Roseavenue.org

 



Sunday, January 26, 2014 pm                    Basics - Index

 

BACK TO BASICS - God

Difficult Questions about God

 

This month we have been studying about God.  As we have noted there are many who reject the God of the Bible.  Addressing the subject of God is not an easy thing (but it is fundamental to our faith).  Even as we read His word we come across difficult passages and concepts about Him.  These concepts are used by critics to discredit or reject the God of the Bible (or god in general).  At times they even shake the faith of believers – questions such as: Why is there a hell?  Why does God allow evil?  Why does God allow suffering?  How do you explain the harsh commands of God in the Old Testament? 

While these questions are difficult to answer, there are answers.  And while we may not have perfect understanding in our answers, that does NOT mean there are not good answers for the questions. One thought about such questions is that the difficulties reside in our limited human understanding.  WE try to relate things related to God in terms of humanity.  We cannot do that with complete accuracy, but we must try – both to give answers to the critics and to ourselves for the sake of our own faith.

With these thoughts in mind, tonight as we conclude our study of God, we want to briefly answer some of the difficult questions asked about God as we find Him in the Bible.  Tonight we will focus on 3 questions: 1) Why is there evil in the world? 2) Why does God allow suffering? 3) Why did God command Israel to utterly destroy the Amalekites? (Why did He command such harsh treatment of enemies including the innocent?)

 I.                    Why is there evil in the world?

a.        As we begin we emphasize that God does not commit evil nor does He tempt us to (James 1:13).  In fact, He hates evil in its every form.   Evil cannot approach Him, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).  So as evil exists in this world, why does God allow it? 

b.       The question of God and evil is sometimes directed against His power or His goodness.  Some reason that if God could not stop evil then He is not all powerful and if he can stop evil but will not then He is not good.  This is the arguments of skeptics!  But is it valid?

c.        Understand the origin of evil – Satan

                                                   i.      What is evil? In its simplest definition it is that which is bad or malicious. 

Evil has been described as the absence of good. In the same way that darkness is the absence of light, and cold is the absence of heat. 

When God created this world it was good.  6 times in Genesis 1 we read the phrase, “God saw that it was good” and in vs. 31 it says, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was VERY good.  So the evening and the morning were the sixth day”. 

                                                  ii.      There is debate as to whether or not God created evil.  (Cf. Isa. 45:7 – KJV says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” But most other versions use the word “calamity” which is a plausible meaning, especially considering the context.)
That is a question that I cannot answer with certainty or complete understanding.

                                                iii.      But this I do know - Satan introduced that which is evil (i.e.NOT good) to this world when he tempted Eve and Adam(Gen. 3:1-7) ).  AND the reason man is susceptible to it is because he CHOSE to accept it.  They sinned and as a result this world is cursed (Rom. 5:12-19). 
Friends, this is what we inherit from Adam – the CONSEQUENCES of sin, not HIS sins.

d.       So why does evil exist?

                                                   i.      Because God ALLOWS it to exist!  But with reason.  We cannot fully comprehend the reason for this and that is why we must be careful before we accuse Him.  Isa. 55:8-9 tells us that His thoughts are not our thoughts nor are His ways our ways.

                                                  ii.      Because man is a free moral agent.  It is important that we understand this.
If there were no evil (either moral or physical) in this world, we would not have choice.   But there is, and every time man faces it.  He must choose between right and wrong. 
God could have created us without the ability or need to make choices, but God wanted someone who would serve Him because he WANTED to, not because he had to. 
He wanted one who would truly LOVE him and not by force, cf. 1 John 4:19, 1 Peter 1:6-8.
That is why in the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve a CHOICE WITH consequences based upon the choice he made (Gen. 2:16-17).  This choice has continued to this day with every person of accountable age.  
Since the garden, the Bible has continually offered man the CHOICE of obeying God or disobeying Him – Joshua 24:15, 1 Kings 18:21, “How long will you falter between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him”, Rom. 6:16, etc.
Being free moral agents we will determine our own destiny based upon the choices we make.  God doesn’t force us to do anything. 

                                                iii.      Because man CHOOSES to sin! Evil continues to exist because man continues to participate in it (i.e. sin). John 3:19 says that men loved darkness rather than light.  Friends, the overwhelming majority of evil is produced by the choices of men.

e.       God DOES prevent some evil!

                                                   i.      In many ways God has done things to prevent evil.

                                                  ii.      He has given us a conscience – which convicts us to do the right thing, unless we damage it.

                                                iii.      He has given us the gospel - A guide designed to improve this world in every way.

                                                iv.      He sent Jesus to this earth – He sent His only begotten Son into this evil world (John 3:16) to live, suffer and die so that we can overcome evil.  Jesus faced the hardships, temptations, humiliation, poverty, inconveniences of life, and many other things FOR US! We CANNOT say that He does not understand: Jesus lived it for us!
For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself...” (Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos? New York: Harcourt, Brace and Col, 1949, p. 4) [1]

                                                  v.      He has promised us help – Matthew 10:28-30, 1 Cor. 10:13, etc.

