Title: Does God Intervene on Earth?
Text: Acts 5:5, Jonah 1:3-4, 8, 10, Exodus 12:12, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, 1 Corinthians 10:19-22
Time: January 24th, 2010
The recent earthquake in Haiti and the subsequent discussion about whether God may have permitted or even caused it because of the country’s obsession with the religion of Voodoo led me to address the whole issue of whether God is able to bless or curse individuals and nations. The answer is that indeed God has in the past and is able now in the present to bless or curse both individuals and nations because of good or bad activity on their part. This whole topic was sparked by comments by broadcaster Pat Robertson that Haiti was founded on a slave revolt which relied heavily on a Voodoo ceremony in which the leaders of the revolution supposedly made a pact with the spirits to serve them if the revolution succeeded. It did succeed and evidently the Voodoo spirits have kept the population of Haiti bound to the original spiritual agreement and as a result have brought a curse upon the nation ever since. The secular news media reacted to this idea with ridicule and scorn. One news reporter criticized Pat Robertson for his primitive idea of an “interventionist God,” in claiming that the curse of God might have something to do with Haiti’s problems. I guess the news reporter’s understanding of God is that he’s a “non-interventionist God” or in other words, that God doesn’t concern himself with getting involved with the activities of people on earth. He thinks the whole idea that the Haiti earthquake and Voodooism and God could somehow be connected is ridiculous, because after all, according to this reporter, God doesn’t intervene on earth, so then, any talk of him intervening is absurd. But when I heard the newsman’s reaction to Pat Robertson’s comments on Haiti I reacted the opposite way. I thought to myself, “Yes, God is an interventionist God and he could very well be connected in some way with the earthquake in Haiti.” The Voodoo ceremony that was done before the slave revolt which dedicated the revolution to the Voodoo spirits could have offended the Lord and could have bound the population of Haiti in service to the Devil. The resulting problems the people have had for over 200 years could be the result of a spiritual curse upon the nation. God’s displeasure could be upon the tiny island as a result. It isn’t an absurd idea that consequences result from spiritual decisions made by Haiti’s founders hundreds of years ago. And also, there is nothing ridiculous about God intervening in the lives of individuals and nations. It’s just that in today’s day and age of secularism which borders on outright atheism at times, the notion that spiritual and moral decisions and actions resulting in negative consequences isn’t popular. Today, we like to think we are in charge of our own lives. We like to believe that we control our own destinies and we generally reject any idea that would limit our own personal freedom to be and do anything we want. If God intervened, even occasionally, then we couldn’t claim total freedom. We’d have to admit to being dependent. We would have to think about obedience to God’s moral and spiritual laws or else suffer the consequences for disobedience. That is something most people today don’t want to think about. But it’s something that the earthquake in Haiti causes us to grapple with once again. Does God intervene in the lives of men and women? Does an “interventionist” God exist? Let’s see what the Bible says.
First, the Bible occasionally describes God as willing to directly intervene on earth. Acts 5:5, “When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.” In the account of Ananias and Sapphira, God strikes down both the man and the woman who had acted dishonestly towards the apostles and the early church community. They claimed to sell some property and give all the money to the church, but in fact they kept back some of the money for themselves. The sin wasn’t keeping some of the money but rather claiming to give all of the money to the church. The sin was deception or dishonesty. The end result was that God struck them down dead. That is the direct intervention of God. The account is meant to communicate God’s displeasure at their actions and as a result he punishes them with death. Now today in our modern age we might be tempted to give a psychological explanation to the story — they both had massive heart attacks and died. But the Bible doesn’t say that’s what happened; we have to read that into the story to make it work. The Bible, the New Testament specifically, simply indicates that God struck them down dead as punishment for their sin. That’s direct intervention. The Holy Spirit was offended by the lie of Ananias and Sapphira, so the Spirit — Third Person of the Holy Trinity — or in other words, God, struck them dead. How can anyone say that God doesn’t intervene in the world of men and women when the Bible gives us this example? And this example is just one of many examples of God intervening in the world. The news reporter who laughed at the idea of an “interventionist” God — or in other words, a God who intervenes in the events of earth, simply doesn’t know the Bible or doesn’t believe the Bible, because the Bible in both Old and New Testaments describes a God who intervenes on earth. So then we see that the controversy about Haiti, the controversy about the remarks about Haiti, is really a controversy not so much about Haiti as it is about the modern, secular understanding of God. Today, more and more people are doubting that God interacts and intervenes in the world, so then any talk of him intervening in Haiti or anywhere else for any reason is less and less believable to the modern mind. But to a biblical Christian, to a Christian who holds to the historic, classic Christian faith, there’s no problem in believing that God has in the past or that he could in the present and future intervene in some earthly situation for whatever reasons. The idea that God could punish Haiti or any people for making a pact with the Devil is not outrageous; in fact, it makes perfectly good sense. Anyone who thinks they can make a deal with the Devil and not offend God in the process is the crazy one. So then the possibility of offending God and causing him to bring down punishment as a result is not foolish; it makes sense within the classic, historic, biblical Christian faith. The real question for the Christian isn’t, could God do such a thing, but the real question is, why would God do such a thing — curse a nation or bring trouble or tragedy upon it? Why might God single out Haiti to bring trouble upon it?
