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DELIBERATE GOD - Part Two
by Steven Ray Bragg
2/20/2017 / Missions
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Some would say God is not deliberate even in Creation. They say God sparked life and then evolution took over. This would say God is not powerful enough to create; to make something from nothing or speak creation into existence. And of course this would say that much of the Bible is false. Evolution becomes more powerful than God. Evolution becomes even more deliberate through the process of “natural selection.”
There are some that say God created and then set things in motion. That the events of history are random. Events are man caused. Occasionally God intervenes, but in general, He is removed from time and history.
Some would say miracles are explainable in human terms, historical events, science, or superstition. Was there really a worldwide flood? Or only local floods restricted to areas we find evidence of a great flood? Was Israel delivered through the reeds of the Red Sea in ten inches of water or did God part the sea and they walked on dry ground? Did Moses turn water to blood or was it red mud from a nearby volcano? Did Jesus really die for our sins and was He resurrected for our eternal life, or did He just simply appear dead? Did the disciples revive Him from near death in the tomb or steal His body away in a great conspiracy?
When Pastor Alagos, his wife Edna and I pasted through men, who we were told would cut our heads off, without incident, luck? When my car radiator exploded boiling water on my face without burns, only weird or strange. When late on a typhoon stormy night, Pastor Alagos’ motorcycle mysteriously stopped just before a washed out bridge coincidence? When we opened a church in place that when tried years before resulting in death and now successful just random luck? Is establishing 25 churches in five years just good management or talented people? I know it is neither. If what we do here is in human strength, then my life and work are of no consequence. It would be temporal at best, or superficial. It would be all in vain. It would be better to relax in my retirement, and sit on my terrace in my rocking chair with a good book and glass of wine.
“Everlasting To Everlasting”
“Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psalms 90:2).
“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
God lives in the realm of everlasting. He knows the end from the beginning, “Only I can tell you the future before it even happens.” Because God lives in the everlasting realm outside of time and its limits, He can prophecy or tell the future before it happens in the realm of time. As an example, God told through the Bible more than 300 prophesies about Jesus. All were fulfilled in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The more than 100 remaining prophecies about Jesus will be fulfilled in His coming at the end of time or this age. They are all prophesied with precise detail.
As an example, hundreds of years before Jesus came, it was prophesied that He would be born in Bethlehem; that He would be hung between two thieves; His hands and feet would be pierced; not one bone would be broken. We cannot see beyond this moment. That is why we wear seatbelts, right? We cannot predict the next second. God sees it all: knows it all. He knows and lives in eternity outside of our past, present and future. “Praise the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives from everlasting to everlasting! And all the people shouted "Amen!" and praised the LORD” (1 Chronicles 16:36 NLT).
The Book of Revelation tells us the future. The unveiling or revealing of future events. The Apostle John wrote at the end of the first century with grand detail exactly what will happen in the end of our age. He wrote with careful detail of the coming judgment and consummation of God’s Church; His bride; you and me. The revelation was given to him by the resurrected Jesus Christ himself.
As an example of God doing what He wants throughout time and eternity, God tells us of a future event were this earth and heaven come to an end. Then a new earth and heaven are made. God lives with us in the new earth and heaven. This event is told several times throughout history. About three thousand years ago the book of Psalms declares “Long ago You laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with Your hands. They will perish, but You remain forever; they will wear out like old clothing. You will change them like a garment and discard them” (Psalms 102:25-26 NLT). Then two thousand years ago this event is proclaimed again in the New Testament book of Hebrews. “And, "You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands; they will perish, but You remain; and they all will become old like a garment, and like a mantle you will roll them up; like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end" (Hebrews 1: 10-12).
Then nearly thirty years later, the apostle John writes the Book of Revelation about 97 A.D. He writes about the end of the age. It is at this time that the earth and heaven are discarded and God creates a new heaven and new earth. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away” (Revelations 21:1a).
God created the heavens and the earth and one day at the end of this age and the beginning of the new, like old worn out clothing He will discard them. One day we will be there to witness the event. We will be part of the predicted event. We will be the predestined event. Just like those who were there at the predicted and predestined coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23). They lived at the time when more than 300 prophesies: scriptures were fulfilled.
