An Analysis of God’s Compassion in the context of Human Suffering
© 2012 Dennis Fischer ®
All rightrs reserved
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On Friday morning December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza murdered his mother shooting her multiple times in the head. He then drove her car to Sandy Hook Elementary School in suburban Danbury, Connecticut, where she had worked with kindergarten children. Then, dressed in black and wearing a bullet proof vest he broke into the school and perpetrated one of the worst acts of violence in American history.
Armed with a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic assault rifle as well as two 9mm hand guns and approximately 200 rounds of ammunition Lanza entered two classrooms filled with six and seven year old children shooting each child at close range between three to eight times.
The carnage was so vile that children being evacuated were instructed to close their eyes in order to avoid having to look at the massive amounts of blood and bodies. At the end of this rampage twenty innocent children and six adults were killed. Lanza then took his own life.
The devastation that lay in the wake of this brutality is unimaginable and the heartache incalculable----but real none the less. Suffice it to say, family and friends were inconsolable while a community and an entire nation was in shock.
6-year-old Emilie Alice Parker was one of twenty children
who lost their lives on this tragic day.
At times like this questions are in abundance but real answers seem more like utterances of desperation as opposed to genuine wisdom. Even theologians grope to make sense of such a mindless act of perversion. But if there really is a God, then there really is an answer.
The book you are about to read addresses one of the greatest mysteries man has ever pondered. At its core are broken hearts and shattered lives. The question is simple. It is the answer that seems so elusive. Here is the query:
Why does an all powerful and merciful God allow
human misery and suffering?
This is a question that has unmistakably been on the lips of the vast majority of the human family since the dawn of time. It is offered because every generation has been an eye witness to unspeakable horrors often perpetrated on the most innocent of victims. Today we see the devastating effects of natural disasters on millions of people every year. Add to that, the ravages of starvation and the gruesome impact of diseases that strike societies weakest members. Then there is the unspeakable evil inflicted by man on his fellow man—and all this takes place in plain view of God Almighty—WHY? Why doesn’t the Supreme Creator of the universe spare mankind from so much agony?
Another Heartbreaking Story
A Tearful Goodbye
The parents of a little girl who never had a chance to live decided to give meaning to their daughter's death by donating the girl's organs to save two other children.
Nicknamed "Xiwang," meaning "hope", the 2-year-old girl from Inner Mongolia was born with a terminal form of cerebral palsy.
When the child's life was coming to an end, her father kissed her goodbye and watched as she was transferred into the operating room in Chifeng City Hospital. The surgeons removed a kidney and liver from the child and sent the organs to Tianjin, where the two recipient children were waiting.
Prior to the surgery, the medical team responsible for removing the organs from "Xiwang" bow respectfully in honor of her.
This heartbreaking image cries out, "Where Was God?"
In the pages that follow we will address this question and do so very specifically. It will be presented in the context of three tragedies that have gripped the lives of victim and survivor alike, They are: 1) God’s apparent inattentiveness relative to the victims of natural disasters, 2) His apparent inattentiveness relative to the victims of evil and depravity, and 3) His apparent inattentiveness relative to the victims of war and terror.
At the conclusion we will present the answer to this great puzzle—one that man has struggled with for so long—and in so doing, reveal how it is ultimately going to play out. Finally, as hopeless as things may look today, in the end there will be life and unbridled joy. For now, it is my sincerest desire that these words will bring you peace of mind as well as encouragement and comfort, and most of all HOPE.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ
Where was God when Nature Struck?
On December 26, 2004 Southern Asia was hit with a massive tsunami stemming from a 9.0 earthquake in the Indian Ocean. When the force of this act was finally unleashed, it absolutely devastated what was once one of the most tranquil regions in the entire world.
Waves from the tsunami were estimated to be 100 feet high.
As each day passed the death toll continued to soar. The casualties numbered in the hundreds of thousands—over fifty thousand were children. One woman described her child being ripped from her arms and whisked to a cold horrifying death. When visiting the region, U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell said, “I have never seen anything like it.” Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, a leader of one of the rescue teams in Thailand described the scene this way.
"Only during the great flood in Genesis have there been sights like this, so many corpses, so many," We are experiencing ... something from the days of Genesis."
Over 230,000 lost their lives from this disaster.
This tragedy is only one example of an avalanche of calamities inflicted on our world—the impact of which is truly mind boggling. Americans only have to look at the devastation inflicted by Katrina in 2005 and more recently Hurricane Sandy (2012) to feel the enormity of pain nature can inflict. In each of these disasters the cost of shattered lives alone is beyond calculation.
August 25, 2005 Katrina hits Florida
The Question of the Day
This now brings us to the question of the day. Why would an all-powerful God allow such utter destruction? Why would He consent to innocent children being literally swept from their mother’s arms and whisked to a torturous death? Why would He permit the shattering of lives—especially the lives of the innocent.
Post Katrina devastation
To many, these questions seem unanswerable—something beyond mankind’s ability to grasp. Often they are explained by people of faith as one of life’s great enigmas. How many times have we heard, “God works in mysterious ways” or, “We just have to have faith in things we can’t understand.”
Meanwhile, those who reject any belief in a higher power often seize upon such tragedies to advance an opposing view. They contend that natural disasters, as well as a host of other evils like disease, poverty, crime and injustice stand as proof that God is nothing more than a figment of people’s imagination—a myth perpetrated on the gullible.
A Hostile Reaction
Shortly after the tsunami struck in southern Asia a gentleman wrote a letter questionning why anyone could believe in God when the plethora of calamities the world must endure proves that He couldn't possibly exist. Here is how he expressed his point.
To Whom It May Concern:
So now that Indonesia has suffered the worst natural disaster in decades, all the mindless double talk begins. I just love listening to people like you try to defend god at times like this. You have more nerve than a wizard in the dark ages. At least the wizard was conjuring up something you can see. You and other Christians of your ilk create your “potion of lies” out of nothing. I’m just amazed that anyone with an ounce of gray matter would fall for anything you “men of the cloth” would say. I’m sure you think you have an “answer” for everything in life, but I would like to see you try your hand at some questions that have been bothering me lately.
- Why does a loving god allow children to get cancer? Go visit St. Jude’s Hospital if you want to see all the suffering they go through.
- Why does the “almighty” permit AIDS to consume its victims? Oh yea, I forgot. He is sending it to rid the world of faggots.
- Why does your loving god allow people to starve to death in under-developed nations?
- Why does this “just” god of yours allow racism and bigotry? How do those things fit into his divine plan?
- Why does god allow children to be molested? Where was he when catholic priests were raping (that’s right, raping) choirboys in their parishes?
- Why does god allow all the filth and squalor in the world?
- Why all the murder? Why all the death? What is his thing with death anyway
- Why does your god allow people to be destroyed by earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tidal waves, and tsunamis? Why doesn’t he just rain down fire and finish the job, whatever that job is?
- Finally, if god is so loving and so powerful why doesn’t he do something to prevent all the suffering, or does he just not care?
