A look at how Christians used to think of natural disasters and calamities. Of course, no one is allowed to think this way anymore. In fact, when a Japanese politician said God had sent the tsunami upon Japan, he was forced to publicly retract his statement and apologize, if I recall correctly. Keep in mind this was written in the 1600s, before the days of political correctness and when different religious groups treated each other differently from today. In any case, here is the first part of Thomas Brooks on the Great Fire of London and the Destructions of Jerusalem and calamities of the ancient Israelites/Jews:
By Thomas Brooks, 1670
A serious discourse concerning “The Great Fire”
which recently turned our once renowned City
into a ruinous heap. Also the several lessons
that are incumbent upon those whose houses
have escaped the consuming flames.
The text explained and divided
“Who gave Jacob to the robber, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord? Have we not sinned against Him? They were not willing to walk in His ways, and they would not listen to His instruction. So He poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.” Isaiah 42:24-25
The Lord in this chapter, by the prophet Isaiah, foretells heavy things against the people, and marks the Lord’s dealings. God always gives warnings, before he sends any plagues. He lightnings before he thunders, that the people might not say that they did not hear of it, and that the wicked might be the more inexcusable, and that the godly might make an ark to save themselves in. These words contain in them five things.
(1.) The author of this destruction or judgment.
(2.) The causes of this destruction or judgment.
(3.) The judgment itself.
(4.) Who they were on whom this judgment was inflicted.
(5.) The effects of this destruction or judgment.
Now by divine permission I will open these words in order to you.
1. First, The AUTHOR of this destruction or judgment. Now this is laid down by question and answer: “Who gave Jacob to the robber, and Israel to the plunderers?” There is the question. “Was it not the Lord?” There is the answer. God is the author of all the plagues and judgments which befall a nation.
2. Secondly, The CAUSES why the Lord did this to a people, whom he had chosen to be a special people unto himself; to a people upon whom he had set his love; to a people whom he had owned for his portion, and whom he had formerly kept as the apple of his eye, and carried as upon eagles’ wings, Deut. 7:5, 8, and 32:10-12.
Now the causes are set down, first, more generally, because they have sinned against the Lord.
Secondly, more particularly, in these words, “They were not willing to walk in His ways, and they would not listen to His instruction.”
3. The third thing observable in the words is, the DREADFUL JUDGMENTS themselves, which God inflicted upon his sinful people, his sinning people; and these you have in verse 25. “So he poured out on them his burning anger;” not only his anger—but “his burning anger”, to show the greatness of it, the extremity of it. Mark, he does not say that God dropped down his burning anger—but he poured down his burning anger and indignation. This phrase, “he poured out,” is an allusion to the clouds pouring down water violently all at once, in an instant, as they do many times in the seas, in many parts of the world; as they did in the deluge in Noah’s time–when the windows of heaven were broken open, Gen. 6:11. Now, by this similitude, the Lord shows the dreadfulness, the grievousness, the suddenness, and the vehemence of the judgments, which had fallen upon them.
“The violence of war.” The Lord appears in arms against them in the greatness and fierceness of his wrath; he sent in a very powerful enemy upon them, who with fire and sword overran them and their country, and destroyed them on every side, as you may see by comparing 2 Kings 33, seq., with the 24th and 25th chapters following.
“It enveloped them in flames.” That is, say some, all the countries, cities, and towns round about Jerusalem were set on fire.
“Yet they did not understand.” Though God had burnt them up on every hand—yet they took no notice of it, they regarded it not, they were not at all affected with the fiery dispensations of God. [Diodorus Siculus writes, that in Ethiopia there is such a sottish insensible people, that if you cut them with a drawn sword, or slay their wives and children before their faces, they are not at all affected with it, nor moved at it. Such brutes were these Jews!] Oh the dullness, the insensibleness, the sottishness of the Jews under the most awakening and amazing judgments of God!
“It consumed them.” This some apply to the city of Jerusalem itself. God did not only fire the cities and towns round about Jerusalem—but he also set Jerusalem itself into a flame. Jerusalem, which was “beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth,” the paradise and wonder of the world–is turned into ashes.
“But they did not take it to heart!” Oh the monstrous stupidity, insensibleness, and blockishness of this people! Though God had brought them low, though their crown was fallen from their head, though their glorious city was turned into ashes, and though they were almost destroyed by many smarting miseries and dreadful calamities—yet they were not affected with the stupendous judgments of God! They were not awakened by all the flames which God had kindled about their ears! They did not lay the judgments of God to heart, nor they would not lay the judgments of God upon their hearts.
4. The fourth thing observable in the words is, the PEOPLE who were robbed, destroyed, and consumed by fire; and they were Jacob and Israel. “Who gave Jacob to the robber, and Israel to the plunderers?” They were a praying people, a professing people, a fasting people, a peculiar people, a privileged people! And yet, for their sins–they became a destroyed people, a consumed people, a ruined people! Isaiah 58:2; Zech. 7:5; Exod. 19:5.
5. The fifth thing observable in the words is, the LITTLE EFFECT the judgments of God had upon them. Now they were under such monstrous stupidity that they were not at all awakened nor affected with the judgments of God; they regarded them not, they laid them not to heart. And just as stupid and senseless were they, when Titus Vespasian had laid their city desolate by fire and sword, and sold thirty of them for one piece of silver, as Josephus and other historians tell us. [By Titus Vespasian, their land became a stage of blood and of all kind of barbarisms; and now their so renowned city, their temple so famed all the world over–was turned into ashes and laid level to the ground!]
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Matthew 27:22-23. “Him . . . you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain!” Acts 2:23. “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ!” Acts 2:36. “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:41-44
O sirs, since their crucifying of the Lord of glory–the Jews have never laid their finger upon the right sore; to this very day they won’t acknowledge their sin in crucifying of the Lord of glory. They realize that God has sorely afflicted them; but their cruelty to Christ, their crucifying of Christ, which ushered in the total ruin of their city and country–they cannot be brought to acknowledge to this very day, though the Lord has burnt them up on every hand, and has scattered them as dung all over the earth to this very day! A learned writer tells us that the Jews call Christ, “a bastard;” and his Gospel, “the Volume of Lies,” or” the Volume of Iniquity;” and us Christians “heathen”. When they greet a Christian, they call him, “Devil”. They hate all Christians—but none so much as those who are converted from Judaism to Christianity, and all this after so great a burning and desolation that the Lord has made in the midst of them!
It is true the length of those heavy judgments under which they groan to this very day, has often puzzled their learned Rabbis, and has many times astonished them; and sometimes caused them to break out into a kind of confession, that surely their judgments could not last so long—but for crucifying of one who was more than a man. There was one Rabbi Samuel, who, six hundred years since, wrote a tract in form of an epistle to Rabbi Isaac, master of the synagogue of the Jews, wherein he does excellently discuss the cause of their long captivity and extreme misery. And after he had proved it was inflicted for some grievous sin, he shows that sin to be the same which Amos speaks of, Amos 2:6, “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof, because they sold the righteous for silver.” The selling of Joseph he makes the first sin; the worshiping of the calf in Horeb, the second sin; the abusing and killing of God’s prophets, the third sin; and the selling of Jesus Christ; the fourth sin. For the first they served four hundred years in Egypt, for the second they wandered forty years in the wilderness, for the third they were captives seventy years in Babylon, and for the fourth they are held in pitiful captivity even until this day. It is certain that the majority of the Jews are under woeful blindness and hardness to this very day. And thus much for the opening of the words.