Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1996
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 2: Buried Truths of Origins
Chapter 4: The Fall: The Buried Truth of the Origin of Evil
Lesson 15 – Evil Under God:
Responsible Creature-Choices That Originate Evil;
God Trusted Without a Full Answer
8 Feb 1996
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We have introduced a lot of different topics that flow out of the content of Scripture. The reason this class is structured the way it is, is because I am concerned that we, as Christians, understand where we are in our culture. It’s hard to deal with an opponent that hits you from the darkness and not know where it’s coming from. We have an English teacher in our class and I have asked her to share with her some insights from her perspective as a public school teacher in the classroom. She has worked with the issue of literature. I have said language is key; God spoke the universe into existence with language. And wherever Satan can he always tries to confuse it, he tries to use words wrongly, basically he’s a liar and liars misuse language. Language is also the vehicle for ideas. Basically what’s going on is an agenda, and it’s a pretty potent agenda.
Cindy: I have been amazed at the number of things that fit into everything I learned in my college and graduate studies. I have a Masters in English and we did extensive literary criticism, and deconstructionism is a pervasive idea in the world of literary studies. What happens in the universities eventually trickles down into the high schools and to some extent the middle schools. American literary studies are completely fraught with paganism and humanism. You’re probably thinking I don’t remember American lit classes containing paganism and humanism, but if you look at the works of many dominant American writers that we study you find this is true.
The reason is that literature across the board is heavily influenced by world philosophies and sociology. We don’t think of that because we tend to think of literary studies as being character analysis, looking at the conflict of the plot in the novel, but that’s just the basis. When you get to the heart of literary studies you’re really looking at the world view that’s contained in a piece of literature. This is what you do in higher level classes, so we’re not talking about basic English; we’re talking about classes where you deal with our most intelligent, gifted children. Literary critics, those who look back on works of literature analyze text in light of various world views.
For instance, Marxist critics are totally seeped in sociological theory and look at things in terms of social construct and the economic basis of everything, looking for Marxist theory. Feminist criticism is really on the rise and feminist critics examine the treatment of women in various works of literature, look at how they’re subjected, what kinds of roles they play in literature, and obviously the end product is to see that women are downtrodden, that the patriarchy is the ruling dominance of society and how horrible that is.
In the late 60s, early 70s, deconstructionism began with a Frenchman; the deconstructionists are very interesting. They attempt to show how all language basically has no inherent true meaning, it only has meaning that we give it, and because of that any text will deconstruct itself, it will fall in upon itself because the meaning of it is relative as to who’s doing the interpretation. What happens is the heart of paganism, man creates his own order and meaning in the literature he produces. It’s ironic because we tend to look at literature as great works of art, etc., but really they are trying to validate themselves and give themselves certain meaning. That’s just the root of paganism and humanism.
It’s not just the critics that do it either. I want to take you through a brief stint of American writers you’re familiar with. What happens is that even writers hearing these world views accept them, take them into their own consciousness and produce literature that conveys all of these ideas? For example, Walt Whitman, at the heart of most of his poetry is pantheistic ideology where man and nature are one; Thoreau, Emerson, there were a whole series of transcendentalists, who did this. Walt Whitman’s greatest work, Song of Myself, is all about praising humanity and mankind, how wonderful I am.
Jack London who wrote The Call of the Wild, She Wolf, a number of books that we think are great adventure stories, but at the heart of them is Darwinism and the survival of the fittest, how things regress, they go back to their primordial nature. Ernest Hemingway considered a wonderful paragon of what America is all about, but the heart of his text is existentialism, he was part of the “lost generation” that didn’t know where to go, what was life all about, life has no meaning, what meaning can we give it, why am I existing. He wound up committing suicide.
Later texts are even worse, just filled with human fights and how wonderful that is, and supporting Christianity with Buddhist ideology, it just gets worse and worse. I had to go back to the mid 1800s to find a dominant American writer who had Christian values at the base of his literature, and that was John Green Whittier and someone like Harriet Beecher Stowe. Whittier is a poet but Stowe, even in her time, was a very popular writer, but she’s not read very widely today.
