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the second member of the triplets, begun in Ch. 12
For the third member, see Ch. 14.
Boisterous Evil, Frustrated Saints
and the Way On with the Redeemer
THE PLACE OF SUFFERING
Here we come to other elements of an instructive nature, from the day of Rachel's grief, that is, the time of the slaughter of the infants, the political infanticide, when it was at the simple, physical level, in the day of Herod.
We have seen that the Prince of this World has a certain truculence, intractable sense of odium, of competitive clamour, of envy, of threat, such as led to this rampant outrage, this class murder. It is not greatly removed, this grief of Rachel's, from that which her nation still endures as rockets are fired from the Gaza strip, as a substitute for some sort of peace, while world powers ponder. They consider kindly how much more of little Israel to steal away, presumably either with a set purpose or envisaged result: to enable to Israel's enemies more places from which to bombard Israel, till it ceases to be or to annoy its enemies. Then perhaps, the thought may be, oil can harmonise it all in profit and productivity, or some such thing, dressed this way or that, according to taste and ambition.
That Israel already borders on the indefensible side, because of the constant shrinkage in land-for-peace programs, this is not ... pertinent perhaps ? Its existence, this is ... then impertinent ?
Taking on God is sure to fail; the only point is this, who suffers and how much in the various episodes on the way. It matters little whether the affront to deity be intentional or other; when His word is contested His power is invoked*1. Better a thousand atom bombs than that, for His adversaries. It is always so. His love and mercy do not alter the incontestable nature of His truth; and where mercy is disregarded, justice in truth is a light which sears. But let us to the current point attend.
Now there are other features to note, as we move to consider a famous case of the lust for misused life, in Sodom, and move on to Psalm 77 to ponder the effect on some of the saints, as these appalling things transpire, and the remedy for such desolations.
It is, after all, not only the political, the national, the prophetic which is in view in the boisterousness of the nations; it is the morality of it all, the nature of the lives lived, as judgment is beckoned and folly is vaunting its spurious loveliness.
THE CONTENT OF LUST IS DISCONTENT AND IT IS UGLY
Take Sodom. It is difficult to do this in one sense, since the Lord has already taken it to its doom, as we learn in Genesis 19, in II Peter 2:6 and in Jude 7, who variously treat the vexatious, and vexed subject.
Here was a civilisation so gross that some of its men evidently preferred carnal intercourse with angels, were it possible, to slatternly assault on a sacrificial female! If atrocity can be underlined, this was it. Their unnatural vices were so extreme that their inflamed condition became a prelude to the burial of their city with that of Gomorrah. It is now name only.
If the episodes in Genesis are to be taken as normal for that city, then it appears that not only was their perversion (as shown in the New Testament). This was just a beginning. The people were lustful, harassing, perverted, insatiable, unruly, mobbing and unreasonable, using even religion to sate lust, ignorant of remedy, and uninterested in securing it, despising the man who could show them the way, like maddened cattle (Genesis 19:9).
That prelude to their local destruction is in parallel re-appearing more and more broadly in the USA, in Europe, even in Australia, in varying degrees; and it moves with increasing force, some desiring to fulfil their passions, others to gain some to sate them, by changing law, education and principles, while the ways of procreation abused for recreation or the ways of fraternity abused for irrelevant sexual substitutions. The UN, which had the effrontery to ask Britain to ensure its soldiers could be homosexual and to make provisions for this (Wake Up World! Ch. 3 ), is in the forefront.
Thus the whole world is approaching the international end, even at this level as at any other, and the disease of AIDS, undoubtedly advanced by the unnatural use of the bodies of mankind and womankind, grows rampant, despoiling the depressed, enslaving the oppressed, savaging even those born to victims; and the horror of unholiness disperses itself like a dark light to obliterate what had been visible, with invisible horrors. Africa trembles and many another country watches statistics with justified apprehension. The cost, psychological, financial, in health care, in depression, in defoliation, in being asthenic, sickly as well as sick, is inestimable.
