(24) Who handed Jacob over as plunder,
and Israel to the despoilers?
Was it not YHWH, against whom we sinned?
But they did not want to walk in his ways,
and they did not want to listen to his instruction.
(25) So he poured the heat of his wrath on them,
And the violence of war.
It set them on fire all around,
Yet they didn’t recognize it.
It burned them,
But they didn’t take it to heart. — Isaiah 42:24-25
When we speak at churches or even chat with friends, Jody frequently refers to God’s involvement in our son James’s life, before he went on to glory after his five year fight with cancer, and how God can ask one even for a child, as he did Abraham in Genesis 22. It is a statement that truly frightens people. It is, after all, â€œa fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living Godâ€ (Hebrews 10:31)! The possibility of God doing something terrible to any person is hard to handle, at best. It doesn’t seem to match with the character of our loving God.
But the affirmation of scripture is that God is ultimately responsible for everything. With the word â€œultimatelyâ€ we become a bit more comfortable. God was â€œultimatelyâ€ responsible for the death of my son, not â€œimmediatelyâ€ responsible. But â€œultimatelyâ€ for God isn’t really all that far away. Isaiah 42:5 affirms that God gives breath to the people, and life to everyone. Just think about it. Your very next breath is given to you by God. Every moment of continued life is a gift from God. Every action of everyone everywhere happens because God enables people to do it.
Isaiah 45:7 gets even more direct, describing God as â€œmaker alike of well-being and disaster.â€ When we experienced Hurricane Ivan here in Pensacola, I don’t recall too many people talking about how God made the hurricane. We’re a bit embarrassed to name God as the author of the things we don’t like. That was somebody else. As when the weeds mixed in with the wheat, we want to say, â€œAn enemy has done thisâ€ (Matthew 13:28).
And indeed an enemy has done this. But the Bible is not in any shy about giving God all the credit, all the glory, and even all the blame. Think of it this way. God loves us so much and desires so much that we be free, that he is willing to allowâ€”and enableâ€”all the horrible consequences of our own actions. But make no mistake. God is still there, working in and through everything.
So is it possible that there’s good news in all this? Or is this maybe just a â€œdownerâ€ devotional. â€œ[Moan] [groan]! God is doing it all, so I’m doomed.â€ Absolutely not! The good news is simply this: God is involved, so there is a limit to the nastiness. God is involved, so there will be good fruit even from terrible disasters. God is involved, so that ultimately there will be an end to it all.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God. But it would be far more terrifying to fall into the hands of the evil one.
When things start going wrong, remember this: God is still here, ready to limit my disaster, and to bring good fruit from hardship. Or to switch metaphors, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s God, not a train!