Where was God?
The writer of this letter poses some very interesting questions. And although he and many others, including professing Christians, struggle making sense out of tragedy, there is an answer. Furthermore, that answer is clear and direct. It is not some theological "mumbo jumbo" and it is definitely not some “mindless double talk.”
This might come as a surprise to many, but the God of the Bible actually hates human suffering. That’s right! God hates it! Furthermore, the scriptures make it absolutely clear that a time is coming when all suffering will end.
A Whole New World
The Bible reveals that when Jesus Christ returns to earth, He will establish a Kingdom whose laws will be so perfect they will fill the entire earth with great peace (Isa. 2:4, 32:18, Micah 5:1-3), great prosperity (Isa. 27:6, 30:23; 33:15), great health, and great hope. It will be a Kingdom in which sight will be restored to the blind and strength will be restored to the lame (Isa. 35:5-7). Furthermore, this world will be like a garden paradise (Isa. 35:1; 41:17-20). When describing it, the great prophet Isaiah proclaimed that when it comes, God Himself shall “wipe away all tears” (Isa. 25:8). He went on to say that at this time, sorrow and sighing would actually take flight never to return again (Isa. 35:10).
Imagine what a such a place will be like. Imagine a world where you will never hear the sounds of grief and anguish. Imagine never having to witness the torment of fathers and mothers searching for children that were ripped from their arms and whisked to their death? Imagine a place where hospitals are unnecessary and food banks irrelevant. Imagine a place where hope is everywhere and despair is a distant memory. That place is real and the Great God of hope has given His immutable promise that it is going to come. Furthermore, it will be presided over by a Great Deliverer—a wonderful God King. In this Kingdom there will be no international conflicts. There will be no acts of terrorism. There will be no political corruption or corporate scandals. The streets in this Kingdom will always be safe and children will be able to walk into the homes of strangers and be treated like family. It is a time when all people will worship the same God and have the same laws. Suffice it to say, it is a world that is vastly different from the one we live in today.
With this said, many may wonder why a God, who hates human suffering so much, would allow it to happen in such a great way. In other words, if God is so committed to mankind living in a world of peace and prosperity, why wouldn’t He intervene to prevent a host of catastrophic killers that are so much a part of the human experience?
This is a fair question. Now brace yourself for a shocking answer. God doesn’t intervene because mankind doesn’t want Him to. That’s right! Man does not want God to meddle in this world.
Down through the ages man has always asserted his right to do things his way. Whether it was Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden, or the children of Israel demanding to have a King instead of the Holy One as their ruler, every human being who has ever lived has fought to do things his way.
The tragedy with this line of thinking is that man’s way will only lead to failure—and there is a reason for this. The Bible states without ambiguity that man was never designed to be the moral authority in his own life. As difficult as this might be to believe, humanity simply does not have the proper equipment to navigate its own moral and ethical path. King Solomon, a man regarded by many as the wisest person who ever lived, came to understand this truth. When writing the book of Proverbs, Solomon made a profound observation about man and the moral choices he makes.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death. (Pro. 14:12)
Virtually all mankind has witnessed Solomon’s words in action. We have seen good intentions play out to catastrophic results. Even Solomon’s own life and the choices he made reflect this great moral law.
Solomon was not the only one to draw the conclusion that man was incapable of successfully managing his ethical path. The great prophet Jeremiah also pondered man’s qualifications to rightly preside over his moral decisions. He concluded that man would invariably fall victim to his own moral and ethical devices. Notice his words.
The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. (Jer. 17:9)
Here, Jeremiah is stating that man cannot trust his own judgment because the seat of that judgment (the heart) is not trustworthy.
Then there is King David. This great champion, who the Bible describes as “a man after God’s heart” (Acts 13:22), expressed a profound truth about man’s inability to grasp “right” and “wrong.” Notice his words.
Who can understand his own error? (Psa. 19:12)
The question David asks is rhetorical. The truth of the matter is that no one can understand his own error. That is why man makes so many. The point here is that humanity’s capacity to navigate its own moral path is nonexistent. Despite its assertions to the contrary, it was never designed to be the moral authority over its own life. The great prophet Jeremiah conveyed this absolute truth in words that couldn’t be more clear.
O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his own steps. (Jer. 10:23)
The words of Jeremiah state a truth that this world has rejected since the Garden of Eden. Simply put, man left to his own moral devices will invariably choose the wrong path. Jesus Christ himself understood this absolute moral law, and His life reflected this understanding. The Bible states that when the Messiah walked as a man on the earth, He refused to do something that every other man has done since the days of Adam and Eve. Jesus refused to direct His own moral steps. That’s right, even the Savior of the world not rely on his own wisdom. Notice His words.
I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just: because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which has sent me. (Jn. 5:30)
The Bible categorically asserts that the Great God, who made the heavens and the earth and all things, stands as the one and only unimpeachable Moral Authority in the universe. It is He who decides what is right and what is wrong.
“You Will Surely Die”
When God warned Adam and Eve about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He was identifying the very source of all human suffering. That source is man thinking he can decide for himself what is good and what is evil. Man has attempted to make this moral pronouncement for millennia and the result has always been untold suffering.
The fact of the matter is that every tragic step man has ever taken has been guided by moral self-will. Every estrangement in human history is born out of self-will. Every divorce is born out of self-will. Every lie and every word of gossip is born out of self-will. Every obscenity and every profanity is born out of self-will. Every crime that has ever been committed was born out of self-will. Every war that was ever fought has been provoked by self-will.
The point here is that man might know “good” and “evil,” but he will never be able to know good FROM evil. Six thousand years of human history has borne this out.
Where was God when Violence Struck?
On Saturday afternoon March 12, 2005 an act of unspeakable evil was inflicted on a congregation of the Living Church of God in Brookfield, Wisconsin. In reality, this savagery struck at all of God’s people around the world—not simply one COG organization. In its wake, many are now asking why an all-powerful and infinitely merciful God would allow such a horrible thing to happen to His spiritual family. After all, He certainly could have prevented this carnage. The question that lingers is WHY DIDN’T HE? In other words, what led this Great Deliverer to “stand down” when calamity struck His Son’s “bride to be”?
At times like this it is only natural to ponder such questions. This is because the very act of viciousness that brought us to think of them in the first place makes absolutely no sense. Why would someone do such a thing? What would drive a person to inflict such massive suffering on others? Consider for a moment what took place that fateful day. In one minute a community of faithful believers gathered to worship their Creator according to His commandment, and in the next a hail of gunfire rang out bringing to an end the lives of people who only wanted to do what they had done so many other Sabbath days prior to this one. To them this was a day to worship God in song, to be spiritually fed by His servants, and to fellowship with their brethren. They were even planning to have a pot luck dinner and a church activity that evening. However, what seemed like a perfect way to spend this holy time became anything but perfect. After just a few minutes and 22 rounds of gunfire, seven people lay dead, including the pastor and his seventeen year old son, while four others were injured. The gunman then took his own life.
