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Defining, Understanding & Rightly Responding to Evil – Part I

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

In our first blog article on the church and government, we determined that one of the responsibilities of government leaders is to protect their citizenry from evil and wickedness.

We also determined that no politician or political party determines what evil is. Only God can do that.

For some years I have felt the need to study and write about God’s revelation and truth about evil. In this article I am going to begin to share what I have learned. My hope is that at least we in the church can be clear on what He has revealed both in defining and understanding evil and responding to it in a way that pleases Him. Then we will also know how to pray for our government leaders in this regard. And we will have better guardrails for our voting.

The word evil appears in the Old Testament at least 398 times. It is no small subject. Here are a couple of the primary principles and truths revealed in the book of Genesis re: evil.

1. Evil originated with Satan and his demons.

Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow ….the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:9

but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:17

For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5 spoken by Satan

Comment: Since we know from the rest of scripture that God is good, righteous, holy and that no evil or unrighteousness resides in Him, and since by this time in human history Satan and his demons have rebelled in heaven and are poised to try to destroy everything God has created (especially humanity and marriages and families) on earth, we can surmise that God had to warn Adam and Eve of this present danger. He did not want them to know anything of evil. But He wanted them to know that it existed. And He wanted them to know that any curious inquiring or tasting of it would result in severe consequences.

Satan on the other hand wanted to stroke that curiosity; and he wanted to plant doubts in their minds of God’s goodness toward them since God forbade them to eat of this one tree in what was surely a vast and amazing garden region of every kind of fruit bearing tree imaginable (see 2:9).

Adam and Eve had existed for an unknown amount of time by the time of Satan’s sinister attack against Eve. And they had existed with perfect non deteriorating bodies, no sin or sickness, no jealousy or insecurity or shame, a perfect environment, no world system over which Satan presides and pollutes, daily fellowship with God (see Gen. 3:8), etc. And yet Eve (and Adam) were willing to potentially give it all up for a taste of this “evil”. This should show all of us the drawing deceiving power of evil and its originator!

2. While God did not give us an explicit definition of evil in the O.T., He has given us many clear examples of it. They are given for our instruction.

The first instance in the book of Genesis after God’s dealings with Adam and Eve and Satan in chapter three appears in chapter 6. This (and the two verses that follow) is one of the most sobering verses in the Bible: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Gen. 6:5.

Comment: It was this realization that led God some years later to destroy all of mankind and the earth except for Noah and family and pairs of animals.

Adam lived 930 years. Noah was born about 126 years after he died. So this statement and God’s decision as recorded in Gen. 6:7 to wipe out the earth come after at least a thousand years of watching humanity devolve into a level of evil and wickedness that was beyond remedy.

While the great flood described in Genesis chapter 7 brought an end to all of the practice of wickedness and evil on the earth, it did not change the general heart of mankind. Thankfully God determined that despite that reality, He would never wipe out the earth again.

The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent (or inclination) of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.” Genesis 8:21

Interestingly our Bibles (most translations) use the word “wicked” instead of evil in Genesis 13:13, but the Hebrew word (ra·'im) translated wicked in this verse is the same Hebrew word usually translated evil. “Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.”

Comment: This choice of translation happens at scattered other places in the O.T. As far as I can tell there is little if any difference between wickedness and evil in these passages, so I am going to include these scattered occurrences of the word “wickedness” knowing the Hebrew word for “evil” is the same.

Only in reference to the men in Sodom in Genesis 13:13, and apparently to all the people in Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:20 is the adjective “exceedingly” used in the Old Testament to describe the depths or extent of someone’s wickedness and sin, “And the Lord said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.”

The question that must be answered is Why? Why did God feel this way about the men of Sodom and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah? Well the first thing we are specifically told about them in general or as a whole is there were not even 10 righteous people among them! We learn this from Abraham’s intercession for them in Genesis 18:23-32. It is important to note that God had decided to destroy these two cities because of this reality.

The second thing we are told is how the men of Sodom attempted to rape (19:5) the “men” they saw enter Lot’s house, not knowing of course that they were angels. You can read about this in Genesis 19:1-11. This is the primary example of this widespread unrighteousness that the Holy Spirit chose to highlight. Please note it was not merely a handful of perverted out of control homosexuals. It was pretty much all of the men of the city (see vs. 4). And they were very clear about what they wanted. And if that many men wanted to rape these two strangers, their chances of surviving such a horrid experience were minimal – were they mere men.

God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned throughout the Scriptures. But only a couple of passages give further light to their wickedness and evil. The first one informs us that they were arrogant, did not handle their prosperity well and were callous towards the poor and needy, and sexually immoral. “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me….” Exekiel 16:49,50 Please note that twice their pride is mentioned, which is where all of our sin and rebellion is rooted. Arrogance and haughtiness cause us to be obsessed with self and our own pleasure and lusts, which in time will cause us to use and abuse people to satisfy it.

The second reference to their sin is found in Jude 1:7 “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

Comment: Jude, the brother of Jesus, is reminding the believers he was writing to of the judgement/punishment that was inflicted upon Sodom and Gomorrah for their indulging in “gross immorality” and going after “strange flesh”, which I believe is a reference to homosexuality.

Was the only reason God judged these two cities was for their homosexuality? No it is not. But their extreme acting out or practicing of homosexual lust is certainly a significant part of why God chose to wipe out these two cities.

God made very clear in Genesis 1:26, 27 how He created two very distinct genders and in Genesis 2:24 how they were to come together in marriage. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul quoted and affirmed this divine creative order. When we arrogantly think we know better, we open the door to all matters of evil and wickedness.

Thankfully our great Savior Jesus came to restore what the enemy has sought to destroy. And to wash us clean by His blood from all defilement and corruption that has resulted from our pride and arrogance. May we all learn to run to and cling to Him in these days and to be regularly sprinkled by His cleansing blood.

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