Why does God intervene for some and not others? Some can say that God brought them through very tough times, whilst others have quickly died.
In the early church Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1) came under God’s judgment and died immediately, whereas we can see countless situations where God does not seem to act, so does God intervene in the world now?
Does God intervene in our free will – is it because we are free beings with a choice that He leaves us to it?
The Bible talks about a Providence where God has called the world into existence, and then continually sustains it.
The question is how far does God’s control extend into this world?
Is God’s control limited in the area of what mankind can do?
How much power and control has Satan got in this world?
Table of Contents menu
Table of Contents:
1. Does God intervene in the world? The Bible tells us yes.
The first time God had to intervene was in the garden of Eden when Satan tricked Adam and Eve into disobeying God.
I will not go into detail about that as it is a different dispensation. The result was that Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden of Eden and into this present world.
a) God acts with judgment upon Noah’s generation
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”Genesis 6:5 NIV
So Noah, who God sees as righteous, is tasked with building an Ark to save himself, his family and a selected number of birds and animals.
When they were safely on the Ark, God sent His judgment upon the world to kill everything that was not aboard the Ark.
So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created – and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground’ “Genesis 6:7 NIV
Notice that God Himself performed this act of judgment, as it also says it other parts of the Bible:
As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.”Deuteronomy 32:40-41 NIV
Some try to say that God is all love, which of course He is, and that He would never carry out that sort of sentence upon mankind.
But the Bible tells us straight that He has in the past and will in the future carry out His judgments.
b) At Babel God stopped mankind’s efforts
After the flood God told them to:
Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.”Genesis 9:1 NIV
So what did mankind do? They should have split up and headed off in different directions so they could fill ALL the earth, but they didn’t:
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.”Genesis 11:1
All of humanity were together in one place, so they disobeyed God. But not only that they wanted to be like a god:
Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”Genesis 11:4 NIV
So God came down and made them speak different languages which dispersed them around the world.
c) God intervenes upon sinful cities and sends judgment
In Sodom, the angels, whose appearance was like any human and not supernatural, were a target for the city dwellers to rape them. It does not specify ‘males’ but the word used is אֱנוֹשׁ (e.nosh) which means ‘humans’.
Therefore all the city people, male and female, young and old, came to rape, or at least enjoy watching the rape, of the two men (angels). Jude in the New Testament confirms this:
Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.”Jude 1:7 NIV
But it appears that God’s judgment was not only against the rape because Ezekiel tells us:
Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.Ezekiel 16:49 NIV
That describes the sinful cities at that time. So this is how God carried out his judgment against these cities:
By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah – from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities – and also the vegetation in the land.”Genesis 19:23-25 NIV
How that judgment came about is interesting because we are given a discussion between Abraham and God on what would stop that judgment, the Lord said:
‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?…Genesis 18:17-32 NIV
The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.’…
Then Abraham approached him and said: ‘Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’
The Lord said, ‘If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’…
Then he said, ‘May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?’
He answered, ‘For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.’
If an evil city has got ten righteous people then God will not send any judgment upon it.
d) Does God control the weather?
According to the Bible God can control the weather:
lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his (God’s) bidding.”Psalm 148:8 NIV
Also, he enables the Earth’s climate to be good for growing different crops and producing plentiful harvests:
Yet he (God) has not left himself without testimony: he has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.’Acts 14:17 NIV
But two things muddle these scenarios:
- Satan is able to destroy using storms, etc. (For more detail on this see heading 4. below).
- Mankind can pollute the atmosphere and change things.
Here is an example from 1940 of evidence that God can intervene by using the weather:
In June 1940 at Dunkirk 400,000 British and French soldiers were encircled by the Nazis. They were so vulnerable on an open beach to the Stuka dive bombers and fighter planes strafing them.
Then King George VI called for a National Day of Prayer and the churches were packed as the British people humbled themselves before God.
Thick fog and clouds started to settle over the beaches, which hampered the Nazi planes.
The sea became unusually flat and calm so that many small sailing ships and boats could cross the channel and rescue those soldiers.
Was this just a coincidence, or was God intervening in this situation?
I believe that it was truly God who did this so that 335,000 soldiers got safely back to England.
The thing that enabled God to move was the number of people praying and humbling themselves before Him.
