Posts Tagged ‘The Providence of G

16
Sep
13

Who Sends Calamity, God or Satan?

I am troubled by the biblical ignorance that pervades the world today. This ignorance is so pervasive it even saturates the “evangelical church.” It is clearly not due to a dearth of information. Today, as never before in history, an abundance of truth is at the fingertips of anyone with an internet connection. Solid doctrinal sermons are available to listen to and watch on YouTube. [Of course, the converse is also true. There is a plethora of error to be found as well. A great deal of discernment is needed when surfing the web.] I am able to download many of the classic biblical commentaries free of charge, and a discussion of most any subject is easy to find. Yet, people who profess faith in Christ and profess to know God seem more ignorant of God and his Word than ever before. I am reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy concerning people who are “ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” They fill their note-books with notes, but remain ignorant of God and his truth. During the past several generations, we have bartered God’s truth for catchy and pithy sayings that betray our abysmal ignorance of God and his ways with men. Many of these mantras have now become the standard of “orthodoxy” for many so that to question them is tantamount to heresy. Evangelicals glibly sing of a helpless and ignorant “savior” who stands at the door of the sinner’s heart waiting to see if he is willing to let him come in. According to this little vacuous musical ditty, not only is the matter out of his control, but he is ignorant of what will happen next. He must wait and see. How far removed this is from the biblical description of the one who stands knocking at the door of the church of Laodicea (not at the door of the human heart). He is “. . . the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (Rev. 3:7).

It is my view that all erroneous ideas about biblical truth spring from an ignorance of God’s character and his dealings with his creation. Our lament is the same as that of the prophet, “There is no truth (faithfulness), or mercy (steadfast love) or knowledge of God in the land” (Hosea 4:1). For a lack of this knowledge, God’s people are destroyed (Hos. 4:6). I was recently asked if I actually believe God sends calamities like tornadoes. The interrogator’s tone seemed to indicate that no one but a drooling and babbling fool would hold to such a ridiculous idea. Of course, my mind immediately went to all those biblical passages that state quite clearly that God is the first cause of all such calamity. There is no question he uses second causes such as Satan, natural phenomena, wicked men and nations to accomplish his purpose, but ultimately it is God who does all these things. The book of Job provides what is perhaps the clearest example of this truth. Though there were many second cause involved in the calamities that fell on Job, God was in control of the most minute detail. Job was surely right when he exclaimed, “. . . The LORD gave and The LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Then, in response to his wife’s suggestion that he “curse God and die” he said, “You are speaking as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from the hand of the LORD and shall we not receive evil (adversity, calamity)”? Lest we imagine that Job was speaking emotionally and not theologically, we have God’s own utterance to Satan on the matter as a basis for our belief. He said regarding Job, “He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason” (Job 2:4). Notice he does not say YOU have gone against him, or the Sabeans and Chaldeans have gone against him, or the fire from heaven, or the great wind have gone against him. These are only second causes. The LORD says, “you have incited ME against him.” When Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him. . . .” (Job 13:15), he was not speaking about Satan but about God.

A Scripture verse that has been a mainstay for Christians in their sufferings and trials throughout the centuries is Romans 8:28. Whether we accept the textual rendering “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good. . . .” or the alternate reading, “And we know that all things work together for good . . . .” the meaning is clearly that it is God who is accomplishing this end. There are several erroneous ideas about this verse of which we need to disabuse ourselves. 1. The verse does not teach that all things are good in and of themselves, 2. The verse does not teach us that we know by experience or feeling that all things work together for our good. Such knowledge is a matter of divine revelation and is to be received by faith, 3. The verse does not mean that somehow everything is going to work out O.K. This is not unfounded optimism, but confidence founded on the truth of God’s sovereign providence, 4. the verse does not teach that God works all things together for our material, physical, and temporal good. The “good” in view is the believer’s conformity to the image of Christ, 5. The verse does not teach that God will cause everything to turn out well for unbelievers. The promise only concerns those who love God and are called according to his saving purpose.

One clear implication of this verse is that God must be in control of all his creatures and all their actions. Even those events that appear to be contrary to his purpose and are clearly contrary to his will revealed in the Scriptures are under his sovereign control. If this were not true, he could never fulfill such a promise as this. He can only cause all things to work together for good if he controls all those things. If God is not in control of all things we are wasting our time praying. If he doesn’t control circumstances, he can’t change them. There is no need to pray for the salvation of lost people if God has left the matter in the sinner’s hands. The truth is, we pray because we believe God is in control. We rest on God’s promises because we know he is able to accomplish them.

Not only is God in control of all things, but he controls all things according to the counsel (translators often use the word “counsel” in place of purpose or plan to emphasize the wisdom of that plan. God’s plan is not an arbitrary roll of the dice.) of his will (Eph. 1:11). God does not react to catastrophes after the fact. He has planned beforehand how he will use the event he has decreed to glorify his name and bring spiritual and eternal good to his people. J.I. Packer wrote, “Our God is a God who not merely restores, but takes up our mistakes and follies into His plan for us and brings good out of them.”

It is important that we remember God does not cause everything he has decreed. He often uses secondary and evil causes to bring about his decreed goals. God “intended” that Joseph be in Egypt in a position in which he could save many people though the means by which he brought him there employed the wicked intentions and actions of his jealous brothers. “As for you, you meant if for evil, but God meant it for good” (See Gen. 50:19-20). In the midst of his dark trial, Job said, though I can’t seem for find God or understand what he is doing, “He knows the way that I take, and after he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Such confidence was completely unfounded if Satan or some other second cause is the prime mover in such calamity. If we believe God controls all thing according to his predestined plan, we can have confidence, when facing the most difficult circumstances of life, that we are precisely where God has purposed us to be. Andrew Murray wrote concerning what the believer should think and feel in the midst of such circumstances,

First, He brought me here; it is by His will that I am in this strait (difficult) place. In that fact I will rest. Next, he will keep me here in His love, and give me more grace to behave as His child. Then, he will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn and working in me the grace He means to bestow. Last, in His good time He can bring me out again … how and when He knows.”

There are several verses I would like you to consider in answer to the question about the origin of adversity and calamity. Does God do “bad stuff,” or is all that stuff the work of the devil?

“By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants” (Psa. 119:91).

“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isa. 45:7).

“Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come” (Lamentations 3:37-38)?

“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” (Amos 3:6)?

“For the inhabitants of Maroth wait anxiously for good, because disaster has come down from the LORD to the gate of Jerusalem” (Micah 1:12).

“For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own” (Habakkuk 1:6).

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matt. 10:29).

Any imagined God who is not in control of his universe is no God at all. A good friend of mine who was a missionary to Mexico once translated A. W. Pink’s Sovereignty of God into Mexican Spanish. Since the book had already been translated into Spanish using the original title, it was necessary for him to choose another name for the book. He wisely titled it, “El Dios Que Sí Es Dios”–“The God Who Is God.” A “god” who does not do according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, a “god” whose hand can be restrained when he wishes to work and who can be called into question for any of his actions, is not the God of the Bible (see–Dan. 4:35).