                                                vi.       Who knows when He does intervene?  Throughout history, He has intervened – in the Bible you have the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Babylon destroyed, the fall of Israel, the Fall of Rome (foretold), etc.  I shudder to think what this world would be like IF GOD did not have the power to control all things!

f.         Let us understand that the existence of evil does NOT limit the power of God nor does it make Him uncaring!  When we understand evil and how to overcome it, it causes us to better appreciate God.

g.        Finally, evil is not eternal – there will come a time when evil will be destroyed. 

 

 II.                  Why does God allow suffering?

a.        The answer is related to evil in this world.

                                                   i.      Both evil and suffering are products of the sin of Adam.  When Adam sinned and was punished, the earth was cursed (Gen. 3:17).  The suffering in this world is a product of that curse.

                                                  ii.      Much of the sufferings we face is directly related to sinful behaviors – sometimes the consequences of our own sinful behavior but at other times the result of the sinful behavior of others.  For the Christian, it might even be the chastisement of God (Heb. 12:5-8, Deut. 8:5).   While not always so, at time even birth defects and disasters are the results of men behaving badly.

b.       Like evil, suffering actually can produce many good results

                                                   i.       It can humble us.  Suffering in this life often helps us realize how helpless we really are.  That can cause us to turn to God.  2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

                                                  ii.      Suffering can also build our character - James 1:2-4, Rom. 5:3-5

                                                iii.      It can cause us to turn to Him or back to Him – There are many examples in scripture of trials and tribulations causing some to become closer to God – Joseph in prison, Jonah in the fish, the blindness of Saul’s (Paul) (Acts 9) and don’t forget the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-18.

                                                iv.      It can encourage us to become “other worldly” – if there were no suffering, why would we want to leave this world?  Difficulties and disappointments in this life keep us from becoming too attached.  2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

                                                  v.      It can bring out our best and cause us to appreciate what we do have.

c.        Why does God allow the godly to suffer? 

                                                   i.      Many obey the gospel (or repent and turn back to Him) thinking their troubles will go away.  But quite often, instead of making life easier, their life becomes more challenging in many ways.  This causes some to turn away from God (Cf. Luke 8:13 – the stony soil) disenfranchised. 
People often ask, especially Christians, “Why me?” Often this is a response to misdirection, such as the health and wealth gospel (i.e. “God wants to bless you”).  Consider this, “Why not me?”  But know that you CAN handle what happens if you put your trust in Him.

                                                  ii.      BUT, if the godly truly understand and LOVE God, suffering makes them stronger.  True Christians are best equipped to handle suffering and tragedy.

                                                iii.      What if God exempted the godly from suffering?  Would not more come to Him, but not out of love but for self-serving motives.

                                                iv.      Again, as Christians we get help handling it - 1 Cor. 10:13, Matt. 11:28-30

d.       How much suffering should God allow?

                                                   i.      Most of us accept that there is going to be a certain amount of evil and suffering in this world.  But our problem usually arises when we or others are affected by it in a way that we view excessive.  (i.e. natural disasters, innocent suffering, etc.)  Isn’t that the REAL issue with us?  Isn’t that when we begin to blame God and become angry at Him?

                                                  ii.      THOUGHT: How do we know how much suffering is the right amount to allow?

                                                iii.      Let us be careful before we question God!  Don’t blame Him! Romans 9:19-24, “…Who are you to reply against God?  Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’…”

                                                iv.      He is a sovereign God which means He can do what He wants to do!  However consider that:

1.       We KNOW that He loves us – John 3:16, etc.

2.       We DON’T know what IS best

3.       We don’t know His motives - Isa. 55:8-9, “My way and thoughts are not yours.

4.       Realize that while He cares for each of us, He also has the overall scheme of the world and His plans to consider.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

5.       He is in control and WILL win! 1 John 4:4 says, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 

                                                  v.      Romans 11:33, says, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and His ways past finding out.  ‘For who knows the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?  Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?’  For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever.  Amen.”

                                                vi.      It is in trusting Him that we find our real hope! Proverbs 3:5-6  says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”  Do you trust Him?

e.       Finally, consider 2 Peter 3:9 which says He does not want anyone to perish (also Ezek. 33:11, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.”).   God wants what is best for us and He wants to save us.  For example: Consider how when disaster strikes it usually drives man toward God. 

 

 III.                Why did God command the utter destruction of the Amalekites?

a.        A question about genocide that included the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15: 1-3),but could also include the Canaanites (which included at least 7 nations – Deut. 7:1-5), Sodom and Gomorrah, the flood, etc. and other acts, whether by divine act or divine command, which called for the utter destruction of these nations, including those supposedly innocent.  Critics of God and His word question His goodness because of such commands.

b.       Reminder – again, be careful in questioning God!  We don’t know all the facts of these incidents and don’t have the ability to know them.

c.        Were the Amalekites and Canaanites really innocent?  NO! 

