of idol is "worship of any cult image, idea, or object, as opposed to the worship of a monotheistic God. It is considered a major sin in the Abrahamic religions. Which images, ideas, and objects, constitute idolatry, and which constitute reasonable worship, is a matter of contention..." Were they engaging in reasonable worship? It is matter of opinion. Solid Rock Church's website states that they serve and worship a resurrected Jesus from a biblical standpoint, so the statue, gaudy as it is, may or may not be considered an idol (at least on the surface with the definition).
We look to the bible for descriptions of and uses of lightning in God's work. That it is part of His vocabulary is fact. That individual incidences, at least in the past, of God smiting individuals has occurred is also a fact. However, we can never be sure of particular incidences and should remain cautious in ascribing Divine hands at work for any given circumstance. That the girl's sudden death atop the mountain moves us to consider our own eternal destination in the face of the fleetingness of life is a good thing. That the woman in the article at Solid Rock Church wonders if this is a sign from God and if she or the church should change their ways is also a good thing. Taking stock of your standing with God is never a pointless exercise.
I advise doing a keyword search of an online bible to see how and where lightning is used for a sign to the people. I use biblecc, ad biblegateway. We know that in the very near future, Revelation 8:5 says that lighting will occur as a direct order from God: "Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake." And also in Revelation 11:19 - "And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm." And again in Revelation 4:5 - "[The Throne and Worship of the Creator ] Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God;"
Lightning is part of God's vocabulary and He will be speaking it very soon. Are you listening?