An Explanation of How God Creates and Uses Evil – His Will, Not Ours

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An Explanation of How God Creates and Uses Evil

[by James Ramsay]

Brother Whitson,

Isaiah 45:7 clearly states that God created “good and evil” but ask any Christian what that means and most assuredly they will find a way to exonerate God, who we will all agree is good, from having anything to do with evil. Most people I’ve encountered simply don’t think very deeply about this topic, so the fact that you’re asking about it now is encouraging. My hope is that what you are about to read is a satisfactory explanation to you or, at the very least, prompts you to conduct a deeper study of the subject.

For full disclosure, before you spend any time reading my response, my question was rhetorical; i.e. I had already started to find the answer sometime in 1994 when I was struggling with a number of issues in my life. I think it would be helpful to answer your question by first explaining what was going on at that time which prompted me to start looking into it and why it became so important to me.

1. I was a member of a legalistic church which I had been attending for 18 years that was
experiencing upheaval over doctrinal questions.
2. My youngest son, who was 7 yrs. old, had been diagnosed with OCD, a mental disorder that
was relatively unknown by the general public at the time.
3. I was taking college level courses in psychology, including Abnormal Psychology which, among
other things, dealt with the subject of frontal lobe injuries and their effect on decision making
and self-control.

If you haven’t yet detected the common denominator between all of these issues, let me cut to the chase: all three involved man’s will, something to which, up until that time, I had always assumed was free, meaning that I was free to choose to do and to think whatever I wanted.

While the other situations, especially the church changes, affected me, my son’s disorder was the worst. His condition disturbed me so much that one day I angrily, and undeservedly, rebuked God, demanding an answer to how He could hold my child accountable for behavior over which he had no control. During the next three months, God used my bible study as a rebuke of my understanding of Him and His relationship with mankind. That experience reminds me of how He answered Job, who essentially did the same thing.

Job 40:1  Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said,
Job 40:2  Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.

Job 40:8  Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous? (KJV)

Without any attempt on my part to organize a study on this topic, I was led to scripture after scripture which glorified God’s sovereignty and mankind’s subservience to Him. I had read these many times before, but suddenly they jumped off of the pages as if I had never read them before. Even though I have thought about and studied this topic for the past quarter of a century, I have never put this down on paper, so if you haven’t lost interest so far, I will share some of them below.

I will attempt to do this by answering the following three questions:

1. Why would God create good and evil?
2. Since the same Hebrew word for evil (ra’) is used in both Isaiah 45:7 and Genesis 2:9,17, what does ra’ mean?
3. Why would God create a tree of the knowledge of good and evil, place it in a garden with Adam
and Eve, then tell them not to eat of it?

Ephesians 1:11 introduces a concept of God’s sovereignty that most Christians, while still giving lip service to God’s omnipotence, offhandedly reject; primarily because they simply don’t understand it, and secondarily because their lived experience makes it difficult for them to believe it. To be clear, this is not evidence of Calvinism, but it does vividly describe the relationship between the creator and His creation in terms of whose will was, is and will be accomplished.

Eph 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will (NKJV)

Restated [we are] “being predestined (i.e. the will of humanity is not sovereign) according to the purpose of Him [God] who works all things according to the counsel of His will (the will of God is sovereign).” So, what does it mean when man describes God as sovereign?

Since scripture is the written word of God, we must appeal to it to even begin to understand this, and what we find is that God alone is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, meaning He is the only one who has the power and authority to create and destroy and is aware of all that is; i.e. He is not dependent on or influenced by anything other than Himself. The following passages confirm this.

Heb 4:13  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

Rom 11:34  “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor? (quoted from Isa 40:13 below)

Isa 40:13-14  Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has taught Him? With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?

Eph 4:4-6  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Col 1:16-17  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

Rom 11:33  Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How
unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

Jer 32:17  Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.

Psa 103:19  The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.

Job 21:22  Can anyone teach God knowledge, since He judges those on high?

Job 37:16  Do you know how the clouds are balanced, those wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?

Isa 46:10  Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’

Job 28:24  For He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees under the whole heavens,

Pro 15:3  The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.

Acts 15:18  Known to God from eternity are all His works.

2Ch 16:9  For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.

Jer 16:17  For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity hidden from My eyes.

Psa 94:9  He who planted the ear, shall He not hear? He who formed the eye, shall He not see?

