Monday, December 17, 2012

God on Trial

It’s interesting that our society only invokes God to bring Him to trial following a tragedy.

Consider these three witnesses from the oldest book in the Bible:
  • “Then Job answered...‘He bruises me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without it right for You indeed to oppress, to reject the labor of Your hands, and to look favorably on the schemes of the wicked...God has wronged me and has closed His net around God lives, Who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, Who has embittered my soul’” (Job 9:1,17; 10:3; 19:6; 27:2, NASB unless otherwise noted).
  • “Then Elihu continued and said, ‘Do you think this is according to justice? Do you say, “My righteousness is more than God’s”?’” (Job 35:1,2).
  • “Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm and said, ‘Now gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you, and you instruct Me. Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?’” (Job 40:6-8).
There is nothing new under the sun. God will not be brought to judgment in your tribunal of public discourse and vain opinion (especially when the result is a golden calf named “god” who is not god enough to stop the tragedy but is god enough to be judged culpable by you). The time to suddenly theologize is not in the aftermath of the nightmare; that is the time when we stand on the solid rock of our consistent confession and theology. The ones to consult to build this theology that will sustain us when our worlds are ripped to shreds are not those who disregard the Word He has given us for the full revelation of Himself; the place where true confession and theology is found is where His Word is lifted up, meditated upon, prayed, sung, taught, and lived together in the covenant community of faith in Jesus Christ, His Church (this is why the early Church had a regular diet of the Psalms [1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19], where we learn to grieve and cry out to God from God the Holy Spirit Himself). The true Church alone is “the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), not the soapbox of human opinion and confused consensus.

Hear the message of every horrifying tragedy: repent, for a day is coming for every one of us. “Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’” (Luke 13:1-5).

He will not be judged by us. We will be judged by Him in perfect righteousness through His Son Jesus Christ, Who is also the only Way to salvation from that judgment:
  • “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them...‘the Father...has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life’” (John 5:19,22-24).
  • “Opening his mouth, Peter said: ‘I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One Who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins’” (Acts 10:34,35,38-43).
  • “So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens...the God Who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us...we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man...having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man Whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead’” (Acts 17:22,24-27,29-31).
I grieve with you, but am not surprised. I believe the Bible’s testimony about the wickedness in the human heart. I also believe in the only solution to this reality: “...this whole world lieth in wickedness. But we know that that Son of God is come, and hath given us a mind to know Him which is true, and we are in Him that is true, that is, in that His Son Jesus Christ, the same is that very God, and that eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:19b-21, Geneva Bible).

Let us learn the lesson with Job and share his final confession, the one that does not try to bring God before the court of human “fairness,” but recognizes Him as sole and only Sovereign in all things, not just in the aftermath of the unthinkable manifestation of the always-present human evil, but every day of our lives to His glory: “Then Job answered the LORD and said, ‘I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. “Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.” I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes’” (Job 42:1-6). Here, where we cease to claim before Him that we deserve better (this is a truly spiritual place, the last place we will go in our natural selves), is where we will find a lasting peace in the comfort given in Christ alone. "...the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful" (John 14:26,27). This is true life in His Church, where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, blessed Trinity, speaks His Word of supernatural and eternal peace to His people in the midst of a world where wickedness will not be defeated by human effort or law.

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