Chapter 3 - Suffering and God's goodness
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Sometimes God does get angry
- Jeremiah 44:2-3 - 2 "This is what the LORD
Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You saw the great disaster I brought on
Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah. Today they lie deserted and in ruins 3
because of the evil they have done. They provoked me to anger by burning
incense and by worshiping other gods that neither they nor you nor your fathers
- Jeremiah 44:11-13 - 11 "Therefore, this is
what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am determined to bring
disaster on you and to destroy all Judah. 12 I will take away the remnant of
Judah who were determined to go to Egypt to settle there. They will all perish
in Egypt; they will fall by the sword or die from famine. From the least to the
greatest, they will die by sword or famine. They will become an object of
cursing and horror, of condemnation and reproach. 13 I will punish those who
live in Egypt with the sword, famine and plague, as I punished Jerusalem.
- Habakkuk 1:13 - Your eyes are too pure to look
on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than
- God's answer - God is sovereign and in His own
way He will deal with the wicked. In the meantime, follow" Habakkuk 2:4b -
" but the righteous will live by his faith."
- Romans 9:20 - 20But who are you, O man, to talk
back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you
make me like this?'
- The one of faith must respond like Habakkuk
3:17-18 - 17 - "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes
on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will
rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior."
- God's anger is the effect of his
holiness and is expressed in his punishment of sin.
- God's anger and wrath is apparent in both the OT
- Psalm 90:7 - 7 We are consumed by your anger and
terrified by your indignation.
- Romans 1:17-18 - 17 - For in the gospel a
righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first
to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness
and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness....
- Calvin observed that certain diseases are not
only a result of immoral practices but also God's punishment for sin:
- "After 50 years, is it not
clear that God has raised up new illnesses connected with fornication? From
where do these things come if not from the hand of God? [In response to these
diseases] The world was astounded, and people were terrified for a time, but
they have not, to this day, observed the hand of God."
- HIV has affected some 60 million people; AIDS
has caused the death of 20 million; 14 million children have been orphaned by
the disease; and the orphans # is expected to triple by 2010.
- HIV is often transmitted sexually - -is it a
punishment from God for immoral or unnatural sexual contact? The Bible
- Leviticus 18:22 - 22 " 'Do not lie with a
man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable."
- Romans 1:24-27 - 24Therefore, God gave them over
in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of
their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and
worshiped and served created things rather than the Creatorwho is forever
praised. Amen. 26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even
their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way
the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust
for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in
themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
- "The Lord punishes those who alienate
themselves from his goodness by casting them headlong into various courses that
lead to perdition and ruin. "
- "It is certain that God not
only permits men to fall into sin by secretly allowing them to do so, but that
he also, by his equitable judgement, so arranges things that they are led and
carried into that sin by their own lusts, as well as by the devil. Paul uses
the phrase "God gave them up" to their sin." This doesn't mean
God is cruel or that we are innocent. Paul plainly shows that we are only
delivered to satan's power when we deserve such a punishment; God is not the
cause of sin...
God's punishment is chastisement for His people
- Psalm 6:1 - O LORD, do not rebuke me in your
anger or discipline me in your wrath.
- The calamity David was experiencing had,
perhaps, been inflicted by men, but David considers that he has to deal with
God. Those who undergo infliction miss the point if they
don't immediately look closely and clearly at their sins, to be convicted that
they deserved God's wrath.Consider that Job turns to God when he is
- David yields to God the right to rebuke and
desires and prays only that God will limit the punishment - not that God take
away the punishment.
- Jeremiah 10:24 - 24
Correct me, LORD, but only with justice not in your anger, lest you
reduce me to nothing.
- God is angry with sinners when He punishes
them, but mixed with his anger is the sweetness of his grace to mitigate their
- Calvin would summarize -
"Lord, I deserve to be destroyed and brought to nothing. But as I would
not be able to bear the severity of your wrath, do not deal with me as I
deserve, but rather pardon my sins, by which I have provoked your anger against
- Psalm 66:10-12 - 10 For you, O God, tested us;
you refined us like silver. 11 You brought us into prison and laid burdens on
our backs. 12 You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.
- When visited by
affliction, it is of great importance that we should consider it as coming from
God and as expressly intended for our good.
administers chastisement in love
- Psalm 74:1 - 1 Why have you
rejected us forever, O God? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of
- Here, Calvin states, God
chastises them, intending them to reflect on the seriousness of their
- Although God's wrath is exercised against the
ungodly, his chastisement of the faithful proceeds rather from love than wrath,
since according to God's plan, all things must work together for our salvation
- even when we are painfully disturbed by our sins.
- If the temptation of the elect says God is our
enemy because he is angry with us, faith objects - "He is merciful even
when he afflicts, because chastisement proceeds rather from love than from
- It is difficult for us to understand how
persecution could do us good, yet that is the conclusion drawn by the author of
Hebrews and by Calvin.