The average person, Christians included, believe they have a ‘free will’; i.e. they believe, like God, they are sovereign, in this case limited in power, time, space and awareness but capable of making decisions which they believe are independent of any outside force or influence. In the Bible the term ‘free will’ exists only as a description of a type of offering to be given by the Israelites.

Examples of this are found in Leviticus 22:18-23, Numbers 15:3 and Deuteronomy 12:6. The concept that the will of each human is sovereign, in other words, free from outside influences, does not exist in the Bible although thousands of misunderstood scriptures are used by most Christians to support their belief that indeed it does exist. They are taught by those they believe have the authority to speak for God that in spite of the scriptures you’ve just read about God’s sovereignty that each one of us is capable of making choices contrary to our human nature and our physical circumstances outside of the influence of God, who they believe takes a ‘hands off’ approach to the decisions each human makes.

Generally, at this point I have lost people who are busy thinking of all the commandments, the ‘thou shalt(s)’, that are literally found throughout the Bible. The thinking goes something like this; why would God expect His people to keep multiple commandments, laws, ordinances and regulations in the Old and the New Testament if He didn’t expect them to have the ability to choose to do it? That is an important question and one that deserves an answer, so again, please be patient as I wade through this because the answer is remarkable and life-changing.

Let’s start with the story of Job by asking why God induced Satan to tempt Job? That question, in
and of itself, is spiritually challenging because when you ask most Christians what they think
happened in the story of Job they usually answer that Satan caused God to have Job tested. So if you haven’t read the first two chapters of Job in a while, read it again to reacquaint yourself with what actually happened. The context in which this story unfolds reveals a great deal about how God interacts with His creation, which includes the spiritual realm.

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. (NKJV)

It is important to recognize that the sons of God, including Satan, presented themselves before the Lord just as a knight of King Arthur’s court would have presented himself before the king. The next time God and Satan interact, the same scene is described in Job 2:1 with an additional fact, ‘Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.’ Both verses depict the sons of God and Satan as subordinate to God.

A similar scene is described by the prophet Micaiah in 1 Kings 22:19 and 2 Chronicles 18:18. Since they are almost identical, I will only quote 1 Kings 22:19 here.

1Ki 22:19 Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left.” (NKJV)

The scriptures above as well as several others in both the Old and New Testament depict what appears to be customary gatherings of angelic/spiritual beings around God’s throne as judgments and decisions are being made in a council style setting. What is unique about the four scriptures referenced above is that we get to view how God Himself makes those decisions and commands their implementation by the spirits who answer to Him.

What happens next in the story of Job is important in truly understanding what the book of Job is really about; specifically that man’s righteousness can only be self-righteousness unless God in His sovereign wisdom chooses to make that man righteous. It also elucidates Satan’s role in the created world including his relationship to his and our creator.

Job 1:7 confirms who is in control right from the beginning of the conversation.

Job 1:7 And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” (NKJV)

Servants do not address their masters like that and considering Satan had presented himself before the Lord, who was on His throne, the Lord is clearly not speaking to an equal. Besides, can you imagine that God had no idea where Satan had been or what he had been up to? Of course, He knew; He created him for a specific purpose.

When Israel was in captivity in Babylon, God used the prophet Isaiah to comfort them. In Isaiah 54, God explained through the prophet that He would once again bless them and remove tribulation from them.

Isa 54:8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you, says the LORD, your Redeemer. (NKJV)

He continues in verse 14 explaining that He would protect them from oppression, fear and terror.

Isa 54:14  In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. (NKJV)

He then makes a curious assertion in verse 15 stating that some will assemble against them, but not because of Me.

Isa 54:15  Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me. Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake. (NKJV)

Then in verse 16 He explains what He meant when He said, “not because of Me.”

Isa 54:16  Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. (KJV)

I emboldened “I have created the waster to destroy” because verse 16 explains how God implements His desires while James 1:13 explains why.

Jas 1:13  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. (NKJV)

Two points to note here:

1. The smith (blacksmith) creates ‘an instrument for his work’ which in the waster’s case is ‘to
destroy’.
2. The waster’s method of destruction here is to assemble those who would bring oppression,
fear and terror but is destined to fail because God has determined that ‘Whoever assembles
against you shall fall for your sake.’

1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18 both describe the same heavenly court as it is revealed to the prophet Micaiah, where God mandates a response to the King of Israel’s inquiry of Him regarding whether or not He would bless the King’s desire to take Ramoth in Gilead back from the Syrians.

