Meant Evil?

Perhaps you’ve read it? A story of treachery and redemption that unfolds at the end of the Book of Genesis (chapters 37, 39 – 50.) Jacob’s son Joseph is sold to traders by his brothers and winds up in Egypt as a slave. Through God’s providence, Joseph is promoted to ruler second only to Pharaoh. During a devastating Near East famine, Joseph is instrumental in feeding the civilizations in and around Egypt at the time. Providentially, one of those civilizations, in embryonic form, consisted of his brothers. Joseph, humbled by his God and Savior, offers mercy to them:

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21 English Standard Version (ESV)

The reformation preacher and teacher, John Calvin draws out three points from the passage. First, Calvin cautions us to follow Joseph’s example by restraining our passions in light of God’s providence in and through our circumstances:

Am I in the place of God? …Joseph considers the design of divine providence [and] restrains his feelings as with a bridle, lest they should carry him to excess…When, therefore, the desire of revenge urges us, let all our feelings be subjected to the same authority. […If we let] this thought take full possession of our minds, there is no ardor, however furious, which it will not suffice to mitigate.

It is to our advantage to deal with men of moderation, who set God before them as their leader, and who not only submit to His will, but also cheerfully obey Him. For if anyone is impotently carried away by the lust of the flesh, we must fear a thousand deaths from him, unless God should forcibly break his fury.

Calvin explains that, under God’s sovereignty, the brothers were fully guilty of their evil deeds and Joseph owed all honor to God for his good deeds.

You thought evil against me. …The selling of Joseph was a crime detestable for its cruelty and [faithlessness]; yet he was not sold except by the decree of heaven.

…Nothing is done without [God’s] will; because He both governs the counsels of men ([swaying] their wills and [turning] their efforts at his pleasure) and regulates all events: but if men undertake anything right and just, He so actuates and moves them inwardly by his Spirit, that whatever is good in them, may justly be said to be received from Him.

But if Satan and ungodly men rage, He acts by their hands in such an inexpressible manner, that the wickedness of the deed belongs to them, and the blame of it is imputed to them. For they are not induced to sin, as the faithful are to act aright, by the impulse of the Spirit, but they are the authors of their own evil, and follow Satan as their leader.

And finally, true repentance and reconciliation are evidenced by kind acts toward the one or ones forgiven:

I will nourish you. It was a [mark] of a solid and unfeigned reconciliation, not only to abstain from malice and injury, but also to “overcome evil with good,” as Paul teaches (Romans 12:21.)

He who fails in his duty, when he possesses the power of giving help, and when the occasion demands his assistance, shows, by this [failure], that he is not forgetful of injury.

Therefore, we shall prove our minds to be free from malevolence, when we [do] kindness [to] those enemies by whom we have been ill-treated.

In light of God’s providence, let us then practice forgiveness and reconciliation by doing good to those who have trespassed against us that we’ve forgiven.

An image of Psalm 23 (KJV), frontispiece to the 1880 omnibus printing of The Sunday at Home

An image of Psalm 23 (KJV), frontispiece to the 1880 omnibus printing of The Sunday at Home: A Family Magazine for Sabbath Reading, [collected volume], London, Religious Tract Society, Public Domain in the United States

Why Do They Call Evil That Which Is Good?

Chris Mooney says in his article ‘Science Deniers Are Freaking Out About “Cosmos”’

Indeed, the science denial crowd hasn’t been happy with Cosmos in general. Here are some principal lines of attack:

  • Denying the Big Bang
  • Denying evolution
  • Denying climate change

Chris Mooney is a science and political journalist, podcaster, and the host of MJ’s Climate Desk Live. He is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science. You can read the rest at Bill Moyer’s site and Mother Jones, if you like this sort of thing.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, a more subtle critic, says in his article: ‘In Defense of Creationists – Sure, they’re misreading Genesis. But for all the right reasons.’

My own view is that a literal one-week creation should be ruled out because, combined with the best knowledge we have of science, it would make God into a devil, a trickster. “Haha, mortals, I only buried these dinosaur bones and set the galaxies in explosive motion so the unbelievers would damn themselves to Hell,” doesn’t sound like a great or loving God. It seems to me that the very idea of good, eternal, law-giving God endowing man with rational abilities was the historical prerequisite for scientific exploration.

Michael Brendan Dougherty is senior correspondent at TheWeek.com. He is the founder and editor of The Slurve, a newsletter about baseball. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, ESPN Magazine, Slate and The American Conservative. You can read the rest of this article at The Week.

In the act of creation, God demonstrated overwhelming creative power throughout time and space (and whatever else there might be that we have yet to discover). We reviewed this concept in-depth in our post ‘Every Good Story – Thysdor Ya’Rosel’ and more succinctly in ‘All the world’s a stage…

So far as misreading Genesis, we covered that issue in the recent post ‘Nip ‘Em in the Bud.’

We live in a universe governed by laws which the Law Giver can suspend as it suits His good pleasure. We’ve covered this concept in another recent post ‘Instrumentality.’

For those of us old enough to remember, both the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits television series’ had episodes where that which existed had no reality behind it. How creepy would it be to dig into the ground and find nothing (i.e. no precious metals and gems, petrochemicals, fossils, etc.)?