But still it goes as precisely forecast, in Romans 1, where the various stages of progressive departure from the Lord as shown in some of the countries named above, are outlined and shown progressing to their end in this very field, along with some other recognisable features increasingly apparent in our Age (cf. Romans 1:26-32). The cause in terms of ungodliness is revealed and the cause of this, is likewise to be seen in Romans 1:17ff., as in Ephesians 4:17-19. Part of the ultimate cure is seen in the repentance such as shown in Psalm 51, and effectually in the object of faith for deliverance: that is Jesus Christ, as in II Corinthians 5:17ff..
A vital and transforming relationship comes to be, where regeneration is its prelude and sanctification its effect. When you know God, you know enough to live, and when you do not, you do not know enough to die!
Meanwhile, the boisterousness of this world continues and its sufferings grow.
God remains inviolate, noble and free.
What however of the ESCAPE from suffering on the part of the infant Jesus, the Redeemer ? Is it indeed a case of royalties saved and the people hurt, as in case of the slain infants ? Let us see something more about suffering so that the perspective divine may be appreciated, and the tendency to malign the divine may be helpfully aborted.
THE CONTENT OF SUFFERING IS SHARED
IT IS NOT, IN THE END, THAT CHRIST WAS THE ROYAL EXCEPTION EXEMPTED FROM THE SLAUGHTER: FAR FROM IT!
Now someone looking at Rachel's grief, that is at the acute maternal sorrow of the distressed women in ancient Israel, their infants slain, those whose joy and expression of marital unity and hope for their people before God was given such a gross disruption, might conceive a gratuitous thought. Considering Israel's suffering, and reckoning this in comparison with the escape of the divine child, they might think something amiss.
Why, such a person might ask, as if programmed by the devil, did these infants DIE while the privileged Son of God lived, and indeed, was given information, escape route and dwelling in another land in order to avoid what other mere humans suffered!
The answer is clear. The CHRIST did NOT escape. His infant body did; but His grown body did not.
lost the extinction of this little body when it was vulnerable and fragile in
is this a privilege ?
Assuredly, it is not an exemption! It is on the contrary, a concentration of suffering.
If He suffered beyond this in the vile preliminaries and preludes of hatred and slander, In both the DURATION of the suffering and its INTENSITY and indeed, further, in its IMMENSITY and its association with undeserved shame and horror, when He bore sin, then this leaves the other suffering ... for dead. The comparison leads to a result infinitely to the contrary to that suggested. He suffered the less then, that He might suffer the more when the due time came to render it effectual; and He suffered the more that many might suffer the less.
Indeed, as to those, they not those taken for their glory, but despite their shame, and that, when ALL are sincerely invited with a passion which saw Christ weep for the lost in Jerusalem, who rejected in Him, their own deliverance.
In such ways, man is permitted to show his hand until that hand, being unhandsome, shows itself in its nature, for all time and to all eternity. As man is permitted to act amiss, the necessary result of testable freedom, then the case is made concerning the ... other options, the ungodly ones, and they are many. That road is broad. Accident and incidents litter it throughout history. These things, adventures, ventures, innovations, indications, results remain, stark reminders. In one garage in a country town in South Australia, we find a hideous smash object, a twisted wreckage once a car. It has stayed there for years, on display to passing motorists. It speaks. So does history. It has much to say. Its passengers have tried nearly every way to evade, to defy, to detest, to ridicule, to slander, to seize or seduce the citizens of His kingdom, and their spiritual follies and their results are but occasions for the current distress of the nations. There is no cheer there.
As to all of these, they can readily be ... evaluated by any and by all who find truth; and their end is just. Mankind has acted amiss, has done so repeatedly in national, philosophic and political ways, in personal horrors and in psychological wars. There is not something amiss in the divine plan, but in the human heart. As to that: it blows, it ascends on high, it will MAKE UP religions, destroy free speech, first in schools and colleges; and then politically, it will build the lie as with Nebuchadnezzar's golden stature, and in the parallel case of the Tower of Babel. It will enforce the human race into its appointed place as adversative to the God of Creation and of Redemption, and will enslave many through various current channels such as the papacy (where evolution is now increasingly de rigueur*2 ), and various other emblems of authority among the nations*3.