1Ki 22:20 And the LORD said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner.

Notice in verse 20 how God has already pre-determined that the King of Israel would die and his endeavor fail; i.e. evil would come upon him. The only question to be revealed is how He would bring it about.

1Ki 22:21  Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’
1Ki 22:22  The LORD said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the LORD said, ‘You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.’

There it is! God reveals to us that He would ‘persuade’ the King of Israel to move forward with what Ahab already wanted to do thereby bringing about his own end at the hands of the Syrians. God agreed to use a ‘lying spirit’ who  through the prophets  would ‘speak unto [the king] smooth things, prophesy deceits’ (Isa 30:10 KJV)

1Ki 22:23 Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you. (NKJV)

Lamentations 3 confirms what you’ve just read:

Lam 3:37  Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?
Lam 3:38  Out of the mouth of the Most High cometh there not evil and good? (ASV)

It seems that Job’s admonishment of his wife’s outburst came from a common understanding of God at the time.

Job 2:10  You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil (ra’)? (AKJV)

So what does the Hebrew word for evil (ra’) mean? The answer to that question opens another door to understanding everything discussed up until this point. Religion has muddied the waters on this important topic because instead of simply depending on the original meaning of the word, doctrinal preferences impose additional definitions of the word ‘evil’ that didn’t originally exist.

Isa 45:6  That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that [there is] none beside me. I [am] the LORD, and [there is] none else.
Isa 45:7  I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].

Using Strong’s Concordance let’s break verse 7 down into the Hebrew words that the author used to better understand it.

I form [yatsar] (3335 to form, fashion) the light, and create [bara’] (1254 choose) darkness [choshek] (2822 darkness, obscurity): I make [asah] (6213 accomplish) peace [shalowm] (7965 completeness, soundness, welfare, peace), and create [bara’] (1254 choose) evil [ra’] (7451 adversity): I the LORD [Yhovah] (3068) do all these things [asah] (6213 accomplish).

Since we’re comparing this evil to the one God used to describe the tree in the garden of which He forbade Adam and Eve to eat, let’s look at Genesis 2:9.

And out of the ground made the LORD [Yhovah] (3068) God [Elohiym] (430 ) to grow [tsamach] (6779 to sprout, spring up) every tree [ets] (608 tree, trees, wood) that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree [ets] (608 tree, trees, wood) of knowledge [da’ath] (1847 knowledge) of good [towb] (2896 beautiful) and evil. [ra’] (7451 adversity).

The KJV translates ra’ in the following manner: evil (442), wickedness (59), wicked (25), mischief (21), hurt (20), bad (13), trouble (10), sore (9), affliction (6), ill (5), adversity (4), favoured (3), harm (3), naught (3), noisome (2), grievous (2), sad (2). It is noteworthy that Strong’s chooses to use a translation which occurs only 4 times out of the 629 times the Hebrew word ra’ is found in the old testament whereas 442 times it is translated ‘evil’.

Two of those times are found in Jeremiah 9:3:

Jer 9:3 And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil (ra’) to evil (ra’), and they know not me, saith the LORD. (KJV)

Most of the translations use the word evil, and it could be suggested that this might be based on a doctrinal decision given that it is the Lord describing humans proceeding from evil to evil as opposed to God saying, “I make peace and create evil.”

In addition to the word ra’, notice another one that Strong’s seems to accentuate in Isaiah 45:7.

I form the light, and create [bara’] (1254 choose) darkness:

According to Strong’s, God forms the light and ‘chooses’ darkness? What a curious way to describe what He is doing. According to Strong’s, God does it once again later in the same verse when He supposedly ‘chooses’ ‘adversity’ instead of ‘created’ ‘evil’.

I make [asah] (6213 accomplish) peace [shalowm] (7965 completeness, soundness, welfare, peace), and create [bara’] (1254 choose) evil [ra’] (7451 adversity):

God ‘accomplishes’ ‘completeness, soundness, welfare, peace’ and ‘chooses’ ‘adversity’/evil? However, just like Strong’s ‘choice’ of definition of evil [ra’] in these verses, there appears to be a theological motive behind it when you look at the following actual definitions:

According to Strong’s the KJV translates bara’ 54 times and does so in the following manner: create (42x), creator (3x), choose (2x), make (2x), cut down (2x), dispatch (1x), make fat (1x). Once again, notice that Strong’s chooses to emphasize a translation which occurs only 2 times out of the 54 times the Hebrew word bara’ is found in the old testament over the 42 times it is translated ‘create’. An astute ‘Berean’ would be forced to ask the question, “Why?”

