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Hello and welcome-or welcome back-to Renaissance Woman!

This post is the conclusion to my study of Isaiah 45:7 which I began in January of last year!  I don’t know that I’ve ever devoted so much time to one single passage of scripture but, every time I began to look at a single word, vistas opened up before me so vast I still have not fully comprehended them.  I could continue in this single passage of scripture for the rest of my life, I think.  I have merely taken a peek beneath the surface with this study and do look forward to exploring the depths in later studies.  For this post, let us take one more look at Isaiah 45:7:

“I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.”  That’s from the New King James Version.  The Amplified renders it: “I form the light and create darkness; I make peace [national well-being.  Moral evil proceeds from the will of men, but physical evil proceeds from the will of God], and I create [physical] evil-calamity; I am the Lord Who does all these things.”

I mentioned in one of those early posts how the Amplified translation bothered me.  It seemed to me that stressing God created physical evil rather than moral evil was not only splitting hairs but a heavy-handed attempt to let God off of a hook He seemed to put Himself squarely on.  No such distinction was made in how the Hebrew word for evil was used in other passages so either God created darkness and evil or there was a terrible misunderstanding of this particular passage.  Coming back to the Amplified version of this passage after the last year of study, I find it still bothers me but for different reasons. 

Whether physical rather than moral evil is meant, we are still left with a problem with God creating any sort of evil at all.  Even translating the word as “calamity” rather than evil has caused a twisted view of God to permeate the church.  Malcolm Smith addresses this in his booklet No Longer A Victim.  In the chapter entitled “Confronting God”, Bishop Smith talks about the evils and sufferings people have endured and the question that arises: “how can a loving God allow this?”  He relates what one woman he was counseling said, “…I am the victim of the Almighty God Himself.”  Bishop Smith then goes on to say:

“Historically, the Church has not helped us here, for we have been taught that this is indeed the way things are.  We have been told that every cruel and vicious evil to rake across our lives is God’s strange strategy of love.  The Church has taught the world to label every tragedy caused by nature on a rampage as ‘an act of God’, while telling those inside the Church that the terrible tragedy is ‘the will of God’.” (Smith, 30)

I can see why the translators of the Amplified Bible chose to make the distinction between moral evil and physical evil.  The Bible does make clear there are those evils that flow out of the darkened hearts of mankind.  I was recently reading a study and came across Jeremiah 19:5: “’(they have also built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to all, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into My mind)’”.  I have shared scriptures in previous studies about the heart of humankind and Paul has his list of “works of the flesh” in Galatians 19:21 so both the Old and New Testament do make it clear there are many “evils” that cannot be blamed on God but that human beings are responsible for.

While I do understand the distinction, I’m not convinced it would have been necessary if the translators had taken a close look at the meaning of “create”.  If the translators define create as “to make something out of nothing” then this passage is definitely a problem and caveats do need to be made to attempt to clarify the difference between the evil that originates in the heart of humankind and that which would come from God.

I found no basis for defining “create” as “to make something out of nothing” in the original Hebrew nor the English definition found in the dictionary.  When I look up “create” in the New World Dictionary, I find the base of our English word is kre and means “to grow” or “to cause to grow” like cereal.  The entire definition of “create” is as follows: 1) to cause to come into existence; bring into being; make; originate; esp., to make or design (something requiring art, skill, invention, etc.) 2) to bring about; give rise to; cause [new industries create new jobs] 3) to invest with a new rank, function, etc., 4) to be the first to portray (a particular role in a play). 

