Posts Tagged ‘Evil in Scripture’

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The Character of Evil…

May 25, 2012

 

The character of evil opposition to God and His anointed is marked in the narrative of scripture by a source, a means, and a certain end.  The source of evil opposition to God is seen in pride.  Pride is the root of evil.  Those who oppose God and his anointed are in essence saying that they know better, and that God’s way is not good enough.  This is seen in the opening chapters of Genesis, where the “crafty” serpent puts forth an alternative command to God’s law.  Creation was given the best and utmost good to worship in God, when that good was rejected for the lesser worship of self, pride appears.  “Pride lies behind all transgressions,”[1] and is the key indicator of evil’s presence.  Good angels, and arguably the good man Adam (pre-fall) remained free of sin and evil as long as they would, “cleave to Him who supremely is.”  “If we ask the cause of the misery and of the bad, it occurs to us, and not unreasonably, that they are miserable because they have forsaken Him who supremely is.”[2] It was pride that led Eve and Adam to trust in their own judgment rather than to listen to God.

God curses the Serpent and prescribes a curse that will dictate the course of history.  Enmity will exist between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman.  This enmity or opposition will be rooted in pride, but will be carried out in a number of ways.  While source of evil opposition is singular; the means it uses to accomplish its mission are many.

For our purposes we are going to focus on three means by which evil opposes God and His creation: self-exaltation, deceit, and murder.  One could argue that within chapters 3-4 in Genesis we see all three of these played out.  Adam and Eve seek to exalt themselves and be like God, knowing good and evil. (3:5) The Serpent deceives Adam and Eve. (3:4,13)  Cain succumbs to sin, seeking to avenge his honor (exaltation), and murders his brother (4:8), and then attempts to deceive God. (4:9)  We see these same means at work ad nauseum before the flood as the whole of mankind became irreconcilably wicked.  After the flood, in the persons of Nimrod (exaltation; Gen 11:4); Jacob (deceit; Gen 27:30-35); Joseph’s brothers (murder, deceit; Gen 37); Pharaoh’s opposition to God’s people (murder Ex 1:16; exaltation 14:1-31) to name just a few.  Evil is sourced in pride, it is carried out by means of self-exaltation, deceit and murder, and it has as its end the opposition of God.

If the chief end of man is glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then it should of little surprise that the chief end of evil is to oppose God and to rob His creation of joy.[3]  This end, however is two-fold; it is a goal and a destination.  It is a goal in that from pride comes the desire to exalt one’s self, to deceive others and murder to achieve the goal of opposing God.  But this end is also a destination as all those who oppose God’s anointed are cursed and destined to be crushed.  Those whose end it is to oppose God, will in fact, meet their end in the process of opposition.

God prophesies as much to the serpent about its seed.[4]  God promises as much about those who oppose Abram.[5]  God displays as much to the wicked in Sodom, Pharaoh in Egypt, Dathan against Moses; the Philistines in Canaan etc.[6]  Those who act in pride, through self-exaltation, deceit, and murder to oppose God, will be crushed and meet their end. These threads of action are woven throughout the bible.  At times, as in the above examples, only one or two threads are present.  But when multiple threads are present a specific picture of opposition emerges and evil can clearly be seen.  Nowhere in the Old Testament text are more threads present than in the narrative of Absalom’s opposition of David.

In the next post, Part 3, We will focus on the David and Absalom narrative and pick at the threads to unravel the story.


 

[1] Schwarz, 117.

[2]  Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Kindle Electronic Edition: Location 7298-7300.

[3] The Westminster Shorter Catechism 1647, Question 1:. What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God,  and to enjoy him for ever.

[4] Genesis 3:15 “He (the seed of the woman) will bruise your head, and you shall bruise him on the heal.”

[5]Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.”

[6]Genesis 19; Exodus 14;  Numbers 16; 1 Samuel 4

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Evil Opposition in Scripture: A Series…

May 25, 2012

Part 1. Introduction…

From the moment of the Fall there has been a tension present in history.  Adam and Eve felt it and hid themselves in response to it.  God described it in the curse of the serpent and the promise of the Seed.  Cain displayed it with the murder of his brother.  From Cain on, there were a long line of those who embodied it and fell victim to its effects.  The “tension” in question is presence of evil opposition to God’s anointed.  The tension of messianic opposition is rooted in Genesis 3, and branches out through scripture.  Present along with the proto-euangelion in Genesis 3 is also a proto-opposition that bears witness to the type and fate of those who will seek to oppose the seed of the woman.

