Why Does Evil Exist? (Part #6)
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].” (Isaiah 45:7)
“[Thou art] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:…” (Habakkuk 1:13)
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:” (James 1:13)
In above set of Scriptures, we find one of the supposedly contradictory texts of the Scriptures. On one hand, from the lips of the Lord Himself, He clearly states that “I create evil”. Then later in the Scriptures we find Habakkuk, as he speaks concerning the Lord, says “[Thou art] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:” then, to add confusion to our subject, James states clearly that God “cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:”
In this series of lessons, we will be looking into two basic questions, first, “What Is God’s Role In The Existence of Evil ?” and, secondly, “What Is The Purpose Behind The Existence Of Evil ?”
Before we begin this portion of our study, let’s pick up with the summary from our studies so far …
1. “Evil” describes something that causes harm or injury
2. “Evil” can involve moral wickedness or the results of that moral wickedness on our lives
3. Our Lord is in absolute control of all things, this principle is clearly presented throughout the Bible
4. The Lord is in control of Satan himself, who can do nothing apart from the Lord’s allowance
5. The Lord is perfectly holy and separate from sin. Because of this He is in no way the cause of sin, nor its entrance into the world.
6. Satan and Adam are the ones who are responsible for sin’s existence and entrance into this world
7. The Lord created the results of sin that we see taking place in the world.
8. The Lord either allows the results of sin to take place, or in many cases, He actively brings them to pass.
9. The Lord reveals Himself through the evil (harmful) events in this world.
If this is so, our next questions are “Why did the Lord allow the evil of sin to enter His creation and all of mankind knowing that only harm would result from it?” “And why did He, through allowance or His direct intervention, bring to pass the evil results of our sin?”
To find the answer to the above questions, let’s refer back to one of our foundational texts, Isaiah 45:7…
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].”
In the verses preceding this text, the Lord clearly explains to us all why He brings to pass the results of our sin, and by implication, why He allowed sin to enter His sinlessly perfect creation… Please note verses 5-7…
“I [am] the LORD, and [there is] none else, [there is] no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that [there is] none beside me. I [am] the LORD, and [there is] none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].”
Why did our loving, kind, gracious Lord “form light and create darkness”…” make peace and create evil”? It was to reveal Himself to us. It was to clearly show us that He is the only true God. This is what our text unmistakably tells us.
So in what way does the entrance of sin and its results into the world reveal God to us? Lets take a look at three Biblical examples to help explain how He performed this…
1. The Ten Plagues of Egypt (in our previous lesson)
2. The Life Of Job (in our previous lesson)
3. The Miracles of Christ
Example #3 – The Miracles Of Christ
We will use two examples of the many miracles that Christ performed, to help us understand that the evil results of sin in this world are used by God to bring honor and glory to Himself.
The Man Born Blind
“And as [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man which was blind from [his] birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world….
Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner [or no], I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear [it] again? will ye also be his disciples? Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: [as for] this [fellow], we know not from whence he is. The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and [yet] he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And [some] of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (John 9:1-41)
In the very beginning of this account, we find Christ, Himself, explaining that the purpose of this man’s blindness was “that the works of God should be made manifest in him”. In other words, it was to “take the covering off” of God’s power and grace, thereby exhibiting it plainly the world.
(Keep in mind, although his blindness was not the DIRECT result of any sin on the part of himself or his parents it was, obviously, the INDIRECT result of sin’s existence in this world. If sin had never entered the world, the infirmity of blindness would never exist.)
Our text then goes further showing us that this healed man recognized that, through this miracle, Jesus was of God “If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.” which resulted in him coming to a saving faith in Christ… “And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.” Along with the salvation of this young man, who knows how many others who learned of this event were brought to a saving faith in Him as well?
As humans we all would have a tendency to think that it was very unjust for the Lord to cause this young man to be born blind. After all, through the declaration of Christ, Himself, this young man had committed no specific sin that caused his blindness. Please keep in mind that this young man, due to his fallen sinful nature deserved eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire. Any condition he experienced, short of eternal punishment is less suffering than any lost person would deserve. His blindness, although it was harmful to him, still brought less harm upon him than what he actually deserved due to his sinful condition. God was in no way unjust by allowing this young man to be born blind.
But, also, if we dig under the surface we find a very important principle we dare not overlook. It was this very blindness that the Lord used to reveal Himself to this young man and work an act of saving grace within him. Anyone of us would gladly be born blind if it meant that, through our blindness, we would come to a saving faith in Christ and be blessed with a glorified, infirmity free body throughout eternity.
Here, we see the basic principle that WHAT MAY APPEAR AS HARMFUL IN THE EYES OF MAN was actually based on the infinite knowledge of the Lord AN ACT OF GOD’S LOVE, MERCY AND GRACE which was performed for the benefit of the recipient.
Three verses come to our mind:
As one of the Lord’s elect, everything that took place in his life was for his ultimate good…
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
As fallen, mankind, none of us can begin to understand the workings of God and their ultimate results upon man…
“For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Therefore, what may appear to be harmful to us, are in actuality, acts of love and kindness that works peace between God and man…
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Finally, Christ gives us a practical application for our lives that can be learned through this event. “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” This entire event reveals to us truth about our Lord. It is a living lesson on the role of Christ as He came to sinful man…. It was to heal those who were spiritually blind and to show the true spiritual condition to the lost whom did not see their need of salvation before this event.
