Recently, a pastor friend told me the story of someone in his congregation who corrected him for allowing the worship team to sing the song "Blessed Be Your Name" because it includes the line, "You give and take away"—a reference to Job 1:21. This person claimed that Job misrepresented God and the words were not intended to be a description of God's character.
She even produced a photocopy of the page from a popular study Bible that boldly suggests "Job, like many today, praised God for the works of the devil." (Interestingly, the subsequent verse states, "In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.")
How easy it is to shape God in our image, conforming to our narrow specifications of justice, equality and holiness. These misperceptions become especially vivid when global disasters grind our perceptions of God to dust like pebbles trapped in a fault line. Here, we are faced with the reality of defending the justice of a God who allows disaster to strike the innocent and the guilty.
Postmodern fashionability would tempt us to say, "There are certain things we don't understand... and that's OK." The apostle Paul avoided such theological evasiveness, and we should too. In his masterful defense of God's justice, he describes the tumultuous "birth pangs" of creation, as it groans in expectation of the manifestation of the sons of God (see Rom. 8:18-27).
Whether global terrorism, cataclysmic weather or political upheaval, these birth pangs are not random scenes in a play in which the actors have forgotten their lines. They bear the fingerprint of a God who subjected creation to "futility" as a result of human sin, so that He might someday liberate it for the purpose of His glory (see vv. 20-21). We are the only voices in our culture who can offer this hope in the midst of despair.
How often we succumb to a triumphalism that overlooks the reality of human anguish or a fatalism that assumes that God has wound up the earth like a cosmic clock and stands back in disbelief at the mess we have made of it.
Instead, let's roll up our sleeves to alleviate suffering—and plead with the lost to seek refuge in the arms of a God who is intimately involved in directing world events toward our ultimate good and His ultimate glory.
Matthew Green is managing editor of Ministries Today. He invites your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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