Perhaps the Lord has decided to treat us according to Romans 1, as if He is saying, Okay. Since you are lusting for oil and money I will give you up “in the lusts of (your) hearts to impurity” (Romans 1:24). In our lust for oil and money, we are now drowning in oil and money. God gives people what they want, and when people want what God does not recommend, the consequences of disobedience follow.
But those consequences do not usually follow directly or immediately. And this is a function of God’s grace. God continues to provide grace to allow His people time to repent and grow in His grace (2 Peter 3:9). There is a sense in which the causality of God operates with a kind of quantum mechanics related to people such that we understand it in terms of trends and probabilities. Clearly, the world is much more complex that any of our ancestors could ever believe. Spiritual cause and effect relations are not like pool balls on a billiard table. Rather, their complexity causes us to analyze them more like statistical trends.
God tends to be socially gracious until faithfulness is statistically overwhelmed by unfaithfulness. And as God’s grace is increasingly ignored in a society it is replaced by His judgment. God not only treats people as individuals, He also treats people corporately. Why? Because our identity as human beings is both individual and corporate. We are individuals, but as individuals we live in societies and our societies provide the context for our individuality.
Do not doubt that God’s judgment is absolutely just and specific, it is! However, our comprehension of that justice and its specificity falls far short of God’s, and the result is that it appears to us that God’s judgment shares some characteristics with what we call quantum theory. So, we don’t perceive, for instance, that God punishes this particular sinner for that particular sin, at least not usually. Rather, it appears to us that God indulges sinners more than what seems fair or just, and that like Job we find it difficult to account for how God treats people individually.
However, we can observe that as nations become increasingly engulfed in sin, increasingly horrible things begin to happen—tornadoes, forest fires, earthquakes, wars, financial collapse, disease, crime, etc. It is beyond our analytical abilities to discover a one-to-one correspondence between particular sins and particular judgments, but it is not so difficult to see the larger trend. This, I believe, is our current situation, which conforms to the expectations of Deuteronomy 28, and Luke 2:34-35. Indeed, I believe that the world has been under God’s judgment in the light of Christ, which has ameliorated its intensity, since Jesus’ death. That judgment has waxed and waned throughout history.
The fact that God has given grace through Christ apart from the law does not mean that God’s law has been nullified. As the Book of Revelation testifies, the potential for God’s judgment is an undeniable reality. Indeed, it is the context against which the gospel of Jesus Christ stands as good news. The good news is real, and when it is ignored and/or denied, the gospel fades into the background and leaves the context, which is God’s judgment against sin.