Why God, Why pt III

This is the third in my series of sermons through which I have been trying to answer our friend Dick’s question, ‘Why God, Why?’ I was encouraged to learn he thought the first one was great. Dick quickly printed a copy of it for each of his children and some of his friends at the Fanny Allen Hospital. Needless to say, I was pleased. And then, just before I finished last week’s sermon, I received the following email from Dick.

Mike, it still hurts so very much! I LOVE HER and I know she is OK in JESUS’ ARMS, but it still hurts not having and seeing her around. She is part of me. I hurt so much! It really isn’t easy. I used to go somewhere and she would be with me. Now I reach for her hand and there is no hand. I don’t understand. Please ask for prayers. I need them. Your friend in Christ, Dick LaBelle.

I wasn’t surprised to get that email because among the Guest Book posting I included in last week’s sermon was one from our friend Bobbie. As soon as I read it I was convinced of the fact that Satan has unleashed his fury on him just as he has on Dick. Bobbie wrote, “Pastor Mike, is God listening to me? It seems like there is more of the Devil in my life than there is God.’ Bobby.” As you folks know, I have been reminding us that we must resist the devil and he will flee from you. He must! However, it isn’t as simple as shoeing him away as though he were a fly. For example, I received the following email from Dick on Friday while I was crafting this sermon. He wrote, Mike,

These are the questions I’m asking GOD for Nancy and that I want to know. “Why did GOD let this happen to YOU? God let YOU get cancer and let YOU suffer till YOU had enough. Then GOD took YOU to heaven. HE didn’t need to let this happen at all. HE let YOU suffer a lot of other times and ways; from 1976 to the last day in 2010 GOD took YOU to heaven to be with Him. God took your Dad in January 1976 and the same year in July HE took my Dad. Several months later YOUR mom got so ill you had to be with her for almost 14 years. Several months after YOUR mom became ill my mom came down with cancer and you helped with her till GOD took her home in 1978. In 1982 ? ran away from our home. Our son Tim at 19 was killed in January 1984. God let you take care of YOUR mother till October 1989 before HE took her. In between all this GOD let YOUR brother commit suicide. There were a lot of other things too. HE let YOU get cancer on December 3, 1996 with no let up till HE took YOU home.

HE let things happen to YOU like HE did to Job in the Bible. Yet YOU stayed steadfast with YOUR love for CHRIST. The least GOD could have done was give YOU a few more years to let YOU do some things YOU wanted to do but couldn’t; things that HE didn’t let YOU have time to do because YOU were doing HIS WILL for all these years. GOD could have done it differently and it still would have been perfect because everything GOD does is perfect. GOD could have cured YOUR cancer and taken away all YOUR pain. GOD could have let YOU stay here a few more years so YOU could have enjoyed the things YOU missed out on because HE took away precious years from YOUR life to do HIS will.” WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? Dick LaBelle.

I’m glad Dick mentioned Job because the argument could be made that God didn’t make Job suffer. On the contrary, as D. A. Carson writes it was, “the Sabeans, the Chaldeans, and their band of marauding riff-raff; the natural elements such as the windstorm that blew down the house and killed all ten of Job’s children; bereavement; the illness that he suffered, scraping himself on an ash pit; a nagging wife; the false comfort of insensitive and theologically perverse friends. One could say that Satan did it. One could even say that God did it, for Satan did not go one step beyond what God himself sanctioned.” Carson asks and then answers his own question, ‘Which answer is the most true? They are all equally true.’ (A)

God has blessed Dick with an inquisitive mind. No one can accuse him of not, as Carson notes, “probing deeply enough to analyze the cosmic tension between God and the Devil. And then, quite frankly, we do not need God. He could get up and walk out, and we would not miss him. We have got this thing taped (all figured out); our analyses are quantifiable.” (B) For example: “What caused the disastrous defeat of Jerusalem and Judah in 587 B. C.? One might mention many factors: the rise of the Babylonian superpower; the acquisitiveness of King Nebuchadnezzar; the decline and decay if the Davidic dynasty; the tragic pride, proud arrogance, and blind stupidity of King Hezekiah several monarchs earlier in the dynasty, when he exposed the wealth of the kingdom to the Babylonian emissaries; the criminal stupidity of Zedekiah despite Jeremiah’s warnings; the sins of the people that attracted God’s judgment.” (C)

Although the following passages of scripture may sound like a lot of gibberish to many of you folks, we have to consider them if we want to understand how Satan and his fellow slime-balls are working behind the scenes in our lives. For example, they are relentlessly unleashing the devil’s rage on Dick and Bobbie. So please try to stay with me as best you can. And, as I always strongly suggest, please get a printed copy of this message and study it carefully. I assure you it will be time well spent. Carson provides a detailed analysis of each verse and, for those of you who are interested I highly recommend reading his outstanding work. The following are the passages I’m referring to.

“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4 His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. 7 And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Revelation 12:1-9 (NIV)

Carson comments: In Revelation 12:1-8, “John provides us with a glimpse of the church’s problems from God’s perspective. The literary genre he uses is apocalyptic. That genre sometimes seems strange to us today because it is no longer written (though it was common enough in Jewish and Christian circles from about 300 B. C. to about A.D. 300, with tentacles reaching back much earlier). Apocalyptic literature uses colorful arrays of symbols and metaphors to analyze human situations from the perspective of heaven. If I understand the passage before aright, God here gives a deeper analysis of the difficulties and sufferings of the church, and then teaches us something of how to be faithful.”

