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Evil from the Hand of God?: “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” – Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

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Evil from the Hand of God?:

“Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?”

Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

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“What?  Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”

Job 2:10

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Cause if I never had a problem

I wouldn’t know that He could solve them

I wouldn’t know what faith in His Word could do.

-Andre Crouch, gospel singer and songwriter-

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CO-9-1-13

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Job Under Pressure

The patience of Job [1] was evident in his response to his wife’s despairing counsel: “What?  Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” [2]  The divinely inspired account reads that “in all this did not Job sin with his lips.” [3]  Job’s rhetorical question to his wife justified God in the face of great personal calamity while identifying the Almighty as the one who authorized the calamity.  In allowing evil to impact Job’s entire family, and Job himself personally,  God addressed Satan’s accusatory challenge, namely (1) that God was overly protective of Job, and (2) that Job was obeying God strictly on the basis of self-interest. [4]  This occurred, of course, against the historical backdrop of Satan’s having gained earthly advantage by prompting the disobedience of the first man and his wife. [5]  Job had such confidence in the promised Redeemer that he knew God would ultimately triumph in his life and circumstances.

For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. [6]

But even if the circumstances had not changed during his earthly pilgrimage, his faith in God was further reflected in his statement that “though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” [7]

Satan Under Judgment

As the accuser of the brethren, Satan is ramping up his program in the world, for he “knoweth that he hath but a short time.” [8]  As Luther wrote (and we sing), “For lo, his doom is sure: One little word shall fell him.” [9]  In his epic poem Paradise Lost John Milton depicted  Satan’s motive in the expression “Evil be thou my good!” which prompted Lucifer’s fall from celestial heights. [10]  Reflecting on the motive issue, “the first American philosopher” [11] stated,

. . . if a temper inclined to the misery of being in general prevailed universally, it is apparent, it would tend to universal misery.  But he that loves a tendency to universal misery, in effect loves a tendency to his own misery. . . But if men loved hatred to being in general, they would in effect love the hatred of themselves. [12]

God, in judging the ancient serpent, therefore, is simply about to give this fallen celestial being the object upon which he has set his affections. [13]  And God, in allowing us as believing Christians to “receive evil at His hand,” is allowing us but a small taste of what we chose with Adam as our primal representative.  The fact that our natural inclinations mirror Adam’s fateful choice, [14] for Jonathan Edwards, substantiated the fact that Adam truly represented us in the Fall. [15]

Sinners Under Grace

But it is equally true that Jesus Christ represented us in bearing our sins in his own body on the tree. [16]  As Christian believers, accordingly, we are in the process of becoming conformed to the image of Christ. [17]  And Satan’s doom is as sure as our ultimate triumph, for “as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” [18]

We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.. . . O death, where is thy sting?  Where grave thy victory?  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory though our Lord Jesus Christ. [19]

Satan’s motive is pervasively evil.  God, in permitting Satan to bring calamity into a believer’s life, does so with a motive to His own glory and to the believer’s ultimate good. [20]  The believer’s  sanctification depends upon it. [21]  “Cause if I never had a problem, I’d never know that He could solve them.  I’d never know what faith in His Word would do.” [22]  And if I never had a problem, I might never come out of my frequent hiding, cry out to God, and repent of my accumulated sins![23]  Gospel musicians Bill Pearce and Dick Anthony encouraged such repentance calling us to a heavenly perspective with Norman J. Clayton’s famous hymn:

If we could see beyond today

As God can see,

If all the clouds should roll away,

The shadows flee;

O’er present griefs we would not fret,

Each sorrow we would soon forget,

For many joys are waiting yet

For you and me.

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Endnotes

[1]. James 5:11

[2]. Job 2:10

[3]. Job 2:10

[4]. “Indeed the saints rejoice in their interest in God, and that Christ is theirs; and so they have great reason: but this is not the first spring of their joy.  They first rejoice in God as glorious and excellent in himself, and then secondarily rejoice in it, that so glorious a God is theirs. . . But that which is the true saint’s superstructure is the hypocrites’s foundation.” Jonathan Edwards, Treatise on Religious Affections, Works, 1:277 as quoted in David C. Brand’s Profile of the Last Puritan: Jonathan Edwards. Self-Love, and the Dawn of the Beatific, p. 68.

[5]. Rom. 5:12; 1 John 4:3; 5:19

[6]. Job 19:25; Heb. 2:14

[7]. Job 13:15

[8]. Rev. 12:10-12

[9]. From Luther’s hymn: “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”

[10]. John Milton 1961, The Portable Milton, 314

[11]. In The Story of Philosophy, p. 365, Will Durant recognized Jonathan Edwards, the famous eighteenth-century pastor at Northampton, Massachusetts, who later became President of the College of New Jersey, as “the first American philosopher.”

[12]. Jonathan Edwards, Nature of True Virtue, Works, 1:141

[13]. Rev. 20:10

[14]. Compare 1 John 2:16 with Genesis 3:6.

[15]. See Edwards’ Great Doctrine of Original Sin Defended.

[16]. Rom. 5:6-21

[17]. Cor. 3:18

[18]. 1 Cor. 15:49

[19]. 1 Cor. 15:51b-52; 55-57

[20]. 1 Cor. 10:13; Rom. 8:28-39

[21]. 1 Pet. 4:1-2

[22]. From the hymn “Through It All” by Andre Crouch

[23]. Job 40:4; 42:3-6; Matt. 6:12; 1 John 1:8-10

 

Sources

Brand, David C. 1991.  Profile of the Last Puritan: Jonathan Edwards, Self-Love, and the Dawn of the Beatific.  American Academy of Religion Academy Series, edited by Susan Thistlethwaite. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

Durant, Will. 1926. The Story of Philosophy. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc.

Edwards, Jonathan. 1879. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, A.M., rev. & ed., Edward Hickman, 2 vols. 12th edition. London: William Tegg & Co.

Geneva Bible. 1560.  www.genevabible.org/Geneva.html

http://tractleague.com

The Holy Bible. 1611 Edition. King James Version. New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Milton, John. [1949] 1961. Paradise Lost. In The Portable Milton, ed and intro. Douglas Bush. New York: Viking Press.

www.allthe lyrics.com

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About the Writer

David Clark Brand is a retired pastor and educator with missionary experience in Korea and Arizona.  He and his wife reside in Ohio.  They have four grown children and seven grandchildren.  With a B.A. in the Liberal Arts, an M. Div., and a Th.M. in Church History, Dave continues to enjoy study and writing.  One of his books, a contextual study of the life and thought of Jonathan Edwards, was published by the AmericanAcademy of Religion via Scholars Press in Atlanta.

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