Where am I going with this? What happens is those of us who are Christian teachers in the public schools face a dilemma. How can you discuss any kind of Christian ideology or values when you’re dealing with this literature? The only thing you can do is set up something about comparative lit studies and do some comparative contrasts but even that you’re dealing with the values that the kids bring to you, unless there’s a Christian student in your classroom you can’t mention anything because teachers cannot initiate anything in the form of a religious discussion, a student has to do the initiating.
The other side of this is the student themselves, for the Christian student there’s at least that home base where they’re learning something but many students have never heard of Jesus Christ, or have no idea what He is all about or who He really was. One student, when I was talking about the question of the Holy Grail and I said something about the cup that Christ was supposed to have drank from at the Last Supper said “who’s that.” I said He’s the one who died on the cross, they put nails in His hands, and she was horrified, she’d never heard of it before. It blew my mind, and there was nothing I could do unless she said tell me more. I can’t say “let me tell you all about it.” What happens to students like that is you get a continuation in their writing that reflects the whole fruitless search of trying to find some kind of meaning in life.
Secondly, their writing reflects valueless characters and plot lines and story ideas, because they haven’t got any idea as to the difference between right and wrong. You would be amazed, we take the difference between right and wrong for granted. There are 13-year-old children who really aren’t clear on the fact that if you copy someone else’s work, that’s cheating, they’re just helping, I’m just sharing, they have no concept. Lastly is that there is an intense anger and rebellion toward Christian values and beliefs because it’s seen as something very confining. I was in a graduate class where a number of the women were lesbians, and one woman got so angry, we were talking about Christian values were being subverted in this text, she went on a tirade about being so sick of Christians …. It’s unbelievable the anger they have.
[She puts two poems on overhead that apparently students wrote] a high school student that can find no meaning in life and the ultimate conclusion he comes to is you doom yourself to wasteful thought while the universe ticks on. Obviously there was no one there to tell him what the reason was. The other one is more incredible, it’s called The Cure, and it’s obviously a boy who feels he’s homosexual because it’s sort of the “in” thing to be gay, so he starts with this little blurb that is taken from a minister’s prayer or sermon or something, and there’s this “in your face, excuse me preacher,” you can just hear the attitude as you read it. This is a teenager in who obviously has some serious issues.
Clough: I hope this was a sobering example that what we’re talking about here is not theory, don’t kiss this off. What we’re talking about is not theory; we’re talking about how the universe runs and what happens when it malfunctions and how creatures rebel against the Creator, what happens and the cause/effects. Cindy has shown us an example, and this is not a professional philosopher writing this. What you want to see is that these are students who don’t have to be professionals, they’re already bought into the world view, and they bought into it not because they sat down… and this is how ideas are translated, these students didn’t buy into this by deliberately studying a lot of the great authors.
Most of the time it’s just caught in the air, in the environment, and that’s why we as Christians can catch the viruses of paganism also. So the way you protect your brains, and your heart, against this kind of stuff is to interconnect truth. We said one of the things that Christianity gave the world was systematic theology. Why were those church creeds, like the Apostle’s Creed, created? It was to systematize thought and tie it together. So you want to learn how one Biblical idea is linked to another Biblical idea.
So we are approaching things as we go through the Bible event by event so that these events become concrete illustrations and they become anchors in your head. We dealt with creation and how creation teaches us about God, man, and nature. Now we’re looking at the fall. We showed the difference historically between how paganism treats evil and how Christianity treats evil. We said there are basically two views, the paganism starts out with this continuum, this impersonal continuum, by that we mean that the Creator/creature distinction isn’t there, that all of reality is one great mystery and inside that mystery is God, the gods, the goddesses, man, rocks, animals, plants and everything else.