My point is God knows everything from beginning to end in all detail. Nothing takes Him by surprise. He is sovereign in all things happening. All things, all events, all life are by His will only. Matthew says not even the death of a single bird or the falling out of each human hair goes unnoticed by God. "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:29-30). He knows the beginning, end and everything in between in complete detail. He either causes events or works through events or allows events to His purpose.
There is only one God and His one purpose: His purpose. “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10). Here is God’s purpose and pleasure. “God decided in advance [purposed] to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure” (Ephesians 1:5 NLT).
The deciding “in advance” was before the creation of the world. “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:4). His choosing “in advance” was that we would be Holy and blameless through Jesus Christ. God determined that the salvation of man would only come through Jesus Christ. He did this before creation; “before the foundation of the world.” Also, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
As I Understand It
God’s one purpose was to create you and me in His image and likeness, save us from ourselves (sin resulting in death) via the sacrificing of Himself as the Word incarnate on cross and the resulting resurrection freeing us from death and then live with us in eternity.
We are His supreme (sovereign) good and purpose. Everything else; all creation, all effort, all events, all that is predestined, and all predetermined serve only God’s one good and only purpose; you and I and our relationship with Him now and eternal. Our lives, if we love Him; if we respond to His call of salvation, live within His good and purpose. Whether we suffer in trial, testing or death; if we live in His purpose and will then all is good. If I suffer or die or rejoice, if it is outside of God it is all for nothing. However, if I suffer, die or rejoice in His purpose then there is reason, purpose and good in all. I remember a movie line “it’s a good day to die.”[i] Or maybe it could be said it’s a wasted day to die, or even worse, a wasted death and even more than that a wasted life. We all live and we all suffer and we all rejoice and all die. Will our life be within God’s good and purpose or for not?
Now we can see more clearly Romans 8:28. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
God is not being caught by surprise and then arranging unseen or unknown events, suddenly made known, to work out somehow if He is able or willing. He has purposed before the foundation the world what would happen. His will was established; His will is being accomplished; His will is insured by Himself; His is sovereign; He is all present everywhere and at all times; He is all knowing; and He is all powerful! "Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'” (Isaiah 46:9-10).
If we love God and are living in His purpose, God is causing and working His purpose in and through our lives. He does this absolutely because He is sovereign and it is His “good pleasure.”
Romans 8:28 is God telling us that we, each of our lives, are a part of God’s eternal plan. At the end of the age, we will either be in judgment and death because we lived lives of no consequence outside of God’s purpose, or resurrected to eternal life with our loving God. If we are resurrected unto eternal life it is because we lived life in His purpose and for His good. His good is our good. Consequently, when He rolls up the dead corrupted creation like an old garment and discards it, then the new heaven and the new earth come, then God lives with us there for eternity.
God’s Good Is Our Good
You see, since before creation, in creation, through history and specifically in our lives, “God causes all things to work together for good.” God’s deliberate purpose is that salvation is through His Son Jesus Christ. We can refuse God and His purpose or accept it. This is clearly known through what has been revealed in His Word. Every life, every life story and each event reveals God working to bring us to discover Him or know Him better. We come to know His purpose of salvation. We come to know how our own lives work in His sovereign and everlasting purpose. God is causing His purpose throughout time, and in each of our lives.
God was not surprised by the choice of Adam and Eve to sin. The sending of the Savior was not plan “B”. He knew they would sin and reject Him as God; even before the creation of the world. The process of creating man in Their own Image; sin and death entering our lives and the world; the sending of a Savior; The Gospel calling us to repentance was predetermined. It was ordered by God. God works and causes His will to be done, even in my life and your life and all God has given us to do. The new heaven and the new earth are the culmination of the creation and salvation of man.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them (Revelation 21:1-3).
A further illustration of God causing events to His purpose is the life of Job. In this story God causes, tests, allows and ordains events.
In answering the accuser, Satan, God says "All right, you may test him," the LORD said to Satan. "Do whatever you want [allow] with everything he possesses, but don't harm him physically [ordain]." So Satan left the LORD's presence” (Job 1:12 NLT). Then later God allows and ordains; grants Satan even more power to test Job with his health. "All right, do with him as you please," the LORD said to Satan. "But spare his life" (Job 2:6 NLT).
After the testing of Job was finished, God reversed all the harm and blessed Job even more than before. God is good and just. “When Job prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before (Job 42:10 NLT)!