Winston Churchill called the evacuation of Dunkirk a “miracle of deliverance.”
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e) God’s providence intervening for good
In the section above we saw how God intervened at Dunkirk to save the soldiers on the beach by the nation humbling itself and praying.
Here we look at God’s planning and intervening in world events and the classic example of Him working in secular situations to achieve a good outcome is seen in the life of Joseph:
God could see that Joseph’s family and the world around them were going to suffer from a severe famine. He also had another plan beyond that, but that is another story.
As a young man Joseph was sold by his brothers to slave traders because they were jealous of him and hated him. Joseph’s parents thought that he had died.
Joseph then got sold to a high-ranking Egyptian but due to this leader’s wife wanting to sleep with Joseph and Joseph running from her presence, he got put into prison.
Joseph had a gift of interpreting dreams which he did effectively and finally, the king (pharaoh) heard about Joseph and was able to interpret the dream.
Joseph explained that there were going to be seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine. The king believed in Joseph and put him in charge of storing enough grain to survive the famine.
As the famine got worse, the surrounding foreigners came to get grain to eat and Joseph’s family came, which ended up with them settling down in Egypt.
God had wanted Joseph’s family to be brought back together, to live in Egypt and for many lives to be brought through the famine.
From this summary of events, we can see that God’s invisible hand was manipulating for good.
This subject of when God intervenes and for who is discussed in section 6. below.
2. The Bible’s examples of God’s judgments act as warnings to us
These early interventions tell humanity that there are consequences to rebelling against God’s commands:
Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns… serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”Jude 7 NIV
(God) did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people… he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly.”2 Peter 2:5-6 NIV
So at the beginning of the world, we see God intervening with His judgments as a warning to others.
Also at the beginning of the Church in the New Testament, we see God doing the same as a warning:
Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property and told the apostle Peter that they were giving the full amount to be used by the church. But in reality, they were keeping a chunk of it for themselves.
The property did not have to be sold, and 100% of the proceeds could have been kept by them, that was not the problem.
The issue was that they had tried to lie to the Holy Spirit, thinking they could deceive God.
So God carried out an immediate judgment upon them and they died. (Acts 5:1-11)
Here within the Bible’s text, we see undeniable examples of divine intervention, of God Himself carrying out His judgments.
3. Are disasters now an act of God’s judgment?
There are many naturally occurring events such as earthquakes, floods and tsunamis.
There are also things like war, famine and terrorism which are caused by mankind.
Are natural disasters caused by God?
Is it possible that God is behind some of these natural disasters?
We know that He is powerful enough to cause storms, etc.
But would God do that – it just seems against His character.
Also, if these were God’s judgments then we would know that they had come from Him, there would be nothing vague about it.
The whole point of a judgment is that the accused knows that they are accused, that they are sentenced and that they take the punishment.
When Jesus was asleep in the boat with his disciples, a huge storm hit them.
They were seasoned fishermen so an ordinary storm would not have alarmed them, but they were terrified! So Jesus woke up and:
rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided”Luke 8:24 NIV
If it had been God’s will that there was a storm, then Jesus would not have ‘rebuked’ it.
It could have been a natural storm, but it seems strange to ‘rebuke’ that.
So presumably it was sent by Satan whom Jesus would rebuke, the same as when he rebuked the evil spirits.
So, I would say confidently, based on what the Bible shows, that natural disasters these days are not caused by God.
4. Does Satan cause storms, tsunamis and sickness?
Does Satan cause grief through natural disasters, causing accidents, etc?
Many believe that there is ‘evil’ in this world, so could an evil force inflict disasters upon mankind?
Well, there is an unseen spiritual force that does kill and destroy and the Bible reveals him as the devil, or Satan. Jesus said this about him:
The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”John 10:10 NIV
The apostle Peter also warns us:
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”1 Peter 5:8 NIV
Obviously, medical science can explain a lot about our health issues, but that does not rule out how Satan can inflict things upon us.
Science can give a name to the problem and explain the chemical processes, but could Satan initiate this?
The Bible does show us that Satan can inflict diseases upon us:
A woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all…Luke 13:11 & 16 NIV
(Jesus said): ‘should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’ “
Another verse that indicates this is:
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”Acts 10 38 NIV
Interestingly, ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, Satan has had a certain amount of authority over this world.