Second, Haiti’s history may reveal why God might punish this nation with an earthquake. Jonah 1:3-4, 8, 10, “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. . . . Then they said to him, ‘Tell us, on whose account this evil has come upon us? What is your occupation? And whence do you come? What is your country?’ . . . For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.” Without getting into the whole story of Jonah and the whale, we can see clearly that God brought about or intervened to bring about the stormy sea in order to punish Jonah for disobeying his direct command to go to Nineveh. We might say that Jonah was cursed by God until he obeyed. We might say that the entire ship was cursed by God for the sin and disobedience of the one man, Jonah. We might also say that the link between Jonah’s sin and the danger of shipwreck and drowning was clearly seen by everyone onboard. There was a cause — God’s displeasure over Jonah’s sin of disobedience — and there was an effect — the stormy sea that threatened to destroy the whole ship and everyone’s life. The spiritual actions of one man threatened an entire group in the real world of material reality. Now these links between spiritual reality and material reality were obvious to ancient peoples and all peoples of the world up to the modern era. But today more and more people are doubting the connection. Today it’s common to find people assuming there is no link between spirit and matter rather than assuming that there is a link. But the biblical world view clearly links the spiritual and moral actions of individuals and nations with real world material consequences. Now in the question of Haiti, why would God bring trouble on Haiti? Is there any reason for thinking some spiritual sin could cause some physical catastrophe? Is there any reason why God might send some natural disaster on Haiti for some spiritual offense? If Pat Robertson’s account of Haiti’s national founding is true — and he’s not the only source for this scenario, others have told a similar tale, for example, the Christian global prayer guide Operation World for at least 20 years has been including a similar account in its summary of the spiritual history of Haiti — if this description is true, then there might well be reasons for a curse from God on this nation. The account is that in the late 18th century slaves in Haiti revolted against France. In order to win independence they conducted a Voodoo ceremony in which they called upon spirits to assist them, in exchange they pledged themselves to these same Voodoo spirits. Well, as it turned out the slaves won their independence from France and the nation has been supposedly bound to Voodoo spirits ever since. Now if this story is true, then it makes perfect sense that God might be offended and that his wrath might come upon Haiti as punishment. If God intervenes in the world — and the Bible and Christianity teaches that he does; and if God sometimes intervenes in the world to punish people for their sins — and again, the Bible clearly shows that he does; then, the possibility of Haiti being under the curse of God is a real possibility, because after all, making a deal with Voodoo spirits, who are probably actually demon spirits, is a sin against God. The Haitian pact wasn’t with God, it was with spirits. It’s easy to see why God might be offended. It’s easy to see why he might bring punishment. It makes sense.
