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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Struggling with a Sovereign God

Romans 9:14-18 (ESV)
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

People want to create a God in their own image. They want Him to follow their system of right and wrong. They look at Him as if He is a man who does not know what will happen and can't do anything about it. They want Him to always be there in the good times but somehow become mysteriously absent when things go badly. They speak of God as if He has a split personality.

The concept of a sovereign God who knows all things is acknowledged but not understood. His absolute authority over all things is also acknowledged but not fully applied. Thus, the Christians claim that God has nothing to do with bad things and is fully engaged in the good. He is in power when good things happen but has no power over the bad things.

Let's face it: we are human and cannot limit God to our abilities. We can neither limit Him to our knowledge or our ability to affect our environment. Much of what happens to us comes beyond our power and without our knowledge. This is not true of God.

God is aware of every tragedy before it occurs. He could stop every evil. Yet, He doesn't do so. He knows why but we are left without that knowledge. Thus, many people try to judge God from what they can see. They lack the full knowledge of everything and have a limited ability to make any evaluation of what has been permitted.

So, many preachers tell stories which cannot connect the dots. They speak of God as if He isn't aware of what is going on. He is like those who believe erroneous stories from their emails. Therefore, He believes the stories but doesn't really know what is going on. He acts but only from the limitations put upon Him. These preachers tell stories that are convenient to their messages but do not present an all-powerful, omnipresent, omniscient, benevolent God. 

This is not how the Bible describes God. He is always loving but some of the things He permits show no love. He gives permission for Satan to hurt Job and sift Peter like wheat. He is attributed to an evil spirit coming upon Saul. These things make no sense to those who want God to pass a human ethics test.  So, they make Him unaware of the bad things and absent in the tragedies. Then, they call upon Him in prayer as if He is fully aware of all situations and able to solve all problems. 

For some reason we just can't understand why we can't understand God. We don't understand why we can't understand an infinite God with a finite mind. We search for a reason in everything that happens. We come to conclusions which may not be true but satisfy most people.

Yet, sometimes we just don't know why things happen. We don't know why God allowed Adam and Eve to sin. Why did He allow Cain to kill Able? Why didn't He stop David from sinning with Bathsheba? Why didn't He stop Herod from ordering the murder of the babies two years and younger in Bethlehem?

Sure, some stories make sense. Joseph was sold into slavery so that he would precede his family to Egypt and ultimately save them. We get this one but most of the time we don't have enough information to fully understand what God is up to.

Why can't we simply say, "I just don't know why God allowed this?" Many times this is the best answer.

We should not pick and choose when God is sovereign. We should not diminish His power or His knowledge. We must say that we know He is good and will take care of the innocent though taking care of them ultimately may not be caring for them on earth. Sometimes He takes them home with Him when we say they should have had more time on earth.

Thus, I have to come to these conclusions: I am not God. I do not have the right to judge God. He does not need my permission to do anything. I do not have to understand everything He does. I simply trust that everything that happens comes within His permission. And yet His love never fails.

So, I pray to an all-mighty, omniscient, omnipresent benevolent God. . . or I wouldn't  pray at all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes. To all of it.

Evil things happen--and God is good.

After something bad happens and people say things that indicate that God was unable to stop it or, even, unaware, I feel an instant of fear just at the thought of that.

How fearful to serve an oblivious and impotent God!

I choose to (1) believe the Bible when it says that God knows all and has all power and (2) trust that God, no matter what and (3) know that God is good.

Here's the thing: 1 John says that the world is under the control of the evil one and that Jesus came to destroy that evil.

That is why Jesus Came. To defeat evil and enable us to not succumb to that evil. We don't have to do evil. We have a power within us that will guide us into all righteousness.

Thing is, we all have free will.

Yes. God could have stopped Newtown from happening. He could have done a miracle. He could have surrounded that school with His angels. He could have caused the shooter to get in a fatal accident.

God did not do that miracle. Almost 30 people died.

Even so, the days of evil are coming to an end and

God is good.