(Photo: REUTERS/Eric Thayer)
God's "fierce fingers" are all over the deadly storms that ripped through the Midwest and South over the past weekend, popular preacher and author John Piper said.
Contrary to Pat Robertson's claim that God was not responsible for the recent string of tornadoes that left at least 38 people dead, the Desiring God founder stressed that God alone was in fact responsible for the disaster.
"We do not ascribe such independent power to Mother Nature or to the devil," he penned on his ministry's blog. "God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows."
"If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command," he shared, in direct opposition to Robertson, the host of "The 700 Club" who said on Monday that God that was not to be blamed for "doing something foolish" and that He did not send tornadoes to hurt people.
Only people who built their houses "on the edge of an ocean" or chose to live in tornado-prone areas were to blame, Robertson deemed.
Unlike the Christian Broadcasting Network founder, Piper believes God's hand was at work.
For the 66-year-old bestselling author, the question was not who, but why? Why were cities in rural areas of Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Alabama and Georgia targeted by God, and not other "more likely places" like Las Vegas or Hollywood?
To explain, Piper turned to Job, a prophet of God and an example of perseverance and suffering in the Bible.
In the book of Job, Job's ten children were reported to have died because "a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people."
Crying out to God, Job exclaimed, "Why have you made me your mark? ... Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? ... Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?"
"In other words, Why Henryville and not Hollywood?" Piper questioned.
"God's answer to Job is not that he was a worse sinner than the 'wicked' – or that Maryville had some dark secret," he clarified. "His answer was, 'Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 'For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor (Romans 11:33-34; Job 15:8, 36:22f)?'"
Simply stated, Piper believes that Job was chosen for the deadly wind because only he would respond in this manner during the tragedy: "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21)."
The Minnesota pastor also feels that the deadly storms, which have killed dozens, were a call to repentance.
"This is a word to those of us who sit safely in Minneapolis or Hollywood and survey the desolation of Maryville and Henryville. 'Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish' (Luke 13:4-5)."
Every deadly wind in any town is a divine warning to every town, he emphasized.
The warning especially rings true to God's own people.
Quoting the Scriptures, Piper shared, "It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?"
The disastrous storms were calling "every person of every religion or non-religion" to turn from sin and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life.
"Jesus rules the wind," the Bethlehem Baptist Church preacher affirmed. "The tornadoes were his."
There is one more fact that the theologian hopes all people would understand about the storms and their devastating aftermath.
"Before Jesus took any life in rural America, he gave his own on the rugged cross. Come to me, he says, to America – to the devastated and to the smugly self-sufficient. Come to me, and I will give you hope and help now, and in the resurrection, more than you have ever lost."
People could also provide assistance as well, Piper noted, with the storms leaving thousands without power or homes.
He encouraged believers to "help lift the load" and show partnership in suffering by assisting organizations like Samaritan's Purse, a faith-based relief and evangelism organization, that is currently working with churches in areas like Harrisburg, Ill., and West Liberty, Ky., to aid tornado victims.
Other nonprofit organizations like The Salvation Army have also begun disaster relief efforts in the affected areas.