Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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Hey Pastor John,
Well, I wanted to talk to you about the email. I want to say that I wasn't questioning God. I do not think God is a murderer in any sense. He can do anything that pleases him and it is right. In your original email, you said "Each of us has an appointment with Jesus and death, and none of us can avoid it. But if someone causes you to die before God's appointed time, that person has sinned, and the name given to that particular sin is "murder"."
My question was directed more toward the second sentence. Honestly, when I first read your sentence, "But if someone causes you to die before God's appointed time", I thought it was a contradiction. It came across to me that the murderer had done something against the will of God. I didn't know if I am missing something. I don't understand how someone can cause you to die before God wills it. For instance, Cain and Abel...wouldn't the day Abel died be the appointed time by God because he allowed Cain to act on his desire to murder his brother?
I hope I am not coming across the wrong way.
Oh, no, dear Sister Kim, you're not coming across in any wrong way at all. I understand your question, and it is a good one. Please know that with my last answer, I did not intend a comparison between you (or Julie A.) with the ungodly people against whom Paul so indignantly spoke. But the basic issue, it seems to me, is the same, and every one of us, at one time or another, has asked that question, in some form.
No, I don't believe that Abel's originally appointed day to die was the day Cain murdered him. If that doesn't "make sense", to you, well, welcome to the club. It doesn't make logical sense to me, either. It is beyond me, and it is beyond everybody else on earth. And that was my whole point in my last email. The best that we can do, because God invites us to do it, is to know that He determines every circumstance we face and to trust Him to be using every circumstance for our good because we love Him and have been called by Him into His kingdom (Rom. 8:28).
Think about it like this: Adam and Eve didn't even have an appointed day of death in the beginning; there was no curse of death. But then sin entered into the picture, and God altered their course and created a day for them to give up their earthly lives. The philosophical issue can certainly be raised that, "God knows all things, and He must have known they would sin", and I will have to agree. The Scriptures say that, too. But that is not the story of Adam and Eve as God tells it to us. He knows how simple we need things to be, and He told us the story as simply as He could, so that we might grasp a little understanding of His unknowable ways.
The way He tells Adam and Eve's story to us is this: they were cursed to die only because they sinned, not simply because they were created. So, what can we do with that? I am saying that the best we can do is to believe the story as God told it to us, because it is true, and then also believe that God knew everything from the beginning, because that is true as well. And if there seems to be a big contradiction in that, there is no need to be afraid or ashamed to admit it. Let's just confess that there is no contradiction in God's mind and that the wisdom involved in such matters is just beyond us.
When you really think about it, we wouldn't want it to be any other way. We humans would not even respect a god whom we could completely understand and explain because if that were the case, he wouldn't be much of a god at all. We are not naturally wise.
I am sorry if I have failed to explain adequately what I am trying to say. It is, as I said before, an impossibly complex and hidden matter, an enigma known only to God and knowable only by God. I had a student in the Community College years ago who insisted in our first Old Testament class on discussing this issue. I explained to her what I have written to you, and I told her at the start that there was no answer except for us to confess that it is one of the "secret things that belong to God" and to learn to deal with the apparent contradiction involved. I also told her that we could discuss it for hours, and still, we would end up at exactly the spot where we began; we would know no more at the end than we did at the beginning. But she insisted, and then pursued the question. Hours later, most of our time for the Old Testament class spent, she was still talking about it, and we were still in the same spot in which we were standing at the beginning.
Forgive me if this does not seem to be a good enough answer. It really is the best that I can do. And I sincerely believe that no one else, at any time in human history, has been able to do much better. It really is one of the mysteries of God that we may never understand, even in the world to come. Actually, I cannot see how we can even have a Creator without this eternal mystery existing with Him. That is one reason we both fear and love Him.