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The God of Prosperity and Evil

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
October 30, 2021 12:01 am

The God of Prosperity and Evil

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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October 30, 2021 12:01 am

Does the book of Isaiah teach that God is the author of evil? Today, R.C. Sproul helps us to understand a startling declaration from the mouth of the Lord by examining its context.

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There is one truth that is foundational to Christian understanding God is not the author of evil. Now, if that's so foundational. How do you deal with the passage in Scripture that is translated by the words. I am the Lord, there is none other. I create evil. Use a difficult question in controversy scrolling through today on Renewing Your Mind that you will be with us.

But before we get Dorsey's message.

I wanted you to hear a portion of the phone call we received recently and stresses the importance of dealing with challenging passages like this. This is Abraham from Los Angeles really helped me dealing with some of the more difficult questions and help me to better understand the mystery of God and God's plan and purpose, and we can better understand some difficult topics like why their suffering in the world and how does that fit in with the all-powerful, all loving God and what about people who've never had the opportunity to even hear about Jesus like remote tribes and very distant behind difficult to reach parts of the world's holiday digestion while the church, things like that and the recent series. The purpose of suffering I believe was the name of the series was very helpful series when dealing with things like young children getting cancer and having the right attitude towards death and helping our loved ones who are experiencing and suffering so difficult questions like that really been nice to look in your ministry has addressed those head-on and really provided some wonderful lectures some wonderful speaking on those matters which help to deepen my feet help to bring you closer to God, help me to better understand God and what he's working in my life. In other people's lives in all throughout the world very much Thomas, thank you Abraham and Dr. scroll's message today will help us make sense of another important question is God the author of today were going to turn our attention to a hard saying from the writings of the prophets Isaiah and this saying is hard in both senses and the sense of trying to understand its meaning and second of all, in the sense of the apparent severity of it.

This hard saying is found in the 45th chapter of the book of Isaiah beginning at verse four where we read this narrative for Jacob my servant's sake and Israel. My elect. I have even called you by your name.

I have named you though you have not known me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.

There is no God besides me.

I will gird you, though you have not known me that they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity. I the Lord do all these things now. If you've been following this reading in your Scripture.

Perhaps you are reading a translation that contains the words that have been so difficult for many believers as they struggled with it and those words are found in a different translation of verse seven.

The other translation reads I form the light and create darkness, I make peace, and I create evil. It's that translation of the text that has been so problematic because the earlier translation explicitly says of God in this chapter of Isaiah I meaning God create evil. I don't know how many times in the course of my ministry. I've had people, particularly students, college students and seminary students come to me with this text and say what does this mean I thought that we were not supposed to believe that God is the author of sin or that God creates evil. I remember when I was a student in graduate school in Europe studying the question of the origin of evil and having my professor at the Free University of Amsterdam make mention of what he called the biblical priorities the biblical a priori spell that word a priori or a priori may not be familiar to you. It's a technical term that is found frequently in the discipline and the language of philosophy, but isn't too often used in ordinary speech, but something that is top priority is innate fundamental or foundational. The word comes from the Latin, which basically means before experience its antonym or its opposite is our posterior hoary which means after experience.

But when we talk about our priorities were talking about basic ideas. We remember that the Declaration of Independence spoke about inalienable rights that we learn about from nature, and so on. Which sort of fell back upon the thinking of the British philosophers and even before that the rationalists such as Ren Descartes, who was seeking for what he called clear and distinct ideas in a sense, Descartes search was for a priori truths truth that is self evident and we hold these truths to be self evident that would be an off priority truth basic and controlling to everything that you think well when I was in this course in Europe and the professor spoke about the biblical priority.

He said that single biblical a priori that is to govern all of our thinking foundational to all religious understanding. Is this God is not the author of evil. Now, if that's so foundational. How do you deal with the passage in Scripture that is translated by the words. I am the Lord, there is none other. I create evil, it certainly seems at least on the surface that Isaiah has little time for Prof. Burke hours biblical a priori because he seems to deny it clearly and emphatically by saying that God creates evil well there two ways that we need to approach this text as we seek to understand what is being said.