So even God Himself in that case, they may use the word G-o-d, but it’s not the God we know from Scripture. That god is a god who himself is surrounded by ultimate mystery. Out of these two world views come different ideas of how evil started. The pagan answer never gave an answer for origins because the universe always was there in some form or another. The same thing happens when we start looking at the origin of evil. Ultimately there is no answer, and that’s what we tried to show by looking at an ancient pagan text and then you can come to modern Darwinianism which holds that the universe has always been in a state of struggle, there’s always been suffering, misery, it’s not “blessed is the meek for they shall inherit the earth,” it’s blessed are the fittest for they shall survive. There’s a totally different ethic involved in this picture.
But good and evil, good and evil together, are normal, and something within man is revolted by this, and this is why the existentialist, these men are furious. One of the things that upsets them is that ultimately they are made in God’s image and there’s that inside us called conscience, and the conscience testifies that something’s wrong out there. It’s not right that death, sorrow and suffering happen. But on this basis they can’t see any answer. So on their basis evil always existed and so there always this awful thing. If you really believe this you’ve got a real problem, talk about despair, this will send you into despair every time.
What’s so silly and unnecessarily trivial among educated people in our generation is that they’re wondering why young people blow their brains out, can’t understand why teenagers blow their brains out. It’s probably because they understand very well where ideas lead, and this isn’t going to be solved by some government program, this is only solved by the revelation of the truth of the Word of God.
On our basis we want to be clear as Christians that right at this very point of suffering, sorrow, evil, and death we are miles and miles apart from the world around us. The world around us has no answer to this, they laugh at our answer. Our answer is that there was a fall, an historic fall that occurred at a moment in time, and that there was a creation in a moment, and between those two points we had existence without any evil, without any death, without any suffering, and that’s our argument that existence does not have to be evil existence. That’s the test case. Of course, in the future when God creates the new heavens and the new earth it will again be a universe without evil, suffering and sorrow. They will be excluded to an eternal junkyard called hell.
The point is that our answer is radically different. We as Christian collide with the world at a fundamental point, and this collision is as powerful, as total, and as intensive as the collision over creation. This is equally as powerful. We want to note this basic point, where as Christians we are in a collision course with the world, there’s no compromise, it’s one answer or it’s the other and there’s tremendous and powerful ramifications from it. Ernest Hemingway blew his brains out with a shotgun. Was he just depressed that morning? No, it goes deeper than that, he bought into his own world view, that’s what happened. He might have been depressed that morning but we all have mornings when we’re depressed. The problem is that that day he just went further on a trend that had developed all through his life.
On page 55 you see a diagram:
The “A” is the difference between the creation, the point in time when there was a creation, and the point in time when evil began. I am not distinguishing at this point between the fall of Satan and the fall of Adam, that’s disputed among Christians, but it doesn’t make any difference for the point I’m making now. The point I’m making is that those points are separated. Evil originated after creation was complete, and why do we know this? What was God’s evaluation of the universe when it was finished in Genesis? It was very good, and there was no evil present. Now we have evil present, so how did it get there? That’s why the Christian answer is “Responsible Creature-choices that originate evil.”
That leads us into the problem of suffering and evil. This is the heart of a fundamental aspect of our faith. This is where we are tested ourselves, in our personal lives as Christians. This is where the unbeliever in his fury … Cindy mentioned there’s this antagonism to Christianity. What’s so peculiar about that is Christianity is if Christianity is a myth, why should you be bothered by it? It’s the intensity of the hatred for Christianity that betrays the fact that deep down they know it’s true. You’re not upset by something that’s insignificant. If your dog barks at you you’re not insulted, it’s just a dog, but if somebody comes up to you and insults you personally, now you’re ticked off. What’s the difference? Because you have been evaluated by another human being and that hurts. The hatred against Christianity is itself evidence that it’s being believed.
