Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Does God Treat Good and Bad Alike: Abraham's Question of Doubt

Why does it seem that God treats good and bad people the same? Abraham asked this same question. In 1897 BC, God visited Abraham and Sarah manifested as three men. He came with some good news, Sarah would give birth to Isaac well beyond her child bearing years. With the promise of many descendants, Abraham had the burden of imparting righteousness on his children, so that it would carry on for future generations. Standing by the trees in Mamre, the three men contemplated whether or not they should reveal God’s plan to Abraham. Wanting to teach Abraham God’s righteousness they revealed God’s plan- to visit the metropolis of Sodom and destroy it if it proved to be wicked. (Gen 18:18-20, 2 Peter 2:6)

Just as the men got up to leave for Sodom, Abraham asked
“Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”(Gen 18:23-24 ESV).
Abraham knew that God was just, but he pondered if God would really kill the innocent alongside the wicked. God replied and said he would spare the city if there were fifty righteous in the city. It seems that this answer was not enough for Abraham for he proceeded to ask the same question again for forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty and ten people with a few pleas of pardoning(Gen 18:27-32). Every time God gave the same response, “for the sake of ‘number’ I will spare the city”.

After this Yahweh left and his two Angels went down to Sodom to investigate. There they verified that the city was very vile after they witnessed an attempt by the townsmen to rape them. So, Lot and his daughters escaped to the nearby town of Zoar and escaped Sodom before its destruction (alongside the cities of Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim(Deut 29:23).

God listened to Abraham’s request, by saving his nephew Lot from the city’s ultimate destruction(Gen 19:29). God did spare the righteous, like Abraham wanted. Lot was now out of his home and no longer had his wife(Gen 19:26, Luke 17:31-33)., but he was still spared. God did not treat good and evil the same here, in fact he gave some a chance to flee, but they did not take the opportunity(Gen 19:12-13; 19:17). Abraham had not witnessed God’s righteousness like in the destruction of Sodom and deliverance of Lot before(2 Peter 2:7). Abraham knew God’s nature, without it being shown to him; yet he doubted.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Where's God When You Need Him?

When bad things happen, where is God and the good things he brings? This a common question that many people have today when going through times of suffering. Over 3,200 years ago (around 1191 BC), Gideon asked this very question. Yes, Gideon the mighty warrior of God struggled with the same question
“if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian” (Judges 6:13 ESV)
Israel had been under oppression of the Midianites (also the Amalekites and other eastern peoples) for seven years when Gideon asks God his question. Anytime the Israelites would farm, the Midianites would come and take all of their produce and livestock (Jdg 6:3-5). The oppression of Midian was so severe, many of the Israelites hid in caves. Grain was so scarce, people would stuff it down wine presses in order to hide it (Jdg 6:11).

In the midst of Midian’s iron fist, the Angel of God appeared to Gideon and told him God was with him,a mighty warrior (Jdg 6:12). Here is where Gideon asks “God if you are really with us (me), where are your acts?”. Gideon made an appeal to God’s works when he delivered Israel from Egypt, such as the miracle of the Red Sea. If God had been so good to Israel back then, why were they under Midian’s oppression?

Around the same time God sent a prophet to the people to remind them of the promise made long ago after they were delivered from Egypt- obey me and you will be blessed, disobey me and you will be cursed (Deut 28). God told them not to worship false gods, yet here they were even after God did do amazing works, turning their attention to Canaanite deities (Jdg 6:7-8). So Gideon’s question was answered by the prophet- Israel was disobedient to God. Gideon’s claim that God had forsaken them, had seemed to be true- until God gave his reply:
“Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” (Judg 6:14 ESV)
Unfortunately, this answer did not satisfy Gideon, because he doubted that he could really save Israel from Midian. So when things are awry why aren’t God’s deeds present? It seems from this passage, that when God’s deeds are not present in our lives,it does not mean his watchful eye has left us. Oftentimes there is a good deed coming we don’t see or maybe he has something in store that is greater than our present suffering. Like Gideon, who was the least important man in the Tribe of Manasseh (Jdg 6:15), we doubt God’s ability to bring goodness out of bad circumstances. God punishes evil, but he always is willing to restore your relationship with him.