First of all let me qualify the so-called biblical a priori when the biblical a priori is declared to say that God is not the author of sin or the author of evil. What that means is that God himself never does that which is evil.

The hotter we relate that to the idea of God's creating evil well if it's evil for God to create evil, then obviously God could not create evil because God does not do anything evil yet we live in a world that God has created and there is clearly evil in that world. So we know this at least that God has created beings which beings have the capacity for evil. Obviously Satan was able to do evil or the wouldn't have done it, and Adam and Eve were capable of sin or they wouldn't have sinned.

So it's manifestly obvious that God in his work of creation has created beings who were capable of falling into sin, and of performing sinful actions. But that's still not the same thing as saying that God himself created evil, because the biblical record indicates that God created Satan as an angel and in his creation. He was a good angel and that Adam and Eve were created good, and then they later became evil. There was a mutation in their character, but still God stands above and beyond and over and behind all of this activity now. The first thing we have to say about this text is that when it speaks of God's creating evil. It's not talking in the first instance about moral evil. The Old Testament word for evil has at least seven different nuances.

Usually when we use the word evil were talking about moral evil, sin, while the Scripture speaks of badness or evil in other categories as well. It speaks of natural catastrophes, floods and hurricanes and earthquakes as, for example, indicating physical evil like disease or natural disasters. These are not something done by villainous people. This is by impersonal nature when nature erupts in an earthquake. Nobody starts screaming that mother nature has done something sinful, but yet we use that word bad or evil. With respect to a physical calamity again a famine is a physical calamity but it's not a manifestation of some particular persons moral corruption so that anything that is bad to the Hebrew can be called evil. Now, what kind of evil is in view here in Isaiah is relatively easy to discern.

A while back we had a little brief, short course on the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, and at that time that we examine the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. I mentioned a few of the literary devices that are found commonly in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, the chief of which is the poetic device called parallelism. Some of you will remember that I spoke about this form called parallelism where certain statements are made in a parallel way and there different kinds of parallelisms. There are what are called synonymous parallelisms where the same idea is communicated into different ways. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, saying the same thing in just two different manners that synonymous parallelism, but there's also what is called antithetical parallelism where contrasts are stated in a poetic way, where something positive is stated and then it's negative follows it. Now that's what we have here in Isaiah 45 if you will notice in our text we read in verse seven I form the light, and create darkness. There is the clear contrast between God's work of creativity in terms of making both the light and the darkness, light and darkness stand in contrast to each other not actually what we have here in this text is a form of synonymous parallelism yet it is a synonymous parallelism. We have two verses that are basically saying the same thing. But the thing that they are say is a matter of contrast so you can also identify this is antithetical parallelism in the first stanza.

I create light and darkness says that God does both, he makes the light and he makes the darkness. Even though these two are contrasts see now in the next stanza, a similar statement is made by God, which would make it synonymous parallelism, but it's also a statement of contrast and notice what the contrast is I make peace, and I create evil or other translations.

I create prosperity and I create evil well you notice here that in the translation I have. It reads I make peace, and I create calamity of the modern translator is trying to get at the force of the original Hebrew here that I make peace, and I may calamity you see that the evil that is on the second side of the structure. I give prosperity. I create evil. The type of evil that is in view here is not moral evil, but it is that evil that is in direct contrast to peace or prosperity so that what Isaiah is simply saying here as a spokesman for God is that God brings blessing and he brings curse he brings good times and he brings bad times. He brings peace. He also brings conflict. He brings wheel. He also brings well.

He brings prosperity or he brings calamity so it's not that the text is saying that God does moral evil or creates moral evil. It is saying, however, that God is the author of all of these conditions ultimately what this passage is communicating beloved is the sovereignty of God over the entire creation.

Note the refrain.

I am the Lord, there is none other. I am responsible for the whole of the creation for the whole of human history.

