|Volume 21 Number 2 February 2019||
T. Pierce Brown
The tires screamed an awful wail as the drunken driver at the last moment sought vainly to avoid a head-on collision with the other car. The preacher, who stood over the mangled body of the innocent baby whose life was thus prematurely snuffed out, tried vainly to comfort the anguished parents with these words: “Find strength and comfort in submitting yourselves to the will of God, and rejoice in the fact that God took your precious baby. We cannot see any purpose in it, but we can be sure that God always has a purpose in these things.” I am frank to confess that I am disturbed by apparently well-meaning but ignorant people who blame God with the sins of a drunken driver.
The plain Bible truth is that not everything that happens is according to the plan and the purpose of God. John Calvin may have assumed the false doctrine that all things, including the salvation or damnation of all men and angels, are predestined of God, but that many Christians, and occasionally a man we think of a “Gospel preacher,” express a doctrine, which so nearly approaches blasphemy, is disturbing.
Surely, we do not have to be a theologian and read or write a learned treatise about the difference between God’s “intentional will,” His “circumstantial will” and His “ultimate will” to know that from Adam’s time to now men have been doing things contrary to the will of God, which causes the innocent to suffer. One may say, “God took him” without necessarily implying that the whole shameful occurrence was in God’s purpose.
Philosophers, atheists and Christians have long probed into the question raised by situations like Job’s: “If there is a just God, why do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper?” Books have been written and debates conducted over that question. We are not attempting to deal in detail with that question.
We simply want to point out in this short article that there is a world of difference in asserting the grand and comforting truth that Paul expressed in Romans 8:28 that in all things (even in tragic and heart-breaking events) God works for good to them that love Him, and asserting that it was God’s will for the event to happen in order to fulfill some unknown purpose. This would imply that God’s wisdom and power could not properly achieve that purpose without the planning and executing of that particular deed. It is true that “Whom God loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6), but to assume that every bad thing that happens is the chastening rod of God is a different thing.
It is true that for every thorn in the flesh, God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:7-9), and He can overrule that thorn for good, but that God purposed and produced every thorn in the flesh to achieve that good is a different thing. God may have a desire and purpose that in your life you develop more patience (James 1:3-4), but that God wills a particular catastrophe for the purpose of developing that or some other aspect of your character is a different proposition, not upheld by any Scripture of which we are aware.
Let us not hesitate to affirm that God rules and overrules in the lives of men, such as taking care of Joseph in Egypt and overruling the wicked act of his brothers in selling him into slavery (Genesis 50:20). However, let us not also affirm that the wicked deed was a part of God’s plan and purpose. We can conclude that the ultimate purpose of God was the preservation of Israel in Egypt, without assuming or affirming that the purpose had to be fulfilled by the evil deed of Joseph’s wicked brothers. Imagine one of us standing by the side of the pit, saying to Joseph, who might have been pleading, “Please do not let them do this to me” and replying, “Have peace, Joseph, for this is the purpose and plan of God!” It would have been proper for us to say, “Have peace and do not fear, Joseph, for God will use this for His ultimate purpose. Be not dismayed, whate’er betide; God will take care of you.”
The fact that God had a purpose and plan, and that God used the wrath of men for His praise (Psalm 76:10), in no sense teaches, implies or suggests that the throwing of Joseph into a pit and lying to his grieving father about it was necessary for the carrying out of that plan, and was, therefore, a part of it.
[Editor’s Note: Without divine revelation today and this side of eternity, there is no humanly possible way that we mortals can definitively ascertain whether a given set of circumstances was planned by God or simply used by God for His purposes. The minor exception to that is that God is not chargeable for any sin that may be employed and involved in those circumstances. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
Royce Pendergrass & Bobby Dockery
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save” (Isaiah 59:1). The expression “hand of God” is found often in the Scriptures and is also used in many of our hymns. God’s hand is seen in so many marvelous ways.
The Hand of Creation. The hand of God created the world in which we live. We are living in an age of atheism and infidelity. The Bible account of creation is denied in leading newspapers, magazines and even in the textbooks of our schools. From where did the world come? There is but one answer: God’s omnipotent voice spoke, His hand moved and the universe came into existence. “Of old You founded the earth and the heavens are the work of Your hands” (Psalm 102:25).
The Hand of Providence. The hand that made us is also the hand that sustains us. “In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10). Of a certainty, we may know that God’s hand is in it all! The hand of providence is a hand of blessing and protection. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1). “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). His hands have repeatedly opened the windows of Heaven and poured forth abundant gifts to mankind (Malachi 3:10).
The Hand of Salvation. Man rebelled against the loving hand of God and sinned. “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; cf., Genesis 3:1-6). However, God in His mercy desires to save the sinner. He stands with outstretched hands inviting the sinner to come to the Him. “All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people” (Romans 10:21). The ministry of Jesus was the ultimate demonstration of God’s outstretched hand of entreaty to a lost world. “Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Yet, God does not save without the sinner’s consent, which is evidenced by his acceptance of God’s hand of salvation by obeying the Gospel of Christ. Sometimes we sing, “From sinking sand He lifted me, with tender hand He lifted me; from shades of night to planes of light, O praise His name, He lifted me.” We need to sing this song with understanding!
In Shakespeare’s play, Henry V, there is a conversation between King Henry and the Earl of Gloucester before the Battle of Agincourt, in which Henry soothes Gloucester’s fears that the French will attack before the English forces are ready. Gloucester says, “I hope they will not come upon us now.” To which King Henry replies, “We are in God’s hands, brother, not in theirs.” May God give us faith to say the same!
This article was written by Bobby Dockery who preaches in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and it was published in The Voice of Truth International. I thought this article was a good one, but there is a thought I want to add about our own hands. Paul instructed the Thessalonian brethren to “study to be quiet and to do your own business and to work with your own hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11). James simply said, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). Christians are first to take care of their sins, and then, they must use their hands to minister to those who are in need. The biggest need that most people have is to obey God. Therefore, Christians ought always to be reaching out to others with the Gospel of Christ. May God strengthen you in doing that!