Let’s focus on 1 Kings 22:23 to highlight how once again we find the Hebrew word ra’ as found in Isaiah 45:7 and Genesis 2:9 is translated. Notice how the following versions translate ra’:

“. . . the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you.” (NASB 1995/1997)
“. . . the LORD has pronounced disaster against you.” (HCSB)
“. . . the LORD has determined to bring disaster upon you.” (ISV)
“. . . the LORD has decreed disaster for you.” (NET)
“. . . YHWH has spoken calamity concerning you.” (LSV)
“. . . the LORD hath spoken evil concerning you.” (KJV)

Once again it appears that most of the translations/versions strive to choose a translation for the Hebrew word ra’ that absolves God of any hint of moral evil by using terms that make one think of natural disasters, calamity, trouble or harm. Except for the literal translations this is evident in most other translations where the word ra’ is used.

Several important points become evident when reading the passages from 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles and Job.

1. God is intimately involved in the affairs of men
2. God holds a council meeting with spiritual beings/spirits around His throne to discuss specific issues
3.  God solicits input from these spirits regarding options to consider in responding to
circumstances
4.  Once God hears an option of His liking He mandates that the one suggesting the option carry
it out (in this instance a lying spirit/in Job, the one called Satan)
5.  Even though God does not personally tempt/carry out the mandate, He does take credit for
its successful completion in 1 Kings 22, resulting in the evil/disaster/calamity that He has
already determined will come upon Israel and Judah. After Job loses his children, flocks and
eventually his health, God reveals to him, and to us, what man is in relationship to Himself.
Both of these events had already been pre-determined by God according to “the counsel of
His will”.
6. These events were orchestrated, preserved and written for the benefit of the saints as
explained in Rom. 15:4, For whatever things were written before were written for our
learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
(NKJV)

These points are relevant in understanding why God, who is good, would create evil. In addition to making that case from the scriptures above, perhaps it would be impactful to hear it directly from God Himself.

The story of Joseph, a son of Jacob, in the book of Genesis is fascinating because it reveals so much about how God uses the evil He created. The important point in this discussion is made clear near the end of the story.

Gen 50:15  When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil (ra’) which we did to him.”
Gen 50:16  So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, ‘Before your father died he commanded, saying,
Gen 50:17  Thus you shall say to Joseph: I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil (ra’) to you. Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.’ And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
Gen 50:18 Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’
Gen 50:19  Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?
Gen 50:20  But as for you, you meant evil (rah) against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.’ (NKJV)

“But as for you, you meant evil (ra’) against me; but God meant it for good . . .”

What an enlightening statement! God used the corruptible human nature of Joseph’s brothers, in this case, jealousy, to commit evil (ra’), i.e. sell Joseph into slavery and plot to deceive their father into believing he had been killed by an animal, but “the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” was to use the brothers’ evil intentions “. . . to save many people alive.”

While we are given an insider’s view of the inner workings of the council of God in Job, 1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18, God doesn’t always reveal that process in every decision made, but knowing that God uses evil (rah) to bring about good should help us better understand God and how He operates. Jeremiah 29 is another example of this:

Jer 29:4  Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:

Jer 29:10  For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.
Jer 29:11  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil (rah), to give you a future and a hope. (NKJV)

In Jeremiah 29:4, God admits He “caused (the captives of Judah) to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon”, but there is more evidence that a heavenly decision was made to take them into and bring them out of captivity in Daniel:

Dan 9:20  Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God,
Dan 9:21  yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering.
Dan 9:22  And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand.
Dan 9:23  At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision. (NKJV)

At the beginning of Daniel’s supplications (prayers) God commanded/dispatched Gabriel to reveal God’s plan to him. Without this understanding, scriptures like the following can be confusing to the modern mind:

Jdg 9:23  Then God sent an evil (rah’) spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech (KJV)

Or the following:

1Sa 16:14  Now the spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil (ra’) spirit from the LORD troubled him.
1Sa 16:15  And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil (ra’) spirit from God troubleth thee. (KJV)

Or the following:

1Sa 18:10  And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil (ra’) spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand.
1Sa 18:11  And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice. (KJV)

Or the following:

Amo 3: 6 Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil (ra’) in a city, and the LORD hath not done it? (KJV)

The story of David taking a census of Israel and Judah describes God’s mandate being carried out in real time and reveals more about God’s active role in the process. First, God tells Moses in Exodus 30:11-16 exactly how to carry out a census. He warned the Israelites in verse 11:

Exo 30:11  When you take a census of the Israelites to number them, each man must pay the LORD a ransom for his life when he is counted. Then no plague will come upon them when they are numbered. (Berean Study Bible)

Yet 2 Samuel 24:1 provides a startling revelation regarding how God sometimes ensured that His people did exactly what He told them not to do:

2Sa 24:1  Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He stirred up David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.” (Berean Study Bible)

So God told the Israelites, through Moses, what He required for an acceptable census in Exodus 30 and now He is requiring David to violate that process. Reading verse 1 alone might lead the uninitiated reader to assume that God got David to do this directly, but 1 Chronicles 21:1 reveals, once again, that God used the “waster to destroy” for this purpose:

1Ch 21:1 Then Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. (Berean Study Bible)

Joab, commander of David’s army, initially questioned the decision but did as he was ordered. Later in verse 8, David repents of his sin, even though God knew he was incited by a spirit to take the census without following God’s instructions. 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 both relate the story more or less the same way from that point and again reveal much about the remarkable process God employs in enacting His will. The following is taken from 1 Chronicles 21:

1Ch 21:14  So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.

The next two verses are simply eye-opening; a pestilence/plague is sent to kill 70,000 Israelites and the way God has it done is by directing an angel to stand between earth and heaven with a sword who starts and stops at God’s command.

1Ch 21:15  And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil (ra’), and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
1Ch 21:16  And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces.
1Ch 21:17  And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil (ra’) indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued.

Astounding! David was incited by God through Satan to do what God had warned the Israelites during Moses’ time not to do and yet David is [giving an accounting] for it. Like all humans, David was corruptible and susceptible to being influenced by circumstances directed by spiritual forces. Unlike all humans, as a man after God’s own heart, David was given ears to hear God’s voice and eyes to see God’s spiritual servants.

David, in his sinful state as a corruptible human being, was provoked by an overwhelmingly powerful outside force to break a commandment of God and therefore could legitimately claim, although he never did, that he wasn’t responsible for taking the census. Even though God had planned this whole episode before David was even born and saw that it was carried out through the wiles of the ‘waster’, God still held Israel, who obeyed the command of their king, to [give an accounting], and, as a result, they were punished.

This is yet another example of what men (David) meant for evil, God meant for good; specifically showing us how God would use His sovereignty and love to overcome our sinful, corruptible nature and create in us a new nature once the new covenant was established through the sacrifice of Christ and His promised indwelling spirit given to us. Since the old covenant was still in effect, David was required to set up an altar for burnt offerings to the Lord.

1Ch 21:18  Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the LORD in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
1Ch 21:19  And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD.
1Ch 21:20  And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat.
1Ch 21:21  And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshing floor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground.

David then negotiates with the Jebusite to build the altar on Ornan’s threshing floor as God had commanded him.

1Ch 21:26  And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering.
1Ch 21:27  And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.
1Ch 21:28  At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.
1Ch 21:29  For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon.
1Ch 21:30  But David could not go before it to inquire of God: for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the LORD. (KJV)

In explaining God’s inclusion of all mankind along with the children of Israel as His chosen people, Paul, in Romans 11, unearths an insight that is confirmed scripturally but is largely unknown to modern Christians:

Rom 11:7  What then? What Israel was seeking, it failed to obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened,
Rom 11:8  as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see, and ears that could not hear, to this very day.”

“God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see, and ears that could not hear, to this very day!” Paul is referencing the following:

Deu 29:4  Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day.

Isa 29:10  For the LORD has poured out on you The spirit of deep sleep, And has closed your eyes, namely, the prophets; And He has covered your heads, namely, the seers.