                                                   i.      Concerning the Canaanites, Abraham was to be sent to Egypt for 400 years because the their wickedness had not yet reached a point to which they deserved to be destroyed.
Genesis 15:13–16, says, “…16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
Also, Deuteronomy 20:16–18 they were to remove the nations there, “lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the Lord your God.”  The Canaanites were NOT innocent people.  History records their pagan religion with its immorality, their CRUELTY, utter destruction to THEIR enemies, etc.    Is it possible that their punishment was actually, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”?

                                                  ii.      The Amalekites were condemned because of their own actions against God and Israel.  We are given some specific details of their sins -
1 Samuel 15:2–3 says, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’

Deuteronomy 25:17–19, “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, 18 how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. 19 Therefore it shall be, when the Lord your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.
The point is that the Amalekites were NOT at all innocent. 

                                                iii.      Other examples of corruption include Sodom and Gomorrah and the pre-diluvian world which were also judged for their wickedness, but the difference is their Judgment was more directly the hand of God.  But the reason for destruction is the same – they were NOT innocent!

d.       They were given opportunity to repent. 

                                                   i.      Example: The book of Jonah was written to warn the city of Nineveh as it was developing into what would become the Assyrian Empire.  As a result of God’s warning, they repented with sackcloth and ashes.  But it did not last.

                                                  ii.      Could it be possible that in Canaan there were prophets of God who warned the people?  What happened during the 400 years from Abraham to their inheritance?  Consider Joshua 2:8–11 when Rahab hid the 2 spies, “Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 9 and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.”
This text points out that they HAD been warned.  Certainly they had opportunity to repent.

                                                iii.      When Abraham & Isaac dwelt in Canaan did the people know that Jehovah God blessed them (Gen. 12:1-3, cf. Gen. 21:22-23, 26:28, etc.). 
Righteous Lot dwelt in Sodom (2 Peter 2:7).
Noah preached to a condemned world while preparing the ark.

e.       What about the children and those who were innocent?  If we are speaking of infants and young children, know that even though they died, God would take care of their souls. 

f.         A lesson in divided loyalties.  Many of God’s laws to Israel really don’t make logical sense – don’t wear mixed garments, breed mixed animals, sow fields with mixed seed (Deut. 22:9-11, Lev. 19:19).  But they DO teach a lesson in distinction and separation! See 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.  God DEMANDS loyalty to Him.  The destruction of the ungodly is a warning to serve Him with your whole heart or face the same!

g.        One final thought: Why is this world in such a depraved state?  Why are nations becomingly increasingly ungodly? (Psalm 2:1-2)  I contend one reason is because we do not deal harshly enough with crime and disorder.  We defend criminals and let them go on technicalities.  We tolerate mischief in our communities.  We have watered down accountability! Instead of swift and appropriate punishment we want to “counsel them” and “build up their self-esteem”.  (That way they can become confident criminals – TT)  And our prisons are too comfortable.  They are not places that people dread returning to.  In some cases prisoners have better conditions and benefits than struggling families trying to do the right thing.  What kind of deterrent is that?
 Society has failed to teach our children the need for real morality and respect for authority.  The result is a corrupt society that is getting worse and worse.  I am convinced that the world can only tolerate so much evil before it spews it out! History reveals this.  Friends the solution is NOT to just slap someone on the wrist.  Murderers need to be put to death! (Rom. 13, Gen. 9:5-6 – God’s law after the flood, Lev. 24:21, etc.) It needs to be done swiftly, Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
Num 35:33-34, which is addressing intentional murder, advocated putting the guilty to death, “So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. Therefore do not defile the land which you inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.'"
Criminals need swift and appropriate punishments that will DETER future misconduct.  Stealing in some places, used to result in the loss of a hand.  Other crimes resulted in the loss of other body parts.  While I am not necessarily advocating such, I do believe we coddle our criminals and reward their bad behavior.

h.       I realize that being human, we make mistakes in our judgments and often let the wicked go and occasionally punish the innocent.  But that is no excuse to do nothing. 
But GOD DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES!  His solution, with perfect knowledge was designed to preserve the righteous and remove the wicked. 

i.         The failure of Israel to destroy both the Canaanites and the Amalekites resulted in their eventual downfall as they adopted the very corrupt ways God wanted them to avoid.  IT seems to me that God KNEW WHAT HE WAS TALKING ABOUT!  DON’T QUESTION HIS ACTIONS!

 

As we study about God and the Bible, there are difficulties and concepts we may not understand.  But that does not mean there are not good answers that keep the goodness of God intact.  We do know that regardless of what happens, if we are faithful to Him, when we leave this life we will NOT have to deal with such problems anymore.  So instead of letting such problems drive you away from God, let them bring them TO HIM!  That IS His desire!  Think about it!



[1] McDowell, J., & Stewart, D. D. (1993). Answers to tough questions. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.