"When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous edures forever."
A few years ago the Weather channel aired a series of shows entitled “It Could Happen Tomorrow.” As the title suggests, the series probes the “What if?”. One of the episodes ponders the question, “What if a severe hurricane hits NYC?” They said that it very well could happen. As a matter of fact, it did happen.
It was Wednesday September 21st, 1938 and it was just a normal day. At least it started out as just a normal day. But for the residents living on Long Island, the resort situated just off the coast of New York, it became a day of disaster.
Following a hurricane that veered off from the coast of Florida just days earlier, no one living on the sleepy island was dreaming this natural catastrophe would bear down upon them. Some locals noticed what looked like a fog bank approaching. Their mild interest turned into wild panic when they realized that this was no fog bank. It was a 30 foot wall of water, the hurricane’s storm surge.
At about 3:00 pm the Cat 3 storm made landfall. It brought with it winds speeding around 120 mph and tides ranging up to 25 feet. It ripped through Long Island and cut into the coastland, eating up much of Connecticut. When the storm reached Providence, Rhode Island approx. 2 hours later, it submerged the city in a watery abyss in a matter of minutes.
You can imagine the damage, especially with thoughts of Hurricane Katrina still vivid in our minds. But could it happen again? That’s the question the Weather channel sought to unravel.
This morning we are, in a sense, tuning in to the weather channel. We have before us a verse that, does more than forecast a storm. It predicts a storm. And for certain, we know that this is no natural storm. No, this is a supernatural storm. It is the storm of God’s terrible judgment.
As we consider this Storm, this morning, I want to do so in a Weather channel fashion. The newscasters seek to help you prepare for the storm by giving you as much information as possible. This is what I want to do. I want to help you prepare for the storm of God’s judgment. To do this we must examine with you the kind of storm that will come, the damage the storm will cause, and the preparation the storm requires. Notice first of all…
I. The kind of storm that will come
The Storm of God’s terrible judgment is described as a “tempest,” or a whirlwind. That indicates the power and the surprise of God’s judgment. A whirlwind’s two chief characteristics are that it comes on swiftly and intensely. In other words, this storm will come just like the hurricane that hit Long Island. It will completely shock and overwhelm those who are not prepared for it.
Do you remember how the great wind made the house collapse upon Job’s children. They were shocked by it, weren’t they? There they were in the house feasting and being merry. They did not know that the wind was coming. If they had they would have taken shelter. They would have sought a more secure habitation. But they had no way of knowing before hand. It swooped in upon them like a bird out of the sky. It came down and struck with great force. It made the walls break and the roof to cave in. All were lost in a matter of seconds.
This is how the Day of Christ will be. The Apostle Paul says that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When a thief comes, he comes when no one is suspecting him. He comes at night when everyone is sleeping.
Oh that is how God will come. He will come at a moment’s notice. And it will seem like he comes out of no where.
Do you remember what it was like on the day when the airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers? It was one of the most beautiful days, wasn’t it? I remember thinking to myself how I wish I didn’t have to be in class that day. But it became one of the most fearful days! Out of the blue two planes came thundering into those two buildings.
Or think about the tsunami that struck the coast of India a number of years ago. It was a beautiful day. People were out enjoying themselves at the beach—basking in the sun. Others were going about their regular day’s duties. Then the tempest hit. The waves came rolling in at over 600 miles per hour. Who had time to react to that?
That is what it will be like when the Lord unleashes his wrath. It will be a normal day. People will be eating and drinking and then the Lord will come upon them. Isn’t that what Jesus says? He says it will be just like in the days of Noah and Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, marrying and being given in marriage. It was a normal day! But then it started to rain. In Noah’s day the overwhelming waters of the flood came on so suddenly. Those people of Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t have a chance because the sky broke open and the Lord rained down fire and sulfur. They were all caught completely off guard.
So it will be on the day God chooses to strike. He will come like a whirlwind. When people are least suspecting it he will leap from his throne, rend the heavens, and descend to lay claim to his property.
You are now being told that this storm is coming, but there is no indication when it will come. Just like the Weather channel says, “It could happen tomorrow.” You must remember: This is not a storm that you can see brewing in the distance. It will come without a moment’s notice and it will come with great rage. It is a tempest.
The people on the Weather channel will try to help you prepare for the storm by describing the storm. They will tell you what kind of storm it is. But they will also try to predict what kind of damage a storm will do.
II. The damage the storm will cause
The silly thing about the weather channel is that the people don’t know what kind of damage will be done. They can only guess. They can only assume that trees will fall and power lines will be downed. But the Lord does not guess. He knows exactly what will happen, and he tells us outright in our passage. It says, “When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more.”
Such devastation! Whole ranks of humanity swept away in an instant!
You’ve seen the magic tricks, haven’t you? They magician takes a quarter and makes it disappear. Or the rabbit is put in the hat, and “poof” he’s gone! This is kind of like what is described here.
That is how God will treat the wicked man. It will seem like he vanishes from the face of the earth. God will be rid of him forever. He will throw the unworthy sinner into hell. God will not tolerate these rebels or allow them the opportunity to enjoy the freshness of the new heaven and the new earth.