The interpretation and application of Job’s story is difficult at best. However, some things are clearly understood. God caused the testing of Job and allowed his suffering with limit and divine purpose. Satan was the agent of the testing and suffering. In the end, God blessed Job. God was sovereign and deliberate in all.
God was deliberate (caused) in setting up the testing of Job by asking Satan if he had considered Job. God knew Satan would accuse Himself and Job. This was no surprise to God. He knew the entire situation and the outcome. That is who Satan is - the Accuser. “For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth—the one who accuses them before our God day and night.” (Revelation 12:10b)
Job’s testing results, or God’s divine purpose made known: Satan came to know that Job’s faith was genuine. Satan had accused God of bribing Job’s faith with favoritism. Indeed God favored Job, but it was because of Job’s faith not to receive Job’s faith. Job was faithful in both blessing and adversity. Job came to understand God in a greater way. “Then Job replied to the LORD: "I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.’ You asked, 'Who is this that questions My wisdom with such ignorance?' It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me” (Job 42:1-3 NLT). You and I, as we examine Job’s trail come to understand God better, also. Job’s life reveals to us a window into God’s nature and sovereignty.
The Honor to Defend God
The testing of Job’s faith proved that his faith was genuine. But more than that, Job’s faith defended the honor of God. Satan accused God of favoritism. He accused God of being unjust. Job’s faithfulness proved Satan’s accusation against God wrong. Job’s faith was not the result of favoritism but knowledge that God is and of his faithfulness as God’s servant. Job was a faithful man in prosperity and suffering need. Like a Knight defending his King. Job defended the honor of the Lord God Almighty. OH TO BE GIVEN SUCH A DISTINCTION AND PRIVILEGE.
When others see us in prosperity or suffering a trial, will they see the God we proclaim? Will the see our God as faithful, sovereign, good and just or will they see by our action that we believe His is none of these?
Faith in God’s Purpose
Testing or Trial
As a result of the experience of knowing God, I have faith in the process of testing and trial. I call these times The Enemy is Roaring. Satan roared in the testing of Job. I am sure he thought he had both God and Job over a barrel. When God granted him even more authority over Jobs health, he must have roared with delight. “Satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.” (Job 2:4) Satan thought Job would give up even his faith in God to spare his own life.
The lessons here have many applications. One, God knew Job’s faith and knew he would endure the trial faithfully. Two, Satan came to know man can worship God because of love or faith not for what he can receive. Three, the relationship of Job and God was genuine. Four, deeper faith and greater understanding of God comes through testing or trial. Five, God has purpose and design in trial. Six, whatever the trial, God is deliberate, absolute and sovereign. Seven, better to stand strong in faith then fold. In each trial, we come to know even more that God is sovereign and He is faithful. No matter what, we can trust Him! We cannot help but trust Him; He is God! Amen!
This why Pastor Alagos and I say to each other often The Enemy Is Roaring ~ The Lord Is blessing! Also we recite Romans 8:28. We love God and we are in His purpose. There is cause and good in each trial. Even our trial is working God’s purpose and His good. Our faith is that God’s purpose and good is also our purpose and good, we pray. Through each roaring of intimidation come purpose, good and God’s sovereign will. For us, our God given purpose is to preach His Gospel and establish His Churches in remote places of the Philippines.
Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:13-15)
For us, always the results of the roaring enemy is God blessings as we successfully deliver His Gospel of salvation. Lives are saved. Families and relationships are healed. His Church is established. Hope becomes real for the hopeless. The gates of hell have no power. Satan and his pawns are defeated and dishonored as they see the glory of God become evident. The children of God are revealed. Amen!
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:18-21).
Through the adversity we face in this corrupted world and its evil, God reveals Himself as our Savior and loving God. As we walk through the trials of life our faith is made known and our salvation is matured: it is made evident.
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:7-9).
Exodus - Just One More Illustration
Exodus is also is an amazing story of God’s deliberate sovereignty in causing events. God had arranged that Israel would become slaves in Egypt. “God said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. "But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions” (Genesis 15:13-14). Now remember that God knows this even before creation
After God told Abraham that his family, through Isaac, who became the nation Israel, would be slaves in Egypt. Jacob the grandson of Abraham was later renamed Israel. His 12 sons became the nation called Israel. God arranged through Abraham’s great grandson, Joseph one of those twelve sons, that Israel would settle in Egypt. The story of all the hardships of Joseph and providential blessings of God are remarkable.
