God’s Part in All This

Jan Antonsson

The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

February 16, 2019

Neosho, MO

“In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in”  (Romans 11:32, The Message).

The springboard for this essay came from a reader’s email:  “Jan:  If you have any articles by yourself or anyone else that explicates more on Romans 11:32 and Isaiah 45:7  (especially the KJV translation).  Thank you.”  He didn’t elaborate on why he was interested in these verses, but so many others have asked about the underlying meaning of these passages, that I told him I would write about it again, though my comments are not limited to the KJV translation.  I cut my teeth on that version, but it has many translation errors in it according to Thomas Thayer, author of The Emphatic Diaglott (word by word Greek translation), and though I do quote from the KJV, I prefer other translations, such as Jonathan Mitchell’s Translation, David Bentley Hart, The Message, and Phillips to name a few.

The verse in Isaiah is a tough one for many church members to swallow:  “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things”  (Isaiah 45:7, KJV).  It seems blasphemous to most Christians I’ve encountered to think that God creates evil.  They would much prefer to blame the devil for all the bad things which happen. Likewise,  the verse in Amos 3:6, is shocking to many:   “Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does evil befall a city, unless the LORD has done it?”  (RSV).  

Jesus corrected the rich young man who called Him, “Good Teacher,”  by saying, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18, ESV). If God is good, and we know He is, how can He create evil?  After a lifetime of observing God at work in my life and in the lives of those I love, and some I don’t even know personally, I conclude that God’s idea of evil is not the same as ours.  To some people breaking a fingernail, or getting a flat tire, or encountering a cross and cranky person is evil. To the One who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), what we see as evil is only a tool in His arsenal to get our attention, and make a course correction in our lives.  Why would I say that?  Simply because if God is “going to have mercy upon all,” if  “in Christ all shall be made alive,”  “if every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father”  (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10-11, KJV), then evil is of no consequence to God.  It cannot stop Him, thwart Him, or cause His word to return unto Him void.

This is not the case with human kind.  Evil can do a lot of damage in our lives, and often does until we stop and realize that God is in charge; we are not.  My dear friend John Gavazzoni has often said, “If my eternal salvation depends on me, on my actions, I am doomed.”   Think about it.  Adam and Eve only had one rule to keep, one thing to do, and that was not to eat the fruit of that beautiful but deadly tree in the Garden God told them to leave alone.  They couldn’t keep just one commandment, a simple one at that.

And as for keeping the Ten Commandments, Moses’ back was scarcely turned until the children of Israel were yammering at Aaron to make them a golden calf to worship.  There were, of course, many more commandments than 10.  The Law of Moses contained 613 of them.  If you want to be thankful we are not held to account for failing to keep them all, read Deuteronomy 28, which I consider to be arguably the most horrifying book in the Bible.  But it is also the most blessed when we consider that Jesus nailed the Law, the ordinances to the cross (Colossians 2:14).  Christ fulfilled the Law and satisfied the blood covenant God made with Abraham (See Genesis 15), the terms of which were whoever broke the covenant was to have his blood shed.  Instead of requiring our blood, which God was entitled to do by the contract, He said, “Here, take mine.”

Where we fall off the cliff into despair is in thinking that our eternal salvation, our right standing with God depends on us, our actions, our obedience.  God is all powerful, sovereign over all things, all people, all the time.  Back when I was doing the Sunday service at Medicalodge, I lamented to the group that so many Christians appear to think that our Father is now confined in a Celestial Nursing Home for old gods, with no power, no life left to give, no mission statement other than writing down our sins so He can confront us with them on Judgment Day.  If that sounds harsh to you, it admittedly is, but here in the Bible Belt all arrows point to God is Good; the Devil is Bad, and that is that.

Lenny encountered this mindset often in the Baptist Sunday School Class to whom he was sent, the reason we moved to Neosho.  He always referred to the first two chapters of Job to illustrate the point that the devil, Satan, is merely a henchman, a lowly private in God’s army, who can go only as far as God allows him to go, and not one step farther.  God told him exactly how far he could go in tormenting Job.  Whether we like the sound of that or not, what the scene between God and Satan illustrates well is that God is sovereignly in charge of all things, all people, all circumstances, and all results, all-the-time! After 41 long chapters in which poor Job was harassed by his religious friends, told that his circumstances came upon him because he had sinned and not confessed it, we come to Chapter 42.  

Knowing ABOUT God is far different from knowing God up close and personal.  When Job got over himself, and had the veil removed from his eyes, he said, I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes’’  (Job 42:5-6, ESV).  Of what did he repent?  The text doesn’t say, but based on personal experience gleaned over a lifetime of walking with the Lord, I will be bold and say he repented of the same things I’ve had to repent of so many times in my life:  trying to help God out, thinking that my status with God depends on something I need to do, must do, but alas, never seem to be able to do.

 Many Christians ignore the fact that Paul’s blockbuster statement puts God in the driver’s seat for every one of us: “God consigned all men to disobedience that He may have mercy upon all”  (ESV).  “God has all men penned together in the prison of disobedience, that he may have mercy upon them all” (Phillips). “For God shut up everyone in obstinacy so that He might show mercy to everyone” (David Bentley Hart).  The Message translation is at the beginning of this essay.

The graphic for this essay depicts I Corinthians 15:22:  “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive”  (ESV). Verse 21 in that translation reads, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.”  Church leaders are very quick to say we all have sinned since Adam, but they choke on adding the second part of that verse.

Here it is in the Phillips version:  “As death entered the world through a man, so has rising from the dead come to us through a man! As members of a sinful race all men die; as members of Christ all men shall be raised to life.”  The Message renders it,  “There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man. Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ.”  David Bentley Hart:  “But now the Anointed has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death comes through a man, resurrection of the dead also comes through a man.”

I realize it seems like overkill to quote so many translations of the same thing, but really, how many times in how many ways does the Bible have to say something for us to believe it?

In the essay last week, I quoted Paul’s affirmation that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.  When you meditate on that truth, it takes all the wind out of your sails if you still think by your actions you can improve on what God has already given us in Christ.  Impossible, I tell you again, simply impossible.  Our Father who brings all things to us, whether they appear good or evil to us at the time, brings them for our ultimate good and His glory.  He takes the lemons in our lives and makes lemonade out of them.  To Him be the glory, now and forever.  This is His part in all this. What is our part?  Simply to receive, to say as Mary did to Gabriel when he told her she would birth the son of God, ‘‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, ESV).

Father we are humbled, overjoyed, and overwhelmed by such good news.  You hold our hands, guide our feet, comfort our bodies, and enrich our spirits.  You fill our lips with praise as we join our voices with those gathered around Your throne, saying, To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’’ Amen.  Jan Antonsson

Jan Austin Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)

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