Today we are tackling that age old question of, “Why does a loving and all-powerful God let bad things happen?”
This is a really tough question that I’ve faced several times from believers, agnostics, and atheists alike. All you have to do is turn on the news and the overwhelming evidence makes it hard to look at the world and reconcile what we see with what we know of God. It’s really an issue of faith internally. Do we believe what we know to be true over the evidence we see in the world? To tackle the question, to tackle the issue we need to first back up to the very beginning. We talked in episode 15 about John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We talked about how in the original language the word that is translated as “Word” there is more accurately motive and in verse 14 of John 1 we’re told that the “word” became flesh, talking about Jesus. We know from Luke 4:18-19 that Jesus exists because, as He put it, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And we know from the parable of the talents that Jesus told in Matthew 25 that the Lord’s favor is when He can share in His prosperity with a good and faithful servant.
Following that back, in the beginning God had a motive that caused Him to create everything, that motive was Jesus and is defined as good news for the poor, freedom for the oppressed, and for His good and faithful servants to share in His prosperity. This is the nature of God; good news, freedom, and prosperity. (Take a trip back to episode 4 if you shutter when I say the word prosperity and then come on back and join us again.) This is why God created everything and how He operates. That same nature is how God has operated from the very beginning and is still operating today. Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man, that He might lie, or a son of man, that He might change His mind. Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?” and James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Still the original question remains, but we have established that God is indeed a loving God and if He wasn’t then we wouldn’t even exist.
If the problem then doesn’t lie with whether or not God is a loving god or not then it must lie with Him being all-powerful. Yes, God is all-powerful, or more accurately, was all-powerful. He was all-powerful until Genesis 1:16 when He appointed the sun to rule over the day and the moon and stars to rule over the night, and then again in Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the Earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the Earth.” That word “subdue” is the Hebrew word:
H3533 כָּבַשׁ kâbash kaw-bash' A primitive root; to tread down; hence negatively to disregard; positively to conquer, subjugate, violate: - bring into bondage, force, keep under, subdue, bring into subjection.
This is a statement of ownership God is telling Adam and Eve that the Earth belongs to them to do to it as they please. If it prospers, it’s to their credit. If it dies, it’s their fault. With these statements in Genesis, God limited His own power for as long as those things he gave that authority to exist.
Psalm 115:16 says, “The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the Earth he has given to the human race.” Since that’s the case that God gave ownership or dominion of the Earth to mankind then it isn’t God that’s responsible for all the bad things that happen here, it’s us. You and I are responsible. God isn’t letting bad things happen, we are. It’s our responsibility to take care of the planet and each other. Unfortunately though, we haven’t done a good job of either one of those.
There are those that would argue that since God is all-powerful He could still just do anything He wants, but remember Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man, that He might lie, or a son of man, that He might change His mind. Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?” Still others would argue that we have authority on the Earth and God has authority over us so ultimately God still has authority to do as He pleases on Earth. Except if that were true then God would have had no need for Jesus to come as a man to accomplish redeeming us from the darkness. As an all-powerful God He could have just waved His hand and made everything right, or simply commanded us to be holy and we’d have no choice but to obey, but then He’d be a liar and not God.
This is a good place to talk about the main scripture that enforces the theological idea that God owns the Earth, Genesis 14:19. Starting is verse 17, “After Abram returned from defeating Chedorlaomer (That’s some hard word right there…) and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the Shaveh Valley (that is, the King’s Valley). Melchizedek, King of Salem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest to God Most High. He blessed him and said: Abram is blessed by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and Earth,” Herein lies the issue with the impression that scripture gives; the translation of the word possessor. In the original Hebrew that word is:
H7069 קָנָה qânâh kaw-naw' A primitive root; to erect, that is, create; by extension to procure, especially by purchase (causatively sell); by implication to own: - attain, buy (-er), teach to keep cattle, get, provoke to jealousy, possess (-or), purchase, recover, redeem, X surely, X verily.
It’s a word used 84 times in the Old Testament that in practical use paints a picture of creating ownership. You would use it with the idea of going to the store to buy groceries. You would say that you kaw-naw’ or were a possessor of the groceries. Even though you hadn’t actually paid for them or taken ownership of them yet. The main point though being that you plan to.
Melchizedek is acknowledging that God is going to purchase or redeem the Earth, and that He is going to do it through Abram. We know how He went about doing that. He sent Jesus to pay the price for our redemption. We stand in a gap between our authority over the Earth and our redemption paid for by Christ that will be made complete when we step into eternity. As Christians we submit our will to God and give him authority in our lives and the Earth around us through prayer.
All this means that you and I have a great responsibility on Earth. We need to go out there and exercise our authority to take care of the Earth and to take care of our fellow human. Make a change of positivity in someone else’s life. If you’re sick and tired of yourself and others being sick and tired, then go out and do something about it. Take control of your own life and find a way to invest in others’ lives to change them for the better.
Until next time…