In Luke chapter thirteen we are told that some people had complained to Jesus about a recent event where the Roman procurator for Judea, Pontius Pilate, had apparently ordered the deaths of some Galileans who were making sacrifices to God, “mingling their blood” with the blood of their sacrifices. These people were understandably upset, and were asking Jesus to give an accounting for how this could happen (read here: why did God allow such a thing?). Jesus’ response is not what we might expect from him. Rather than go into a lengthy discussion of theodicy (the problem of evil) and why God allows evil events to take place, he uses it as an opportunity to teach two main things.
First, the Galileans who died were just like everyone else, in other words, they did not die because they were bad people. Second, all those who knew about the event should consider it, and then repent and turn to God, because bad things happen in this world, and everyone eventually dies.
Jesus went on to give another example of a tragedy that had also recently occurred, when a tower near the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem had apparently given way, crashing down on eighteen people and killing them. Once again, Jesus does not give an accounting of why senseless accidents occur, only that people should consider the reality that accidents happen, and should repent, thus being prepared to meet God.
The book of Job tells us the story of Job, a righteous man whom God allows to be tormented by Satan. Really bad things happen to Job, and although he maintains his trust in God, over time he begins to whine a bit about why these things happened to him. He even has three friends who essentially tell him, “You are a sinner, and God punishes sinners in this manner.” This, however, does not prove to be the case. When finally confronted by God, in chapters 38-42, Job finds out that God does not owe him an apology. He also learns a very valuable lesson on the sovereignty, omnipotence, and omniscience of God. The general lessons for Job? Where were you when I created all things? How wise are you Job? Can you see the beginning and the end?Do you observe what takes place far away from human eyes? Can you make anything happen by your own power? Job answers like this: I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted…therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
This week, understandably, I have fielded many questions about the problem of evil in light of the devastating and senseless school shooting in Florida. Where was God? If he is both good and all-powerful, how could he allow this? These are good and fair questions that have been around since the beginning of time. My short answer, which I believe is biblical, is this. God was where he always is, on his throne (figuratively speaking) ordaining all things that come to pass, even things that we cannot understand, even things that grieve him. Sin reigns in this world for this time, and evil is there with it. Satan is the prince and ruler of this world (John 12:31; Eph. 2:2). Yet, there remains a king, and that king will set things right. God is good—he is not the instigator of evil and sin, but for purposes known only to him, he allows these events, even ordains them in some sense that we cannot fathom (read and consider passages like Eccl. 7:14; Isa. 45:6-7 and Isaiah chapters 40-41, followed by 42 where the promise of redemption is laid out).
The people who died in Florida did not die because they were worse sinners than any of us. They died because sin has entered this world, and sin will have its day, but that day will end. God sent his Son into the world to save it. God allowed what grieved him beyond our imagination, the death of his Son, for a much greater purpose, the salvation of his people (Acts 3:17; 4:25-28).
Where did evil come from? I do not know, except to say that God knows. Why all the suffering? I cannot know that answer either, ultimately. Is God good? Yes! How do you know? The Scriptures declare it to be so, and I see the reality of that every day, even in this fallen and bent world where senseless tragedies occur daily. God has not lost control, and he is not fixing problems that he could not foresee as best he can. That describes an impotent God that is not worthy of glory and honor. If such were the case, we might be wise to serve Satan, who, it would appear, seems to be winning the day in his struggle with God. If God is only reacting, I want to follow the god who has enough power to make God react. But, praise the Lord, such is not the case. God is both sovereign and good, and the day will come when he rights all wrongs and banishes death, Satan, and with him sin, to their rightful places. Until then, we pray for those who suffer, we weep with those who weep, and we keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. He is doing, and accomplishing, things too wonderful for us to understand.
Grace and peace,