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Defining, Understanding & Rightly Responding to Evil – Part III

One of the wonderful things about being a child of the living sovereign God of the universe is He can be trusted with what evils He allows to touch us. Often when the said evil first invades our lives we wonder where in the world God is and what He is thinking! Joseph I’m sure felt this way when his brothers threw him into a pit to die a slow painful death. I’m sure he initially felt this way when they pulled him out of the pit only to sell him as a slave to a group of Midianite traders. But over time as he continued to seek God and walk with God in the midst of his pain and grief, he discovered that God was way ahead of him and knew exactly what He was doing. This confidence in God’s goodness and sovereign wisdom is reflected in Genesis 50:20 where Joseph said to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Joseph didn’t mince words about the evil of their intentions and actions against him. But he held no bitterness or resentment against them because he realized God all along had planned to use their wickedness to accomplish His preserving intentions for the people of Israel.

Just before Jacob died, he began to bless Joseph’s two sons by first blessing God, “…The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, The angel who has redeemed me from all evil,…” Genesis 48:15,16

Now we all know angels cannot redeem man from his sin. So what did Jacob mean here? He was probably referring to how God and His angels had protected and delivered Jacob from many potential evils such as bandits on his travels and especially Esau’s potential revenge for Jacob’s treachery towards him when they still lived with their parents. Had Esau attempted to get revenge on Jacob it would have been deemed evil by God regardless of Jacob’s earlier sins against him, just as Cain’s murder of his brother Abel was deemed as evil per I John 3:12, “Not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.” The point is, while evil is awful and ever present, God delivered Jacob from it multiple times. And He can be counted on to deliver you and I was well as we trust in and walk with Him.

We who are in Christ are not victims! Surely all things do indeed work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. How wonderful it is to know that our God can even use the clear evil acts of people in our lives to accomplish His good purposes for us.

The first clear reference to evil in the law of God in Exodus appears in chapter 23 vs. 2, “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil….”. The problem of being swept along with the majority of our fellow citizens in doing evil or giving into peer pressure has been with us since the beginning of time. God’s people are to be a principled people, and no matter how greatly we are outnumbered, and no matter how great the pressure is, we are to stand against the evil tide around us. One of the reasons I am doing this study is so we sons and daughters of Christ can not have any confusion or uncertainty about what God deems as evil. Once we know this clearly, then we must go to Him to find the strength and courage to stand alone (as far as humans are concerned) if it comes to that, which in some cases it probably will.

Moses the great intercessor for God’s people, knowing that God’s intentions towards them were only good and righteous, but that if His judgment of them was too harsh the surrounding peoples might conclude that His intentions were evil, reasoned with God in prayer as follows, “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains…?” Exodus 32:12 As we intercessors mature, God’s glory will become more and more our great concern as it was with Moses. Thankfully God’s intent has never been and never will be evil towards His people. But those living in darkness around us do not have this confidence. Moses appealed to this reality in seeking God for mercy towards His wayward people.

Not too long after Moses prayed this prayer seeking to calm God’s anger towards His people, Moses’s own anger burned against them as he came down from the mountain and found them worshipping a golden calf. Aaron, seeking to reason with Moses and calm him down, reminded him of the fallen nature of God’s people, “Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil.”(Exodus 32:22). Much could be said about Aaron’s deviousness in this whole sad affair, but all leaders of God’s people, as they seek to lead them in righteousness must keep this reality in mind. It is not an excuse for acting out in evil, but it is a reality of our sinful fallen nature.

God of course knows of this reality and has from the beginning of time provided a way for us to seek Him for atonement for our sins. But when His people do not by faith seek Him for the power and grace to be forgiven of their sins and to overcome their sin, but instead give into it and live no different than the surrounding nations lost in darkness, then God arises in holy anger. Such is the case in Numbers 14:26, wherein God is found disclosing His displeasure and intentions to judge Israel for their unbelief and rebellion, “The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.” Tis very sobering that God’s mercy towards His people has limits. Grumbling and complaining against Him out of unbelief is seen by Him as evil especially after He has provided for them time after time and done so many miracles for them. He again refers to them as “evil” in vs. 35. And some years later Moses reminds the tribes of Reuben and Gad of God’s vow to never let any of this congregation/people who had done such evil enter into the promised land, “So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years until the entire generation of those who had done evil in the sight of the Lord was destroyed.” (Numbers 32:13). In Deuteronomy 1:35 Moses again reminds the people of Israel of this sad reality, “Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give to your fathers.” Finally It might be helpful to note here that Paul in I Corinthians 10:6-10 recounts the sins of these people as 4 distinct evils: idolatry, immorality, trying the Lord, and grumbling.

Father please help each of us reading these words to increasingly see evil as You do and feel about it as You do in Jesus’s name, Amen! May the Lord deliver you from all evil for His glory in Jesus’s name!

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1 Comment

Nov 19, 2022

Thank you Randy! It is good to be reminded of Joseph's story this morning. We are struggling with our response to new neighbors who are highly unpleasant and have shaken the peace of this edenic forest. God can use this for his glory and hopefully open the eyes of the lost and distance us from an idol of tranquility. Hope you are all well!

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