Since that tragic afternoon, numerous articles and emails have surfaced on the Internet offering various theories regarding what happened and why. For the most part those who have written have been gracious toward the victims who suffered, as well as to the Living Church of God and its leaders.
However, some have tried to link this bloodshed to some specific trespass (such as a doctrinal position) committed by God’s Church in general or by the LCG in particular. Perhaps it was their position regarding how God’s Sabbath should be honored, or the names they use when referring to their Creator. Maybe it’s the method they employ when calculating the holy days or whether they believe Mr. Herbert W Armstrong was the prophesied Elijah to come. If not that, then perhaps it was Church’s approach to government or how and who should be preaching the gospel. Some have even suggested that God allowed this heartbreaking day to happen as a way to express His displeasure at the lack of unity in the Church. After all He certainly couldn’t be pleased with all the bickering that goes on among His children. But is this the case? Or, is there another answer--one that has been with us all along?
A History of Tragedy
The Bible reveals that this is not the first time God’s people have suffered at the hands of evil. Furthermore, the scriptures state that this is not the last time it will happen either. Jesus Christ Himself warned that His followers would suffer persecution and even martyrdom (Mt. 10:21-25, 24:9).
This being the case, consider how violence has raised its ugly hand against God’s Church down through the ages. In the first century virtually every apostle with the exception of John died a violent death. Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr other than the Messiah, was actually killed with the consent of Saul who would later become the great apostle Paul. Additionally, the book of Hebrews provides a sobering glimpse into the great price God’s spiritual family has paid for their faith.
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Heb. 11:32-38)
This is just a brief view of how persecution attacks God’s people, and if the Bible is true, the greatest assault is yet to come. This is borne out in the words of the apostle John when writing the book of Revelation. Here, John was taken in vision to the very last days of man’s reign on earth—and once again the ultimate sacrifice is required of God’s people. Notice what this apostle writes.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. (Rev. 6:9-11)
With this vision, John was being told that great bloodshed will once again face God’s people at the end time—and as tragic as this picture is, it is true none-the-less. As this world comes closer to its end it will become more hostile to God’s way and His people. Furthermore, it will act out that hostility with unspeakable violence.
Isn't the slaughter in Brookfield different?
But is the slaughter that took place in Wisconsin the same thing the scriptures predicted would happen to God’s people during the last days? After all, the Bible suggests that persecution will be delivered by those who hate what God’s people believe—the faith they hold dear—and the path they have chosen. To a great extent it will be spearheaded by powerful political leader known as the beast and an apostate religious figure known as the false prophet. What took place in Wisconsin doesn’t remotely resemble that. This carnage wasn’t religious persecution. What these Christians suffered was nothing other than evil run amuck—a deranged man carrying out mass murder. To assign another explanation to it is simply manufacturing an answer.
This being the case it is fair to ask two very important questions: (1) could what happened in Wisconsin possibly be a part of God’s will and His plan? And (2) if no, why did He allow it to happen? Let us briefly address both of these questions.
The answer to the first question is "yes" only in the sense that everything will ultimately work toward the fulfillment of God’s purpose. However, in no way shape of form did God want this to happen, nor did He somehow orchestrate this horrific act. Therefore, the real answer to this question is an emphatic "NO!" If anyone wants to know what God’s will truly is they simply have to look at the third heaven where His will is performed continually. Or, we could look at God’s millennial Kingdom or, to the New Heavens and the New Earth. It is there that God’s desire will be done. What happened in Wisconsin was about as far from God’s will as anything can get. Furthermore, despite what some may believe, God does not use evil as a method to test mankind or His Church. The apostle James put it this way.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (Jas. 1:13-15)
The point James was making is that evil is the concoction of those whose will goes contrary to God and His will. Those who fall into this category include Satan the devil as well as the society he has deceived (Rev. 12:9). Therefore, the real culprit is him. The good news is that God can take a horrible calamity and use it to build something great and that is precisely what the scriptures say He will do. This is why Christians are exhorted to rejoice when trials come (Jas.1: 2-3).
However, if God didn’t bring this evil on His people, and if He actually hates such things, then why didn’t He stop it? This is really the Great puzzle we face. Furthermore, it is one that must be solved. So now we return to the BIG question: Why did God allow this to happen? Where was He when we so desperately needed Him.
Can Anyone Know for Sure?
The tragedy that struck God’s Church is not unlike many catastrophes that rip apart our world. With this said, is it possible for God’s people to know with absolute certainty why He allowed the carnage that took place on March 12th, 2005? According to one long time evangelist the answer is once again, “No”. Here is how he expressed his view.
“No one really knows for sure why God allowed innocent people to die by the hand of a depressed, mentally disturbed person. And it is unlikely that any person will ever know all the answers to this question.”
For the most part the sentiments expressed by this faithful servant of God, mirrors those of the vast majority in His Church, including its leaders. But is this true? Is it impossible to know why God allows human suffering—even the suffering of His own people?
Why did God allow this tragedy?
In order to fully comprehend why God would allow His Church to be brutally attacked it is essential to understand something about evil itself and why God ever permitted it to infest our world in the first place. Once we grasp this vital truth it will become abundantly clear that despite any appearances, God is not only in complete charge of His human family but that His plan for them is working with pinpoint precision. Furthermore, by understanding this vital truth, His people will be able to make complete sense out of what seems to be absolute insanity.
It Wasn’t Always This Way
The Bible reveals that there once was a time when this world was vastly different than it is today. It was at total peace. It was a world filled with HOPE and PROMISE. At that time man had access to his Creator and God spoke directly to him. It was during this time that the first human family made a terrible mistake—one that would have tragic consequences on every succeeding generation.
The book of Genesis reveals that shortly after creating Adam and Eve, God placed them in an exquisite paradise and invited them to explore all that was around them. However, with this invitation also came a warning. God explained that in the midst of the garden was a tree whose fruit was life threatening. If Adam or Eve ate of it, they would most certainly die. Notice His words.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:16-17)
As a loving Father, God was committed to protecting his newly created earthly family. For this reason, He gave specific instructions concerning their very survival. It is hard to imagine how anyone would decline to follow such a warning. After all, if you were at a restaurant and someone you trusted said, “Don’t eat this. It’s toxic and will kill you,” you most certainly wouldn’t eat it. This being the case, why would God’s instructions be so difficult to follow? The answer to this question lies in understanding what these two trees actually were.
What Were the Two Trees?
Today there are numerous theories concerning the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Clearly, the tree of life would have been preferable to eat, but sadly, man declined the invitation to do so. On the other hand, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil should have been avoided at all costs. Yet, that is not what happened. Why? Furthermore, is it possible to know what these trees truly were? And will such an understanding provide greater insight into the course man took concerning the choices he was given?
To better understand these two trees, it is critical to understand the God who made them as well as the beings that resided in Eden. Let’s begin with understanding something about mankind and the way he was made.
