Thursday, September 18, 2014

Good & Evil: What God does in a world of evil

As we enter the third part in this current series, the terrorist organization ISIS has given us a new consideration of evil this past week. After the previous executions of two American journalists, they broadcast internationally via YouTube as they beheaded British aid worker David Haines.

This trio of murders is both appalling and horrific. And yet, they represent only a small portion of the evil atrocities committed in our world even in just this past week. God alone knows the number of those who have suffered at the hands of the violent.

I don’t personally know John Yakubu or any of the Nigerian Christians slaughtered by Boko Haram this past summer. I’ve never met James Foley, Steven Sotloff, or David Haines. My daily life might be more comfortable if I ignored their stories along with the stories of all those who suffer. But every act of evil ripples out over the earth; eventually those ripples intersect with my life.

That’s why I need to know how to live as a child of God in a world of evil.

To that end, Psalm 37 is proving to be a great source of information. First, we learned some of the qualities we should have as children of God in an evil world. Second, we learned some of the things we should do as God’s children in a world of evil. Today we’ll see some of the actions God has promised to us before we wrap up next week with a look at the outcome for both the wicked and the righteous.

You might want to take a minute to read Psalm 37 before proceeding.

What God does in a world of evil

37:17, 24 – The Lord supports the righteous. He holds our hand. He sustains us even when hard times press in so close we fear they may knock us to our knees. Isaiah wrote during an era when the evil Assyrian empire was growing and Israel was declining. Yet He said of the Lord, “You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You (Isaiah 26:3).

37:18 – The Lord watches over the blameless. God is watching; He knows what’s going on. He sees that you have stayed strong even when evil permeated around you. Job knew about holding fast to our beliefs even when we endure suffering. Yet he wrote, “He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold” (Job 23:10).

37:23 – The Lord establishes our steps. He directs the way we should go; He knows the way that is best. David faced a lot of adversity in his path to the throne of Israel. But in the end, he looked back – and forward – and realized, “When your time comes and you [David] rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-13).

37:23 – The Lord takes pleasure in our way. When we follow in the path that God has established for us, He is happy about it! We please Him. The Israelites had their ups and downs as far as following in the path God had for them. However, after their 40+ year exodus from slavery in Egypt, they knew “If the LORD is pleased with us, He will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us” (Numbers 14:8). And you know what? We also have our own spiritual Promised Land waiting at the end of our journey if we follow in His way.

37:28, 33 – The Lord will not abandon us. God’s not going anywhere. He didn’t bring us this far just to abandon us here! Joshua journeyed a long ways with God under Moses’ leadership. When God called him to succeed Moses, He also reminded him three times, “The LORD is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8; see also Deuteronomy 31:6 and Joshua 1:5).

37:28 – The Lord will keep us safe. He will be on guard over you just as He would guard Himself. He has cut covenant with us which He can’t and won’t forsake. Nehemiah knew God’s covenants; that’s why when he mourned over the crumbling of Jerusalem he could also say, “Yahweh, the God of heaven, the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps His gracious covenant with those who love Him and keep His commands” (Nehemiah 1:5).

37:33 – The Lord will not allow us to be condemned. We’re guilty; all of us are worthy of condemnation. But God denies any condemnation for His children. The psalmist Asaph recognized God’s enemies rise up against us to imprison and kill us. Yet, he also knew the source of redemption when he wrote, “May the groans of the prisoners come before you; by the strength of your arm preserve those condemned to die” (Psalm 79:11).

37:39 – The Lord gives us salvation. Victory is ours; deliverance will come. Solomon – the wisest man who ever lived – realized we rely only on God when he wrote, “No wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel will prevail against the LORD. A horse is prepared for battle, but victory comes from the LORD” (Proverbs 21:30-31).

37:39 – The Lord gives us refuge. He is our place of safety; He alone is a harbor of protection. Nahum prophesied against Nineveh for her evil, cruelty, and barbaric practices. Even in the midst of such atrocities however, Nahum recognized, “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him” (Nahum 1:7 NIV).

37:40 – The Lord helps, delivers, and saves us. He will surround us in support. He will make a way for us to escape. He will bring us to victory. More than any other person in the Bible, Jesus knew unjust suffering. He felt the sting of His enemy in a way none of His followers will ever have to feel. That’s why the suffering of Psalm 22 is prophetic of His suffering. And yet, Psalm 22 includes “Our fathers trusted in You; they trusted, and you rescued them. … He relies on the LORD; let Him rescue him; let the LORD deliver him, since He takes pleasure in him. … Do not be far from me, because distress is near and there is no one to help. … Save me from the mouth of the lion!” (Psalm 22:4, 8, 11, 21).

So, …

Whether we choose to confront or hide from the prevalent evil, God promises that He will act. God will be there when the ripples of evil intersect with our life. He will support, watch over, and establish us. He will take pleasure in our journey toward Him. He will never abandon us and will keep us safe. He will not allow us to be condemned as He ensures our salvation. He alone will help us to a place of deliverance and refuge.

Thank you, Lord, for these powerful promises in the midst of an evil world.

Click here to read the previous article.

Click here to read the next and last article in this series.

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