Where the allusion to the messiah is present, so too is the specter of His opposition.  The presence of these two forces together creates a palpable tension that pulses through the narrative of the Bible.  Each side is marked by characteristics that point forward to their ultimate fulfillment.  Messianic characteristics found in individuals within the text point us to Christ as judge, lawgiver, king, and Immanuel.  Likewise the characteristics of the opposition point us to their ultimate fulfillment in Satan as adversary, deceiver, self-exalting murderer, and defeated one.

This evil opposition and its characteristics can be seen in individuals throughout the text as they seek to oppose the will of God, often as they oppose His chosen people Israel.  As the types for Christ become more pronounced and specific within the text so does the type for Satan.  Our purpose here is to examine this character of evil opposition, its source, its mean and its in end the text.  We shall attempt to prove that there is a link between three passages of scripture that inform our understanding of the presence of evil opposition to anointed of God.

First we will examine the story of Absalom and his rebellion against his King in II Samuel.

Second we shall center on the figure represented in Israel’s taunt of Isaiah 14, “the son of the dawn” and I will argue that Isaiah has Absalom in view in this passage.

Third we will see how both of these Old Testament texts point forward to Judas’ opposition to the Messiah King in the gospels.

Finally we shall draw these texts together and try to make sense of their common characteristics.  By looking at these texts we desire to increase our understanding of both the opposition; Satan, and the One being opposed; Christ.  To that end, as we peer into the darkness may the marvelous light of God may be more pronounced; that we might gain hope by seeing the futility of those who oppose God.

In the Next Post, Part 2, we will discuss the characteristics of evil in Scripture.

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The Whole Series…

August 20, 2010

Engulfed by God: A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms

Below are links to all 8 parts of the series.

Part 1: A Christian’s comfort in the Psalms

Part 2: Acknowledging Evil in the Psalms

Part 3: Malicious Melodies, Evil in the Psalms

Part 4: The Wicked, Not Very Musical

Part 5: Walking in the Light, The Context of Evil

Part 6: The Promise to Come, The End of Evil in Psalm 2

Part 7: The Dwelling

Part 8: Engulfed by God

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Engulfed by God…

August 18, 2010

A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms Part 8

The psalmists were confronted with evil and suffering everyday; likewise are we.  Having been blessed with the revelation of their God and His covenantal promises they approached suffering with candid understanding and appropriate sorrow.  That understanding was born from acknowledging evil’s existence, placing it within the context of a world created by their faithful God, and resting on a hope that one day evil and suffering would end with the inauguration of a kingdom of peace which would have no end.  We have had disclosed to us the fulfillment of these promises in the revelation of Jesus Christ; His life, death, and resurrection.

Suffering takes on a new light when seen in the shadow of the cross. Patrick J. Miller in his book Interpreting the Psalms describes it this way:

“The resurrection is God’s response to the cry of the sufferer, the vindication of life over death, the demonstration of God’s presence in suffering and power over it.  It is not an end to suffering, the continuing existence of which plagues and perturbs us.  It does tell us that God is at cross-purposes with suffering, fully present in it, and at work to overcome it.  The resurrecting work of God is more difficult to see.  It did not begin in Jesus Christ nor end there.  But its final victory is clarified and sealed in him.”[1]

Comfort comes from the Psalms not in poetry but truth through poetry.  We see that there is never a time when we are out of God’s presence.  Laments are softened in that while God is perceived as absent the psalmist acknowledges, “your steadfast love endures forever.”

When we are in deep, calling amidst the deep, deafened by the roar of His waterfalls we know that, “by day the Lord commands his steadfast love and at night his song is with” us.[2] When tears are our food day and night and we are besieged by wave after wave of hardship; we recognize that the waves and breakers under which we strive are in fact His waves and His breakers engulfing us for His purpose, that we may hope in Him our God and our Salvation.

Click here for a Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms Part 7


[1] Miller, Interpreting, 110.