For an avenue of escape for eternity from all of this froth and wreckage of the human integrity and truth highway (Wreckage Highway 1), Christ HAD TO DO A JOB. It was not for Him to be killed in infancy. It required a mature mind to depict the glory of God as His express image (Hebrews 1), in life and truth as in grace; it needed a pure heart to inspire, a sinless life to make Him fit for vicarious sin-bearing, as a substitute for those to be redeemed. Nor is this all, for all have been cordially, most cordially invited to the feast for the freed, this ransom for the reconciled, this body for the Head, Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God made flesh.
HENCE He had to be preserved in infancy that He might die in agony, rise in triumph and hear the cry of His people as they show their application of His love, in telling the world and calling it to repentance, so that though it be lost as a thing (Matthew 24:35), many will be saved as persons!
CHRIST'S ADVENT WAS NOT AT ONCE TO EXTINGUISH SUFFERING
What is suffering ? It is the plain result of a severance, categorical and clear, sustained and historic, contemporary and yet based in antiquity, by man from his Maker so that what had been harmonious in concept, being junked, became a source for hiatus, happenstance, disorientation, disenchantment, delusion, collusion, effusion instead of truth, war instead of peace, pride instead of grateful humility and ugliness instead of beauty. This has been tempered by divine restraint, and met by a divine action, and to this we come shortly.
Suffering in this way given its genesis, has for its exponents not merely reproof, correction, wrath for habitual folly, ignorant of patience, vicious in vexation and chronic in character, whether it be visible in inequity or slackness, or invisible in pride or hauteur of which the guilty may be magnificently unaware, but trials. These may be such as those of Job, to demonstrate integrity and the reality of love, address to depths, as shown in Jonah, when his mission of mercy was marred by a sookish annoyance over how he looked when mercy prevailed, or to develop patience, as distinct from correcting impatience, a work of spiritual art, to test faith as in Habakkuk, to enable its expression and enable victory the more strikingly that evil might bow and hope smile, but not too readily, for there is none who does not sin among the children of men.
However when one considers the aims and the depths of suffering, which includes whole civilisations in their entrenched depths of depravity of pride or oppression, such as seen in the case of Sodom, the marvellous part is twofold. First, it is staggering to the point of amazed shock, that God COULD put up with a small part of what goes on in this earth, with the patience He does, without severing it from life at once, and that is a testimony to the grandeur of His grace and an advice to us all to learn from it! and secondly, it is given its perfect expression in the domain of love and mercy combined, the yearning of a wonderful Father, in the sending of His own everlasting Word, clad in human form via a virgin, to suffer the output of guilt, with the input of nails as a criminal, in crucifixion.
Christ did not come to extinguish suffering at once, like some antibiotic against fever. The purpose was grand and insightful, like the creation. The creation itself has PRODUCED
1) the liberty
with the love and obedience option
2) the snarling darling to become a besotted cur, or blustering possessor of fangs.
Redemption has produced its own parameters.
Instead of instituting the immediate release of suffering from service, and so the point of liberty through which man is allowed to seek to assess reality and seek his own own surrender to the Lord, or surrealisms at will, for the better instruction of all to eternity: He came into a world where liberty continued, though abused in distorting licence (cf. Licence for Liberty). Thus the CAUSE of such misuse in licence could be quietened indeed, the REMEDY for all or for any, provided in the AGENT concerned, Jesus Christ.
Thus in the presence of divine love and obedience integral to Christ, there was through this divine propitiation (Romans 3:23ff.), and grace made to stand complete in expression, a free and ready passage to that Kingdom of heaven of which Christ so much spoke (cf. News 23). This allows spiritual evacuation from a world at odds with Him (Hebrews 6:19); and this is readily in Him to be found, who adjures man: "Seek the Lord WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND! Call upon Him while He is near," (Isaiah 55, II Corinthians 6:1-2).
Such is the sacred provision, as one by one the populace respond, from day to day, century to century, as many as come. To what then would they come in His kingdom ? It is to FREEDOM and LOVE in TRUTH by MERCY through God Himself as the road and the Redeemer (Isaiah 53:9-11, 43:10-11), definitively incarnate as Christ (Hebrews 1-2, Philippians 2). By this means, the way is made for sinners not to have to endure SUFFERING in order to gain life itself, even eternal life, and to find God. The road is given, provided, laid down, including the cuttings which enable passage through regions of high hills; the cost is zero to enter, and for the one who has found it in the Lord, as His child, the end of that road is with the One who comes with him, in God our home (Ephesians 1:11), with the spirits of just men made complete (Hebrews 12).