Jesus described unbelievers as being Satan’s children, as him being their father:
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies…John 8:44-48 NIV
The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
It is not that Satan has any fatherly characteristics, he does not want to protect his children or get the best for them.
Belonging ‘to your father, the devil,’ simply means that his children have got the same traits that their father has got.
Satan, according to the Bible does have some degree of authority. Here we see Satan called ‘the ruler’:
you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler* of the kingdom of the air**, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”Ephesians 2:2 NIV
The word ruler* here is ἄρχων (archōn) and means ‘one invested with power’.
Satan’s kingdom is ‘of the air’. The word air** is ἀήρ (aēr) meaning ‘air, atmosphere, sky’.
So, we know that he has a degree of authority and power.
At the crucifixion of Jesus, many very special spiritual things happened and one of these was that Satan’s total power over death was defeated. Jesus, just before his crucifixion said:
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince* of this world** will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.”John 12:31-33 NIV
The word ‘prince’ here is ἄρχων (archōn) and means ‘one invested with power’ is the same word as used in the previous quote.
The phrase ‘this world’ here is κόσμος (kosmos) and means ‘world: earth, world system, the whole universe.’ In some contexts, the ‘world’ is simply the place where people live, in other contexts (especially in John), the ‘world’ is a system opposed to God.
Jesus was able to say to the thief on the cross: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43 ESV) because the power of the grave was broken.
From that moment on, any believer will go straight to be with the Lord, because Satan’s power over the grave was gone – to any who believe in Jesus.
Before that time, everyone who died went to Hades, a place of sleep, then when Jesus ascended from the grave he released those believers held captive in Hades and took them to heaven to be with him:
‘When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’Ephesians 4:8-9 ESV
What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions*?”
The phrase ‘earthly regions’ here is κατώτερος (katōteros) and means ‘lower, underworld’.
Jesus has more power, more strength, more authority than Satan. Jesus said:
I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me…”John 14:30 NIV
So what does the Bible teach us about Satan and his amount of power that he has got?
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV
The Bible also states that:
the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”1 John 5:19 NIV
Naturally speaking, we cannot understand the gospel, the message of salvation.
We need the power of God’s Spirit to stop Satan from blinding us.
So to answer the question; ‘Does Satan cause storms, tsunamis and sickness?’ The answer, as revealed in the Bible, is yes, but we know that his power is restricted, otherwise, he would kill everyone.
This leads us into the next point:
5. Does God step back and allow things to happen?
This pain, suffering and death do not come from God. He allows these things and He can even use these things in helping Him fulfil His good plans, but it would be against His character to cause them.
The apostles Barnabas and Paul preached:
We are… telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let* all nations go their own way.”Acts 14:15-16 NIV
The phrase: “he let* all nations go their own way.” is an interesting one.
The word here translated as “he let” in the original is ἐάω (eaō) ‘to allow to let, to permit’.
So it seems to say that there has been a degree of God stepping back to let things run their own course.
But if God completely stopped working then Satan could simply kill us all.
But He does not stop working and one big thing He does is to restrict what Satan can do:
For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming.”2 Thessalonians 2:6-11 NIV
So God does step back to let some things happen, He does restrict Satan’s control, but He also makes sure that His plans succeed.
We will now look at that in depth next:
6. Is it true that everything follows God’s plan?
We can see evil and disasters happening in the world and then we are told that God works everything for His purposes, it is all very confusing.
It does not fit nicely into our neat boxes and we just cannot give a quick, easy answer.
The Bible agrees with this thought:
the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.”2 Thessalonians 2:7 ESV
Yes, it is a mystery, we do not understand it.
The Bible just tells us that the presence of Satan and the workings of evil is a mystery but the Bible does say a lot about how Jesus, the Messiah, overcame Satan.
The Bible states that God is in control and that somehow He can manipulate things according to His plans:
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.“Ephesians 1:11 NIV
The Bible tells us that God can protect a person or people.
In this account in the Old Testament, Satan appears before God and complains that God’s man, Job, is protected and he cannot get to him.