Our second example drawn from the miracles of Christ is…
The Resurrection Of Lazarus
Now a certain [man] was sick, [named] Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was [that] Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard [that], he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was…. Then when Jesus came, he found that he had [lain] in the grave four days already… Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give [it] thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world…The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been [dead] four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone [from the place] where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up [his] eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said [it], that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. (John 11:1-46)
In this account, once again, Christ clearly explains the purpose of the sickness (and coming death) that had befallen Lazarus… “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”
Because Christ recognized the greater purpose that lay behind the death of Lazarus, AS AN ACT OF GRACE AND MERCY, He delayed beginning the trip to the home of Lazarus for two days. This, in essence gave time for Lazarus to pass away and be buried for four days before His arrival.
This led Martha to point out to Christ “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Mary, also pointed out the same truth when she said “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” These are very true statements indeed.
Stop and think about it, because of Christ’s purposeful delay, we have Lazarus dying, Mary and Martha and his other acquaintances suffering and sorrowing greatly…. “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her…” All of this was due to Christ’s chosen late arrival to the sick (and now dead) Lazarus.
Before we begin to accuse Christ of being unloving, mean and hateful, let’s look at His reaction to what has taken place…
“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,”
“And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!”
“And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.”
Obviously, from these texts, it is plain that our Lord had no pleasure in allowing Lazarus to die and to bring sorrow and pain upon those left behind. He sorrowed with them, not just motivated by the death of Lazarus, but also for the great sorrow they were feeling.
So then, we have the obvious question… Why would He allow Lazarus to become sick, and why would He delay His coming knowing that it would cause such horrible pain and grief? To answer this, we need to remember His initial explanation of why this event would take place, “for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby”. From God’s perfect point of view, the gain from this event far outweighed the pain that was felt.
When the Lord was revealed so mightily in the resurrection of Lazarus here are the results…. “Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.” The salvation of many souls from eternal punishment in hell far outweighed the short-lived sorrow of those who were mourning. It was clearly an act of the Lord’s love, grace and mercy, allowing all of these events to take place which worked eternal salvation for those who are lost.
This principle has been found throughout the ages in the lives of the Lord’s servants…. Many have gladly suffered harm in this world and were willing to exchange their physical lives for the salvation of others. As a matter of fact, God’s people count it a privilege to give our lives in bringing salvation to others. We have seen this historically in the lives of many martyrs throughout history (including many missionaries who have given their lives for His glory on the foreign field).
Is God unjust in all of this? Absolutely not. Is God uncaring, unloving, and hard-hearted to bring these things to pass? Absolutely not. In actuality, all of these things illustrate for us His love, grace, mercy and concern for those who are His people. Remember, EVERYONE affected, as a part of fallen and sinful mankind, deserves the eternal wrath of God. Anything short of that is only an act of grace.
Although their suffering at the death of Lazarus was great, it was nothing compared to the suffering that they deserved in the Lake of Fire. Our Lord was absolutely just allowing/causing a small bit of temporal pain upon his people, using it to bring eternal salvation to their souls. In the end, they would thank Him for this event knowing it led to their salvation.
Parents, on a far, far lesser degree make the same type of choice all the time. How often does a parent discipline their child causing them pain, for the greater good? Although the events in this text are not necessarily acts of discipline, they are still actions that cause pain for the sake of greater gain. Are parents unjust when they punish their child for wrongdoing? ABSOLUTELY NOT. This pain brought upon the child is an act of love and concern as they are motivated by the child’s long term welfare. So it is with the harmful events that come from the hand of the Lord, they always come forth for the good of His people and to show Himself to mankind motivated by His love and concern for us.
In the case of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, although they were saved before this event, certainly it was a life changing experience that increased their knowledge and understanding of their Lord’s greatness and how He works in the midst of man. By the time this event was over, they were far better off than before the event had taken place. In my way of thinking, probably, until their death, they would share this miraculous miracle with only words of amazement, honor and praise on their lips.
THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:
Anything that clearly reveals the Lord to those who are lost is an act of love, grace and kindness. Although they may result in suffering on earth, they can reap the benefits of eternity with the Lord.
What we have seen in our study so far….
We have attempted to come to a very basic understanding of the term “evil” as used in the Bible. We have come to see that:
1. “Evil” describes something that causes harm or injury
2. “Evil” can be referring to harm that is so severe, that it causes total destruction or uselessness
3. “Evil” can, but not necessarily, involves moral wickedness
4. “Evil” can describe sin or it can describe the results of sin
5. “Evil” can describe the direct results of sin
6. “Evil” can describe the indirect results of sin
7. “Evil” can describe an act that is morally wicked
8. “Evil” can describe, not the act, but the result of moral wickedness
9. Evil is “the condition/act of sin, OR the direct or indirect results of sin, that are harmful, and potentially ruinous, to any part of God’s creation.”
10. Our Lord is in absolute control of all things, this principle is clearly presented throughout the Bible
11. It is only because the Lord is in control of all things that we can place our unwavering faith in Him
12. The Sovereignty Of God affects: His ability to aid us, His answering our prayers, His ability to save, His prophecies to use
13. The Lord is in control of Satan himself, who can do nothing apart from the Lord’s allowance
14. The Lord is perfectly holy and separate from sin.
15. Satan and Adam are the ones who are responsible for sin’s existence and entrance into this world
16. The Lord is the author and sovereign controller of the results of sin upon mankind
17. The Lord uses the evil (harmful) things of this world to reveal Himself to mankind
18. In the 10 Plagues of Egypt, the Lord revealed Himself by defeating 10 of the main gods of the Egyptians
19. In the life of Job, Job came to experience truths about the LORD, that he had previously known in his mind but was unable to grasp in his heart.
20. When the Lord allows/brings harmful events upon mankind, it is done motivated out of love and concern for His people
May the Lord bless you as you continue to seek His truth.
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May the Lord bless your study of His Word. Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”