A while back I wrote an article explaining that God does not bring calamity.
In response to that article, people keep bringing up Isaiah 45:7 over there in comments of that post.
However it is a fair question because Isaiah 45:7 certainly appears to directly contradict what I’ve said in that article:
I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.Isaiah 57:7
Some say, “See! God says flat out that he creates calamity. So you’re wrong!”
I get what they’re saying. If all someone does is look at that verse without any insight from the rest of scripture I can see where he would come to that conclusion and believe that calamity really is God’s fault.
But here’s the thing. We have to look at any given verse of scripture through the lens of the totality of the Bible. When we draw meaning from a specific passage we should pay attention to the context of those words because context can have a dramatic impact on what those words mean for us today.
Those words record God speaking to specific people at a specific period of time. That additional information truly matters when it comes to understanding what God is saying to us today. It is critical that we put that verse in context and look at it in the light of the entirety of scripture.
Old Testament Prophecy
God’s promise of calamity in Isaiah 45:7, and in fact all of chapter 45, comes in the middle of several chapters of prophecy spoken directly to Israel and Judah. Then in the midst of all that prophecy chapter 45 specifically talks about king Cyrus.
Cyrus was the king of Persia who defeated the Meads, unified their two kingdoms and in the process created about the largest empire up to that point in history. He also issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.
One big reason this passage is so significant is because it talks very specifically about the things this king would do and even calls him out by name hundreds of years before he was even born.
Chapter 45 predicts things Cyrus ends up doing in relation to the Jews in that day.
Calamity and the Old Covenant of Moses
In the time of Moses the Israelites made a covenant with God. (You might find it helpful to understand the difference between covenants and contracts.)
As I explained in the original article about God not causing calamity, the deal they made with God basically boiled down to the people being blessed if they followed the law and cursed if they did not. You can read through Deuteronomy chapter 28 for an huge list of blessings and cursings in store for the Israelites depending on whether they obeyed the law or not.
By the time Isaiah comes along the Israelites have pretty much blown it across the board. They are experiencing first hand the consequences of their failure to keep their end of the covenant they made with God.
Isaiah 45:7 is one of many verses where God reminds them of his own obligation to hold up his end of the covenant even if that meant calamity was due. Because the Israelites blew it God was bound by that agreement to see that the curses came to pass. That covenant required God to bring the curses of Deuteronomy 28 into the lives of those bound by it.
That was the deal then. Fortunately there is an entirely different covenant in place today.
A Whole New Deal Today
When Jesus came along he introduced a whole new covenant. In the book of Hebrews it says this about our new covenant with God.
But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises. — Hebrews 8:6
Today there’s a better arrangement in place than what the Israelites had in Isaiah’s day. The big reason the covenant we have today is so much better than the previous one the Israelites agreed to is that the results we get, the blessings and cursings, are no longer dependent on whether or not we keep the law. Instead, as followers of Jesus, what we receive is based on how well he kept the law.
God is not angry at us anymore.
For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. — 1 Thessalonians 5:9
God poured all of his anger and judgement out on Jesus when he suffered and hung on the cross. There is none left for us today. And if there’s no anger or judgement left for us then there is no reason for God to be bringing calamity on anyone today.
Some people will say something like, “well that’s all well and good for people who believe in Jesus. But for those who don’t believe, God is still sending plagues and destruction on them.”
No! He isn’t.
Jesus paid the price for every sin in the entire world, both those who believe and follow Jesus and those who do not. John explicitly said that to us:
He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. — 1 John 2:2
John comes right out and says that Jesus covered the bill for everyone in the world to make it impossible for us to miss that point. Since the sins of everyone in the entire world have been paid for, that means God isn’t out collecting debts today or bringing calamity out on anyone in judgement either.
All the bad stuff that happens in our world is being brought about by other forces such as Satan and people who don’t know God and his ways. God’s not the one causing all the problems even though a lot of people try and pin the blame for all that mess on him. (You might find it helpful to read this article that explains a bit more about the judgement of God.)
We are in a period of time that theologians call The Church Age. It’s the period of time between the ascension of Jesus at the beginning of Acts until Jesus returns again for his church one day.
Isaiah wrote during a different age and under a different covenant than where we are today.
It is true that God doesn’t change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. However it is also true that God relates to his people differently at different times.
In the days of Isaiah God related to his people through priests and prophets. Then God resided in the temple building in Jerusalem. Today God lives inside each believer and communicates directly with each one of us. Jesus is our high priest, so we don’t need another priest to tell us what God has to say.
The covenant in place now during the Church age is very different from how God relates to people in other ages.
In the old covenant God was obliged to bring curses on the people when they failed to follow the law. Now we’re free of those curses because Jesus took them all for us on the cross. Paul said it this way:
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. — Romans 8:2
One of the reasons we are free of that law of sin and death, which is referring to the old covenant of the Israelites, is because God is not bringing calamity on us today.
So don’t go blaming God the next time some major disaster happens. And when some preacher says that a disaster is God’s judgment on a group of people for a particular sin know that preacher is very mistakenly applying the old covenant to a new covenant age.