Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Does God Cause Evil?
Does God cause evil? Does God condone hate and bitterness? In Isaiah 6 and 7 God tells Isaiah to prophesy about a time that is coming when there will be devastation from the King of Assyria. Why does God give this message? Could God prevent this attack on Judah?
Judah was the last remaining part of the people of Israel. The larger Northern Kingdom had already gone into exile. Judah was all that was left of the House of Israel remaining in the land. If Judah went into captivity, did that mean that God had failed? And yet that was what Isaiah seemed to be saying.
In Judah there were still high places and temples and altars to Baal and Ashtoreth. God called the king and the people to abandon other gods, and they had not done it. God called them to holiness before him, but their stubborn resistance prevented him from pouring out on them the blessings he held. They were still a stiff-necked people who wanted to go their own way. King Ahaz, too, thought he had an answer. He would make allies of Ephraim and Aram. The prophet warned him not to trust them, and he gave the king a promise that they were not the danger he should fear. But in his stubbornness he resisted God rather than the comfort that was so tempting, and the comfort betrayed him. The danger came from Assyria.
It was Assyria God used as an instrument of correction. He was ready for Israel to be subdued by a foreign power, but Assyria exceeded his intent. Judah was subdued. The inhabitants went into captivity. Did God cause evil?
God calls us to avoid sin and live in integrity and righteousness. When we don’t obey, we may face the consequences of our behavior. Sometimes we face in old age the results of a misspent youth. Diseases and disabilities may be a consequence of our own making. Sometimes we appear to have escaped the torments of the damned even though we bear unconfessed and unrepented sin, but in the dark hours of the morning the antidepressant medication will not relieve us of terrors in the mind.
Like Judah, we have a plan to skirt the problems, and like Judah, we fall before God’s judgment. Does God cause evil? Does God cause my sickness? My financial ruin? My loss of family or relationships? No! God gives us a guide to living in teaching us what is right and honorable and good and holy. We violate that at our own risk. Sometimes we suffer for the sins others commit.
God will help us endure, repent, restore, and renew. God does bring judgment, and judgment can include severe disruption in our lives. He does not cause evil, but he will use it and the results it brings to make us aware of his presence and his grace.