WOW! I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since I was last able to post to my blog! For those of you who so graciously agreed to follow my blog and for those of you who check it out on a regular basis, I apologize. I can’t really say that anything has prevented me from posting other than life.
I recently began a new job related to the funeral business. Also, as of last Sunday (Oct. 28), I am serving as the interim pastor of a church in a neighboring town. So, things have gotten much busier during the last couple of weeks! And things will get busier in January as I begin taking seminary classes. Nevertheless, I will make a concerted effort to post on a regular basis.
Once again, I appreciate those of you who subscribe to and follow me on this site. I would really be grateful if you would share the blog with family and friends. Also, please take time to comment and give me some feedback online. It helps to know not only who is reading but also your reactions to what I have written. Thanks!
If you have read much of my blog or heard me preach, you know that I make much ado about the doctrine and the knowledge of God. I do this because I believe that the church has lost sight of its primary purpose of giving glory to God through obedience, worship, and discipleship.
I also believe that if we get are in error concerning theology (the study and doctrine of God), then all of our other doctrines will suffer as a result.
In light of this, in the next couple of articles I will share some examples of things I have heard from Christian sources concerning the doctrine of God within the past month.
Bitter waters of Marah
I recently heard a pastor preach a sermon in which he made reference to the Israelite encounter with the bitter waters of Marah (Exodus 15:22-25). He indicated that God was the One who brought them to Marah, but that God was not the one who made the waters bitter.
This may not set off any alarm bells for most people. I did not hear anyone gasp or tilt their head sideways in question when the remark was made. For me, the alarms did go off.
The preacher did not say who did make the waters bitter. I assume that, since God did not make them bitter, he believed that Satan made them so. According to the doctrine taught to his congregation by this pastor, God can and will make the waters sweet, but He never makes the water bitter. Adversities and hard times may come our way, and God is faithful to be there for us in the face of these adversities, but God will never put those adversities in our path.
I am not sure how Joseph would respond to this belief. If you’ve not read the story of Joseph lately, let me encourage you to review it in Genesis. From Joseph’s birth in Chapter 30 to his death in Chapter 50, his life story makes up about thirty percent of the book of Genesis.
Briefly, Joseph was the tenth son of Jacob. However, as the first-born son of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel, Joseph soon was recognized by all as the favored son of his father. Jacob created a splendid coat or tunic that marked Joseph as his favorite son. The increasing jealousy of his brothers led them to sell Joseph into slavery while deceiving their father into believing that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.
After surviving a series of life-threatening adversities, eventually, by God’s intervention, Joseph became the second most powerful man in all of Egypt after the Pharaoh. Joseph came to realize that all of the harm that his brothers had set in motion when he was a teenager only served to fulfill God’s overall plan for the life of Joseph and the nation of Israel.
When he was later able to confront his brothers concerning their treachery, instead of being vindictive, Joseph explained all this to them.
Genesis 50:19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (ESV)
While it may not be obvious from a simple reading, this verse teaches that everything bad that happened – including the famine that brought the brothers to Egypt – happened byse of the will of God. God “meant” or intended for all of these things to happen that He might rescue and preserve the entire nation of Israel.
Psalms 105:16 When he (God) summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, 17 he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. 18 His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; 19 until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him. (ESV)
Through the deceit and jealousy of his brothers, Joseph faced his own “bitter waters of Marah.” Yet he came to understand much later that God was the One who had made the waters bitter on purpose and for a purpose before making the waters sweet.
That is what Romans 8:28 is all about: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)
Another prominent personage from the Old Testament who shared a similar series of adversities before coming to acknowledge the perfect will and purpose of God was Job.
Job, a man rich in lands and cattle and family, lost everything as a result of an agreement between God and Satan. When his wife called on him to curse God and die, Job gave witness to an astounding faith in his reply.
Job 2:10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (NAS)
Even though he questioned God’s purpose in allowing such suffering, he never accused God of any wrong-doing in bringing the adversities on him.
One might argue that God did not cause the adversities – that He only permitted them to happen, but that Satan was the one who actually brought the adversities. While there is truth in this understanding, we must emphasize that the final arbiter in anything related to the Bible is the Bible itself. So we read at the end of the book of Job…
Job 42:11 Then all his brothers and all his sisters and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the LORD had brought on him. And each one gave him one piece of money, and each a ring of gold. (NAS)
Moving to the New Testament, we find a similar occurrence in the life of Paul.
As a review and to give context, please read 2 Corinthians 11 and 12, where Paul recites a litany of adversities that he faced during his ministry. Yet, at the same time, God allowed him an incredible experience of seeing into the third heaven – the throne room of God himself. Paul was granted revelations that no man had ever seen or heard before him.
2 Cor. 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul never explains this thorn in the flesh. Also, since he did not state the fact specifically, one might argue that the source of the thorn was Satan. Yet Paul did not ask that God prevent Satan from sending the harassment. Since Paul specifically asked God to remove the thorn, we can safely assume that God was also its source. Certainly Satan would not have cared if Paul was conceited or not.
Without the commentary that they deserve, here are some other verses that speak to the idea that God is, at times, the direct source of adversity.
Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.
Eccl. 7:14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
Amos 3:6 Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?
Bringing the subject of God and adversity home to the 21st Century…
Following the horrible events of 9/11, there were many people who asked where God was when the planes were flying into buildings and into the ground. Hopefully without sounding smug or offensive, I submit that God was on the planes.
Some may ask, “If God is a good God and a God of love, why didn’t He prevent the events of that day?
Certainly being omniscient and omnipotent, God could have prevented the events of 9/11. The same can be said for Sutherland Springs, TX, Parkland, FL, and Pittsburgh, PA.
The psalmist confirms this.
Psalm 33:10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
Nevertheless, for reasons that we do not know and may never realize in our lifetime, preventing the evil of 9/11 and other tragic events of recent years did not fit into the eternal purpose of God.
One thing we must note in this study is this: Whenever God sends or allows adversity to come into our lives, there is always purpose in it. While there may be much pain for us, and while we may never know in this lifetime the good that derives from our suffering, faith must instruct us that God is always in control and that all that He does or allows works out for good for us and glory for God.
Soli Deo Gloria