Joseph’s brothers hearts were hardened against Joseph. From the time of his first dreams to rule his family, to the pit, then a slave in the household of Potiphar, then prison, and finally second in command of Egypt was God’s providence made evident. God maneuvered Joseph’s life to rule with Pharaoh in order to bring Israel’s family there. "Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph, "God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay” (Genesis 45:9).
God also moved the earth’s weather and climate to accomplish His purpose. He caused seven years of exceptional weather for abundant harvest. Then He caused seven years of famine. This prediction moved Pharaoh to appoint Joseph to manage the events for Egypt. The famine also caused Jacob to send his sons to Egypt to by grain. The trip to Egypt caused the reunion of Joseph to his family and the subsequent move of Israel to Egypt where they would eventually be enslaved just as God had told, predicted, to Abraham.
The Pharaohs that came to rule after Joseph, enslaved the growing nation Israel. God waits 400 years to rescue them. When Israel’s family came to Egypt because of Joseph they were seventy in number when they entered into Goshen of Egypt. During the 400 years God grew the family of Israel into a significant nation. It is estimated by some that at the time Israel left Egypt in the Exodus they were a nation of six-million plus.[ii]
When they left Egypt they took all the spoils with them. God blessed their slavery to become a great and wealthy nation of God. God had told Abraham “afterward they will come out with many possessions.” Israel’s slave labor made Egypt a wealthy nation. At the freeing of Israel, God gives that wealth to Israel. It was all predestined by God. Because God is sovereign, He deliberately made it come to pass. God moved people, events and climates to accomplish His purpose.
The raising up of their deliverer, Moses, to lead them out of the bondage of slavery was indeed another deliberate act of God. God created the irresistible beauty of the baby Moses that led his mother to spare him, it was God’s hand in it all. Even the basket sent on the Nile River with the baby Moses in it was no accident. “The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile” (Exodus 2:2-3).
God ordained the discovery of the basket and baby Moses by Pharaoh’s daughter and he was raised in Egypt as her son. It was all providential. God deliberately acting to raise up a deliverer for Israel at God’s appointed time; 400 years as He told Abraham. “He has made everything appropriate in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11a).
The raising of Moses in the household of Pharaoh for forty years and the shepherding for forty years in Midian was all the providential hand of God to prepare Israel’s redeemer. “Is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush” (Acts 7:35b).
Finally, the appointed time for Moses to free Israel arrives with God appearing from burning bush. From the bush the Lord told Moses "Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.” Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt" (Exodus 3:9-10).
But there would be delays and obstacles before Pharaoh would let Israel go. God caused all of the events through His hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. "But I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 7:3)
The Roaring of the Enemy
Even though God told Moses of the delays, for Israel and even Moses it looked like they would not be freed. It was the roaring of the enemy. At the first meeting of Moses and Pharaoh, it appeared that Pharaoh was too strong even for the name of God, I Am. Pharaoh burdened the people even more to make bricks finding their own straw. Moses and Israel were dismayed as the enemy roared. “Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, "O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? "Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all" (Exodus 5:22-23). All of the events that appeared to be harm were actually God caused in order to bring about His glory both to Egypt and Israel. "But I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.”
As The Enemy Roared – God Demonstrated His Sovereignty and
Arranged Israel’s Blessings
Finally, the day of their freedom arrives. God was not finish with Egypt or Israel. More of His glory was yet to be revealed in the freeing of His people and the judgment of Egypt. "But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve.” We can speculate about the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, but the reality was God had judged Pharaoh and His nation. They were under judgment and the penalty was that they, Israel’s enemy, would be destroyed by the Red Sea.
I want to add here that Satan does not have the same abilities as God. He has no foresight. I believe as events unfold he is a spectator either cheering as he sees events in his favor or he goes away defeated and planning a new strategy to defeat God and His loved creation; man. Satan did not see that God was using him in the test of Job. Sometimes Satan thinks he causes events. After God granted Satan to test Job, I believe Satan thought his accusations would be proved true about God and Job. I believe that every time God hardened Pharaoh, Satan was delighted. Each time Pharaoh’s heart was hardened Satan, the enemy, roared. However, it was all God’s greater plan. We are God’s plan; His purpose; His good for His glory and our eternity. Amen!