- Calvin states, "the
apostle teaches us to understand how persecution which we endure for the
gospel's sake is useful to us , because they are remedies to destroy
- Hebrews 12:4-11 - 4In your struggle against sin,
you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have
forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6because the Lord disciplines those
he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." 7Endure hardship
as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not
disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes
discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover,
we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it.
How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our
fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God
disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline
seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a
harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by
- When God chastises the godly, he has no other
end in view as to the elect, but to promote their salvation; it is a
demonstration of his paternal love.
- Everyone that he is chastised by
God must immediately be led to this thought, that he is chastised because he is
loved by God.
- Our aversion to parental
discipline goes back to childhood - this punishment we detested was not
"being made to stand in the corner", but the feeling that our parent
was angry with us.
- Psalm 119:67 - 67 Before I was afflicted I went
astray, but now I obey your word.
- God repeatedly subjects us
to discipline - He does this in different ways; Some are humbled by poverty,
some by shame, some are brought low by disease, some by troubles at home and
some by hard and painful labor. In this way according to the diversity of sin
to which we are prone, he applies to each its appropriate remedy.
is a faithful response to chastisement?
- "The Scriptures never
explain suffering apart from the connection between sin and
- "Scripture instructs us to respond to
God's judgement with humility and faith."
- Psalm 102:8-10 - 8 All day long my enemies
taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. 9 For I eat ashes
as my food and mingle my drink with tears 10 because of your great wrath, for
you have taken me up and thrown me aside.
- David, unlike us, declares that his own sin
subjects him to constant anguish of mind.
- We will never seriously apply to
God for pardon until we have obtained such a view of our sins as affects us
- The more easily satisfied we are
under our sins the more we provoke God to punish them with severity, and if we
really desire absolution from his hand, we must do more than confess our guilt
in words; we must institute a rigid and formidable scrutiny into the character
of our transgressions.
- Psalm 38:1 - A psalm of David. A petition. 1 O
LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.
- David's response - He recognizes his affliction
comes from God and then turns to his own sin as the cause of the divine
displeasure. David is satisfied in his own mind that God is not a tyrant who
exercises cruelty needlessly, but a righteous judge who never manifests his
displeasure by inflicting judgement except when he is grievously
- 1 Peter 5:6 - 6Humble yourselves, therefore,
under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
- Calvin adds to this verse - "let us
therefore learn that there is no other way by which we can obtain consolation
in our afflictions than by laying aside all stubborness and pride and humbly
submitting to the chastisement of God."
- "Tears that are shed in
time of affliction are rarely tears of penitence, but more likely they are shed
out of self pity and pain or sorrow."
Suffering is not always punishment
- God has different reasons for inflicting
suffering on people:
- Example 1 - John 9:1-11 Jesus Heals a Man Born
Blind - 1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked
him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?" 3"Neither this man nor his parents
sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might
be displayed in his life. 4As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who
sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am
the light of the world." 6Having said this, he spit on the ground, made
some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. 7"Go," he
told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the
man went and washed, and came home seeing. 8His neighbors and those who had
formerly seen him begging asked, "Isn't this the same man who used to sit
and beg?" 9Some claimed that he was. Others said, "No, he only looks
like him." But he himself insisted, "I am the man." 10"How
then were your eyes opened?" they demanded. 11He replied, "The man
they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam
and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see."
- Calvin - "Christ does not
say that the blind man and his parents were free from all blame; but he
declares that we ought not to seek the cause of blindness in sin. Consequently,
when the causes of afflictions are concealed, we ought to restrain curiosity,
so that we may neither dishonor God, nor be malicious towards other
- Example 2 - Job 1:6-12 - One day the angels came
to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7 The
LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the
LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in
it." 8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant
Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who
fears God and shuns evil." 9 "Does Job fear God for nothing?"
Satan replied. 10 "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household
and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his
flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand
and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."
12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your
hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out
from the presence of the LORD.
- Calvin - sometimes he doesn't look at their
sins, but only tests their obedience, or trains them to patience.
- "Those who say that all
afflictions are sent on account of sins are false interpreters - as if the
measure of punishments were equal, or as if God looked to nothing else in
punishing men than what every man deserves."
Chastisement is mingled with grace
- Psalm 103:3-4 - 3 who forgives all your sins and
heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you
with love and compassion,
- Calvin - "Before, behind, on all sides,
above and beneath, the grace of God presents itself to us in immeasurable
abundance, so there is no place devoid of it."
- Calvin - "Let us learn to fix our eyes on
the moderation of God's chastening, by which he encourages us to entertain good
hope. From seeing this moderation, let us rest assured that, although he is
angry, yet he does not cease to be a father."
- "Although God may chastise us, he testifies
that our salvation is the object of his care."
- "So that we will not be overwhelmed with
the weight of chastisement, God restrains his hand and makes considerable
allowance for our weaknesses."
- Isaiah 48:9 - 9 For my own name's sake I delay
my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut
- "for my own name's sake" - means
because of God's grace
- Proverbs 3:11-12 - 11 My son, do not despise the
LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the LORD disciplines
those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
- Calvin - "God afflicts us, not in order to
ruin or destroy us, but rather to deliver us from the condemnation of the