The Moral Judgments of Men
As was mentioned earlier, God’s word reveals that man is incapable of effectively navigating the moral terrain he faces in this life (See: Pro. 14:2, Jer. 10:23). Unfortunately, he refuses to accept this fact and has dedicated 6000 years of human history trying to prove he can. The danger of such arrogance is staggering. As a result of believing he can navigate his own moral path, man has wreaked havoc on the earth. Since the dawn of human history, he has crafted virtually thousands of religions, thousands of governments, and thousands of laws. He has done so in an attempt to make his world better. But who really thinks it is? Virtually all suffering down through history has its origin in a tree emphatically declared “off limits” by none other than God Himself. (Gen. 3:3).
The great tragedy today is that man continues to eat of that tree. As he makes moral judgments that fail to reflect God’s wisdom, he is eating from a tree that brings death. When he crafts cultures that ignore the great moral principles outlined in the scriptures, he is eating from a tree that brings death. When he declares that he can decide for himself what values are appropriate, he is eating from a tree that brings death. When he creates governmental systems that refuse to acknowledge the true God, he is eating from a tree that brings death. When he fashions religions that reflect the traditions of men and not the commandments of God, he is eating from a tree that brings death. And although many of man’s attempts at crafting his own moral world may appear harmless, they most assuredly are not. If man can take one bite of that tree, another man can take two, and before long, he will become a veritable glutton for its fruit.
At this point, it is important to understand that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents everything God is not. That tree was toxic in the beginning, and it remains toxic to this very day. That is why God warned man not to partake of it.
But there is something even more significant regarding the evil brought forth by Adam and Eve’s defiance. It is the fact that evil is not something that can be contained. It attacks everyone and everything it comes in contact with. As a result, there has never been a human being that has not felt its effects. In other words, evil is an equal opportunity wrecker of lives. It attacks the unjust and the innocent, the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the meek, the brilliant and the simple, the young and the ancient. Its tentacles have spread to every corner of the globe and there is not one square inch of earth that has not felt the effects of a horribly misguided decision made by the first people God placed on this planet.
When man and woman were first placed in the Garden of Eden, God set before them a choice. On one side was a path that would lead to life. However, that path could only be traveled by obeying the Great Creator and Sustainer of the universe. In order to do so, Adam and Eve would have to accept God’s wisdom and surrender their will to Him.
Regrettably, they concluded that the price was too high--which by the way, was the same conclusion arrived at by the great archangel Lucifer. This spectacular angelic creature thought he could be his own moral judge as well. Sadly, that belief led to his own destruction. And regardless of how hard Satan tries to promote the idea that one should be able to direct his own moral path, that path will always lead to the same place: MISERY and DEATH. The great tragedy to this story is that there was another tree in that garden – one whose fruit was so different. It was a tree that would sustain the perfection God had created when He renewed the face of the earth.
The Tree of Life
When God warned Adam and Eve to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He was not arguing that this tree lacked appeal. He knew otherwise. However, as appealing as it was, it could only bring unimaginable suffering on all mankind. Furthermore, that suffering would spread to every corner of the earth and touch every human being that ever existed.
However, there was another tree in that garden—a tree that would bring great hope and great joy. It was a tree whose fruit would engender life. With this in mind, is it possible to know specifically what this tree was?
What is the Tree of Life?
The short answer to this question is that the tree of life is everything the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not. But is there more? First, consider its name. It is called the TREE OF LIFE. Therefore, it seems logical to ask: what is it that brings life?
Earlier we saw that moral “self-determination” leads to death, and is symbolized by a forbidden tree. This being the case, is it possible that the tree of life is the rejection of moral “self-determination?” Is it possible that the tree of life symbolizes God’s will and His moral authority over our lives? In other words, by partaking of this tree, we are acknowledging God as the sole moral force directing our life. In essence, we are surrendering our will to Him.
If this is the case, then the tree of life embodies all that is Godly, including His will, His law, and His word. This is not to suggest that God wants intellectual “robots” in His Kingdom. What God is conveying through His word is that He is the source of moral excellence, and as such, man needs to rely on Him. By doing so, he will avoid a self-destructive path and instead will travel a road that will lead to eternity. The key to this road is to honor God’s word.
The scriptures reveal that God’s word brings life. The Bible is a book of life. It reflects the wisdom of the very Creator of all things. Kind David expressed great insight into the life-giving properties of God’s word. His thoughts as expressed throughout the Psalms acknowledge the Creator as sovereign over all that exists, including morality. He actually declared that God’s moral judgments, as reflected in His law, have the power to PRESERVE LIFE.
The 119th Psalm was dedicated to the greatness of God’s law. Its words are compelling and true. Here, David is appealing to his Creator for that which possesses life-sustaining properties. Notice the word "quickem" in this appeal.
- Quicken me according to your word. (Psa.119: 25)
- Quicken me in your way. (v. 37)
- Quicken me in your righteousness. (v. 40)
- Your word has quickened me. (v. 50)
- Quicken me, O Lord, according to Your word. (v. 107)
- Quicken me, O Lord, according to Your judgments. (v. 149)
- Quicken me according to Your word. (v. 154)
- Quicken me according to Your judgments.(v.156)
The Hebrew word for “quicken” used in each of these verses is kawyah. Literally translated, this word means: “to revive,” “to keep or make alive,” “to nourish or preserve,” and “to restore to life.” The point here is that God’s word sustains life. In the very same way that God breathed life into man, He breathed life into His word. The apostle Paul acknowledged this profound truth in his second epistle to the evangelist Timothy.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That man may be perfect thoroughly finished unto all good works. (2Tim. 3:16-17)
The word “inspiration” used by Paul in this passage comes from a term that literally means “divinely breathed in.” When Paul stated that all scripture is given by “inspiration,” he was declaring that it was “God-breathed.” His breath gives His word life in the same way His breath gave Adam and Eve life.
When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden He had prepared for them, He was giving them the opportunity to define how the world of the future would be. If it was to be a place of great peace and prosperity, they would have to forsake their own self-will and instead yield to the moral authority of their Creator.
On the other hand, Adam and Eve could go it alone, and see what the world would look like with man as the moral authority. The choice was theirs to make. God gave them that power. However, He also exhorted them to choose wisely.
Tragically, Adam and Eve chose the path of moral self-will. Furthermore, man continues to make the same choice today. As a result, our world has been ravaged by six thousand years of human mismanagement. And as difficult as this might be to believe, the world with all its evil, is exactly the way it should be. Its diseases, its ignorance, its crime, its oppression all reflect man deciding that he will be his own moral authority. Furthermore, under this system, man has not only created an endless stream of horrors, but he continues to sustain them. That’s right, mankind continues to perpetuate the evil he has been deceived into creating—an evil that even inflicts its will on the innocent. This is what happened in Wisconsin to God’s very own people. It is what happened in Jerusalem to His very own Son. And if the scriptures are correct it will happen again. Not because God hates man, but rather because man hates God.
Where Was God When Terror Struck?