Sin being aversion from God, whose grandeur and wonder is infinite, MEANS all that is evil is due, and that includes setting oneself up as a maestro to judge one's Maker; and that such an infinitude of PERSONAL suffering should be the character of the divine offer to remediate man is a trumpet to the ear of the deaf, an electric current to stir the opaque, a marvel to astound the thoughtful.
How would all this work together ?
When liberty in
shown its nature and found the nature of reality,
now that the
issues are drawn, being shown more and more both in revelation and in
accompanying history, after some thousands of years; and
while Truth has
declared itself, as Jesus Christ, God made man, and
now that Christ
has borne the penal anguish due to mankind, and in particular that of those who
receive the pardon, having propitiated the Father who sent Him, and all is clean
so that His engagement may be transmitted:
then there is a READINESS.
All is made ready.
For what is it ready then ?
It is ready for take-off, for flight, for a new venture, a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. As to this same Jesus who died, who rose, who arose and has ascended, whose word has ruled history since that time, who is to return, His readiness to receive is total (Matthew 22:1-14). The conditions are as He through suffering and shame and crucifixion with resurrection, has made them to be. The world is under review, test; and its people are being challenged as the program rolls; and it is near its end for the Age.
What then ? It is not distress that is needed: it is repentance and faith in the only reliable Rock, Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 10:1ff., II Samuel 22:31-32, Isaiah 44:8).
Tests are not for ever. They are to establish truth, show reality and act as a basis for learning on the part of those uninformed, misinformed or even mischievous (like drunk drivers, when ostensibly sober, being tested for sobriety).
Christ then did not come to establish immediate cessation of suffering, but to provide for the removal of its cause in two steps: first doing what the case required in vicarious atonement and bodily resurrection, giving the payment aspect full scope, and secondly, letting the option remain in a distressed earth, with no qualification required for acceptance but His own acceptance in repentance and His own word in the heart, as testimony of truth. THOSE who love Him SO love His word; for they are inseparable, for it is His (John 14:21-23).
The salvation is FROM His hand, His work and indeed from His living Person, whom nothing obscures and for whom nothing is obscure, all things being seen in light. The results are IN Him; as one abides, the fruit abounds. WHEN the Gospel is so given to all the world, in the power of the Spirit of that God who has foreknown His own from eternity, and who has sought all in total extension and zeal (Colossians 1:19ff.), shoving none, knowing all: THEN the end comes.
There are the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25), together with those who are not virgins at all (that is, not even pro forma as 'Christians' but obviously alienated and rejecting Him, by indifference or passion alike).
There are the churchy left in the lurch, the foolish virgins, those who follow 'churches' whatever those bodies may become and whatever they believe, which is often a mere cover that brings no cover at all; and there are those who follow Christ, and being IN HIM, while He likewise is in them, go with Him, and when He returns are found nowhere else but with Him. The result appears in Matthew 25, just as the division is shown in Matthew 24. A Church is not the salvation, but a site for worship on the part of those who have it, for hearing the Gospel on the part of those who do not, and its vitalisation in heart for those who do, for team service, use of God-given gifts and the learning in humility from the word of God. The bee-hive is not the bee. Bees are themselves a kind of creation, and what they do together, this is a kind of work. How much more is it so with man, recreated in the redemption that is in Christ: he must be found IN Christ himself, for being with those who are is not birth but work and fellowship. It may help; but one is one and the other the other and mere norms and forms and exposure, this is not regeneration, nor is it in itself faith.
Thus Christ HIMSELF suffered in removing the spiritual debt due to all men, as a necessary payment. No one else, no organisation did this. To Him, one must go for it. He did it for those who would accept the annulment in Himself, as He is and not as He is imagined to be, according to His word. Thus did He remove discredit and slow-heartedness and present light and love in pardon and peace, in exchange and in renewal of mind.
In this way, He has once and for all, removed suffering as a penal ground for those pardoned, though discipline there may be, for growth and wisdom. Suffering by man is not the spiritual ground of his salvation, for that was Christ's part: rather is it the spiritual field of his action as he invests life and time in trouble and labour.