God’s Deliberate Sovereignty
Heartache and Tragedy
Because we are on the subject of God’s deliberate sovereignty, I feel it necessary to attempt to explain further how God interacts with us. For instance, heartache and tragedy are a part of life. As well as joy and triumph are life experiences. We experience them all in life. The reality is we live in a broken, sinful and corrupted world full of sinful people and evil intentions. Indeed evil is in the world. Just looking at the nightly news of beheadings, mass slayings, rape, murder and the list goes on are all the proof one needs. Sometimes heartache and tragedy come to us as a result others actions, sometimes of our own actions.
Disease and death are a part of our reality. They are not God caused, but sin and rebellion caused. Sometimes our own sin unknowingly or knowingly causes heartache and tragedy. For instance, my generation did not know the deadly consequences of smoking in our own lives, our family’s lives through second hand smoke or in pregnancy. But still look at how much heartache and tragedy smoking caused through ignorance. Even in this day, knowing about smoking’s consequences, we could say indifference or open rebellious behavior causes disease and death. People smoke even knowing it is harmful to themselves and others. It is the same with alcohol. It hurts our bodies. The effects of drunk or alcoholic parents on spouses, children or others is tragic. If someone drives drunk and kills one of our loved ones, it is by another’s action. If I drive drunk and kill myself or someone else, it is by my own action. Also, evil governments or institutions play a big part of heartache and tragedy.
Mostly what I have been talking about previously is God’s deliberate acts in the lives and events of “those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” In the Old Testament, they were called Israelites. In the New Testament, they are called Israelites and Christians. We who know God and know His calling in our lives come, hopefully, to maturity about God. We are willing to live in His purpose even through heartache and tragedy. These are painful, but most of us come to peace and hope about God’s working in our lives. God works through heartache and tragedy. We, through testing even through fire, come to trust God. Indeed, it is because of the fiery ordeals that our trust matures.
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).
But, what about heartache and tragedy in the lives of those who do not love God or those who will not respond or have not responded yet to His calling. God works through individual life’s events to bring about His purpose for His church and also in the individual lives of people. God is always working in the events of those who do not love Him in hopes to bring them to repentance. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Yes, God knows if we will respond or not, but still He gives us the opportunity. Ultimately, God works through everything to His purpose. Just like when God worked through the persecutions of Saul against the Church. The result was the Gospel spread throughout the region and many people came to salvation. Also, Saul’s life was saved through his persecution.
Those outside of God as well as those in God are all a part of His sovereign plan. God can work through evil people, governments and institutions to bring about his purpose. Like with Satan, God used him to bring about His purpose. All the exorcisms in the New Testament of demons where used to show the authority of Jesus over them and Satan their leader. It demonstrated God love to set the captives free. Another example is God using Satan, the accuser, in the testing of Job. Another is Satan’s testing of our Lord in the desert. The desert testing, demonstrated Jesus was without sin. It demonstrated the power of God’s Word over sin and the tempter, Satan.
Pharaoh is another example in that God harden His heart to bring about His glory. Pharaoh lost his first born son, his wealth and the power of his army in that exchange. Maybe Pharaoh after he saw the power of God repented. The Bible is silent about him after that. But one thing is certain, Pharaoh came to know God is real.
God will save all who repent. The Apostle Paul is God’s example of His unfathomable mercy. “But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the worst sinner, the Messiah Jesus might demonstrate all of his patience as an example for those who would believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16 ISV).
Trails of Punishment - Judgment
I wonder how many times our suffering or trials are set up and allowed for a divine purpose we cannot see or understand? As a matter of fact, I believe each and every trial is God ordained and part of His divine purpose, even if the trial is punishment meant to lead us to repentance.
And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES." It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline. (Hebrews 12:5-7)
Yes, sometimes trial, heartache, and loss come by way of discipline. Sometimes it comes because of judgment. The story of Ananias and Sapphira is an example of God’s judgment.
But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife's consent, he kept the rest. Then Peter said, "Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren't lying to us but to God!" As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified (Acts 5:1-5).
Thank you, God not all judgments end in death. Most judgments are meant to lead us to repentance.
