It took three plagues before the magicians of Ancient Egypt realized that the plagues were not normal events, but were “the finger of God”. How many disasters such as the Lahaina Wildfire will it take for people to recognize that these widespread climate-related disasters in such quick succession are the finger of God—and of Humans!
Our hearts break for the people of Lahaina. On August 8, their homes and their historic, charming town were consumed by fire in the course of a few hours.
This tragedy capped a summer of natural disasters spanning the globe related to climate changes.
This year is the moment when many of us echoed the thoughts of Pharaoh’s magicians when the third plague struck Ancient Egypt: “This is the finger of God.” (Exodus 8:19).
Prior to the third plague, Pharaoh’s magicians downplayed the dangers from the plagues. They claimed that they could explain and mimic the “magical powers” displayed by Moses and Aaron.
After the first miracle of Moses and Aaron (turning Aaron’s staff into a snake), Pharaoh’s magicians used their “secret arts” to turn their staffs into snakes. Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Nevertheless, “Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to [Moses and Aaron].” (Exodus 7:8-13).
Two plagues followed within the next few days (changing water to blood and filling Egypt with frogs). The magicians “did the same things by their secret arts”. (Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:7). And so, “Pharaoh’s heart became hard”. He still wouldn’t listen to Moses and Aaron. (Exodus 7:22-23; Exodus 8:15).
Why this skepticism? Why these doubts whether these plagues were unusual events caused by the God of Moses and Aaron or were merely normal physical processes? Or at least were merely physical processes that could be controlled by magic and by Egypt’s many gods?
In Ancient Egypt, there sometimes was “bloody water” caused by unusually high or low water levels in the Nile. There sometimes were frogs, gnats, severe weather, epidemics, sand storms, and all the other plagues described in Exodus.
We’ve seen similar skepticism about climate changes.
After all, even before any effects from climate changes started occurring after the Industrial Revolution, there were massive hurricanes, blizzards, heatwaves, floods, droughts, and wildfires. There were longterm weather and climate trends extending over years, centuries, and millennia.
And so, the first reactions to warnings about climate changes fell along a spectrum from denial to fear.
But this Summer of ‘23 feels different.
There are simply too many impacts on a global scale. Warm ocean waters! Heat waves! Sick coral reefs! Droughts! Floods! Tornadoes! Hail! Wildfires in Canada whose smoke chokes tens of millions in the Northeast and the Midwest! And now, the Lahaina Wildfire!!!
How many widespread disasters in such quick succession will it take before we admit the truth. These climate changes and their disastrous effects are the finger of God—and of Humans!
There are still efforts to deny humans are changing the climate. But these denials ring more and more hollow. Mere whistling past the graveyard!
These denials remind me of the incessant denials and misinformation by tobacco companies for decades in the Twentieth Century about the evils from cigarette smoking.
As we’ve learned subsequently, the tobacco companies knew that their denials and misinformation were lies.
In the Twenty-First Century, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that fossil fuel companies know that their denials and misinformation about fossil fuels and climate changes are lies.
Eventually, however, the truth about bad deeds becomes obvious. The bad effects can can no longer be hidden or denied! (1 Timothy 5:24-25).
In Ancient Egypt, the truth became obvious after the third plague.
This third plague followed in quick succession the first two plagues. Bloody water! Frogs!
Now it was gnats!
All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. . . . [T]he magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God”. (Exodus 8:16-19).
Nevertheless, Pharaoh refused to change his behavior. Why? “Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen.” (Exodus 8:19).
Therefore, worse plagues—worse disasters—followed. Flies! Sick livestock! Dying livestock! Boils on people! Storms! Rain! Hail! Thunder! Lightning! Locusts! Darkness from a sand storm! An epidemic!
Officials pleaded with Pharaoh: “Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?” (Exodus 10:7).
Nevertheless, despite these constant, escalating disasters, Pharaoh kept hardening his heart—refusing to hear, see or understand the underlying moral and spiritual causes of the disasters. (Chapters 8-10 of Exodus; Exodus 14:5-6).
Just as with climate changes, there were wise steps that could be taken to reduce the harm caused by the plagues.
Even without our modern scientific knowledge, there was much that the Hebrews and others living in Ancient Egypt could do. Shelter people and animals indoors. (Exodus 9:16-21). Clean up heaps of dead frogs. (Exodus 9:13-14). Take better care of horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep and goats. (Exodus 9:3-4).
