October 10, 2015

Asking God why?

Ezekiel 21:1–22:31, Revelation 10:1–11, Job 35:1–8

In the past two weeks, I have experienced a healing, a full day of prayer, two trip plans not on the radar, three threats to the health and well-being of people I care about, and two unexpected deaths. In most of these, “God, why?” has come up. Sometimes He explains, sometimes not.

In today’s reading, God gives a long list of Israel’s sins and says what He is going to do about them. The reading ends with, “The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice. And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 22:29–31)

God looked for a man to stand in the great gap created by sin so He would not destroy sinful people. Remember, He is a perfect God and nothing that is perfect can wink at imperfection. It must be dealt with and He looked for someone to do it. Later, He would Himself supply that Man, Jesus Christ, who would not only stand in the gap, but be the Savior of the world, dying for sin and redeeming sinners for eternal life with Him.

Long before Jesus came, Job wondered how his situation could have been any worse if he had sinned against God instead of living a righteous life. His ‘friend’ Elihu says, “If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against (God)? And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him? Or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness concerns a man like yourself, and your righteousness a son of man.” (Job 35:6–8)

This response begins by saying that God isn’t affected by what we do. Others might suffer, but not God because He is transcendent (forgetting that He is also immanent). It seems Elihu is telling Job that he has no right to demand any reward for his righteousness because God is above all that. But how can Elihu reason this way after he insisted that God reacts to the sins of men by punishing and disciplining them, and to the righteousness of men by rewarding them?

Elihu doesn’t understand Job’s complaint either. This suffering man desired to see God vindicated on earth through the lives of those who are faithful to him. He didn’t believe in a God who acted capriciously, striking down people without any apparent reason, and He didn’t want others to understand God that way. While his friends concluded Job had sinned, Job knew this was not the motive behind God’s action (or lack of action), but he didn’t know why God did it either. God was not telling him.

The Bible says that faith means believing in what we cannot see. There are times in my life where I’ve wanted to understand “why” but God makes it clear that I’m to walk by faith, trusting Him even when I do not understand what He is doing. My role is to trust and obey, even if my obedience doesn’t “make life better” or seem to change anything. The reward for those He has redeemed is not necessarily in this life.

The Bible also says a day will come when God reveals all His mysteries. In the visions John saw when on the island of Patmos, he saw an angel standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. This messenger from God “swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” (Revelation 10:5–7)

In the meantime, God made it clear to John that his role was obedience. He went to the angel and took a little scroll. The angel told him to eat it, and when he did, He was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” (Revelation 10:9–11)

John saw far more than I can see yet he still wondered, but He also obeyed. I’m thinking that both of us wait for that seventh angel to blow that last trumpet.

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