Posts Tagged With: Isaiah 55:8-9

Life Is Not Fair, but God Is Good

“Are You not from everlasting,
O Lord, my God, my Holy One?
We will not die.
You, O Lord, have appointed them to judge;
And You, O Rock, have established them to correct.
Your eyes are too pure to approve evil,
And You can not look on wickedness with favor.
Why do You look with favor
On those who deal treacherously?
Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up
Those more righteous than they?” (Habakkuk 1:12–13; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Life is unfair and can bring doubt and grief, but God is still good and just. Image by Victoria Borodinova from Pixabay.

The Bible and Judeo-Christian tradition make bold statements about God. We believe that He is always present, all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, unchanging, holy, righteous, merciful, loving, and good. He is perfect in all of these attributes.

However, we see the world He created and governs, and things do not seem right. Wicked rulers enslave millions of people through violence, fear, and corruption. A global pandemic strikes down good people who are taking necessary precautions to protect themselves and others, while violent rioters burn buildings and loot businesses without catching a sniffle. A head-on automobile collision kills a careful driver and his passengers, while the drunk driver who was speeding the wrong way down a highway staggers away uninjured.

Life is not fair. Injustice exists everywhere. It can be easy to doubt God when bad things happen.

This dilemma is ancient. Even the authors of Scripture struggled with it at times. Abraham, the father of the faith, once asked God, “Shall not the judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25). The prophet Habakkuk uttered the prayer at the beginning of this post while the Babylonians were ravaging the nation of Judah. He understood that the Jews had sinned against God and deserved some kind of judgment. However, the violence he saw seemed to be much worse than they deserved. Furthermore, they were suffering at the hands of the Babylonians, who were more wicked than the Israelites or Jews had ever been.

“God, do You have any idea what you are doing? Do You think this is right or fair? Where are You in this mess?” Do we not all pray like this at times? Throughout the ages, people have asked the same questions: How can a good, holy, righteous, and loving God allow wickedness and evil to prevail? How can such a God use evil people or events to judge His children or otherwise accomplish His will?

These questions continue to nag us, and people have answered the question in three ways.

First, some people conclude that there is no God. For them, there is no conflict. They believe that the universe is not governed by a supremely intelligent being; rather, impersonal natural laws of physics govern the universe. We are merely the random products of billions of years of chemical reactions that led to organic matter, then to living organisms, which eventually evolved into more complex life forms, including humans. In such a universe, right and wrong are merely human concepts, not objective realities. You cannot say “Bad things happen to good people,” because bad and good are just matters of opinion, not facts.

A second solution to this dilemma suggests that God (or several gods) exists, but He/she/they is/are imperfect. Rabbi Harold S. Kushner shared this view in his 1981 bestselling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. He proposed that God exists and is good and loving but not all-powerful. He might want to heal your horrible disease but cannot do it. Similar worldviews state that God is less-than-perfect in some other way. Maybe He is not perfectly loving or just. Perhaps there are several gods, all of whom are imperfect. Ancient polytheistic tales like the myths of ancient Greece or the Middle East give this perspective. For example, in the ancient Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, a hero named Utnapishtim builds a large ship to save part of humanity during a global flood (similar to the biblical story of Noah). At the end of the flood, Utnapishtim offers sacrifices to the gods, who gather to ravenously receive the offering. One capricious deity had forgotten that all of the gods need to be fed by sacrifices offered by humans, and the other gods and goddesses were not able to stop him.

The response of faith holds that God is perfect, but His ways are beyond our full understanding. In the words of Isaiah:

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

God is perfect. He is all-powerful, holy, just, and loving. When things do not seem to be going right, He is still in control. We may not understand what He is doing, but He knows exactly what He is doing or allowing.

If He does not fully judge evil in this world, He will do so at the final judgment. Although evil men may get away with their crimes in this life, God will hold them to account. We may not see it in this world, but God’s justice will come to fruition.

We will continue to see or experience things that tempt us to doubt God’s goodness or perfection. Do not fear. He will make all things right in His time. Life is not fair, but God is good all the time. Let us continue to trust Him even when circumstances tempt us to ask questions.

Life is not fair, but God is good. Have you struggled with this idea in your own life? How has it played out for you? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Omniscience: God Knows All

“Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure…’” (Isaiah 46:8–10; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Several posts over recent months have looked at some of God’s majestic attributes, including the Bible’s teaching that He is all-powerful (omnipotent), sovereign (He rules over all creation), and eternal. Many of the Bible verses that speak of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty tell us that He is all-knowing, or omniscient. Isaiah 46 tells us that God’s purpose will be established because He declares the end from the beginning. In other words, God already knows how everything will turn out, so He can tell us what will happen before it happens. He can accomplish whatever He plans to do, because He knows what will happen next. If He does “a,” He knows “b” will happen next. Even if I do what I think is unexpected (let’s call that “c”), He is not caught off guard and is prepared to do “d” so that His will comes out at the end. We are not going to outwit God. He will not be outsmarted.

