Hello and welcome to Renaissance Woman!
This week I am continuing my study of Isiah 45:7 and am still looking at the words of the Lord: “I create evil.” If you read last week’s post, you will see the record in scripture is clear: God knows evil, God uses evil, and God turns away from the evil He has determined to do. What I do not see recorded in scripture is God is the source of evil.
I think it’s important to review-just in case anyone reading this has the same reaction I do when hearing “evil”-is that what the scriptures are intending to convey don’t always align with what we think when we read a word. Those things I think of when I hear the word “evil” are comprehensively listed in Galatians 5 verses 19-21: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries. These the Apostle Paul calls “the works of the flesh” and God is not the source of any of these things. These are the things that originate out of the human heart and mind.
None of the passages describing the evil that God does are referencing any of these things. In this sense “evil” is not a great translation for the Hebrew word ra. I don’t find “bad” any better of a choice because I find I still have a knee-jerk reaction at the thought of God doing bad things. There are some translations that have chosen “calamity” but the translators aren’t consistent. For the sake of clarity in this post, and because “evil” and “bad” carry a mental connotation I have not quite rid myself of, I will use the term “injurious to happiness” when describing the actions of God.
I cannot deny, and I don’t think any believer will disagree; God does do things that are injurious to our happiness. We expect Him to do so because we know that we are sons of God and that “whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6-7). Chastening and scourging never feel good but we submit to their processing because we know that the end result will be us fashioned into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. What is injurious to our happiness in the present moment is meant to bring us to a glorious result and we rest in the fact that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
As I read through the scriptures in the Old Testament containing ra (evil), I saw that the injurious to happiness acts of God were always in response to the actions arising out of the hearts of humankind. I quoted Jeremiah 17:9 in a previous post: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” This is not a rhetorical question nor does it go unanswered. Verse 10 says, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”
This promise is echoed in other scriptures:
Deuteronomy 32:35: “Vengeance is Mine and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them.”
2 Chronicles 16:9: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”
Proverbs 15:3: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”
Isaiah 13:11: “I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.”
These passages are echoed in the New Testament as well. Jesus Himself says, “Woe to the world because of offences! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” and Paul consoles the church at Thessalonica saying, “it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you” (2 Thes. 1:6). With all these passages in mind, I can obey the admonition in Proverbs 20:22: “Do not say “I will recompense evil’; Wait for the Lord and He will save you.”
My first instinct when someone injures me is “how dare he/she/they?” and to retaliate. However, because of the promises of God that He will indeed repay everyone according to their deeds, I can put that person in the hands of God and trust that He will indeed repay them.
But there’s a problem. I’ve already quoted scriptures in Jeremiah where God promises to change his mind and turn away from the injurious acts He has determined to do if the person or people will turn their hearts to Him. I also find these passages in the Bible:
Proverbs 16:4: “The Lord has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.”
Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them: ‘As I live’, says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live’.”
In the New Testament, Peter writes, ““the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
I am reminded of the story of Jonah. God wished to send him to the people of Nineveh to issue a warning to turn from their wicked ways and turn their hearts toward God. Jonah eventually does so but he has no expectation his warning will be heeded and goes up onto a hilltop in order to better see the destruction God is about to rain down on the people. The people do heed the warning, they do turn their hearts, and there is no destruction. Is Jonah thrilled? No. In fact, he is angry at God. Despite being a prophet of the Lord, he did not share God’s heart for the people.
How often have I not shared in God’s heart? How often has my desire been for the ground to open up and swallow my enemies or at least a little fire and brimstone and not “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do?”
There is a passage in his epistle to the Romans where Paul instructs us to: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set our mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If you enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head” (Proverbs 25:21-22) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12: 14-21).
Everything in this passage is possible to do while continuing to carry resentment and the desire for revenge in my heart. I can, through will power, put on a good show, so to speak. It is not possible to genuinely live out everything in this passage without the life of Jesus Christ made a reality in me by the Holy Spirit. My cry is that of David: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” This cry is perfectly answered by God in the prophecies found in Jeremiah 32: 40-41 and Ezekiel 36: 25-27. These prophecies are made a reality in this day we live in. What is impossible with man is possible with the Father through the finished work of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Our new heart is already a reality. It is the gift of God. Jesus has already come to this world, lived as one of us, been crucified, risen from the dead, ascended to the Father, and sent the Spirit. The Spirit has been lavishly poured out into our hearts declaring to us who we really are in Jesus Christ and teaching us how to live out of this new heart. We are new creations in Christ Jesus and the new heart that has been put in us is His heart. We are, in this very moment, partakers of His divine nature.
We human beings are truly beautiful. God Himself called us good when He made us. We are capable of doing such great things. We are not stupid. We know both good and evil and we exercise our power of self-will every day. We oftentimes do good to our fellow beings even when everything in us doesn’t want to do it. We can, and often do, act in direct opposition to our feelings. This is not enough for me. I can do all the good that is in my power to do and still be aware of how far I fall short. The word of God stands firm: “Now this I say brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:50). There is no amount of preparation I can do on my own heart. All I can do is respond to the truth as the Holy Spirit opens my eyes. This is the truth: I have been crucified with Christ. I am dead to sin and to my old way of life. I am alive to Jesus Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.
Living out of this new heart is not instantaneous. My flesh still carries the memory of how I used to think and act. But now, whenever that memory tries to assert itself, I tell it no, there is a new heart and new law at work now, and I make the deliberate decision to, as Paul says, “by the mercies of God…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1:2).
Not by might, nor by power, but by Your Spirit.
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982