Isa 6:9  “Go and tell this people, ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
Isa 6:10  Make the hearts of this people calloused; deafen their ears and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (NKJV)

God is literally closing the eyes and ears of those He has called, making it impossible for them to do His will. Today’s Christians who view themselves as God’s people in our time and who are aware of those passages, read them as past tense and do not apply it to themselves. However, Christ himself makes plain in Matthew 13 below of whom He is speaking (see also Mark 4:10-12 and Luke 8:9-10) as He answers why He speaks parables to the multitudes who throng to hear Him speak, i.e. the church of His day, those who are called, and therefore not chosen, as were His disciples. The following passage in Matthew 13 applies to any one of us if we are not chosen, and are therefore blinded and deafened; i.e., unable to hear His voice.

Mat 13:10  Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Why do You speak to the people in parables?”
Mat 13:11  He replied, “The knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.
Mat 13:12  Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.
Mat 13:13  This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
Mat 13:14  In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled: You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
Mat 13:15  For this people’s heart has grown callous; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn, and I would heal them.’
Mat 13:16  But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
Mat 13:17  For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

If we are “healed”, Paul’s message to the Hebrews in chapter 3:15 will apply to us:

Heb 3:15  ‘To-day, if His voice ye may hear, ye may not harden your hearts, as in the provocation,’ (YLT)

Of course it is reasonable to ask, “What happens if we are not chosen and therefore not healed, remaining deaf and blind to hearing or understanding God’s word?” The Christian world, by and large, blithely assumes that if one does not choose Christ as their savior, of his or her own free will of course, then they are consigned to a torment for eternity or, perhaps, ‘mercifully’ annihilated. In other words, the average Christian assumes that they have made the right choice and can therefore ‘see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their hearts’.

Now that we have broadened our perspective on how God interacts with the physical world and “works all things according to the counsel of His will”, let’s revisit the story of Job where Satan answers His creator’s question, ‘From where do you come?’

Job 1:7 So Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walkingback and forth on it.’ (KJV)

The Adversary answered the Lord truthfully since he knows his role and to whom he answers as is confirmed in 1 Peter and Job 12.

1Pe 5:8  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (NKJV)

Job 12:16  With him (God) is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his. (KJV)

The next five scriptures are often misappropriated by clergy and layman alike. Typically the one given credit as the protagonist in this story is not God, but Satan as if he is in some sense an equal to God. To those who have misread these passages, allow me to use a modified version of Inigo Montoya’s line from the movie, The Princess Bride:

“You keep [misreading those verses]. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Please read the following verses carefully and ask yourself, who answers to whom?

Job 1:8  Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?’
Job 1:9   So Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?
Job 1:10  Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
Job 1:11  But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!’

Satan knows who is in charge when he acknowledges that God has the power and authority to “stretch out [His] hand and touch all that he has” and God confirms it when He limits Satan’s power over Job in the next verse and as the tool he was created to be, Satan is given permission to destroy what is important to Job, i.e. what he feared most (Job 3:25).

Job 1:12  And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (NKJV)

After Job loses his children and most of his wealth God hosts another meeting with the angelic cohort including Satan where He once again challenges Satan.

Job 2:3 Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.’

What an interesting admission: ‘you (Satan) incited Me (God) against him (Job), to destroy him without cause.’ This is why readers misunderstand who is the protagonist (God, not Satan) and who is the antagonist (Satan, not God). God knew the ‘tool’ Satan was created to be would respond with a desire to ‘destroy’ when presented with a challenge by his creator.

In response Satan answered the Lord and said:

Job 2:4  “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.
Job 2:5  But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

Once again, God granted him authority and power to bring evil upon Job but with a limit.

Job 2:6 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.”

So now an important question must be addressed. Philippians 2 contains an interesting verse that is generally overlooked. Verse 12 is often quoted to encourage us to do our part; i.e. exercise our ‘free will’ regarding our salvation.

Php 2:12  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

The emboldened phrase is what is usually emphasized but that exhortation is followed by a huge qualifier:

Php 2:13  for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

In a quite emphatic confirmation of God’s sovereignty, Isaiah asserts that God will do what He wants.

Isa 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’

We have already seen multiple times that what someone might have meant for evil, God meant for good or ‘. . . His good pleasure’. If it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure, then does it follow that this could include evil? Proverbs 16:4 clearly affirms:

Pro 16:4  The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. (KJV)

Proverbs 16:1 confirms Philippians 2:13:

Pro 16:1 The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, [is] from the LORD. (KJV)

Isaiah 63:17 frames it in no uncertain terms,

Isa 63:17  O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, [and] hardened our heart from thy fear? (KJV)

Job 23:13-14 not only asserts that God is in control, He has many plans regarding you and me and that He does what He wants:

Job 23:13-14  But He is unchangeable, and who can oppose Him? He does what He desires. For He carries out His decree against me, and He has many such plans. (Berean Study Bible)

What are those plans? Following are some of the scriptures alluding to these plans and an interesting similarity between all of them is their connection to this revelation found in Ecclesiastes 1:13.

