#4: Roaring Evil into Existence
Updated: Jun 12, 2022
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things (Isaiah 45:7).
God creates evil.
A horrifying thought.
Standing in sharp contrast is 1John 4:16 which asserts, "God is love."
How does this square?
Well...not simply! Humanity is a complex diamond with many dark and brilliant facets.
If we are made in God's image, then God is even more complex (though every facet of God is pure light and blinding brilliance, for in Him there is no darkness).
However, an insight into this relationship between God and evil can be found in 2 Samuel 24:1, "Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, 'Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.'"
The Lord is upset with Israel, not David; probably because the people had shown widespread support for the rebellions of Absalom and Sheba against David, the divinely appointed theocratic king. But God is going to use one of David's dark facets (the sin of pride) as an instrument of judgement against Israel's disobedience.
Why is taking a census prideful? Because Israel's security is to be found in none other than God. Calculating the size of Israel's army (which was the purpose of the census) is prideful for two reasons: it glorifies the measurement and size of Israel's empire, while simultaneously equating its military strength with its own security.
It's a larger picture of mankind relying on its own strength and virtue, instead of relying on God.
Poignantly however, speaking of the same event, the writer of 1 Chronicles 21:1 offers this perspective, "Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel."
James Hamilton Jr. makes sense of this contrast in his book God's Glory in Salvation Through Judgment by explaining, "The Chronicler appears to have interpreted 2 Samuel 24:1 to mean that Yahweh used Satan to accomplish his purpose as he did with Job. Yahweh did not tempt David to sin, Satan did, but not apart from God's ultimate purposes" (pg. 175).
This is why Hamilton (and I would argue we) can conclude, "Rather than being troubling, the teaching of Isaiah 45:7, that Yahweh created evil, is a comfort, because...God has good purposes that are not thwarted but accomplished by evil" (pg. 205, italics mine).
Not thwarted. Accomplished by evil.
If God is sovereign over evil, hope is always alive. As Hamilton says, "God will be glorified by all that is, even if we do not yet understand how everything will come together" (pg. 205).
This should bring all of us encouragement; a "peace that passes understanding" irrespective of our current circumstances.
God is sovereign over everything. He is never NOT in control.
In Blog #3 I talk about a confrontation with cancel culture in 2020 that ended my decades-long career in higher education.
What happened two years ago was evil.
It was celebrated by many.
It was meant to silence me.
However, it's given me and my wife a relevant story and a relevant perspective to share with others.
What was meant for chaos, actually brought order and direction by the Lord's grace and mercy.
It's a direction that Jill and I are still discovering, still praying over.
...and still struggling with.
Our biggest discomfort is that we are often quickly driven to want to know the why.
Why did this happen to us?
What's God's will in this?
Where is God leading us?
Two years later, we can affirm the following:
To know God's will is not to know, predict, or guess how God uses all things to work for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28), but only that he does.
To know God's will is not to know the future. Part of being in God's will is to be in the moment with Him on a daily basis, and trust where he is leading.
It's resisting the need to be a "Martha", trying to plan or prepare for something in the future, and instead making the "better choice" to be a "Mary", and simply sitting at the feet of Jesus. (Luke 10:42)
The image that comes to my mind is walking alongside Aslan the Lion, buried deep in the shadows of a thickly wooded forest.
It's hard to see.
There are glimpses of light up ahead. Perhaps a clearing from which there will be a better view.
The temptation (in life, relationships, artistry, etc) is to run toward any perceivable light, and search for the clearing in hopes of discerning what's next.
But that's impossible.
We can't explore what's ahead.
We're bound by time and space.
Running ahead can only happen in our minds, and that often brings agitation or fear, and robs us of our peace.
Better, I think, to walk beside the one who is both King of the shadowed woods and open meadows.
Better to walk in the dark while resting your hand on his mane, feeling his awesome power, and only discovering where he is leading as he allows it to come into view.
That can be an uncomfortable walk. Sometimes Aslan stops in the midst of the dark. It seems he's left you in a black silence where the only sound is your breathing and racing heart.
It's so dark you can't see him anymore.
And for a moment he's slipped from your grasp as he moves himself further into the blackness ahead of you.
It feels extremely unsafe.
Sometimes Aslan himself feels unsafe.
But as Mr. Beaver tells Susan, from the Chronicles of Narnia:
"Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King."
The King who created the Heavens and the Earth, and everything in them.
The King and Creator of every good gift.
And yes, the Creator of Evil.
In the journey to conform us more and more into the image of his Son, God uses everything.
Sometimes, His good purposes are not thwarted, but accomplished by evil.
Not thwarted. Accomplished by evil.