Let’s look at the ramifications of this and I think the best way of doing it is to go to Job 38 because this is a classic passage in Scripture, and I want to mention something that is a habit that you ought to get into if you aren’t already. When you face a problem, such as this kind of a problem, the origin of evil, instead of going out and speculating on it, before you do that just back off a minute and ask yourself where in the Scripture does God deal with this problem? Let’s watch how He does it, maybe we’ll pick up some tips. The one book in the Scripture that’s known, even by literate non-Christians, is the book of Job. That is the book that deals with suffering in the Canon of Scripture. Here’s the question we want to ask.
It’s in the notes on page 56, “In the interval ‘A’, there was existence without evil, something denied in all forms of paganism. This is not speculation. It is true history. So the question, then, doesn’t directly concern creation itself. Rather, it concerns post-creation history.” And here’s the question. “Was it ‘right’ for God to have created creatures with responsible choice who, though created without evil, would certainly originate evil after some interval ‘A’?” That’s fundamentally the question.
Next paragraph: “God could have created creatures with responsible choice who would not ever originate evil (everlasting ‘A’). Angels had choice, but not all of them rebelled with Satan. Men had choice, but one (Jesus) did not rebel. Heaven and the New Universe contain responsible creatures without any further origination of evil.” We come to the last sentence of this paragraph; I’ve tried to funnel the question to make it as tight as I possibly can, get as precise as we can. “Because in the Bible evil is limited under God, the question arises why He did not limit it down to the point of elimination altogether.” If God could limit evil, and He has, why didn’t He zero it out? Why did He let it happen?
That fundamentally has been going on throughout the chapters in the book of Job, why this suffering. He goes back to something that you’ve all experienced in your personal lives; it’s just part of life. We, human beings in general, can take an awful lot of suffering and pain if we can just be convinced there’s a purpose in it. But take away that purpose and a relatively trivial level of pain will destroy somebody. During the Korean War the communist had gotten propaganda schemes to a very high finesse level, and one of the startling things that came out of analysis of the Korean War was what happened to some of the young men who were trapped in POW camps?
What they found was that the communist interrogators were so skilled at removing hope and meaning from those young boys that they didn’t have to kill them, our guys would go off into a corner and in 36 hours they would be dead. Dead in despair, not wounds, not because they were tortured but because they had been psychologically psyched out into total meaningless. They went over, rolled up in a little ball, and gave up. They didn’t resist, never thought of escape, never thought of deception, they gave up because they gave up all hope, there was no meaning left and when there’s no meaning left you can be knocked off with very little pain and a very little push.
So the issue here is it’s a quest for where do we get meaning in the middle of sorrow, suffering, and evil. Very practically, when you look at a dying baby, or a loved one who is dying of some horrible disease, that’s what we’re talking about. Does that have meaning or is that just an accident that’s happening? We want to come to the Scripture and see how the Scripture answers it and when we do we’re somewhat frustrated, and I want to deal with that little frustration tonight.
In Job 38 God intervenes. For 37 chapters Job and his counselors have cried out for meaning in the middle of their suffering and sorrow. All kinds of answers have been suggested. Then God says this: Job 38:2, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!” What kind of an answer is this?
Think about it. This isn’t addressed to a philosopher sitting in an ivory tower. This is addressed to a guy that lost his family; this is a guy who just went into bankruptcy. That’s his situation. And you might say God has some nerve coming to him and hitting him with verses 2-3, “gird up your loins like a man and I’ll ask you, and you instruct Me?”  Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth!” and it goes on, “Who sets it firmness, since you know?” Do you sense a little sarcasm there? In other words, it seems that when we ask the question about the meaning in life, the meaning in suffering, we get this almost hostile response by God. How do we explain this one? He comes up and He says who do you think you are? And the questions go on and on, verse 16, “Have you entered into the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in the recesses of the deep?  Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?  Have you understood the expanse of the earth? Go ahead and tell Me, if you know all this.” Why does God do that to this poor, suffering guy? This is not what you’d find in a Get Well card.