[2] Psalm 42:7

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The Promise to Come…

August 16, 2010

A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms Part 6

THE END OF EVIL in PSALM 2

The paradigmatic struggle between good and evil in Psalm 1 is immediately continued and expanded in Psalm 2.  Psalm 1 provides a definition of the wicked; Psalm 2 prophecy’s their demise; this correlation is not incidental.[1] Whereas Psalm 1 serves as a preface underlining the sections of the Psalter concerning the Law; Psalm 2 likewise serves as a theological foundation for the psalms to follow, informing every lament and praise.  While God views the plots of the wicked as laughable, He has wrath in mind for the plotters.

In Psalm 2 we begin to see evidences of the way in which God will go about “breaking” these raging nations.  God will install His King on Zion’s Hill; this King will be His begotten son; God will give the raging nations into his hand; and the Son-King will “break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potters vessel.”[2] The utter futility of those who plot against the One “who sits in the heavens…” is an anchor of the psalmist’s comfort.[3] “God is committed to destroying all that is evil and establishing his kingdom of righteousness and truth.”[4]

This theme of victorious, eternal, God-ordained kingship is continued at the conclusion of Book Three of the Psalter in Psalm 89.  David is seen as the progenitor of an anointed king to come.  God established His covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7; and arguably His promise focused less on David than it did on David’s offspring.  Speaking to David, through the prophet Nathan, God said, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up our offspring after you.”[5] God then defines who this raised one will be: he will be from David’s line (7:12), God will establish his kingdom, (as opposed to earthly installment) (13), He will be like a father to the king and the king like a son to God (14), the stripes of the sons of men shall fall upon him (14)[6], this kingdom shall last forever (13, 16).  The legitimacy of these promises is amplified in Psalm 89.

Five times throughout the Psalm God provides assurance that the King he will raise from David’s line shall be established, kept and shall endure forever.  Despite the fact that this promise had yet to be realized by the time Psalm 89 was penned, God pledged that “I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips…” and “ by my holiness; I will not lie to David.”[7] This promise is nestled in a Psalm saturated with proclamations of God’s love.[8] It soon becomes clear that the inauguration of God’s coming kingdom will bear witness to not only His judgment of the wicked, but to the consummation of His steadfast love for His people.  The two goals will finish at one end and God shall vanquish evil through an act of love.  That love and judgment would soon be given a name, a face and an act in one Christ, Jesus.

The realization and implication of God’s plan of salvation, through an eternal son-king seen in the Psalms are interpreted, both in word and deed, by Jesus in the New Testament.  We will next turn our attention to Christ’s use of the Psalter and the violent act of love which muted evil’s rage and established God’s eternal Kingdom.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 5 OF A CHRISTIAN’S COMFORT IN THE PSALMS


[1] “One Jewish tradition treated Pss. 1 and 2 as one psalm, and this reflects a number of points of connection between the two”  John Goldingay. Psalms: Vol.1 Psalms 1-41. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.) 94.  See his further treatment on pg.95. Also see Miller, Interpretation 87-88.

[2] Psalm 2:6-9

[3] Psalm 2:4; An early testimony of this Psalm’s power to comfort is seen in its invocation by the Apostles in Acts 4:25.  “For the Apostles… in their first trial or affliction they seize upon it, pray it and in this way both console and fortify themselves against all the power of their enemies.”  Martin Luther. Luther’s Works: Selections from the Psalms. (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing, 1955.) 5.

[4]  Peter Hicks. The Message of Evil and Suffering. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2006.) 50.

[5] 2 Samuel 7:12.

[6] One can not help but see prefigured here the suffering servant later described in Psalm 22:16 whose hands and feet are pierced and Isa 53:5 who bore the stripes of others, and through that brought healing.  Through great pain and suffering God’s plan unfolds and His hand is made visible.

[7] Psalm 89:34-35

[8] This Psalm’s over arching theme seems to be “loving-kindness and faithfulness, each of which occurs seven times (vv. 1, 2, 5, 8, 14, 24, 28, 33, 49).” Kirkpatrick, Psalms. 531.

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Walking in the Light: The Context of Evil within the Psalms…

August 6, 2010

A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms Pt 5.

THE CONTEXT OF EVIL

In the previous posts we have examined how the Israelites acknowledged evil and described the purveyors of evil in the Psalms.  Now we will look at the context in which evil was placed, and what role the contextualization of evil played in providing comfort for a people often oppressed by its effects.

The children of God throughout the Psalms navigate the deep darkness before them with the light of their salvation — their God –Yahweh.  His word and promise to them are literally described as a light unto their feet and a lamp unto their path.[1] They have an individual God of promise whose presence sustains them and banishes their fears through every valley, even those valleys whose very shadow bodes death.