I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
My salvation came by way of both judgment and punishment. It was when I could endure a life of rebellion and its consequences no longer that I came to my knees with pleas for mercy and forgiveness. Thank you Lord that you did not let me go, but caused me such sorrow in my rebellious life that it resulted in me asking for mercy and forgiveness.
As time passes I gain understanding of previous trials, especially as lessons learned are applied in future events. Many times, here in the Philippines I have been thankful of previous lessons that confirmed my faith and made me strong and unwavering in my faith here. The trials of testing are not easy to endure, but I thank God He made me strong to lead in the mission field.
More about a Corrupt and Dying World
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21).
The result of sin, Adam’s and Eve’s and looking ahead to our sin, was death entering into the world. God pronounced the judgment and penalty.
To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you. Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return. (Genesis 316-19)
Those outside of knowing God want to blame Him for death, disease and injustice in the world. There is disease, death and injustice in the world. We all get sick and we all die. We have all felt the pain of injustice in our lives. It is part of the cursed world we live in. We brought this about on ourselves through disobedience. None of us can stand before God and say we are undeserving of the consequence of sin. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). I often humorously ask when teaching this “if you are without sin – raise your hand.”
We see the same reaction in our children when we enact judgment and punishment to them. I can remember when I was younger as I was going to my room for a punishment, often I would be thinking how unfair and unjust my mother was. However, always as she pronounced the punishment she would also say “you can come out of your room when you realize why I sent you there and you apologize for your behavior.” It is the same with our Lord. When we come to realize our plight of sin and its consequences and come to repentance we are forgiven. Our lives are restored.
There is injustice in the world because of evil men and their institutions, governments, and religions. Also, I’ve seen, most regrettably, evil from false judgment, hypocrisy, and legalism in so-called Christian churches. However, God works through these also as He did through Pharaoh of Egypt.
God Is Personal
Finally, as I come to know Him; as we work together; I come to know our relationship is secure and dependable. I trust Him. Therefore, everything that happens to me is acceptable to me.
In the working of His will is also my personal relationship with Him. God answers my prayers. He knows my tears. The Holy Spirit searches my heart. From my mother’s womb He knit me together. He knew my name before the foundations of the world. He allows, by grace and mercy, me the privileged of working in His will to accomplish His will in my life and others. He has ordained me a servant to accomplish that task He has set before me (Ref: John 1:12; Hebrews 4:16; 4:13; Psalms 56:8; Romans 8:26-27; Psalms 139:13; Revelation 13:8; Ephesians 3:7-8). "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
Our prayers and intimate relationship with God can shape things. They too are a part of God’s sovereign plan known from before creation. Abraham bargaining with God over the judgement and destruction of Sodom is a good example. Abraham bargained God all the way down to just ten found righteous to save the city. “Only this once; suppose ten are found there?" And He said, "I will not destroy it on account of the ten" (Genesis 18:32).
I believe God knew the heart of Abraham and allowed Abraham to partner with Him in judgment and salvation. The same with God knowing Satan would accuse both Himself and Job. God knew Job would be faithful. God works His purpose through everything.
Our prayers for our own lives and those we love or called to shepherd, God hears and answers. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15, 16).
I love my deliberate God – I Love this deliberate life He gave me – I love His deliberate love for me – He is sovereign and I trust Him.
Hannah’s God, our God, is personal and sovereign. She prayed for our Lord to give her a son. She knew the sovereignty of our Lord. She knew her womb was shut by the Lord and only He could open it and give her a son. She prayed for a son combined with a vow to God.
“She made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head’" (1 Samuel 1:11).
The Lord answered her prayer and gave her a son. After she weaned him she fulfilled her vow. Here is her prayer.
“Then Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD, My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation. "There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. "Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed. "The bows of the mighty are shattered, But the feeble gird on strength. "Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, But those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, But she who has many children languishes. "The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. "The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. "He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap To make them sit with nobles, And inherit a seat of honor; For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, And He set the world on them” (1 Samuel 2:1-8).
I pray what I have come to know about God will inspire you as it does me. I pray it will give you peace and confidence as you face life with God.
“O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness” (Isaiah 25:1).
I'm a missionary serving in the Philippines as a church planter. To date we have started 28 new churches in the remote areas. My story is one of grace. Thank you LORD! You can follow our amazing ministry here: http://www.riverrockchurchphilippines.com/
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