It goes on, Job 39:1, “Do you know the time the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the deer?  Can you count the months they fulfill, or do you know the time they give birth?” Verse 5, “Who sent out the wild donkey free?” And it goes on and on and if you look at those questions God is asking a question about every area of the universe. There are geological questions, biological questions, philosophical questions, literary questions, anthropological questions, bam, bam, bam, bam, like a machine gun, one after another, striking this poor suffering guy. Why does God come on like this to this guy? Job 40:2, another theme you wouldn’t want to see on a Get Well card. “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.”
Now we have something happen. You would expect Job to really get furious at this point, I’m the one that’s suffering here and why are you coming on to me like that? But notice what happens, something is happening in the depths of Job’s heart. Job 40:3 “Then Job answered the LORD and said,  Behold, I am insignificant: what can I reply to Thee? I lay my hand on my mouth.  Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; even twice, and I will add no more.” Then it starts all over again, verse 6, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm, and said,” and notice the Theophany, the form in which God appears to Job, it’s a great whirlwind, it’s a storm, it’s a picture of chaos in life. Here the guy has suffered, he’s lost his family, he’s lost his finances, he’s lost his health, and there’s this awful storm and this voice booms out, that he knows is God speaking to him.
Verse 7, “Now gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you, and you instruct Me.” Lesson two continues. Where is the mercy and the love in all this? We have to believe it’s there. I’m just leading you through the Scripture. This is what happened to Job and we can’t kiss it off. It’s not a sentimental answer being given here. God does not come out of the cloud and pat him on the head, which is our tendency to do in these kinds of situations, we want someone to comfort us, and frankly this doesn’t sound like much comfort.
Job 40:8, “Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn me that you may be justified?  Or do you have an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like His?  Adorn yourself with eminence and dignity; and clothe yourself with honor and majesty.  Pour out the overflowings of your anger; and look on everyone who is proud, and make him low.” It goes on and on and on, through chapter 40, chapter 41, until we get to chapter 42.
God lightens up a little bit and then Job answers in Job 42:2 and he said “I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted.” Watch that, because there’s an answer in here and we want to play with it a little bit until we pull it out of the text. The answer is right here, the only answer we’re going to get, and it doesn’t at first glance look at all like it’s a comforting answer. “I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine 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 Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees Thee;  Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.”
Think about what happened in this encounter. This is a strange encounter, it’s not something you’d forecast of a perfect counselor. What is going on here between Job and God? Before we push on further, turn to a similar passage in Romans 9. Paul was grieved when he wrote Romans 9, and as one scholar said, all the scholars of the world have been grieving ever since he wrote the chapter. He was a very upset man when he wrote Romans 9 and he tells you how deeply he’s upset in verse 2. Paul was a Jew and he had a natural bond and love racially with his fellow Jews, and he said “I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.  For I wish that I” would go to hell, that’s the force of what he’s saying here, “I wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my [racial] brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” He’s in agony, to the point where he actually says I wish I were in hell rather than see what I’m seeing in my brethren.
He goes on to describe why this has happened, and the answer that he came up with, somewhat in the same harsh tradition of the book of Job, Romans 9:14, “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!  “For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.  For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.’  So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.  You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ ”
And then this strange answer again, it is an exact mirror of the conversation between God and Job, Romans 9:20, “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me thus,’ will it?  Or does the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?” In verse 22, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?  And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory ….” etc.
In verses 22-23 you have a suggested answer, basically the glory of God. But the question we want to work through and realize that the Scripture does say this very bluntly, is that God does not see fit to give us a complete answer, what He’s got going, and we have to deal with that as Christians. Why does God not now give us a complete answer? Let’s go back and look at something we learned weeks ago. Here’s God, here’s man. We were careful to say God’s attributes have analogues with man; God has sovereignty, holiness, love, omniscience, and answering to those man has choice, conscience, love, and knowledge. [blank spot] God has a rational and just answer for what He does. The problem isn’t that the answer doesn’t exist. The problem is where it exists. It’s the location of the answer. Unfortunately for us the whole answer isn’t located down in the creation. It’s located up here in God Himself, and He has pieces of this answer come down in the form of revelation here and there about His character. But the whole answer hasn’t come yet.
