Basket of Figs

Published 2001-09

Bud Powell

Trinity Covenant RCUS, Colorado Springs

 

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Judgment, or Mercy?

 

 

"Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?  Will a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey?  Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he has caught nothing?  Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth, where there is no trap for it?  Will a snare spring up from the earth, if it has caught nothing at all?  If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid?  If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?"  --Amos 3:3-6

 

I do not profess to know the purposes and the counsels of God, but I do believe that the Scriptures are the word of God, and it is there that we find what can be known of Him.  I have been wrong many times about the Bible—which is my fault, not God’s.  Therefore, I am loath to join the chorus that would proclaim the events of this past week a judgment from God.

 

God does not willingly afflict nor grieve the children of men, according to Lamentations 3.  Jeremiah does not say that God doesn’t afflict them, nor does he say that He doesn’t grieve men, but that it is not something that He delights in.  God is not a sadist who delights in roasting men over the fires of hell.  There is a hell and God will certainly judge the wicked, but that is not His first work nor the one that He delights in.  I know that, because the Bible says so.  Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem because of the judgment that would come upon it and Jesus reveals to us what is the heart of God, although He spoke many hard words and foretold terrible judgments.

 

There is a great mystery concerning the origin of sin and presence of evil.  There is a mystery of iniquity and there is also a mystery concerning God’s punishment of sin.  Even more there is mystery concerning God’s patience with His people.

 

Amos says that things have a reason.  A lion does not roar without a reason and a bird does not fall without a reason.  Men cannot walk with God unless they agree with God and that is the reason for all of our problems.  Our great problem is idolatry—our fancy that God is like us—that He is as petty and vindictive as we are. Or that He is like us in sentimental relativism and emotional sloppiness.  Neither is true. I cannot explore the measure of His patience and longsuffering, nor can I explore the measure of His love and grace.  It would be convenient for America if He would rally to our side and zap all Muslims of whatever nationality.  Then we would not have to repent of our sins, or become serious about finding out what sort of God the Living God is.

 

There is no question that our sins are great before God.  The slaughter of innocent babies by the abortion industry, the blasphemy from our pulpits, the mockery of righteous faith by our clowns, the transgression of the laws of morality and decency are everywhere.

 

Could God have prevented those miserable men from flying planes loaded with men and women and children into the Trade Center?  Of course.  He didn’t prevent it, and there is a reason He did not prevent it, and that reason is a good and loving one.  We do not live in a stinking world where nothing makes sense, but in a world that has its very being in God.

 

I am certain that everything comes to pass through the agency of God, because we are commanded to give thanks to Him for all things.  I do not know how He insulates Himself from the evil of an action.  I suspect that it is because He turns even the greatest evil to good for His own glory.  Satan has no power but that which comes from God.  Evil men cannot even blaspheme without the breath that God gives them and the intelligence that He gives them to string intelligible sentences together.   The sin of those who crucified Christ was very great, but the death of Christ was in the purpose and plan of God from the foundation of the world.  I do not know how all of this fits together, but I am sure that it does.  God has a reason for all things that come to pass and that reason is good and kind.  We must not measure Him by our measures.

 

Our relationship with our Creator is never mechanical—never according to formula and ceremony.  It is always personal, because God is true living and almighty God.  He cannot deny Himself, nor can He do or think an evil thing.  His purposes are not known to us, except as they are revealed in the Bible.  Beyond the Bible we must lay our hands upon our mouths and justify Him in our hearts.  Can the clay say to the potter, “Why hast thou made me thus?”  Who are we to talk back to God and sass Him?

 

Because of His promise that all things exist in goodness and wisdom, we as Christians have the promise that we can overcome evil with good, because there is no evil that does not proceed from the goodness and graciousness of the Lord.  There is good to be found in all things.  It was an evil thing when Stephen was stoned in Jerusalem, but from that awful crime came the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and the establishment of Christianity.  We bow before the manifold wisdom of God and submit to His Providence and grace.  This means that we must reject all thoughts of revenge and wrath, for God has reserved vengeance for Himself.  He will judge the world, but He does not need our help.  We have a different function, to do good to all men, especially to those of the household of faith.

 

I know that God earnestly and sincerely desires fellowship with men.  He would walk with us in restored fellowship and love.  But He cannot deny Himself, and He cannot walk with us unless we agree with Him.  He will not and cannot change.  We have been created to know and love Him, and Christians have been predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

 

Was the bombing of the World Trade Center a wake-up call for America?  Yes, indeed.  Maybe God is not through with America yet.  Maybe He will send us through the fires that we might be refined as gold.  Something of that has already happened.  The nation was called to prayer and millions responded.  Yes, many prayers were defective and were not offered in the name of Jesus.  But it is better to pray than not to pray and those who truly seek will find, for mysterious are the ways of God.  He would call all of men to seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us. [Acts 17:27]  He delights in prayer and often answers the prayers of all kinds of men, for He is the savior of all men, especially those who believe.  It is foolish to state that God only hears the prayers of true Christians, for the Bible refutes it.  He heard Cain and He heard Ahab. 

 

I take comfort in the fact that during these days Americans did not shake their fist in the face of God.  Yes, believers have much work yet to be done.  If a right spirit is renewed within us as the people of God, if we weep with those who weep, if we refrain from abusing men with our lips, but weep over the fallen, maybe God will yet hear and heal our nation.

 

At another time in Israel’s history, God spoke through his prophet Isaiah.  It was a time when truth had fallen in the street and equity could not enter.  God “wondered” that there was no intercessor, so God Himself promised that He would take their case in hand,  “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”  [Is. 59:19]

 

The conflict is spiritual and will be won by spiritual means, not by bombs and science.  Palpable, spiritual, fanatical evil cannot be overcome by carnal means.  We will prevail by God’s grace and by the power of God’s Spirit, or we will not prevail at all.  Nor should we want to prevail by evil.  If we prevail by carnal means it will be only to erect a carnal kingdom that may very well be as bad as the enemy we fight.  God’s kingdom lives in the hearts of His people, and it is in the hearts of men that we must prevail, God willing.  If we do not prevail there, it may very well be that a new darkness will descend upon the world.  We pray for men of wisdom and faith to lead us in the critical days ahead.  Most of all, in our pulpits.  There has never been a time in my lifetime when there was such an opportunity to show the love of God against the background of evil and destruction.

 

In mercy, God has gotten our attention.

 

May God bless you, friends, and may God bless America.

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.  Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.  –Romans 12:14,15.

“Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”  --Romans 12:21. 

 

But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”  --Romans 5:20.

 

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