Ecc 1:13  I applied my heart to inquiring and exploring by wisdom concerning all that is done under the heavens: It is an experience of evil (ra’) Elohim (God) has given to the sons of humanity to humble them by it. (Concordant Literal Version/CLV)

“[A]n experience of evil [God] has given to the sons of humanity to humble them by it” was the wisdom given to Solomon as he inquired from God understanding about “all that is done under the heavens”.

The analogy of the Potter and the Clay in Jeremiah 18 highlights God’s relationship with ancient Israel as a physical nation under the physical application of a spiritual law.

Jer 18:1  The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
Jer 18:2  Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.
Jer 18:3  Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.
Jer 18:4  And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

While the human potter can inadvertently mar a clay vessel, God would only do so for a specific purpose; i.e. “according to the counsel of His will”.

Jer 18:5  Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
Jer 18:6  O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

God now gives the parameters for when He would bring evil/disaster/destruction upon ‘a nation/kingdom’ (in this case physical Israel/Judah/Jerusalem) and when He would bless/build up/plant the same.

Jer 18:7  At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;
Jer 18:8  If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil (ra’), I will repent of the evil (ra’) that I thought to do unto them.
Jer 18:9  And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;
Jer 18:10  If it do evil (ra’) in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.
Jer 18:11  Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil (ra’) against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now everyone from his evil (ra’) way, and make your ways and your doings good.

Shockingly, in spite of God’s warning, the people admit they are incapable of avoiding God’s wrath.

Jer 18:12  And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil (ra’) heart. (KJV)

Solomon describes man’s condition in much the same way in Psalms 14:1-7 which Paul quotes in Romans as he reveals that God is the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews.

Rom 3:10  As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Rom  3:11  There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
Rom 3:12  They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (KJV)

In spite of this God has declared that He will show mercy on whom He decides to show mercy, not because of what they do or have done.

Rom 9:15  For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”
Rom 9:16  So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
Rom 9:17  For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”
Rom 9:18  Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

Reading this section of Romans 9 is difficult for most Christians because it simply but plainly disrupts their worldview, just as it did for the Jew and Gentile in Paul’s time when he knew what any normal human’s reaction to what he’d stated so far would be. That’s why he then wrote:

Rom 9:19  You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”

Paul then restates the response God gave to Job in chapters 38-42 in a shortened version.

Rom 9:20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”

Paul uses the same analogy of the potter and clay found in Jeremiah 18 to show God’s power to use the evil He created for ‘His good pleasure’, ‘according to the counsel of His will’.

Rom 9:21  Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Paul explains in the eighth chapter of Romans the full reason why humanity was given ‘an experience of evil/dishonor [by] Elohim (God) . . . to humble [us] by it’.

Rom 8:18  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Rom 8:19  For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
Rom 8:20  For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
Rom 8:21  Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Rom 8:22  For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

‘[T]ravaileth in pain together’ is an allusion to childbirth which for Eve became more painful after she and Adam sinned by disobeying God in eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil as described in Genesis 3:16.

Gen 3:16  To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.’

Stated another way, Eve listened to Satan’s lie and disobeyed God ensuring that both of them would become like God, knowing good and evil, and as a result bring evil (God’s wrath) upon themselves and in spite of Satan’s lie would eventually die anyway. Fortunately God already had ‘many such plans’.

I will end by allowing the scriptures below to speak for themselves and if you are given to see the joy that I now experience because of the promises made giving me the hope that now lies within me (and I pray that you will) then we can rejoice together now.

1Co 3:10  According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
1Co 3:11  For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1Co 3:12  Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
1Co 3:13  Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
1Co 3:14  If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
1Co 3:15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Rom 8:23  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
Rom 8:24  For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
Rom 8:25  But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

Rom 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Rom 8:29  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (KJV)

Joh 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

1Ti 2:4  Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

1Ti 4:10  For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially [not ‘exclusively’] of those that believe.

2Pe 3:9  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

1 Jn 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

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