Notice two things about this that are very important, that set the Bible over against all other positions. One is that there is an answer after all. In the existentialist position there aren’t any answers. What has happened there is by blotting man out of the equation … the existentialists really have taught us something; they are good thinkers. The existentialists have realized that if man is all there is, and man is limited in his capacities, he can never generate universals. Therefore there is no universal meaning. And there is no ultimate meaning.
This is why, in a famous book he wrote, Walter Kaufmann, famous atheist professor at Princeton wrote that when confronted with the issue of suffering he said we have no real answer for suffering, so the best we can do is make up an answer for the moment that seems good. A pistol in the mouth might seem good; drugs might seem good. So the existentialist has led up to this. This is what we get in literature classes, but the point is you don’t just react against that and say ooh how bad that is, you understand what’s going on, look at the game that’s being played out, it makes sense, if there is all there is and there is no other answer, doesn’t that imply a certain behavioral response. If you really believed that, wouldn’t you act a certain way? Of course you would. You understand if they think this way they can do that. It goes back to world view, and that’s what Cindy said, the writers are articulating a world view and that’s the end result of the world view.
In our position, in the Scriptural position we say there’s an answer. The problem existentialists had, years ago it was thought before they came along, that man could generate the answer. That’s why you had the struggle in the early philosophers to generate the answer, that’s why one guy would come along and say I have the answer, then the next guy 50 years later would write a book and say no, I have the answer, until finally you come to the 19th and 20th centuries, nobody has the answer.
In that paganism has progressed, because it’s realized that finite man can’t generate the answer because finite man can’t generate universals. But in the Bible we have a person who is infinite, who has universals. So now the point is that there is an answer, but the answer is in His mind and in His heart, and we will learn of the answer only on His terms, if He chooses to share the answer we learn it, and if He does not choose we don’t know it.
Let’s see two biblical examples that give you just a crack, the door opens just a crack so you can kind of peek through into the heart of God. One is John 11:30, it’s a little scene, but to make sense of this passage we have to presuppose Jesus is who He is, Jesus is who He claimed to be, i.e., God incarnate. So what we now have is God Himself walking the face of this planet and He sees the death of a friend. “Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him,” because the brother died.  “The Jews then who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  Therefore, when Mary came to where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.
 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping,” now watch this response, this is the same God who comes on so heavy to Job, this is the same God who’s the potter who says I can make the pot any way I want, but watch this. “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled.” And then, in verse 35 Jesus weeps, shortest sentence in the New Testament. Is this the behavior you would expect of a cruel God? The door cracks a little and you begin to see that however we answer this issue of evil, it is not some omnipotent God who has no feeling, who isn’t at all affected, who is totally remote from it all. He obviously isn’t, He’s deeply moved. This is the God of the universe who created all things that’s weeping. That shows something.
We have another little crack in the door, Romans 3:25-26. The point that is being made is that in the Old Testament they had a suffering problem, here’s the Old Testament Jewish suffering problem. They had a very special problem; I wouldn’t say a suffering problem so much as an apparent contradiction in God. On the one hand in the Old Testament you have the prophets saying that God is holy, and holiness condemns sin and judges it.
On the other hand in the Old Testament God is merciful, and He promises mercy and grace. But in the Old Testament there’s no resolution of those two themes, no where do they come together. If you were a skeptic like the 20th century skeptics, you could have argued in the Old Testament era, God can never be merciful, He can never just, if He’s merciful and just He destroys His holiness, and if He’s holy and He’s got to destroy that which sins, He can’t be merciful, now the Bible says that but I don’t understand it and He’s never given us the answer. This is a contradiction Old Testament saints had to live with century after century.