To this point, the scriptures describe treasures in the sand and deep beneath the ground. As described in Scripture, the world is meant to communicate two major lessons concerning God:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. Romans 1:20 English Standard Version (ESV)

On the fossils front, death certainly entered creation when the Lord God made garments of skins to clothe Adam and Eve after their fall from grace.  We also read that the creation was subjected to futility by God because of Adam’s sin. So, we can say with confidence that sin had far-reaching consequences for creation!

It’s helpful to see the Scriptures as an accommodation to us by an infinite and unknowable God. In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ is described as the image of the invisible God and declares Himself of one essence with the Father. He appeared to us in human form to identify with us more fully than we sometimes appreciate.

The Lord Jesus Christ taught often through parables:

A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature as characters, whereas parables have human characters. A parable is a type of analogy.

When asked, the Lord Jesus Christ explained to His followers why He spoke in parables:

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Matthew 13:13 (ESV)

He spoke this to remind His followers of Isaiah’s prophecy:

And He said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Isaiah 6:9-10 (ESV)

Again, reiterating today’s opening statements, isn’t He evil for not revealing all? In the parable about Lazarus and the rich man, concerning warnings about the place of eternal torment:

He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16:31 (ESV)

Ultimately, it comes down to believing, or not, the documentary evidence that we have in Scripture. We’ve addressed the authority and basic meaning of Scripture in our posts: ‘Authority of Scripture?’ and ‘Scripture – What Is It Good For?,’ respectively.

So, we stand condemned unless He saves us and, otherwise, we remain dead in our sins and trespasses. God, through the apostle, speaks of His sovereignty in these matters:

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Romans 9:20 (ESV)

We may take offence to this statement. But, we’ve conveniently forgotten what preceded this passage:

…For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 (ESV)

The onus for sin lies with us. We’ve examined our responsibility in the post titled: ‘There, But for God’s Grace and Mercy Through His Providence, Go I.’

Why one side insists on winning a war started before the First World War, I understand. Loosely paraphrasing Huxley, they believe what they want because they have an agenda that doesn’t include the One that made them. We’ve covered Aldous Huxley’s admission in our posts ‘Wonder Why?’ and ‘Mean Ends – Luxe Hso-Dualy.’

But I grow tired of their fight as this life winds down. These recurrent attacks endanger the liberty we all claim to cherish. You can keep your slapshots to yourselves. We’ve already addressed this latest controversy in our post: ‘Climate Changiness.’

Now, we’ve discussed how it’s our duty to live peaceful and quiet lives. The Scriptures say we will be persecuted as He was. However, dear folks of the opposition, your war is with Him. And you will inevitably appear before Him, so, please live peacefully while He gives you opportunity to repent.

Politicization of science by the right or the left is futile. Finally, it comes down to what the Lord Jesus Christ said to His critics:

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? Mark 12:24 (ESV)

I urge you, turn and be healed.

The Garden of Eden, Thomas Cole

The Garden of Eden, 1828, Thomas Cole (1801–1848), public domain – US

Redeemed Regret – Macon Georgia

Ecclesia and the Three Sons of Noah - medieval...

Ecclesia and the Three Sons of Noah – medieval stained glass detail, Canterbury Cathedral (Photo credit: chrisjohnbeckett)

It was a cold night, and I was running through a neighborhood I feared to walk in during the day. The sun was coming up as I reached the main drag. I was almost home. Just a few more miles to go.

When I reached my toasty–warm one–room apartment, I found it as I had left it so many weeks before. The boarder she asked me to house had left it in pretty good shape. Better than I deserved. She, though, did not leave me in very good shape. I collapsed on my bed.

I was bought and sold as you would a loaf of bread, maybe half a loaf, when all was said and done. We met by arrangement of our mutual friends at the time. They had thoughts of what each of us wanted and saw a match worth making. It took a few strikes of that match to ignite a spark.

I thought one thing and she thought another. I was headed toward the idea of marriage and she was headed toward her former lover. However, her way lay through me. I was trapped by an unrealizable idea that she had no intention of bringing to fruition. She got what she wanted. I should have known better. I was so infatuated with the romance of Hollywood that I ignored the warning signs of disaffection and entrapment.

The prophets say, “More bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her…” Well, that escape wasn’t my doing. Not long afterward, I was captured by the Sovereign One, who, alone, was deserving of my utmost allegiance. He drew me as surely as a parent draws their child to what is good. I was now free indeed.

There, in new surroundings with much to learn and unlearn, I was barely coping with all the changes I needed to make. I was juggling responsibilities that I had so long neglected. Folks were having their doubts about whether I was having doubts. Things were taken away as well as given. I was experiencing the Ecclesia firsthand. Having searched for a new place to lay my head, I found myself in the company of a diverse and chastening crowd.

My time was up so soon. I had gained my employment from one and ceded my bedroom to another. I needed to find a new residence quickly. That’s when I fell into a trap again. Not of the same kind, thankfully, but entrapped nevertheless. I should have seen the warning signs. I should have fled my obligations (but I wouldn’t on principle). Only Mercy rescued me once more.

In the midst of the turmoil and strife, I did not notice a rare opportunity escape overseas. I was too bound by my unsophistication and numbed by the rapid–fire changes in my life. I was dislocated from a proper response. In a parking lot, on another cold night, I bid farewell to someone I should have known better.

I imagine her happily married and blessed with children, prosperous and satisfied with her life. A better path than I could have given. I must tread alone toward our mutual upward goal. For I have no doubts about her.