On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, at 8:45 A.M., the face of America was permanently altered. At that moment, American Airlines flight 11, a Boeing 767, bound for Los Angeles with 76 passengers and 11 crew members aboard, slammed violently into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. It was the first of four aircraft commandeered by Islamic fanatics bent on unleashing unimaginable carnage—in the name of their god, no less.
Since that day many have wondered why a supreme being, who has been described as so loving and merciful, would allow such a horrible and senseless day to happen. Even the evangelist Billy Graham struggled to understand 9/11 in light of God’s great sovereignty. When speaking at a national prayer service shortly after the attack, Dr. Graham made the following comment:
Dr. Billy Graham
"I have been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction."
Dr. Graham is not alone in his assessment of this horrible day. For the past decade the vast majority of Americans, including its moral leaders, are still stunned by not only the clear presence of evil that immersed the nation that day, but also by what appears to be the total absence of deliverance from these events.
A God of Miracles
Certainly God could have prevented this devastation from taking place. After all, the Bible is filled with stories about great miracles of deliverance. There is Moses and the children of Israel marching through a parted Red Sea and being rescued from slaughter at the hand of Pharaoh’s army (Ex 14). There’s Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing in a blazing furnace and showing no effects of the flames (Dan. 3). Then there’s the great prophet Daniel, who at over 90 years of age was put in a lion’s den, only to wake up the next morning unscathed (Dan. 6). They were delivered. Why weren’t the thousands of innocent people whose lives ended on 9/11 spared as well? Certainly it wasn’t for a lack of prayer, was it? Virtually tens of millions of petitions to the Almighty were being uttered that day. Why didn’t He answer them? Where was He? Where was God? And why would He let this death and destruction happen?
The Big Question Regarding 9/11
With this in mind, is it possible to understand why God, whose mercy never fails (Psa. 100:5, 118:1) may very well have withdrawn His protection from the United States on that tragic September day? Does the Bible identify a time in the past when the Great Creator withheld His protection from His people? As a matter of fact, it does—and the similarities between the nation of Israel thousands of years ago and United States today are striking!
A Lesson from the Past
Throughout the Old Testament, the nation of Israel played a prominent role in God’s plan. The scriptures reveal that the Eternal intended to use it as an example to all the earth of how a people can be rightly governed. Israel was to stand as a model nation—a nation under the direct authority of God Almighty—a nation with laws that reflected His wisdom and His justice.
However, the Bible also indicates that this great nation would be stripped of spectacular blessings and ultimately disgraced. All the prosperity and safety it had enjoyed would eventually evaporate and be replaced with untold suffering. The history of Israel reveals how such a catastrophe could happen—and more importantly, why God would let it happen. To best understand this extraordinary lesson, it is important to return to the birth of this nation God likened to His “bride” (Isa. 62:5).
The Birth of a Nation
Almost thirty five hundred years ago, the children of Israel were rescued from a horrible oppression inflicted on them by the nation of Egypt, who at that time was the premier super-power on earth. Shortly after this deliverance, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob entered into a special covenant with them. The terms of this covenant were quite simple. Israel was to obey all of God’s instructions to them. In return, the Great Creator of the universe would physically bless them in a way that would set them apart from all the nations on earth. Additionally, God would be their personal protector, and as such, He would safeguard them from their enemies and even ensure that their enemies would be in fear of them.
A Covenant with Israel
God introduced the terms of His covenant by explaining that there was a very specific link between Israel’s obedience and God’s blessing. However, if Israel would obey, they would become the preeminent nation on earth.
And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord your God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command you this day, that the Lord your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth. (Dt. 28:1)
This is an extraordinary promise. Here, the very God who led Israel out of Egypt, and in doing so, brought the mightiest nation on earth to its knees, was promising a collection of slaves that they were to become a nation to which all other nations would look up. He then outlined a series of blessings that would befall them if they obeyed. These blessings would include unmatched physical prosperity and growth - a prosperity that would be greatly desired by any nation on earth - then or now. Notice the promise God makes to the children of Israel IF THEY OBEY HIM.
And all these blessings shall come on you, and overtake you, if you shall hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your kine, and the flocks of your sheep. Blessed shall be your basket and your store. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. (Dt. 28:2-6)
With these words, God was explaining that if Israel would rely on Him and heed His words, they would live what could only be described as a “charmed life.” Whatever they would do - and wherever they would do it - would turn out right.
God then promised Israel that although they would have enemies, those enemies would be scattered if they attempted to harm them.
The Lord shall cause your enemies that rise up against you to be smitten before your face: they shall come out against you one way, and flee before you seven ways. (Dt. 28:7)
In the book of Leviticus, God indicated that Israel’s military superiority would be so overwhelming, that they would be able to rout armies that outnumbered them 100 to one.
And five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. (Lev. 26:8)
God continued outlining the terms of His covenant by reaffirming His promise of incredible physical blessings for Israel. He declared that their prosperity could be seen, even in their food reserves.
The Lord shall command the blessing upon you in your storehouses, and in all that you set your hand unto; and he shall bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you. (Dt. 28:8)
When God promised to bless “all that you set your hand to do,” He was declaring that He would even inspire Israel’s creative and technological efforts. In essence, God was saying that the great inventions and discoveries down through time would come through His people.
However, the Great Creator then reminded Israel that the tremendous relationship they were to enjoy with Him was predicated on their obedience. If they obeyed, the entire world would be in awe of them.
The Lord shall establish you as an holy people unto himself, as he has sworn unto you, if you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and walk in his ways.And all the people of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of you. (Dt. 28:9-10)
God then continued to present what can only be called the greatest “wish list” any nation on earth could ever construct. It included uncanny prosperity, tremendous natural resources, including their climate, as well as protection from their enemies. Imagine if a third world country today was presented with an opportunity to enter into such a covenant. Consider what they would be offered.
And the Lord shall make you plenteous in goods, in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your cattle, and in the fruit of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore unto your fathers to give you. The Lord shall open unto you his good treasure, the heavens to give the rain unto your land in his season, and to bless all the work of your hand: and you shall lend unto many nations, and you shall not borrow. And the Lord shall make you the head, and not the tail; and you shall be above only, and you shall not be beneath... (Dt. 28:11-13)
The Eternal also promised that if Israel would honor His words, they would enjoy a very unique relationship with Him.
And I will set my tabernacle among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people. (Lev. 26:11-12)
Imagine a nation being offered the opportunity to have the GREAT GOD of Heaven as its partner in whatever it endeavored to do. In the “arts,” He would be there. In the “sciences,” He would be there. In “labor and agriculture,” He would be there. In “research and technology,” He would be there. The all-powerful, all-knowing King of everything that exists would be an endless source of inspiration and the eternal force behind every blessing. With these words, the Governor of the universe was extending to the children of Israel the greatest package of national blessings ever assembled. Consider what God was promising them.
Multiply in population,
expand in territory,
thrive in labor and commerce, and
increase in wealth and prosperity.