Similarly, even though we have much to learn about how to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate changes, we can discern many wise steps we should take.
Buildings that withstand wildfires, high winds and flooding better. Strains of crops that withstand heat and drought better. Buried power cables that can’t start fires. Better management of potential “kindling” such as brush and undergrowth. Emergency communications and evacuations that work much better than they did in Lahaina.
There’s speculation that the Hebrews in Egypt were already following practices that reduced the risk of sickness and plagues. For example, quarantining sick people. (Leviticus 11:31-40; 13:45-46). Keeping Hebrews, their animals, and their homes clean (Leviticus 11:24-25; 22:4-8; Deuteronomy 23:12-14; 24:8-9).
Eventually, these practices became enshrined in the requirements of the Mosaic Law that kept Israelites, their animals, and their homes free from ritual impurities.
These ritual rules of purity are based on spiritual principals of pure and impure. Not on scientific principles of clean and unclean. Nevertheless, we can see the scientific benefits from many of the rules that Israelites followed to be spiritually pure. (See the notes to Leviticus and Deuteronomy in The Jewish Study Bible.)
This correlation between wise spiritual actions and wise scientific actions is encouraging and enlightening in the Twenty-First Century.
It means that, if we are humble enough to pray and change the ways of the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the World, then we can help end climate changes and their disastrous effects—even before we fully understand the science and technology involved. (2 Chronicles 7:14).
It means that we can be confident that the teachings of Jesus (that fulfill the teachings of the Law of Moses and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17)) will benefit us physically as well as morally and spiritually.
As Jesus himself promised:
[E]veryone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a [person] who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. (Matthew 7:24-25).
It is apparent that the ways of the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the World are root causes of climate changes.
The Power of Money empowers people to enrich themselves by ignoring bad effects on other people today and on other generations in the future.
The Power of Religion defends bad actions that enrich and empower religious leaders and their supporters.
The Power of the Kingdoms of the World makes nations wealthy and powerful today by inflicting burdens on their own people, as well as on other nations and on future generations.
Shortly after his baptism, Jesus overcame the three temptations to follow the ways of the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the World.
Furthermore, Jesus was crucified because during Holy Week he challenged the ways of the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the World (see my blog “Jesus Climbs the Temple Mount” and the blogs referenced therein).
We should follow this Way of Jesus to defeat the ways that are the root causes of climate changes and their disastrous effects—the Way to defeat the ways of the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the Wirld!
As the Prophet Isaiah warned 2,500 years ago:
Woe to you who add house to house
and join field to field
till no space is left
and you live alone in the land.
. . . the great houses will become desolate,
the fine mansions left without occupants.
Three thousand years ago, Pharaoh refused to see, hear or understand that plagues were consuming and ruining Egypt because he failed to obey God’s command to set people free so that they could worship the LORD.
Today, many “pharaohs”—people who lust after the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the World—refuse to see, hear and understand the reality and dangers of climate changes. They refuse to see, hear or understand anything that weakens their wealth or power.
As the Prophet Isaiah warned, economic, religious and government leaders who do not see, hear or understand their civilization’s underlying spiritual problems will repeatedly blunder into disasters such as the Lahaina Wildfire. (Isaiah 6:9-10).
How long will they keep blundering into such disasters?
Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged.
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD,
and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God,
for he will freely pardon. (Isaiah 55:7).
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11).
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT
In what ways do the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the World cause and increase harms from climate change?
In what ways will a failure to hear, see and understand the causes of climate change keep us from surviving, minimizing, and ending the harms from climate change?
Is your heart hard when it comes to hearing, seeing and understanding the causes and harms of climate change?
Is your heart hard when it comes to hearing, seeing and understanding the harms to other people, kingdoms and generations that are caused or worsened by the actions and inactions of you, your nation, and your generation? By what the Lord’s Prayer calls your debts (bad inactions) and trespasses (bad actions) (Matthew 6:12)?
Will you be able to forgive debts and trespasses by other people, kingdoms and generations if their actions or inactions harm you the way that the people of Lahaina are being harmed by actions and inactions that caused or worsened the Lahaina Wildfire? (Matthew 6:14-15).
For more thoughts about overcoming the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the World (based on the Three Temptations that Jesus overcame after his baptism), please read my blog “Jesus Climbs the Temple Mount” and the blogs referenced therein.