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January 16 – And They All Died

There’s an old joke about a man interviewing to work with the railroad company. He’s given a situation where two trains are on the same track, going straight at each other. They asked him how he would handle the situation. “I’d switch the tracks for one of the trains,” was his first response. “Good, but now you discover that the switch is broken and you can’t do that.” “Then I would radio both engineers and tell them to stop.” “Your radio isn’t working.” “I’d turn on the stop lights along the track.” “The lights are out.” “I’d get out and flag the trains.” “They don’t see you.” The candidate paused and then said, “I’d call my sister.” The interview committee was stumped. They had never heard this answer before. After a pause, one of the members said, “What good would that do?” “Nothing,” the man replied. “But she loves a good train wreck.”

Disasters draw us like moths to a flame. Why is the traffic slowed down? There’s an accident on the other side of the freeway. Why is traffic stopped? It’s a major accident and everyone’s slowing down to look at it. Disaster movies always seem to be popular. Writing advice from some places says to put your main character through disaster after disaster. Some people asked Jesus about some Galileans that Pilate had put to death. It was a disaster for them and their families. Jesus responded that they weren’t any worse than some asking the question, and then He gave another example. “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:4-5)

When flooding hits an area, or an earthquake rocks the land, it is sad, but some people will automatically bring out the judgment card. “This was God’s judgment against those people. They were sinners!” I don’t need to mention the names of people who say things like that. I think Jesus would ask those people this question: “Were they any worse sinners than you?” While people who make those comments might try to justify themselves, Jesus would remind them that unless they repented, they would face something worse: they would die without God. They might think that they were spokesmen for God, in pronouncing their judgment, but such comments show their ignorance of God, not how close they are to Him.

While we mourn deaths in a disaster, as we should, the truth is that every one of those people would eventually die. In fact, the death rate is still 100%. Whether our death is due to a disaster or we live a long life and die in our sleep, we will all die and face the judgment of God. Jesus reminded His listeners that the key was that we needed to repent. We needed to turn away from our own thoughts and our own way of doing things and align our thoughts and deeds with God’s ways. Disasters are not God’s judgment on any group of people. If they were, I could imagine some places that “need” disasters. I’d wonder why God didn’t get “them.” (I, of course, not needing one.) Disasters do give God’s people a chance to minister to those who survive by showing them His love, mercy and grace. The message of Jesus during a time of disaster is still the same: whatever may have happened, you still need to repent and get right with God. It’s not how or when we die that’s important; it’s who rules in our heart when we do.

Lord, I know that someday death will come to me. Until that time, let me stay in tune with You. Help me to turn away from my own thoughts and ways every day, and align myself with Your love and grace. Help me to share the message of mercy and grace with others because of Your love for them.

Daily Devotion by Bob James


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