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Defining, Understanding & Rightly Responding to Evil – Part II

“The battle to heal human evil always begins at home. And self-purification will always be our greatest weapon.” M. Scott Peck, M.D. – “People of the Lie” p. 10

As we jump back into our subject of evil, I want to start with some definitions from Noah Webster’s 1828 massive “American Dictionary of The English Language.” We love this dictionary because its author knew and feared God, was very thorough and Biblically grounded.

Regarding the word “evil” here are some excerpts from his dictionary relevant to our study:

“2. Having bad qualities of a moral kind; wicked; corrupt; perverse; wrong; as evil thoughts; evil deeds; evil speaking; and evil generation.”

“Moral evil is any deviation of a moral agent from the rules of conduct prescribed to him by God, or by legitimate human authority; or it is any violation of the plain principles of justice and rectitude. There are also evils called civil, which affect injuriously the peace or prosperity of a city or state; and political evils, which injure a nation, in its public capacity. All wickedness, all crimes, all violations of law and right are moral evils. Diseases are natural evils, but they often proceed from moral evils.”

“3. Depravity; corruption of heart, or disposition to commit wickedness; malignity. “

The best way to fully understand all that we need to understand about evil is to daily pursue a full understanding of scripture – even better a full knowledge of God. So I would like to pick up where we left off in Genesis. And the next occurrence of the word evil relevant to our study is found in Genesis chapter 38: “But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord took his life.” (38:7). There is no explanation in the Bible for why God saw Er as evil. His cause was not helped I’m sure by his father choosing to disobey God and marry a Canaanite woman who mothered Er all of his years. His cause was also not helped by his father providing a wife for him who was also a Canaanite woman. While the law about the sin and danger of intermarriage had not been given yet, the clear pattern from Abraham’s example of giving strict orders to his servant in helping find a wife for Isaac, and Isaac and Rebecca’s displeasure of learning their son Esau had chosen to marry two Canaanite women was that all the men in Abraham’s line would not intermarry and thus avoid the danger of adopting their idolatrous lifestyles. Er had no control over who his father married or presumably over what wife his father provided for him. But he did have control over whether he gave into their idolatrous ways, and evidently he did join his wife Tamar in her idolatry. Please know God’s prohibition about His people intermarrying with the Canaanites was not about ethnic purity. Rather it was about soul purity.

Are you feeling that taking Er’s life was harsh on God’s part? I would remind you that life is God’s to give and take. Our every breath comes from Him ("....since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things") Acts 17:25. If Er was evil in the sight of the Lord, he was unmistakably evil. God's acts of judgment are never rash or knee jerk. He knew/ordained that the Messiah would come from the line of Judah. They are always in view of what is to come.

The living God was (and still is) zealous to raise up and form a people who would love Him with their whole heart, soul, strength and mind and therefore be a people among whom He could dwell and manifest His glory. In God’s mind, godly marriages fully separate from the idolatrous world around them would be the backbone of this people. Er could have known that and could have pursued that. But he obviously didn’t, and God dealt with him forthrightly. God also left a sobering example for all of us who take his call to be holy unto Him lightly. James put it this way, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?...” James 4:4

In great contrast to Er, is a man named Joseph. Joseph despite all of the mistreatment he had endured by his brothers greatly prospered in Egypt under godless authorities and yet stayed holy unto the Lord. “The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man” (39:2). Because of the favor of the Lord on him and because of his trustworthy character, Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharoah over time made him overseer over all he owned. This oversight required him to walk through Potiphar’s house regularly. And Joseph being a man “…handsome in form and appearance” (39:6) did not go unnoticed by Potiphar’s lonely and sensuous wife. Finally she full of lust invited him to have sex with her, and here is part of Joseph’s response to her, “….There is no one greater in this house than I, and he (Joseph’s master and her husband) has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” Again the law had not been given yet. But “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of God is understanding.” So Joseph knew even though this woman was the aggressor and perhaps a one night’s stand would go unnoticed by the people around - - giving into her would be not only a sin against her husband, but far worse – it would be a sin against God.

How many marriages might have been preserved if there had been more fear of the Lord and concern about how God would feel when temptation reared its ugly head!

Father, forgive us first for our adultery towards you by seeking friendship with the world. Break all attachments in our souls with the world. Restore us to our first love. If anyone reading this has committed adultery with another man or woman – please forgive them and cleanse them and give them hope that You can restore what the enemy has sought to destroy. Deepen for all of us our fear of You and our refusal to entertain any compromise in our spirits in Jesus’s name. Amen!

Father, we also ask that You would help Your church in our nation increasingly hate the things You hate and love the things You love. While You have kept us in the world, help us to not be of this world. And show us how to pray for our nation in these days in Jesus’s name, Amen!

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