Third, the nature of Voodoo might explain why God would punish the tiny nation of Haiti. Exodus 12:12, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both men and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments; I am the Lord.” Another important question that comes up naturally is, “Why would God pick on poor Haiti to judge? Why would he permit or even send an earthquake against this tiny nation? Since all have sinned and all are sinners, why single out one sin and one sinful nation when the world is full of sinners and sinful nations?” It doesn’t seem fair that God would single out Haiti for its sins and bring judgment in the form of an earthquake when there are plenty of sins and sinners and sinful nations to punish? Why single out Haiti for its sins? The answer to this question might be in the nature of Haiti’s sin –Voodoo religion. It’s interesting that of all the critics in the news media who push back against any connection between sin and punishment, between immorality and God’s punishment, nobody ever takes the time to explore exactly what Voodoo is, what it teaches, what it does. The reason why God might be willing to bring his wrath against Haiti as opposed to other nations (although God’s wrath could break out against other nations at any time, so just because he hasn’t punished certain sins and sinners today doesn’t mean he won’t tomorrow), the reason Haiti might be a special target for God’s wrath is its link to Voodooism. Voodoo is an ancient African spiritist religion. It’s ceremonies emphasize spirit-possession. But what might make the Voodoo of Haiti so displeasing to God is that it mixes Christianity with African spiritism in an unholy way. “Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty,'” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. There are many different sins committed by many different peoples in the world today. There are also many different false religions in the world today, but Voodoo might be the worst offender in mixing pagan spirituality with Christian spirituality. Voodoo might come closest to bringing together Christian spirituality and demon spirituality. With its ritual spirit-possession, with its prayer-curses, with its animal sacrifices and unholy ritualistic use of blood, it above all sinful spiritual practices — with possible exception of outright Satanism — may be offensive to God. And to have it as Haiti’s official cultural religion receiving the endorsement of community and government leaders and “being the heart and soul” of the Haitian people — all of this might be too much for God to tolerate. If Haiti were some other false religion or another, the situation might be different. But because it is a mixture Christianity and Voodoo it provokes a different kind of response from God. In this spiritual situation there may well be a spiritual curse from God upon the whole nation. It is said that perhaps 70-80% of the population of Haiti participates in some form of Voodoo; it could be even higher. If this is so, God might be attempting to bring about change in the only way that might have effect. This is the entire reality that the secular media totally ignores.
If the account of the leaders of the slave revolt is true, if they dedicated themselves to Voodoo spirits in exchange for victory over the French, and if in payment for success these Voodoo spirits are ruling the hearts, souls and minds of the Haitian people, then we have every reason to believe that God might bring judgment upon these spirits and upon those who serve them with Voodoo rituals. Exodus 12:12, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both men and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments; I am the Lord.” If the situation in Haiti parallels the situation in ancient Egypt, then God is not so much judging the people as he is the gods or Voodoo spirits of Haiti. The people are part of the mix because they serve the spirits and perpetuate Voodoo worship. So then the solution to the situation is for the people of Haiti to renounce Voodoo in all its forms and turn to the worship of the one, true and living God. There is nothing positive or good that Voodoo adds to the pure faith of Christianity. There is nothing of any spiritual or moral importance that Voodoo brings that Christianity doesn’t already possess. The Holy Spirit doesn’t need any help from any Voodoo spirits to guide and direct the Christian. In fact, the Bible tells us that God is a jealous God and in Exodus 20:3 he says, “Thou shall have no other gods before me.” In the aftermath of the earthquake it would be the perfect time for all Haitians to renounce and throw off all vestiges of Voodooism and turn completely to the Christian faith. If they have offended God by mixing the worship of pagan gods with the one, true God of Christianity, then to correct the situation they must repent and renounce Voodoo religion and embrace pure Christianity. I know this would be difficult, especially because as recently as 2003 Voodooism was officially proclaimed a cultural heritage in Haiti. In 1997 Voodoo was recognized as a national religion of Haiti. All of these and many other factors make it extremely difficult for the people of Haiti to just give up something that has been an important part of their national identity. But for the sake of their nation and for the sake of their spiritual destinies, they’d better be willing to take the drastic measure of renouncing Voodooism or else. For over 200 years Haiti has languished while other neighboring nations have grown and prospered. Why is it that Haiti has been unable to throw off abject poverty and why has it never been able to experience a stable form of government? Might it not be under a curse because of its commitment to Voodoo spirits? What are these Voodoo spirits other than demonic spirits? “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” — 1 Corinthians10:19-22. Now is a good time for the tiny island of Haiti to reflect on its spiritual past and make decisions about its spiritual future. If it continues on in the path mixing Christianity with Voodooism it may be willing its own destruction. Let us pray it chooses the Lord instead.