Their defense would be the strongest,
their economy the richest,
their prestige would extend to every corner of the world,
and they would be the envy of all the nations on earth.
Their enemies would fear them,
their friends would respect them, and
their God would love them.
All of this in exchange for one thing: “OBEY MY VOICE.” This offer by the Almighty looks like the greatest “no-brainer” in history. It is hard to imagine anyone contemplating it for more than a second. However, when examining the extraordinary prosperity God was offering, a question leaps out - one that begs to be answered.
Has a nation ever existed that was so blessed?
And does that nation exist today?
It is hard to imagine that any nation in human history more closely reflects those promises than the United States. This great land can stake claim to every one of them as no nation in human history can. It has enjoyed the greatest strength, the richest economy, the most extraordinary advances in science and industry. Its soil is the richest. Its natural resources the most abundant.
America has been seen by people around the world as a magical place. It is the home of freedom and opportunity. It has been called “The Land of Dreams” and has been the most coveted ticket in the history of immigration. For two centuries the United States has seemingly rolled the dice and they keep coming up “seven.” This nation is truly a land of promise and the beneficiary of Divine gifts. Abraham Lincoln certainly thought so. Notice his words:
"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown."
However, President Lincoln was also deeply concerned about a sense of national arrogance that would make the terrible mistake of thinking that its prominence among the nations of the world was the result of its own personal skill and talent.
"But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own."
Shame on America
This is the story of America in the twenty-first century. Because of our unmitigated gall and arrogance, we now believe that the great prosperity and freedoms we have enjoyed for over two centuries are somehow the product of personal ingenuity and “Yankee know-how,” not Divine blessings. The great 19th century statesman, Daniel Webster, warned of such thinking. His bold words stand as an indictment against the America of today. What high school history textbook in the entire country would have the courage to preserve such a statement?
"If we and our posterity shall be true to the Christian religion, if we and they shall live always in the fear of God and shall respect His commandments. We may have the highest hopes of the future fortunes of our country. But if we and our posterity neglect religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity."
For many today these words may sound like the utterance of a fanatic. But is it possible they are prophetic? Is it possible that the enormous financial meltdown we are witnessing all around us finds its cause in the last place we would ever think of looking? Is it possible that the erosion of respect for America around the world stems not from our military posture, but rather from a radical change in our own moral core? Is it possible that the great divide that our nation faces is not political, financial or racial, but rather spiritual? Finally, is it possible that we are witnessing the beginning of a sudden catastrophe that will usher in the disintegration of the mightiest nation in human history? In short, is it possible Daniel Webster was right?
The Consequences of Disobedience
After outlining the unimaginable blessings He would bestow on Israel in consideration of their obedience, God explained the consequences of disobedience. He did this because of His extraordinary fairness and love. Love, because by explaining the penalties for rebellion, God was discouraging the very behavior that would go totally contrary to Israel’s true happiness. The Almighty begins by returning to His great moral code and explains that just as obedience brings blessings, disobedience will bring “curses.”
But it shall come to pass, if you will not hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day; that all these curses shall come upon you, and overtake you: (Dt. 28:15)
Through His servant Moses, the Eternal then described a state in which no nation wants to find itself. The consequences for disobeying are truly catastrophic. As a result of rebelling against God and His law, wealth will turn to poverty, strength to weakness, fame to contempt, and hope to despair. Further, there would be no place in all the land that would be exempt from punishment. Whether it was commerce and industry in the city or agriculture in the country, everything will fail.
Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field (Dt. 28:16)
The Great God who provided for and sustained Israel then explained that if His people rebelled against Him, prosperity would be a thing of the past. None of the great abundance they knew would be left - only empty storehouses. No matter where or when they looked, the only thing they would see would be NOTHING.
Cursed shall be your basket and your store. Cursed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your land, and the increase of your kine, and the flocks of your sheep. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. (Dt. 28:17-19)
But God wasn’t finished teaching His people about the law of cause and effect. He continued to contrast the benefits of obedience with the consequences of rebellion.
No More Inspiration
When God outlined the blessings He would give to Israel if they obeyed, He said that He would actually inspire their creative efforts - everything they put their hand to would prosper (Dt. 28:8). However, God now explains that if Israel refuses to obey Him, all the breaks would go the other way. Abundance would be replaced with austerity—and everywhere there would be nothing but contempt for a people that were once so great.
The Lord shall send upon you cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that you set your hand to do, until you be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of your doings, whereby you hast forsaken me. (Dt. 28:20)
Once again, God returns to a recurring theme of obedience to Him. Not because He is some kind of egomaniacal monster, but because He is a loving God who wants His people to grow and prosper. His warning regarding the consequences of rebellion was intended to serve as a deterrent to His people from sinning. That deterrent would also include the removal of physical health and healing.
None of These Diseases
Shortly after leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, God promised to spare them from the horrible plagues He had brought upon the Egyptians. However, once again, this promise was predicated on Israel’s obedience.
...If you will diligently harken to the voice of the Lord your God, and will do that which is right in His sight, and will give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon you which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that heals you. (Ex.15:26)
God would later say that he would fill Israel with health and remove diseases from their midst (Ex. 23:25) and even give those diseases to their enemies (Dt. 7:15).
God My Healer
The Bible reveals that one of God’s names is Yhvh Ropheka (God my Healer), and as such He truly does have power over man’s health. And why shouldn’t He? After all, God made man. Every molecule that comprises the genetic code of each human being works in accordance with laws He has ordained. In truth, the ALMIGHTY is the best equipped Being in the universe to protect man from the ravages of disease. In the New Testament, Jesus even likened himself to a physician (Mt. 9:12). The point here is that God can bestow the blessing of health on a nation or withhold that blessing from them. This fact was affirmed by Him when He indicated that if Israel rebelled against Him or His law, He would withhold His protection from diseases, and instead bring plagues upon them.
The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto you, until it has consumed you from off the land, whither you go to possess it. The Lord shall smite you with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue you until thou perish.(Dt. 28:21-22)
God went on to say that even mental illness would afflict this people he had so richly blessed.
The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart: And you shall grope at noonday, as the blind gropes in darkness, and you shall not prosper in your ways: and you shall be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save you. (Dt. 28:28-29)
It is important to understand that God does not do this because He is some great bully in the sky. He is not simply trying to “rough up” people who are defenseless. The Bible reveals that God derives no pleasure out of human suffering (Ezk. 33:11). On the contrary, it causes Him great anguish. What God is doing is explaining to those whom He has created, that they need him. In that regard, man is like an infant in the care of a loving parent. Every young child relies on that parent for sustenance - the essentials of life. This includes their food, clothing, shelter and protection, as well as LOVE and MORAL GUIDENCE.
Today, man doesn’t believe he needs God for anything. By withholding His blessings, the Almighty is teaching His people - and the whole world for that matter - that man without the true God is like a child without a loving parent.