I just spoke of the tsunami. Do you remember how it ravaged the land? There was absolutely nothing left when the waters subsided. Everything virtually disappeared, being destroyed, swept out to sea, or thrown somewhere else.
You might still be able to recall some of the footage from the news casts. They showed before and after pictures. Some of you may have even seen the pictures taken from satellites far above the earth’s atmosphere. From miles above the earth you could see that the green of trees was replaced by pure brown mud.
A while ago I spoke with a man who went down to help with the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. He showed me some pictures he took while he was there. But there was nothing in them! Everything had been swept away! And he told me that the pictures didn’t even tell half the story! He said it was eerie because everything was gone. It was almost like being in a wasteland because it was so desolate.
That is how it will be when Christ returns. Jesus is coming again. He is going to return, and the wicked will face his wrath.
In the gospel of Luke Jesus said that on the day he comes, “two people will be in one bed, one will be taken, the other will be left. Two will be grinding grain; one will be taken, the other left.” The wicked man will be swept away.
When God comes in his radiance, the wicked man will be no more. They shall not inherit the earth, but will be taken from it.
We must understand that God hates wicked people and he is ready to drive them out. His anger is built up like a damn and the levee is about to break. When it bursts the rage cannot be stopped. Ungodly men will be swept away.
As you can tell, this is a fierce storm. It will be unlike anything we have ever experienced. Hurricane Katrina will look like child’s play. The sheer magnitude of this storm will inflict so much damage. That is why we must prepare.
The Weather channel tries to help you prepare for the storm by telling you something about the kind of storm will come, the damage the storm will do, they will also say something about what you must do to prepare for the storm. They talk about the precautions that you ought to take.
III. The Preparation the Storm Requires
When you know a storm is coming, you prepare for it. You seek shelter. When the Tornado alarm sounds you head for the basement. When you see flashes of lightening or hear the rumble of thunder you head for cover.
The same should be true now that you have heard about his storm. But where do you find shelter from such a storm?
In the second half of the verse we find that the Lord points us to a place of refuge. My version says, “The righteous is established forever.”
Now I do not doubt that you have something different here than what I read. The verse is quite hard to translate. If we would translate it literally it would say, “The righteous an everlasting foundation.” Obviously that is a bit rough. Perhaps the best rendering we have is found in the old KJV. It says, “The righteous man is a foundation forever.”
It talks about a foundation. There is something with permanence. It is steadfast and cannot be shaken. What you need in a storm is a foundation that will not be uprooted.
You may have wondered as you watched the news casts, why is it that the only thing that ever survives a hurricane are all those palm trees? You would thing that those silly things would be uprooted and thrown around like toothpicks. But that doesn’t happen. That’s because a palm tree is well grounded. Unlike other trees it only has one root. That root grows straight down. So if you have a 20 foot tree, you have 20 feet of tree growing in the opposite direction. It is planted in the earth. It has established itself upon the foundation that will not be moved.
That is what the Lord is telling us we must do. He says there is a foundation that will endure the storm. If we are wise, w will establish ourselves upon it. Jesus said that the wise man builds his house upon the rock. When the storms come and the waters rise, it does not collapse. But where do we get this foundation?
I think that our verse says that the righteous man is the foundation. He is unmovable in the Day of Judgment.
Now you may say to yourself. Oh, well then, I should be OK. I am a pretty righteous person. I have been good most of my life, I certainly am not like so & so who has done such & such.
But that would be foolish of you to say. Your righteousness is not of a high caliber. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, unless you are perfect, you will be swept away in the flood. The Pharisees were the most righteous people in Jesus day. They would make any one of us look like criminals in comparison.
No, we cannot stand in our own righteousness. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And there is no one righteous, no not one. But there is a foundation that we can find refuge in!
Commentators tell us that the Rabbis’ saw this verse as a messianic proverb. It pointed to the Messiah, the Righteous One, who would keep his people safe in the midst of God’s storm. Indeed that is true.
The righteous man is not one of us. We are not righteous. But Jesus Christ was righteous. His whole live was dedicated to purity and righteousness. And he is the one who can shelter us in the day of the storm.
When the Angel of Death swept through Egypt he claimed every first born that did not have the blood of the lamb above the door posts. God did not discriminate between persons. He did not care who was a Jew and who was an Egyptian. They were all sinners. They all deserved to be struck down. Were it not for the blood of the righteous animal, then those within the house would have by no means escaped.
We must remember that that foundation is Christ. He is the righteous man. It is only by taking his name upon yourself that you will be able to face the fierce wrath of God.
A young minister was once traveling through the rugged country near England's Cheddar Gorge. As he walked along the clouds burst and torrential sheets of rain pummeled the earth. The weary traveler was able to find shelter standing under a rocky overhang. There, protected from the buffeting wind and rain, Augustus Toplady conceived one of the most popular hymns ever written, "Rock of Ages, Cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee”
Toplady likened the storm he faced to that of the great and terrible storm of God’s Judgment. And he was right: There is only way that we may endure the terrible tempest. It is by taking shelter in the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.