God Did It?
In the Bible, God is frequently described as actively doing, what He instead allows to take place. This point is very significant and helps us to explain many difficult issues in regards to God’s involvement in human history.
For example, what do you think of these words?
“The LORD was angry at Israel again, and he made David think it would be a good idea to count the people in Israel and Judah.” (2 Samuel 24:1)
Is that true? Does God tempt to evil? It is fascinating to read another telling of the same story, written much later, in 1 Chronicles:
“Satan wanted to bring trouble on the people of Israel, so he made David decide to take a census.” (1 Chronicles 21:1)
Which of these descriptions is closer to the reality?
As another example, David described the possible ways that Saul might die with these words:
“By the living LORD,’ David continued, ‘I know that the LORD himself will kill Saul, either when his time comes to die a natural death or when he dies in battle.’” (1 Samuel 26:10)
As David considered the demise of Saul he concluded that God would kill him, either through natural death or at the hands of his enemies. That way of expressing things seems foreign to our ears, but yet as we read on about how Saul committed suicide the story concludes with the words, “So the LORD killed him…” (1 Chronicles 10:14)
Surprisingly, even God speaks in this way. Even within the 10 commandments, where we might assume that there would be nothing that is slightly misleading, God would say this:
“I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 20:5)
Is this true? If you had something bad happen to you this week was it God punishing you for something your great grandfather did? No. The book of Ezekiel tells us very clearly that God does not actively punish the children for the sins of the parents. This warning in the 10 commandments is describing a natural consequence, not an active punishment from God and we can now prove this scientifically. For example, there are natural devastating consequences down for many generations to the children of an alcoholic who comes home and beats his children every night. God does punish to the fourth generation only in the sense that He allows the natural consequence to occur.
Many times in the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel God warned He Himself would actively burn down the city of Jerusalem. What actually happened? That Babylonians burned down the city, not God, and we begin to see in example after example that God – out of His great love – stooped to use hard and sometimes shocking words to reach His very hardened and rebellious children.
Did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? The Bible describes it both ways, that God hardened it, and that Pharaoh hardened it.
“When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart…” (Exodus 9:34,35, 10:1 – NIV)
Which is true? In a sense, both! God brought evidence to Pharaoh that the “gods” of the Nile, the Sun, and the god of the frogs were not real. Yet, despite all of this evidence, Pharaoh chose to harden his heart. God “did it” only in the sense that He provided the evidence that forced Pharaoh to make a decision.
As yet another example of God described as doing something that He instead allowed to occur, listen to the sad words of Jesus at the very end of His ministry, which were a quotation from the book of Isaiah:
“God has blinded their eyes and closed their minds, so that their eyes would not see, and their minds would not understand, and they would not turn to me, says God, for me to heal them.” (John 12:40)
Was Jesus’ earthly ministry less successful because the Father closed ears and blinded eyes? This would make no sense. God came to open eyes and ears, not to close them. God does not manipulate His children in this way. We are the ones who have closed our hearts and minds, but yet God almost seems to take the blame.
How far do we carry this principle? In the book of Numbers, right in the midst of a very rebellious time, the people once again left God’s side and desired to return to Egypt. What did God do? Here is the description: “Then the LORD sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many Israelites were bitten and died.” (Numbers 21:5) How are we to interpret God’s involvement in sending the snakes?
Based on the examples listed above, and primarily based upon what was revealed about God through the life and death of God in human form, I find this interpretation in complete harmony:
“Every day of their travels they had been kept by a miracle of divine mercy. In all the way of God’s leading they had found water to refresh the thirsty, bread from heaven to satisfy their hunger, and peace and safety under the shadowy cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Angels had ministered to them as they climbed the rocky heights or threaded the rugged paths of the wilderness. Notwithstanding the hardships they had endured, there was not a feeble one in all their ranks. Their feet had not swollen in their long journeys, neither had their clothes grown old. God had subdued before them the fierce beasts of prey and the venomous reptiles of the forest and the desert. If with all these tokens of His love the people still continued to complain, the Lord would withdraw His protection until they should be led to appreciate His merciful care, and return to Him with repentance and humiliation.
Because they had been shielded by divine power they had not realized the countless dangers by which they were continually surrounded. In their ingratitude and unbelief they had anticipated death, and now the Lord permitted death to come upon them. The poisonous serpents that infested the wilderness were called fiery serpents, on account of the terrible effects produced by their sting, it causing violent inflammation and speedy death. As the protecting hand of God was removed from Israel, great numbers of the people were attacked by these venomous creatures.” (Patriarchs and Prophets, pages 428, 429)
Does not all of this trigger thoughts within us about the last plagues described in Revelation? What is the “final outpouring of God’s wrath”? On the surface, it could appear that God actively sends them out upon the earth. But can we interpret this by using the totality of scripture?
“I was shown that the judgments of God would not come directly out from the Lord upon them, but in this way: They place themselves beyond His protection. He warns, corrects, reproves, and points out the only path of safety; then if those who have been the objects of His special care will follow their own course independent of the Spirit of God, after repeated warnings, if they choose their own way, then He does not commission His angels to prevent Satan’s decided attacks upon them. It is Satan’s power that is at work at sea and on land, bringing calamity and distress, and sweeping off multitudes to make sure of his prey. And storm and tempest both by sea and land will be, for Satan has come down in great wrath. He is at work. He knows his time is short and, if he is not restrained, we shall see more terrible manifestations of his power than we have ever dreamed of.” (14MR 3.1)
Blaming God for devastation and disaster is nothing new. Insurance policies typically cover everything except “acts of God.” And in the book of Job we know from reading the entire book that it was Satan who killed Job’s family and inflicted him with pain. But yet it was assumed that God did it as his servant interpreted the events to Job using these words:
“The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” (Job 1:16 – NIV)
It would appear that we have much rethinking to do about God. It is time for all of God’s friends to become 100% solidified on the belief that God is love personified, and that the devastation that we have witnessed throughout earth’s sad history has been a result of our own rebellious disconnection from God and because there is a powerful and subtle enemy at work. God is the only One who is not to blame!