The Weather Shall Betray You
When God revealed the great blessings He would bestow on Israel if they obeyed His commandments, He included a climate that would be conducive to abundant crop production (Dt. 28:12). Like all of the creation, the weather is also subject to the God of Heaven. As such, it does what He commands it to do. Throughout the scriptures, God has used weather to demonstrate His strength. In the days of Noah, He commanded the heavens to open and release a relentless rain upon the earth (Gen.7). In the days of Elijah the prophet, God sealed up the heavens, causing a great drought (I Ki. 18:1, Jas. 5:17). The book of Zechariah reveals that God will even employ the weather during the millennium to correct the nation of Egypt and encourage them to keep His Holy Days, specifically The Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16-18).
When describing to Israel the consequences of disobedience, God includes adverse weather—a weather that would not sustain crops. This is clearly one of the devices the Creator can use to radically change the prosperity of a nation, and God said He was prepared to do just that.
And the heaven that is over your head shall be brass, and the earth that is under you shall be iron. The Lord shall make the rain of your land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon you, until you be destroyed. (Dt. 28:23-24)
As a result of a massive depletion of rain, as well as an incursion of insects, crops will fail, and agricultural production will be a thing of the past.
You shall carry much seed out into the field, and shall gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it. You shall plant vineyards, and dress them, but shall neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. You shall have olive trees throughout all your coasts, but you shall not anoint thyself with the oil; for your olive shall cast its fruit. (Dt.28:38-40)
A Brief Review
So far, God has explained to the children of Israel that if they obey Him, they will be the recipients of unimaginable blessings. However, He also described the consequences for refusing to obey. These consequences include great poverty and sickness as well as the depletion of natural resources and a favorable climate. He now explains that Israel will experience firsthand, the utter destruction and humiliation of defeat in war.
National Security Will be Decimated
When God established the nation of Israel, He knew it would have enemies. But He also knew that He could provide them with the greatest security network on earth. God assured the Israelites that they would receive that protection if they obeyed.
Now, in the interest of fairness, God explains what Israel’s defenses would look like without Him, and it is not a pleasant sight. The great strength they would enjoy as a superpower would be so depleted they would actually be turned to flight by enemies who were radically inferior to them. God began by indicating that He would break the pride of Israel’s power (Lev. 26:19). As a result, what lay before them would be inconceivable.
The Lord shall cause you to be smitten before your enemies: you shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shall be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. (Dt.28:25)
So complete would be the destruction of a nation bent on rebelling against God, that it would be driven out of its own land and led away captive.
The Lord shall bring you, and your king which you shall set over yourself, unto a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known; and there shall you serve other gods, wood and stone. And you shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations wither the Lord shall lead you. (Dt. 28:36-37)
When describing the utter destruction of Israel, God said it would be perpetrated by an enemy that had a ferocious contempt for everything about this once-blessed nation. Further, this enemy would show absolutely no mercy on their captives. They would only despise them, whether young or old.
The Lord shall bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies; a nation whose tongue you shall not understand; A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favor unto the young: And he shall eat the fruit of your cattle, and the fruit of your land, until you be destroyed: which also shall not leave you either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of your kine, or flocks of your sheep, until he has destroyed you. And he shall besiege you in all your gates, until your high and fenced walls come down, wherein you trusted, throughout all your land: and he shall besiege you in all your gates throughout all your land, which the Lord your God has given thee. (Dt. 28:49-52)
Great Humiliation and Injustice
It is hard to imagine that things could get worse for a nation committed to walking totally contrary to the God who raised them up - but worse it will get. God then declared that if Israel rebelled against Him and His law, they would suffer unbelievable humiliation and injustice. This humiliation will come at the hands of their enemies.
You shall betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her: you shall build a house, and you shall not dwell therein: you shall plant a vineyard, and shall not gather the grapes thereof.
Your ox shall be slain before your eyes, and you shall not eat thereof: your ass shall be violently taken away from before your face, and shall not be restored to you; your sheep shall be given unto your enemies, and you shall have none to rescue them.
Your sons and your daughters shall be given unto another people, and your eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long: and there shall be no might in your hand.
The fruit of your land, and all your labors, shall a nation which you know not eat up; and you shall be only oppressed and crushed always:
So that you shall be mad for the sight of your eyes which you shall see. (Dt. 28:30-34)
God also stated that because of Israel’s refusal to walk in the way that He would direct, they would have to march to the orders of an enemy that would enslave them.
Because you served not the Lord your God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shall you serve your enemies which the Lord shall send against you, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon your neck, until he has destroyed you (Dt. 28:47-48)
The Ultimate Humiliation
In a very real sense, rebellion against God by a nation that once knew Him, is nothing less than an act of depravity. It stands as unimaginably foolish. It constitutes the height of arrogance, and God said it would be met with the ultimate of curses. The ravages of war can bring massive suffering on a people. In its wake there can be disease and almost always FAMINE. When explaining to Israel the consequences of rejecting His law, God described the gravity of the FAMINE they would experience. The words that follow illustrate where man will stoop, absent the protection of a great God.
When your enemies are besieging your towns, you will become so desperate for food that you will even eat the children that the Lord your God has given you. Even the most refined man of noble birth will become so desperate during the siege that he will eat some of his own children because he has no other food. He will not even give any to his brother or to the wife he loves or to any of his children who are left. Even the most refined woman of noble birth, so rich that she has never had to walk anywhere, will behave in the same way. When the enemy besieges her town, she will become so desperate for food that she will secretly eat her newborn child and the afterbirth as well. She will not share them with the husband she loves or any of her children. (Dt. 28:53-57 Today’s English Version)
Why Would God Punish His People?
Throughout this covenant, God reminded Israel that His blessings would be showered down upon them like a gentle rain. However, that rain would cease, and curses would appear, if Israel elected to walk contrary to God’s law.
Moreover all these curses shall come upon you, and shall pursue you, and overtake you, till you be destroyed; because you hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded you: And they shall be upon you for a sign and for a wonder, and upon your seed for ever. (Dt. 28:35-46)
These verses reveal a great honesty about the God of the Bible. There is nothing subtle about His words. They are clear and direct. They outline a very specific formula for tapping into the wisdom, wealth, and strength of Almighty God. But they also reveal that God is not interested in His people taking Him for a “test drive” before they buy. And why should he be? Israel saw firsthand that God could deliver on His promise. The problem was that Israel couldn’t deliver on theirs.
The law God gave to the children of Israel fills the pages of the books of Moses (the first five books of the Bible). Here, God provides His wisdom regarding the great moral and ethical questions man faces to this very day. If any society would open that book and commit to honoring the wisdom of The Holy One of Israel, they would be the beneficiaries of promises that are as timeless as the God who gave them.
Tragically, Israel rebelled and they suffered horribly for it. There is little doubt that this once - great nation must have wondered where God was as the armies of its enemies advanced toward them. When destruction seems so imminent and so VAST, it’s very easy to ask the question that must also have been on the lips of millions of Americans on September 11.