But now we come to the cross of Jesus Christ, and Paul suddenly resolves the dilemma. Romans 3:25, “Whom God displayed publicly [Jesus Christ] as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed,” there are the two greatest problems in the Old Testament. Romans 3:26, “For the demonstration, I say of His righteousness at the present time, that He might,” and here’s the key sentence, “that He might be just,” i.e., that He might be holy, and at the same time the one who is merciful, “that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Look at what’s happening here. We have a case in point that from the time of Moses in 1400 BC down to the time of Jesus, fourteen centuries men struggled with this apparent contradiction in God, and suddenly at the cross of Christ it was all resolved, in three short hours it was resolved. If it was resolved so dramatically, let’s take ourselves back in a time machine for a minute, imagine yourself dwelling in Israel in 1000 BC. Would you ever have dreamed that this would be the solution to the dilemma? I doubt it. We would have had to by faith accepted that one day God would resolve it, but we wouldn’t have an idea of how He was going to resolve it.
But the important thing for tonight is: Did in fact the cross resolve it? Isn’t this verse saying that God is both just and He is merciful, and He can be both at the same time? How He can be both at the same time is through this amazing work of Jesus Christ on the cross, utterly unforeseen in its totality in the Old Testament, forecast in pieces and glimpses, yes. We see a lot more in the Old Testament because we’re “Monday morning quarterbacks,” the game is all over, we can say they should have seen that. We didn’t live then so don’t say they should have seen that.
The conclusion: if God could do this to this problem in the Old Testament, and come out with the fact that He did, after all, have an answer, men just didn’t see it yet, is it not valid to conclude that one day there will be revealed a total answer, and it will deeply move us, as we are moved by watching what He did in the cross of Christ, a deeply and profoundly moving thing that causes us to worship Him. So let’s return to Job, why is the harsh answer there? Why does God come on so heavy to Job like that? If the real answer is in God, what do we have to do down here in order to appropriate that answer when we don’t know the answer?
The only way we can maintain our sanity in the middle of suffering is to, on the basis of what God has so far revealed of Himself and His character, to trust Him, that He is trustable to have an ultimate answer for every detail, every suffering and every tear. We don’t know yet, in fact we may spend all eternity learning that, because it may be such an involved, complicated answer that will unfold and unfold and unfold, and as it unfolds each time a peon of praise will raise to His name. If you consider this not to be an answer, then I challenge you, if you don’t accept this answer I challenge you to come up with any answer. If you don’t accept the Bible answer you don’t have any answer. You not only don’t have a bad one, you don’t have any, because you don’t have a basis for an answer.
So you either go along with what the Scripture says, and come like Job did, I believe this is why God was so apparently harsh, God is not that kind of a cruel God, God had a point in coming to Job heavy like that, and that was to make the Creator/creature clear in his mind. Remember Job’s response? I don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s almost like we have this burning question, we’ve written it down, we’ve prayed about it so much, and when I get in front of God I’m going to ask Him this. And it’s like you walk in and suddenly you do see God, like Job did, and suddenly you forget the question, because of what you see.
When Job saw God for who God was, the question kind of went away, not to deny that there is an answer, but what happened in Job’s experience and what happened in Paul’s experience, they were overtaken by the fact that they could look God in the face and see Him for who He is, and the question sort of dissolved. The hand that was saying I want an answer, answer me, just kind of went phlouff, and that’s what you get in Job 40-42.
The Christian answer to the issue of suffering is that God has the answer and we don’t know all of its parts, and the only way we deal with that kind of thing is we trust Him, we don’t try a program of gimmicks, we don’t have works, we don’t deal with some sort of therapy, we trust Him and in order to trust Him we have to come to know Him. The only place we come to know Him is through His revelation in His Word and in our lives. And that’s the issue, that’s always the issue. We do not have all the answers, so don’t walk out as a Christian claiming we’ve got all the answers. God has all the answers, and we have Him.