Yes, “Agnes” talked. She had a message of God to you. Did you hear what she had to say?
One could hardly miss “Agnes.” Her name made the headlines in the daily newspapers. It was featured prominently in news magazines. Radio and television made extensive references to her. Time declared in its July 3, 1972 issue:
The most ravaging storm in U.S. history started as a tiny blip on radar screens, a knot of tropical air masses forming near the island of Cozumel in the Gulf of Mexico, a few miles east of the Yucatan peninsula. Quickly, awesomely, it built into the first hurricane of the year, christened Agnes, a turbulent mass 250 miles in diameter drawing unusually heavy amounts of moisture from the sea below.
First Agnes crashed through Florida and Cuba and seemed about to peter out as it moved inland. But then it turned out to sea off Virginia, recharged its depleted energies and slammed back onto the northeast mainland, already saturated by a week of nearly incessant rains. By the weekend, at least 96 people were dead and more than 120,000 had been evacuated. Five states—Florida, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia—had been declared disaster areas, and damage estimates ran into the billions. Robert M. White, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, pronounced the flooding produced by Agnes “the most extensive in the country’s history.”
Nor was only the voice of “Agnes” heard. Timecontinues its article by reminding its readers:
Oddly, Agnes was not the only flood news in a grim week of troubles around the globe. . . . Irrigation canals overflowed around Phoenix, Ariz., drenching desert land that is normally parched. A hastily built earthen dike gave way in Andrus Island in the Sacramento delta, forcing the evacuation of 1,400 people. Near by, a 100-yd. levee break drove several hundred people in the area near Rio Vista to high ground. And in Rapid City, S.D., where floodwaters killed 226 early in June, Charles Childs, head of the missing persons office, reported that the list of those unaccounted for, which initially included about 4,500 names, is now down to 124.
It strikes one’s attention, does it not? How often in recent years have we not heard the statements, “worst in history,” “worst in a century,” “worst since records were kept.” These statements are applied to storms both in this country and in other parts of the world. Some such statement was made concerning the hurricane which devastated Mississippi a few years ago. Some such statement was made concerning the tropical storm which killed thousands in what was East Pakistan. Some such statement was made concerning the floods which recently struck North Vietnam. Similar statements have been made concerning floods in the Philippines.
Now, without doubt, vast devastations occurred in many other periods of history. News reports rather customarily report present disasters, and then compare them with known disasters of the past. Usually other disasters in the distant past seem as frightful as those which we have experienced in our lifetimes.
Of course, the response of man generally is that he has experienced one of the “quirks” of nature. .Man can explain what happened. He can tell of the various air masses which collided. He can explain how a hurricane picked up vast quantities of water over the ocean. He is ready enough to acknowledge that there was a “disaster,” but he hastens to add that it was a “natural” disaster.
Man also makes provisions to avoid such disasters in the future. After one of these “disasters,” man devises more fool-proof methods to give advance warnings so that the lives of people may be saved in the future. He makes plans to dissipate the fury of these storms through his scientific discoveries. He will control the winds and the waves.
Yet, the storms strike; often the worst in recorded history.
But man refuses to see the hand of God in it all. He recognizes not the wrath of God. He sees no indication of the nearness of the end of this age.
And what did YOU hear “Agnes” say? Or, have you given it no thought at all?
Our readers will doubtlessly agree that God sent “Agnes” and all of the other storms which struck this country and others. Not one hair falls from our heads without the will of our heavenly Father (Luke 12:7); does not He then also govern the storms which strike this earth? God controls all of His creation (Psalm 147).
Christ Himself reminds us that “natural” disasters are signs of His return on the clouds of heaven. He states in Matthew 24:7, “. . . And there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places.”
We see then the providence of God in which He directs all events, also these “natural” disasters, so that His purpose may be realized and His Son may return. “Agnes” was a striking example of this.
But you, perhaps, object that God has always sent these things in the past too. Why should “Agnes” have any special message then for us?
First, some of the most devastating disasters of history have struck in our own lifetimes. I would remind you again of the many instances one reads, “The worst in . . .” Note that fact also in future accounts of various disasters. It must not escape your attention.
Secondly, more people are being affected by these disasters than ever before. This is perhaps naturally the case, for there are more people living on the earth than ever before. Nevertheless, we may not forget that Scripture reminds us of the death and destruction which precede the end—as a sign. Revelation 6:7-8 points this out when the fourth horse is described.
Thirdly, these “natural” disasters are more widely known over the entire earth than any disaster of past ages. By means of radio, television, and newspapers, the awfulness of the disaster is brought into virtually every home. Man is more aware in recent years of the fact of disasters than ever before.
God sends all this in our times as signs. Do you see them and recognize them for what they are?
What did “Agnes” say? First of all, she said that God is angry with the wicked. She said that the wicked will not escape the wrath of God. She said that all of this is but a foretaste of that wrath of God which shall be revealed in the last day, Psalm 7:11 explains, “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”
And again, “Agnes” spake of the great power of our God. What is man in the face of such violence? What are the works of man’s hand that they should withstand this proof of God’s power? Man builds his cities. He guards them with dikes and walls. He plans to direct the course of the river so that it will serve man. But when God comes with His rain, He destroys the work of man’s hand in a moment. In light of all of this, how dare man raise his fist against the living God? How dare man take His Name in vain? How dare man ignore His Word? Yet man persists in doing exactly that.
Finally, we do have also a reminder of the nearness of Christ’s return. That will not be tomorrow, but doubtlessly it will be soon. We know not the day and the hour. But we are reminded to watch. Do you think of that as you read of the disasters which come upon this earth? “Agnes” was only one link in the entire chain of events which must precede the coming of Christ. But we are called to observe the links as these are manifested before our very eyes.
Why are we to be reminded again of all of this? Not, of course, because we are inherently pessimists. Strange, but some regard an awareness of the signs of the end as being pessimistic. But this is not meant to be such at all. A pessimist is one who looks on the dark side of everything. A pessimist is one who thinks that these evil days are going to continue indefinitely. Rather, we are called to be realists—that is, that we recognize events for what they really are. Let us not fool ourselves. When all the signs of the times are viewed together, the child of God sees clear evidence that the return of his Lord is at hand.
Actually, one who sees the signs aright, one who views these as evidence of the nearness of Christ’s return, is an optimist. He looks at the bright side of things. The signs include many things which might perhaps trouble us—especially persecution. But we can rejoice, for our redemption draweth nigh. Optimistically we confront the signs of our times, knowing that soon our Lord returns. Rejoice, for “the Lord is at hand.” (Phil. 4:5).