Those who think the idea of “blessings” and “cursings” is inconsistent with their understanding of a God of love, should ask themselves what this world would look like if there were no consequences for evil. Further, those who believe that God is like some genie in a lamp, or a jolly old fat man who brings people presents once a year, cannot grasp that God is a loving parent who is fully capable of disciplining His children.
The point here is that God is perfectly capable of rendering His judgment against nations. He did so to both Israel and Judah over twenty five hundred years ago. The result was them being stripped of the monumental blessings He gave them.
It is true that God is merciful and patient, but He isn’t foolish; and He isn’t one to be mocked (Ga.6:7). God created the laws of cause and effect - the laws of blessings and cursings. When speaking to the nation of Israel, He reminded them that sin brings with it a real penalty. Additionally, He informed them that sin is not something that can be hidden. Eventually every sin will be exposed and will in turn expose the sinner.
But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out. (Num. 32:23)
Those who think they can make evil good simply by declaring it so are in for a terrifying truth. The great prophet Isaiah was inspired to record that truth.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! (Isa. 5:20-23)
Now listen to what God says will befall those who mock Him with their judgments - those who have crafted their own standard of morality.
Therefore as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and he has stretched forth his hand against them, and has smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. (Isa. 5:24-25)
Perhaps the greatest error this world has ever made in its history is a total misunderstanding that God is just. And His justice demands that sin either be punished or forgiven. If man refuses to repent and turn from sin, then there is only one option left.
Contrary to what America may think, God is not blind--nor is He some distant concept residing in a far away place. God is VERY REAL and so is His law. Furthermore, that law is woven through the fabric of eternity. It reflects who God is and how He thinks. Here is the warning the Almighty conveys to every generation:
IF YOU BREAK MY LAW, MY LAW WILL BREAK YOU.
Today man is bent on challenging this principle. He has ostensibly called on God Almighty to either “put up or shut up.” Here is how God is going to deliver.
Therefore hear now this, you that are given to pleasures, that dwell carelessly, that say in your heart, I am, and there is none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children:
But these two things shall come to you in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon you in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of your enchantments.
For you have trusted in your wickedness: you have said, None seeth me. Your wisdom and your knowledge, it has perverted you; and you have said in your heart, I am, and there is none else beside me.
Therefore shall evil come upon you; you shall not know from whence it rises: and mischief shall fall upon you; you shall not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon you suddenly, which you shall not know. (Isa. 47:8-11)
The Conclusion of the Matter
The question of why a merciful God would allow horrible suffering such as that experienced as a result of violent natural disasters, or the devastation that took place on 911, or during a peaceful church service in Brookfield, Wisconsin, or the scores of horrific acts that wreak havoc on human happiness, must truly be a agonizing one to ask.
But there is an answer—one that offers a painful reality.
God allows unspeakable tragedies because He wants man to know what the world would look like without Him as its guiding moral presence. This is not God’s world. Man decided he did not need His wisdom and virtue while living in a garden some 6000 years ago. There, he decided to determine for himself what was “good” and what was “evil.” And he continues to assert that “right” to this very day.
As a result of man’s judgment, the innocent will always suffer. There will always be poverty. Families will always be ripped apart by divorce. Ignorance and superstition will always corrupt man’s great potential. Justice will be always perverted. Snipers will always kill at random. Children will always be abducted from their homes and murdered. Sickness and disease will always attack the weak, natural disasters will always ravage the planet, tyrants will always rule the earth. And fanatics will always fly passenger jets into buildings. But there is good news.
However, the Bible indicates that man will eventually learn his lesson and ultimately turn to his Maker and yield to Him. When he does, his Heavenly Father will shower down upon the human family great blessings and even invite His children to rule with Him (Dan. 7:22, I Cor. 6:2-3, Rev. 3:21, 5:10, 20:4). This is the great hope of the gospel. Perhaps the best way to describe man’s journey is through the following short story.
Once upon a time there was a master carpenter who specialized in making exquisite furniture. His skill was legendary and his services were sought all over the globe. As you looked at his work you could see the love and patience he put into it. Every piece was absolutely flawless. This great artisan spent decades perfecting his craft and his dedication rewarded him with a skill that was unmatched.
One day this great master asked his young apprentice if he would like to complete a very important project. His student was thrilled beyond words and readily accepted the invitation.
However, before he could start, his teacher informed him that to succeed in this project he would have to diligently follow very specific instructions. There could not be the slightest deviation from the specifications his teacher had laid out. The master even warned his pupil that any alteration of or deviation from his instructions would result in failure. His apprentice assured him that he would follow his master’s instructions explicitly.
As the student began his work, he was mindful of his teacher’s words. He painstakingly memorized all the notes and plans. He would also constantly review the many drawings of this wonderful piece of furniture.
However, as the days turned into weeks, the young man became frustrated at how difficult the task had become. At this point he decided to make slight modifications to the plans. Unfortunately, each modification only served to compromise the project further. When his master sought to help, the young man became angry and insisted that he could do it on his own. However, in the end, what started out to be a great masterpiece was ruined—ruined because the young apprentice thought his skill, that was in its infant stages, could accomplish what his master had acquired over several decades.
Although his mentor had every right to be angry with his pupil, he was more interested in knowing what his apprentice had learned. When he sought the answer to this query, the student realized that his master was truly interested in his success. That is why he shared his wisdom with him in the first place. With this the young apprentice humbly acknowledged a wonderful truth: “I have learned to trust in you with all my heart and to lean not on my own understanding.” When the master heard these words he embraced his pupil and said: “What you have gained in failure is worth far more than anything made with hands. I rejoice in your success. I do so because now you are ready to be the master.
This story is very similar to one that is being played out every day. Only this time God is the Master and mankind is the pupil. With this in mind, imagine what you would do if God gave you a chance to determine the destiny of the world. Would you be willing to build its governments, craft its laws, define its values, and to inspire its faiths?
Now imagine that when God extended this invitation He also informs you that He has already created a formula for total success in this endeavor. Furthermore, this formula was ABSOLUTELY guaranteed to bring happiness to the human experience.
He now presents you with a choice. You may allow God to be your partner on this quest or you may forge your own path. At this point God cautions you to carefully consider your options. He then warns you that only His way will succeed.
This is the same choice God presented to the first human family nearly 6000 years ago. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve thought they could manage this world without Him. It sounds unbelievable—but it is true none-the-less. As a result, mankind continues to walk a path that is only paved with misery. In the wake of this decision, governments continue to topple, laws continue to be mocked, and values continue to degenerate while unspeakable violence and natural disasters continue to escalate. Mind you, it did not have to be this way. The scriptures are filled examples of God appealing to man to turn back to Him (2Chron. 7:14). Regrettably, humanity has essentially told Him to “butt out” of their business.
However, the scriptures reveal that God’s children will eventually understand the true source of all blessings. And when that day comes the Great God of heaven, the Master architect of all things will declare to them: “What you have gained in failure is worth far more than anything made with hands. I rejoice in your success. I do so because now you are ready to be the master.”
Copyright © Dennis Fischer