A simpler definition I hold in mind whenever I read the word “create” after conducting this study is “to cause something new to come into being and grow towards a specific purpose”.  It is a definition that fits every occurrence of the word in the Old Testament from Elohim creating in Genesis 1, to the Sons of Eli creating in 1 Samuel 2:29, and to the Israelites creating in Joshua 17:17-18.  Applying it to Isaiah 45:7 I find there is no basis for thinking this passage is saying God “creates calamity” in that He is the origin of it.  I find no scriptural basis for calling physical evils like tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes “acts of God” and claiming they arise from His will.  In this, I am in agreement with Bishop Smith who writes: 

“Instead of slandering God by placing the cries of this world’s anguish at His door, we must take the sin of man seriously…mankind fell, that man sinned, and he is now set against the love plans of the God who created him.  By default, man is now fighting the blueprint of his architect-and he is pursuing a pathway of self-destruction.  The truth is that outside of the salvation that comes to us from God in Jesus Christ, we will all destroy ourselves and our neighbors.  The tornados, hurricanes, volcanos, floods, and earthquakes are merely a physical expression of the spiritual state of man, who is the lord of the planet.” (Smith, Page 33)

I am aware of the Bible recording an instance where God did cause a flood and volcanoes and upheaval to deal with the evil of humankind.  This is a vast and complex subject I would like to devote a future study to and I am also aware I cannot possibly discuss it in any detail here.  I would like to point out the story of the flood was an instance of God having to drastically intervene in the history of mankind.  Amos 3:7 says, “Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets” and I find the story of the flood is no exception.  Noah was the human instrument in that situation.  It took a great deal of time to build the ark and, while the Bible is not explicit in Genesis, I imagine doing so caused some curiosity.  2 Peter 2:5 describes Noah as a “preacher of righteousness” so I find there is enough evidence to suggest the Biblical flood was not something that happened without warning.  His covenant also still stands that He will never allow a flood to destroy the earth (See Genesis 9:9-17). I do not see that this story of the flood provides us with a Biblical basis for assigning all floods as well as volcanoes, earthquakes, etc. to God. Especially as they tend to happen without warning and the Bible is clear: God never does anything unless He first reveals His secret.

We do not need to go looking for a prophet in this day and age. The Book of Hebrews opens with, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (verses 1-2).  This speaking to us through His Son is what I find prophesied in Isaiah 45:7. Instead of a picture of God claiming calamity as His own creation, I see a glorious picture of the heart of our God and how He has chosen to deal with humankind.

Let us look at this passage again and see it as a prophecy of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the one in whom “was life and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5).  He is the light of the world appearing in the very midst of darkness.  He is also the peace made.  At His birth all of creation echoed with the cry, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men! (Luke 2:14).  The Hebrew word translated “peace” in Isaiah 45:7 is shalom and doesn’t just mean “peace”.  It means “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace” and we are, each one of us, made complete in Him (Colossians 2:10).

I see no reason to interpret this passage as God stating He is the one who creates the calamities that befall us.  I definitely see no reason for the Amplified to have said the “peace” Isaiah 45:7 speaks of is “national peace.”  That is an unnecessary addition in my opinion.  What I do see in Isaiah 45:7 is a foreshadowing of the truth expressed in Galatians 1:3-4: “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father”. 

Humankind is still so darkened in its understanding.  As those around us continue to live as beings independent from God determining for themselves what is good and evil, we will live in the midst of great evils.  We do not live here alone.  The Holy Spirit is the presence of God in the world today and He brings Jesus and the Father right into our hearts and therefore in the midst of whatever circumstance we find ourselves.  We walk in darkness.  Jesus is the light in our darkness and, as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see Him more and more every moment, He causes something new to come into being and grow until there is no more darkness.  The same is true for whatever evil that might befall us.  He is our peace, our completeness, our welfare, our very life in the midst of the greatest of evils and He causes something new to come into being and grow until death itself is swallowed up in His life.

Jesus Christ is the One who spoke to the tempest and calmed the raging storm.  Since John 1:18 says, “No one has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him,” then Jesus Christ is the will of God.  The will of our Father as revealed in Jesus is love-union with Him, light instead of darkness, perfect peace, deliverance from all sorts of evils, and a calming of the storms.  To say devastation is His will for us is a terrible slander.

Let us rest in the Peace that Jesus Christ is: the Peace that only the Lord can give.  May that peace flow out of us to the world around us.

Amen.

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

References

The Comprehensive Study Bible, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984

Brown, F., S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Eighteenth Printing, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 2018

Smith, Malcolm, No Longer A Victim, Pillar Books and Publishing Company, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1992

Strong, James, LL,D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990