This proceeds, till the final suffering of the redemption-refusniks, or the deliverance of those exempted it, their work now done, should appear like two colours, saturating the earth (Romans 8:32). Sheep and goats, this is the quick fix for the categories ... The sheep have a Shepherd; they are not lost.
The provision of Christ is ENOUGH to cover all, is OFFERED sincerely and with DESIRE to all; but it avails as in any medicine, only for those who receive it, and there only is the remittance applied, both in the positive and in the negative sense of the term.
CHRISTIANITY AS THE AVOIDANCE OF SUFFERING IS A MISNOMER
This then is the program. It is not to remove suffering at this time, but to remove a necessary ground of it. It is not to exile it, but to deliver those in exile with it, by a pardon, a power and a policy till He returns to rule. In the end, by His will, God removes the world and bestows on all His people, His sheep, the blessing of post-testing peace. In the middle, challenge is given, test and opportunity with a relish that is both glorious in its rationality, select in its spirituality and gracious in its godliness. THIS is living!
Compared with ungodliness, it is rather like surfing (it is testing!) in troubled waters, compared with splashing in a small on ground swimming pool.
Prosperity Christianity accordingly is as far from reality as one can go. Here taking up one's cross (Luke 14) and following Christ, means taking up one's Cadillac from the dealer and having a pleasant journey. That is mere heresy, unholy, unreal and godless.
A cross-bearing crusade a pleasant journey ? Hardly. It tries, it tires, you have to go to wait on the Lord for new energy levels (Isaiah 40), you are slandered, like sheep to the slaughter, you face unfairness and provocation as daily bread: it is an instrument of execution, not a royal pass to pleasure. Read of Paul's account! (I Corinthians 4, II Corinthians 4).
While the ultimate result as a matter of fact DOES remove suffering (as explicit in Revelation 21:4), the purpose is purity and godliness, sanctity (as in I Thessalonians 5) and spirituality, the formation to completion of the image of God in the redeemed and their life in Him who made them for Himself.
The motif is love, mercy, equity and truth at whatever cost, and in it selfishness has no place. Sometimes you meet the person who proclaims something like this:
"I am above a private religion, do not need one with a personal content chart for my striving soul." This resounds with the great and the mighty, the haughty and the self-non-effacing. They do not NEED this sort of thing. They cast themselves into the waters of this world, and plan never to be a castaway from whatever is going; but THEY will make it and THEREFORE it will happen. They may perhaps indulge in having a personal God, but they will take it as it comes, and while they may admire Him, they will be THEIR VERY OWN. Their rules are there own; they may admit to help in various things in the Bible, but as to what they do, as themselves, as lords, they rule!
The "above private religion" approach sets itself above the Maker who as One who is personal, made persons*4; and those so elevated insist on being the chaff that the wind blows (Psalm 1). It is not only good but NECESSARY to have discretion, prudence and self-control, to find courage from the Lord and initiative and to be fearless (not without fear, but in Christ, not bowing to it). There is nothing of manliness that is discarded, but far more is required. It is a matter of finding the purity of heart which only God can give, avoiding both the squeamishness of the legalist and the complacency of the formalist , and having a lively faith in the living God, living with Him at His pleasure. Naturally, a man or woman of God leaps to do His will, is avid for His service, and quiet to wait to learn of it, relishes His word, trembles at breaking it, but rests in total reliance on His guaranteed favour (Ephesians 1).
A PRIVATE RELIGION is anything else, the very invention of the idle mind, be it that of a private person or a public false prophet, who making up a universe for living which does not even have the felicity to exist, has the chosen gods and laws and forces and morals at will, and so becomes alas, a mere sub-variant of rebellion.
SUFFERING, SATIETY and the END
Suffering ? this is in no short supply for the Christian; but it is in a course of training and execution both, for the purposes of the Lord, not for self-affirmation of one's ways, principles, rules or lordliness, be this ostensibly ever so humble, or other. Reality matters; the living God is the President of the universe, and that not by election, since it is He who elected to have one, and His is the wisdom back of it. It is the delicious delight that He is merciful and having made us in His own image, can and does relate, relay and respond, being a reservoir of peace, an elixir of joy and a trainer of discipline, a glory to know and a privilege to serve ... whatever the cost. The end is assured; the means are stated; the travelling companion, the Lord by His Spirit is infinitely capable.