As we have seen the Israelites were prolific in acknowledging evil’s presence.  But while evil is continually present, they fear it not, for Yahweh is with them.  If evil and those who practice evil are on one side and God and Israel are on the other, then Israel is right to find comfort in God’s presence.  For God is seen as the one in complete control, and whose character and Holiness consume all those who act wickedly.  Yahweh’s character in relation to evil is explicitly described in two key passages both of which we will now examine.

Psalm 5:4-6 provides a telling glimpse into God’s perception of evil:

4. For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;

evil may not dwell within you.

5. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;

you hate all evildoers.

6. You destroy those who speak lies;

the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

The activity of God, who hates the wicked, is recalled frequently in the Psalter.  And His actions toward His people speaks volumes as to His dominion over evil and evildoers.  These unique people of Jacob[2] are often under a God-anointed king; they have been chosen, delivered, saved and stand in the promise of the coming King to whom all the nations shall bow.[3] God offers protection; He is their refuge and their rock.  All of these conditions exist because of God’s mercy and faithfulness and are in no way due to the perception of “righteousness” in Israel.

In Psalm 103:8-9, the psalmist describes God’s character by recalling the epiphany experienced by Moses in Exodus 34.  He states: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Hesed)[4] He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.”  This is the God of the faithful promise who, though often rejected by His own, is steadfast in His love because of His promise.  Evil seen in light of this promise begins to pale by comparison.  The contrast could not be any clearer; while evil and the wicked are compared to chaff to be blown about in the wind; God’s love and those who have sought refuge in Him are promised to endure forever.  Once evil has been placed in its right context, the psalmists begin to look toward evil’s end during the reign of the promised anointed king, the messiah.

It is important to note that “there is no attempt in scripture to whitewash the anguish of God’s people when they undergo suffering.”[5] Indeed these naked acknowledgements of evil and the wicked in the Psalms, within the context of a sovereign loving God, have served to gird and inform the suffering people of God throughout time.  This context was never more apparent than when the promise met the present in the person of Christ.  In Jesus, the prophetic psalms were made flesh and dwelt among God’s people in a manner unparalleled in human history.

Found within the Psalms is a promised end to evil, an end occurring at a time of God’s choosing.  This promise, made sure by His steadfast love, provides comfort throughout Psalter from its inception to its inclusion within the canon.

In the next post of this series we will look at how the Psalms predict evil’s fall; and how the fulfillment of the Psalms, by Jesus, conveys certain promise and provides enduring comfort.

Click here for part 4 of the series, A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms


[1] Psalm 119:105

[2] The use of Jacob denotes God’s chosen nation of Israel.  Jacob is mentioned 34 times in the Psalms; almost all such references refer to God’s covenant with Abraham, which was continued through Isaac and on to Jacob. Who, while he was not the first-born received, by the foreknowledge and plan of God, the birthright and promise to carry the seed of the covenant.

[3] Psalm 77-78 are helpful here. 78:5 God establishes Jacob, 78:70 chooses David as King.  Psalm 2 and 22 both speak to the coming King who will receive the praise of all the nations.

[4]Hesed  is a multifaceted word with an expansive definition.  It occurs 147 times within the psalms and it can mean “loyalty, faithfulness, kindness, love and mercy” (Clines 126) Psalm 48 is illustrative of the relationship the people of Israel had to the idea of Hesed.  They would meditate on it in the temple and reflect on what God had done to establish them in that place. Hesed “describes God’s fundamental character.  As the experience of the exodus and deliverance revealed God’s fundamental character; so the present experience in Jerusalem puts the worshippers in touch with God’s Historical (past) and enduring (future) essence.” J. Clinton McCann. A Theological Introduction to the Book of Psalms. (Nashville, TN. Abingdon Press. 1993) 149.  Psalm 136 might as well be known as the hesed psalm as the psalmist systematically recalls God’s faithful action toward Israel over time, ending every recollection with “His steadfast Love endures forever.” Whenever God seemed absent in the psalms the Psalmist would call the people to remember that they served a God who acted faithfully in the past and based on that past action, His love was viewed as Steadfast in the face of whatever sin the people committed.  God would love them through any circumstance to accomplish His purpose in their midst for His Glory.

[5] D.A. Carson. How Long O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil. (Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Book House. 1990) 73.