“Revelation (chapters) 12 to 14 marks a major division in the Apocalypse. These chapters constitute a major hiatus before the final display of God’s wrath in the seven plagues of Revelation 16. John traces in these chapters the underlying cause for the hostility and suffering that fall upon the church. The cause is nothing less than the rage of Satan against the church. If you do not have a category for Satan’s rage, John says, then you cannot understand deeply what is happening in Contemporary Christianity.” (D) And I might add such as we are seeing in our country and throughout the world today.

In today’s message we’re going to consider Carson’s comments starting with verse 4. He explains, “The dragon’s tail, we are told, “swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to earth” (v.4). This is not some form of mistaken ancient cosmology demonstrating that the biblical authors were woefully ignorant of scientific facts. Rather, this is a part of apocalyptic metaphor that derives from Hebrew poetry in which all of nature gets involved in everything. When things go well, the hills dance and the trees clap their hands. When things are bad, the stars fall from the sky, and nature falls into disarray. This is exactly what happened here. Satan is about to attempt something that is utterly catastrophic, so his tail swings around and a third of the universe collapses. The language is drawn from Daniel 8:9-10.”

“What is Satan trying to do? The scene is grotesque. The dragon stands in front of the woman. She is lying there in labor. Her feet are in stirrups, writhing as she pushes to give birth, and this disgusting dragon is waiting to grab the baby as it comes out of the birth canal and then eat it (12:4). The scene is meant to be grotesque: it reflects the implacable rage of Satan against the arriving Messiah.”

“Do we not know how this works out in historical terms? The first bloodbath in the time of Jesus takes place in the little village of Bethlehem-the slaughter of the innocents as Herod tries to squash this baby’s perceived threat to his throne. Jesus is saved by Joseph, who is warned by God in a dream and flees to Egypt. Herod, in a rage, “gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” Matt. 2:16). Satan later manifests his rage against Jesus in the temptation, and he manifests his rage against the church in every temptation. Satan’s rage manifests itself when some people try to push him over a cliff, and others take up stones to stone him. Satan is after Jesus and wants to destroy him by any means possible. Behind all these attempts to destroy Jesus is the red dragon, and behind the red dragon is God himself, bringing to pass his purposes even in the death of his Son to bring about our redemption.” (D).

“But the text does not go on to talk about Jesus’ triumph here. Not because the book has no interest in him but because the triumph of Jesus has already been spectacularly introduced in Revelation 4-5. The great vision of Revelation 4-5 controls the entire book. There we learn that Christ, this male child, is the only one who is fit to open the scroll in God’s right hand to bring about all of God’s purposes for judgment and blessing. He is the Lion and the Lamb, the reigning king and the bloody sacrifice, the heir of David’s throne yet the one who appears from God’s throne. Because of his struggle, men and women from every tongue and tribe and people and nation are redeemed. Countless millions gather around him who sits on the throne of the Lamb and sing a new song of adoring, grateful, praise.”

“But here in (chapter 12) we move from Jesus’ birth to his ascension; we run through his entire life, ministry death, resurrection, and ascension in two lines: he ‘will rule all the nations with an iron scepter” and “was snatched up to God and to his throne.” (v.5). The male child, Jesus, is born and snatched to heaven. In other words, this passage focuses not on Christ’s triumph-that is presupposed-but on what happens to the woman and her children, the ones left behind. And that is us: the messianic community, the people of God, (such as you and me, the blood-bought church of Jesus Christ. This side of the cross they are described as “those who obey God’s commands and hold the testimony of Jesus’ (v. 17). The woman (the messianic community) is the focus of the passage.” (D).

Ordinarily I would end this message at this point. I have given you folks a lot of spiritual food to digest. However, the Lord has reminded me that today is Palm Sunday and He wants to pound the hell out of the devil by further exposing his cosmic works of darkness in our world today and bring them into the light. Let’s look at Hebrews 2:14-15 and then I will end with a brief comment from Lloyd-Jones.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 (NIV)

Lloyd-Jones asks: “Have you ever been filled with a sense of amazement and wonder at the drama of the cross? Have you ever looked at it in these terms-the drama, the conflict, the fight? How did our Lord ever come to such a place, what brought him there” Ah, you say, that was men who did not understand him. Is that a sufficient and adequate answer? My dear friend, can you not see the devil behind men? What was the office of Jesus of Nazareth? To whom did he do any harm? What was wrong with his teaching? What was wrong with his miracles? What was wrong with his acts of kindness? He came to do good, he came to teach, he came to deliver mankind. What reception did he get? Well, look at it in the Pharisees and scribes, look at their bitterness and hatred, look at their scorn and their derision, look at their blasphemy. Look at it not only there but in the Roman governor, Pilate. Look at it in King Herod, the King of the Jews, look at him in the common people. Can you not see this terrible blasphemy, this scorn? Why all this hatred, why all this vituperation? There is only one explanation. It is the devil that is fighting. It is the devil in these men and women.” And I might add, it is the devil in evil men and woman today just as you and I are seeing throughout this dark sin drenched world we are living in.

Lord willing, I’ll be back in this pulpit on Mother’s Day.

(A) SCANDALOUS, The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, © 2010 by D. A. Carson. Published by Crossway a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, Illinois 60187. Pg.75-76.

(B)  Ibid. pg. 79.

(C)  Ibid. pg. 75.

(D) Ibid. pg. 79-80.

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter, Copyright © 2009 by Nancy Guthrie. Published by Crossway Books; a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, Illinois 60187. Pgs. 75-76.

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April 17, 2011 Posted by Categories: Uncategorized 3 comments

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