Bad people used by God

drawing by Annie Vallotton, Good News Bible

Habakkuk was troubled. To put it mildly. His nation was full of corruption. Injustice. Abuse of power. The good people, like Habakkuk, prayed. God didn’t answer.

Chapter 1 of the book of Habakkuk records his lament:

How long, O Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

(Habakkuk 1:2-4)

Then God did answer. Literally. He answered Habakkuk and shared with him the plan: God was going to raise up Babylonia, a “ruthless and impetuous people” (1:6), to punish Judah.

Habakkuk didn’t like that answer at all. He tried to be respectful, but he knew that God must be overlooking the fact that Babylonia was evil. They were the bad guys. Could God possibly use evil people to punish “the good guys”?

O Lord, are you not from everlasting?
My God, my Holy One, we will not die.
O Lord, you have appointed them to execute judgment;
O Rock, you have ordained them to punish.
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrong.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

(Habakkuk 1:2-4)

God later reassures Habakkuk that the Babylonians themselves will be punished for their misdeeds. But the short answer is yes, God uses the wicked to punish people, even people more righteous than they.

In fact, if we look at the biblical record, God rather consistently uses bad people as instruments of judgment. It’s the rare exception when he uses the righteous.

Yesterday we talked about telling God what to do. About how simple solutions usually aren’t simple and rarely solve anything. Here’s today’s question:

How will you react if God chooses to use evil people today to do his will?

All that is necessary is God

I’m wanting to spend some time this week with a much-repeated phrase: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” We hear that phrase time again, used to justify this action or that one. As I pointed out yesterday, everyone assumes that they are the “good men” and their rivals the “evil.”

I don’t like the saying. I used to. But the more I hear it used and abused, the more I feel a need to analyze it. And under analysis, it just doesn’t hold up.

Even though it probably wasn’t created by Edmund Burke, this saying does seem to have arisen out of ideas that were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Man was king. There seemed to be no limit to what men could do. Who needed God? God could be acknowledged as a creator who set in motion a marvelous creation… and nothing more. If anything was going to be accomplished, it would be done by men.

If evil was to be defeated, it would be by good men, unfettered by the need to look to God for approval of their actions.

All of which makes me understand why non-Christians spout such phrases and marvel at the fact that Christians will repeat them. All that is necessary for the defeat of evil is God. It begins and ends there.

Look at the book of Revelation. What would the recipients of that book/letter have thought if someone had come and said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” I think they’d have said, “Here, read this. It says something different.” They were being called to “do nothing” in the eyes of the world. They were to pray. They were to be faithful. They were to expel false teachings from within their own community, but as far as the evil empire was concerned, they were to do nothing. (which would have drawn the ire of the “all that is necessary” crowd)

For God had promised to take care of evil. Maybe not as quickly as we’d like, hence the cry “How long?”. But it is God who is responsible for stemming the advance of evil. Even when we are called to be help in that, we need to understand that the victory does not hinge on our action. As Mordecai told Esther, “If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place.” (Esther 4:14) If good men “do nothing,” God will raise up deliverance from another place. It doesn’t depend on us.

All that is necessary for the defeat of evil is God. It begins and ends there.

That’s my first criticism of this saying. It’s godless. We live in a society where saying we trust in God is admired and actually trusting in him is ridiculed. Sadly, that “god-free” attitude has permeated the church, as well.

Let’s make “In God We Trust” more than a phrase stamped on a coin. All that is necessary for the defeat of evil is God. Let’s act like we believe it.

Are you glad they’re dead?

somali_piratesThis recent incident with the U.S. ship being attacked by pirates really caught a lot of attention. I was a little surprised to find in me a strong sense to see justice done. No, it was more than that. To use Jerry Falwell’s famous line, I wanted someone to “blow them away in the name of the Lord.” It probably comes from watching too many violent movies, but I often find myself longing to see criminals dealt with violently.

Let me say that I think the people involved acted appropriately, that is, I think this was an appropriate police action. What concerns me is what I see in myself and hear at times from other Christians. We can express a love for sinners, but then we turn around and cheer when some of those sinners are killed. There should be no joy at seeing someone’s life taken. Even if we think it was necessary, it should evoke sadness in us.

Like it or not, those men that were felled by sniper’s bullets, those criminals, were men that Jesus loved so much that he died on a cross for them. God loved them. If I’m going to be more like Christ, I’ve got to learn to love them too.

We need to be praying for such people. Praying that they come to know the Lord. Praying for peace in their world, in our world. And now, praying for the friends and families of those who are mourning their loss.

 

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4) We pray for all men. Even pirates.