NASA-HS201427a-HubbleUltraDeepField2014-20140603God knows all, even the number of all the stars. Photo by NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

This creates a paradox. If God knows all, is He responsible for everything? Is He responsible for evil? Does this mean that He is responsible for sin? Isn’t it really His fault if somebody becomes a drug addict, prostitute, child abuser, rapist, etc., since He knew this would happen before they were born? Isn’t it His fault that I committed that sin? Isn’t the COVID-19 pandemic all His fault?

The list goes on. Some people reject faith in God because they have trouble figuring out how God can be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving while the world seems to be going totally insane.

On the subject of sin, Scripture is clear: even though God is all-knowing and all-powerful, He is not the cause of sin:

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (James 1:13–14).

I will not try to address every question about this paradox. Such questions—How God can be all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good, yet still allow evil to occur—fall into the realm of mysteries. There are things about God that we cannot understand. They are far beyond human comprehension and, at that point, we simply have to trust Him:

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

Human wisdom cannot answer some questions. We probably have a better chance of standing on our tiptoes to touch the moon than we have of figuring out all of the mysteries about God. Although we cannot understand them, though, what we can grasp can give us confidence and comfort as we trust in Him.

We might make decisions and plans with the best of intentions. Even so, we may fail. Even with our best intentions and planning, we may encounter the unexpected. Somebody may do something we did not expect, and the entire plan falls apart. However, God is not caught off-guard. He knows what He plans to do and how we may try to avoid His will. Nobody will outsmart Him.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

[If you do not have a place to worship, please visit my church at http://live.intercessorchurch.com; services stream at 9:30 and 11:30 AM on Sundays, 12:00 noon on weekdays, and 6:00 PM Saturday evening (all times ET).]

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Majestic Attributes, Omniscience | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Eternal God: Over All, But Near to All

“Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:13–14; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version).

The letters in the middle are the Hebrew letters “YHWH,” the Old Testament name of God. Photo by Ulf Carlbark, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

In our previous post, we saw that the covenant name of God reminds us that He is self-existent and eternal. Nothing else created Him, He owes His existence to no other entity or force, and He will always exist. Because of this, He is sovereign over all things.

Theologians associate this aspect of God’s nature with something they call His transcendence: The fact that He is over all things and beyond normal human comprehension:

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

Some Bible teachers think this transcendence contradicts another of God’s qualities, His immanence. This quality reminds us that God is everywhere and is especially close to His people. He is always with us. Jesus reminded His disciples of this shortly before His ascension:

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18–20).

Some people think these qualities do not go together; they think it is impossible for God to be transcendentally above from His creation, yet immanently close to His people. However, these qualities address different aspects of His nature. It would be like saying that I am six feet tall and a guitar player; one attribute describes physical qualities, while the other describes a personal interest. Likewise, God’s transcendence is a function of His power and glory. His immanence is a function of His love. They are separate qualities, but they are aspects of His singular nature.

Because God is eternal, transcendent, and immanent, He is sovereign over all creation. He is sovereign over all the world. Moses learned this at the burning bush and in the months that followed. YHWH was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Israelites had probably passed down stories about God’s faithfulness to these three ancestors. The Lord had been their God. He remained the God of the Israelite people. Yet, throughout the chapters 4-15 of Exodus (and beyond), He showed that He was more than the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants: He was, and always will be, God over all the nations, whether they acknowledge Him or not. Egypt’s Pharaoh believed his deities were the greatest gods; in fact, he thought he was a god. The plagues described in Exodus and the departure of the Israelites from his country proved that his gods were no match for the God of Israel. The God of Israel could prove His authority over Pharaoh and his false gods. The One True God could display His authority over the most powerful nations on Earth. He can accomplish His will even when the most powerful nations in the world rage in rebellion against Him (Psalms 2:1-4).

His immanence reaches deeper. God is sovereign not only over the nations. He is sovereign over your life. Your life matters to God. You owe your existence to Him. The world might think you are an insignificant accident of evolution and history, but God orchestrated history to bring you here. He has power and authority over your life. He has a purpose for your life, which He desires to reveal to you.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

God may not have appointed you as a prophet, but He appointed you for some purpose. His will for your life is perfect. God has a perfect will, not only for the world, but for you (Romans 12:2). Those who come by faith to Jesus can find His perfect will for their lives.

Come to Jesus. He has given you life. He is the ground of your being. He is and eternal, but more importantly, He loves you, forgives you, and offers you a life far greater than you can imagine:

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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