"And that thou wouldst keep me from evil, that it may not
make me sorrowful" (1 Chron.4:10).
I HAVE quoted this scripture, not with the intention of taking up the study of the history
of which it is a part, but for the purpose of bringing out the great truth that it is
possible for the child of God to have such an attitude towards evil as will enable him to
consider it without giving him either grief or pain.
The problem of evil, in its various aspects, is engaging the
attention of people as never before. The reason for this may be found in the intensity of
its working, the fact that its history is about to close, or its judgment about to be
executed. Perhaps the late war has had something to do with awakening this interest. In
some cases the study has resulted in hard thoughts of God. In others, the unaided
intellect, grappling with the problem apart from divine revelation, has resulted in
confirmed infidelity. It is both reasonable and consistent, that we should reverently seek
to know what can be known concerning this dark problem. We are involved in it and have
reason to expect that some light would be thrown upon it from the Word of God. There may
be some things connected with the existence of evil that we cannot understand, but the
surface facts are clear.
In our inquiries about evil, we usually occupy ourselves with the
question how it came into the world, rather than with the purpose which
it serves. The real question is not how it came into the world, but how it came
to be at all. There is some light from the following scripture: "I am
Jehovah...I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I Jehovah
do all these things" (Isa.45:7. See Amos 3:7).
Evil is studied in the abstract, instead of as part of the divine
plan, concerning which it is said "That all things work together
for good, to them that love God." There is purpose, connection, interdependence of
operation, between all parts of the divine plan, and it should be studied in its unity.
Evil is a means to a further end. The difference between the absolute and the relative
should be kept in mind in the studying of evil. There is but one absolute, there are many
relatives. The relatives are as real as the absolute, and need not be denied: evildoer
exist, and shall eventuate in good.
The necessity for looking at evil relatively as well as
positively is clearly seen in such a history as that of Joseph. Was it not an evil that he
was sold, and made to pass through the sufferings of the pit and the prison? Relatively it
was the means of good to Joseph, his brethren, his father, and the Egyptians. At the end,
when the throne had been reached, the testimony was "It was not you but God."
Joseph had been sent of God to save much people alive.
What of the crucifixion? Looking at it from the human
standpoint, it was the greatest tragedy the world has ever known, but from the standpoint
of the divine purpose, the greatest blessing to the human race. What saith the Scriptures?
"Herod and Pontius Pilate with the gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered
together for to do "whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel had determined beforehand
should be done" (Acts 2:23; 4:27,28).
Evil is a means to a further end, the dark background which God
is using for the display of Himself, and for securing the glory of His own name. Evil is
as much of God as is good, and through evil, God is working out good, triumphing over evil
with good, and better than that, at last He will put good in the place of evil. That which
once was shall cease to be: having accomplished its mission, it shall pass away. "For
this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He should destroy the works of the
devil" (1 John 3:8).
There are those who deny the existence of evil. This is strange,
seeing that men and things are being acted upon from within and without by evil. Surely
evil is here, great in extent, and powerful in its working. How can we account for the
last war if there is no evil? Evil is here, and God must have originated it. There an be
only one First Cause, and He must be answerable for what He creates. God is not afraid to
take the responsibility. "All things are of God." "He is of one mind and
who can turn Him? Whatsoever His soul desireth; even that He doeth." We need not be
afraid of such an absolute power lodged in the hands of a sovereign God, when we remember
that His sovereignty is under the direction and control of His love. A God Who was willing
to give His Son to die for the sinful race need not be feared, but ought to be trusted.
What has the fall of man revealed with reference to evil? It has
revealed a previous purpose in God. It has brought out the resources of God. How ready He
was with the remedy! It was provided before the need arose. In fact, the provision was not
really a remedy. It was a revelation. Redemption was not called out by the need in man,
but is the outcome of the love of God (John 3:14-16 Eph.1:3,4).
The question is sometimes asked, "Why did not God destroy
the race as soon as Adam disobeyed?" Would that have commended God? It would have
revealed his power, but is there nothing in God but power? What about His wisdom and His
love? Is there nothing in God but so many attributes? Is there not behind these the
essence of God, which is love?
What was the attitude of the Son of God towards evil when in this
world? I do not mean He became chargeable with sin, as the appointed sacrifice by which it
was to be put away, but the way He met evil at the hands of men as He walked the path
which ended in the cross. Why did He not resist it? Why did He submit to the indignities
wicked men heaped upon him? The answer to these questions is in His recognition of the
fact -- that all things are of God, and that evil and good alike are under His
control, and working out His will. We have an example as to how evil was regarded by the
Lord Jesus in John 18:11, when the officers with a band of men came to take Him. Peter, to
defend his Master, drew sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant. Jesus
said, "Put up thy sword into its sheath. The cup which My heavenly Father hath
given Me, shall I not drink?" Again, in the judgment hall before Pilate, the
Roman governor said unto Him, "Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee or
to release Thee?" Jesus said unto him, "Thou couldst have no power at all
against Me except it were given thee from above" (John 19:11). In 1 Peter
2:22,23, we are told that "He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, Who,
when He suffered, threatened not, when He was reviled, reviled not again, but committed
Himself to Him that judgeth righteously."
The one who knows God can accept evil as well as good as coming
from Him, and as we connect it with God's purpose and love, we can regard it without
giving us grief, or adding pain. Both good and evil are in the hands of God, and both are
working out the blessing of man, and will ultimately secure the glory of God. We can in everything
give thanks (cp Eph.5:20). "Shall we receive good at the hands of the Lord and shall
we not receive evil?" asks Job.