Satan says to God:
Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.”Job 1:10 NIV
God then permitted Satan to do some things to Job:
The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’ “Job 1:12 NIV
In the New Testament, it says the same. Jesus warns Simon Peter, one of His disciples, that Satan has asked permission to shake him around and to give Simon a rough time:
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”Luke 22:31 NIV
But it is important that this ‘hedge’, this protection, is only for God’s children.
In section 4. above we saw Jesus telling some people: “You belong to your father, the devil” (John 8:14 NIV)
The Bible tells us that humanity can be divided into two groups:
- Those that are believers in the Lord God and Jesus Christ.
- Those that are non-believers.
Or, to put it another way:
- Those who are children of God
- Those who are children of the devil
This is very stark, but that is what the Bible says.
So, everyone who has God as their father can say this:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”Romans 8:28 NIV
For those who have not got that ‘hedge’ around them then they are unprotected:
In this world, Satan is “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:2 NIV)
Jesus has an answer to this, he says:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
7. Can God use bad people for His plans?
The Bible tells us that He can. For example, God was invisibly moving people around Joseph so that God’s plan succeeded.
Joseph spoke to his brothers who had sold him to some slave traders with evil intent, but by the time God finished with Joseph, he was now second in command of Egypt.
So Joseph said to his brothers:
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”Genesis 50:20 NIV
The wicked and jealous religious leaders thought that they were just getting Jesus killed to remove him from Israel.
But Jesus had been sacrificed according to God’s plan and then he rose from the dead.
This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”Acts 2:23 NIV
So the Bible tells us that God can use evil people to achieve His aims.
8. God’s warning to an evil Superpower
In God’s eyes Nineveh, the Assyrian city, was a bad city and yet He reached out to them in mercy.
He gave them a warning which they certainly didn’t deserve.
They lived 300 miles away from Israel, but God sent the prophet Jonah to Nineveh to preach to them.
The only thing we are told about this message, was that he said:
Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”Jonah 3:4 NIV
But it had the desired effect, because the people turned away from their sin, and turned to God.
And the king said:
Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”Jonah 3:9 NIV
We can see God’s motive by looking at what Jonah said later:
I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”Jonah 4:2
We see more of these motives when we hear what God said after that:
But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”Jonah 4:11
Here we see God giving a warning to the super-power at the time, does he still do that, is he interested in our lives? What is God like?
So if he is interested in us, does he want a relationship with us?
Basically the Lord had issued a warning, which went something like this:
‘Stop doing wrong and evil things, and turn to God, because if you don’t, condemnation and judgement will follow.’
It was a harsh word to them, but the people listened, and turned from their wicked ways.
So Jonah’s message was good news to them – it had turned them around, and they had now been spared from the coming anger of God.
Warning in a modern day context
Does God expect us to go and warn those in authority?
Or does God himself warn evil authorities?
See Adolf Hitler’s warning from God not to start a war – there is evidence that he did indeed give Hitler a warning.
From reading the New Testament in the Bible we can see that God gives us the responsibility to live a godly life and ‘show’ the love of God to people.
The warning that Jonah gave to Nineveh in the Old Testament and the gospel of the New Testament are surprisingly close.
In essence, both are good news:
- God in His mercy is reaching out
- His warning is to stop living self centred, greedy lives, and to lay aside idols (things that capture our hearts)
- He is saying; turn to Him.
For us, we see that the Lord Jesus Christ has shown the way to heaven and has made that possible.
In both messages, Jesus and Jonah, gave a warning that people need to change the direction of their lives, because a life wilfully ignoring God will have terrible consequences involving eternal misery.
See this article: What should the Gospel message be?
More detailed articles covering:
Does God only speak to certain people, or does he want a relationship with anyone who turns to him?
Many would say that they were ‘Christian’ but don’t go to church, so what is a Christian?
What’s it like being the son of a king, here’s a modern parable which shows God’s characteristics.
References – open in new tabs:
Rice, George D., Chaplain, 1861-1936. “Lot’s Flight from Sodom.” Highland Park Historical Society: George D. Rice Collection (Illinois Digital Archives),undated, Illinois Digital Archives. ↩
Assyrian palaces by Sir Austen Henry Layard. Public domain, Wikipedia ↩