Suffering ? Yes, but for the Christian, in this chosen way of the Lord until He comes: it is a meaningful suffering and a privileged pain; and indeed, it is an exercise in friendship, as one seeks to bring others home where they belong and had their beginning and need to lodge their very being, that in the end, the prospect is peace and the life is vital in the wonder of God Himself.
WHEN the trial, the test, the vicissitudes,
when the workings of destining and destiny, love
and compassion, foreknowledge and futures are all past;
when life in this challenging format is complete:
THEN suffering for those who know God will cease.
It will do so for good reason. THEN the cause of it is not only contained in redemption for those who are called, come and are found, but the cursor stops. Test complete, modes of reproof to rebellion are irrelevant; for it is no more, and sin being not quiescent but dispensed with, there is no more pain (Revelation 21:4, Hebrews 12).
Alas, for those who willingly reject the Lord, who would have none of His counsel (as in Proverbs 1), who scorned with indifferent casualness or defied with a different dynamic, the mercy of God, the case is this: they do not have what they do not take. The cover is not there, and shame for sham and contempt for calumny, dismissal for what dismissed, these remain.
The love of God is available, accessible, its availability paid for in vast pain and suffering in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in these cases, where sin is unsubjected to remedy, its vainglory remains, and its flame lingers. While our kind of time may dissipate, yet the eternal shame and the lively horror of it will remain, in everlasting destruction. The only option for rebellion is restoration in pardon; unless heaven become hell to accommodate those who hate its ways, a net loss for man! Nor does God change, and it is well that He does not, for His purity and love, grace and cost-bearing is prodigious and for the target in view, without limit (Colossians 1:19ff., Philippians 2).
it not enough to sin, that mercy is likewise rejected!
it not enough for Christ to die, must this be neglected!
it not then enough that God has
Must some even scoff at God as being unacceptable because of pain,
Where sin is, pain is sure to follow; and where a race or nation, tribe or family, individual remains in sin, its perplexities and complexities are legion (as in Psalm 1). Where however it is covered in the blood, the sacrificial substitutionary death of Christ, then the love of God is not arrested, but fulfilled, and His compassion is not escorted out but taken in, so that the divine pity accomplishes its vast office, and the mercy of God fulfils its lavish offer to all, with the sincerity of passion yes, for all whether in heaven or on this earth (Colossians 1:19ff.).
It is time to join them in repentance. There is no entry cost. Christ has already paid it. The sacred flame of sanctification can then be lit (II Corinthians 3:18), and the movement of the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9) is in the heart of each one, at last found.
For the third member of these triplets, Ch. 14, click here.
See Red Alert ..Ch. 10, The Divine Drama Ch. 10, Israel Blows the Trumpet Ch. 1, Outrageous Outages Ch. 11, Galloping Events Ch. 4, SMR Appendix A.
The Holocaust of Morality and the Coming of Christ the King Ch. 5
Consider for example the UN and the WCC.
As to the former, see -
3 (including the axle of the axis of evil, Darwin, Nietzsche, Hegel,
and the violence violators of peace, religious and other),
DVA 5 (from Isaiah 7-10 to the present, in perspective to the point in view),
IT BUBBLES 11; RDP 10 (the evacuation of justice and the consignment of nations, Israel and the calling of names),
News 152 (more generally) ,
CELEARTH 13 (the UN and Israel ... and others! broad coverage; and unity moves).
As to the latter, see...
Questions and Answers Ch. 4, News 59, BB 2, pp. 19ff.; Stepping Out for Christ Chs. 1, 4, 5, pp. 60ff., News 9 cf. 8, 85
Repent or Perish Ch. 5, esp. pp. 102ff.,
Things Old and New Ch. 10, Epilogue, Appendix;
Tender Times ... Ch. 8; Acme ... 9,
It Bubbles Ch. 11,
SMR pp.685, 696, 721,723, 743, 750B, 867-868, 919, 922, 956-957, 1031C, 1060.
See All This Rot About Not Believing.