The issue of the sovereignty of God in relation to natural catastrophes is a difficult subject with few answers.
But what is ironic about the sovereignty of God is that while God’s people often pay lip service to His sovereignty, we just as often live as if God was not sovereign.
Take Jonah and the sailors as an example.
Jonah vs. the Sailors
In Jonah 1:9, Jonah claims to fear God, but he does nothing in Jonah 1 to show it. In fact, in every circumstance, he does exactly the opposite.
God tells him to go to Nineveh, but Jonah goes to Tarshish. God sends a storm to get Jonah to admit his guilt, but Jonah falls asleep in the belly of the boat. Through the casting of the lots, God singles out Jonah as the one responsible for the storm, and rather than tell the sailors to turn the ship around, Jonah tells them to sacrifice him to the waves. The sailors ask him questions about Yahweh, and Jonah gives them bad theology and bad ideas about God. At every step along the way, Jonah shows contempt for the will and ways of the God he claims to serve.
The sailors, who know nothing about God, end up fearing Yahweh and worshiping Him in truth in ways that Jonah never does. They pray to Him when Jonah is silent. They ask confession for sin they haven’t even committed while Jonah refuses to repent for a grievous sin he did commit. They make sacrifices to God and take vows, when Jonah refuses to even acknowledge God’s sovereignty over his life. The sailors show respect and honor for Yahweh while Jonah only dishonors God. Clearly, the author of the book of Jonah wants to show a clear contrast between the actions and attitude of Jonah with those of the pagan sailors.
Yet is it Jonah who claims to fear God.
But if he had not said it, nothing else about the chapter would indicate this was so.
Jonah was full of words, but had no actions to back up his claims. He was worshiping God in word and tongue, but not in action or in truth.
James 2 and Jonah
This reminds us a little bit of what is written in James 2, that faith without works is useless. This doesn’t mean, as most suppose, that faith without works is nonexistent. The text says nothing of the sort. It says faith without works is dead, that is, useless. The faith still exists and is present, but if it is not being lived out in one’s life, it is useless; it is of no effect. If you see someone who is naked and hungry, and you say, “Be warm and well fed! I believe God can help you get food and clothes!” but you yourself don’t do anything to help that person get food or clothes, of what good is your faith? It didn’t help feed or clothe that person. Only your actions can do that.
Similarly, if—like Jonah—we claim to worship and fear God, but do not do what God says, then although we may believe many right and good things about God, and though we may have faith that rivals that of Abraham, our faith is useless and pointless. Such fear of God accomplishes nothing.
So let us not make claims to fear God. Let us fear Him! Let us worship Him!
Not just with lifted hands and singing voices, but also with acts of service, love, obedience, compassion, mercy, and tenderness! Let people see God through you, not by what you say, but by what you do.
When we make claims to worship God, it must not be simply by the place we go on Sunday morning or by the words that come out of our mouths, but by the lives we live and the actions we perform, for that is true worship.