Matthew 24:6-8 (NIV) “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
Jesus’ dire prediction of the overthrow of Jerusalem alarmed His followers to the point that they wanted to know when this would happen, and what signs would precede it. They remembered from history how terrible the overthrow of Jerusalem had been when Babylon had besieged it, and they didn’t want to end up trapped in the city for this attack.
This second point that Jesus made, not a sign of the end, but actually signs to be ignored, was news of battles and wars, and natural disasters. It would be easy for His followers to stay anxious all the time, because word of battles in the empire was always floating about. Rather than staying on edge all the time, or spending time trying to track whether the battles were getting closer, Jesus’ advice was basically to ignore those reports. The end of the city would not come as a normal result of fighting in the empire.
It was the same with natural disasters. Jesus’ disciples could easily wonder if every earthquake or storm (and the area around Jerusalem was a frequent target of these) was the sign of God’s wrath breaking out. But again, Jesus’ advice was to know that, while these things would happen, they were not God’s judgment on the city.
Even though God does use the forces of nature from time to time to bring judgment on people of the world, and even though a battle may take out a people that He has decreed judgment on, His judgment on Jerusalem was going to be different. It would be a direct judgment, so that there would be no question in people’s minds as to whether the disaster that came down upon it was God, or just the normal course of events. Therefore, tracking normal events was going to be of no use in seeing when the disaster was going to fall.
Father, You control all things, and can use anything to bring Your judgment on a people, or even a whole nation. But You are not limited to natural forces or normal occurrences. You have the ability to move the hearts and minds of men, even leaders or nations and empires, to do Your will. Help us, Lord, to hear Your word today, and to make a conscious decision to not fret over wars and rumors of wars, or over natural disasters, wondering if Your coming might be drawing nearer. Help us, instead, to focus on Your promises, and to live each day of our lives as if it is the last day. Then, whenever the last day comes, we will simply be ready. Amen.