It is my divine sovereign Providence that stands over all human events by bringing the abundant harvest. I also will bring the famine I bring the sunny day. I also bring the storm bring the arid desert.

I also bring the flood and of course now the question is will is it evil of God to be behind and in charge of and sovereignly and providentially controlling natural disasters is an interesting that even in our insurance policies. There are clauses for those things that are called acts of God, at least the insurance underwriters have some sense of sound theology at that point because the idea here that the Hebrew is saying is that all of life. All of nature is under the authority and the government of all mighty God. Now, to be sure, as we learned when we were studying the doctrine of God's providence. It is important for us to make the historic distinction that the theologians have made between the primary and secondary causality. The idea of primary causality means that the ultimate source of all power. The power to do anything in the universe resides with God in a sense I can't even do moral evil apart from the power of God with this at me.

That's a hard say what that means is that I don't have the power to do anything apart from God, who is the foundation of all being in all power. The New Testament says that is in him that we live and move and have our being. That doesn't mean that God makes me sin. I'm the one who wants to sin, but I can't even execute my sin unless God in his sovereignty decides not to stop me because I can't draw a breath apart from his sovereign power. My secondary causality is real causality.

I can really take this piece of chalk I'm holding and decide to drop it on the floor as I just did, but I couldn't open my fingers to drop it. Were it not for the sovereign power of God. That's the lesson that Isaiah is saying here is not trying to teach us that God is bad is trying to teach us that God is sovereign. He's not trying to give us a lesson on the origin of sin here or on even on the origin of evil. That's another vexing question that we can treat more fully later, but rather, this message is designed to teach us of the unique governing authority of God again for Jacob my servant's sake and Israel. My elect.

I have called you by your name what God is saying here is that you wouldn't have a name you wouldn't have a destiny there wouldn't be a nation of Israel if it were not for me.

I am the one who chose to. I am the one who formed you, I am the one who named you I am the one who redeems you.

I am the one who gives you blessing. I am the one who gives you judgment. I am the one who brings prosperity.

I am the one who brings you calamity. I am the Lord, and there is no was great comfort in understanding that no matter our circumstances, it is not hopeless or meaningless. God's purposes artwork for the benefit of his people.

I hope Dr. RC Sproul's examination of this passage has been helpful to you today. Your listening to Renewing Your Mind. I'm Lee Webb and take you for being with us.

I hope you will stay with us because the RC will return it just a moment with a final thought on the goodness of God, even in tragic times. Each Saturday we returned RC series, the hard sayings of the prophets, where we learned the context and meaning of many Old Testament passages. We like to send you the entire series as a digital download for your donation of any amount to look at your ministries. There are couple of ways you can make a request. One is or if you prefer you can call us at 800-435-4343 of today's message is certainly appropriate for our times visited to challenging times to be sure, and many are asking where is God in all of this while we can be assured that he is fully in control of our circumstances and that he cares for his people. This is a message that you might want to share with a friend or family member who was struggling at this time so request the hard sayings of the prophets teaching series by Dr. RC Sproul, our number again is 800-435-4343 and or web address is Renewing Your in our quorum Dale.

I want us to look again at this somewhat scary idea that the sovereignty of God indeed stands above and behind every single thing that ever happens. That in itself is hard for us to swallow because there are lots of things that happen to us that are genuinely tragic in their real life circumstances, but when we understand that the sovereignty of God stands above beyond and behind even the tragedies of our life that is not a reason for us to curse the darkness, or to think that this casts a shadow over the goodness of God, but really it is a matter of the greatest hope and greatest comfort for us because we know that when God exercises his government of the universe in his sight. There are no tragedies and it's because God stands sovereign over all human circumstances, that the Scriptures can say all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and who are called according to his purpose. When we are called according to his purpose and are his children. Even the tragedies as tragic as they may be in their earthly manifestation ultimately redound to our good, happy fortune, and to the glory of God like Saturday Dr. several temples another hard Sing from the Old Testament God. Since the prophet Isaiah to preach to a people with hard hearts.

They have eyes that do not see them years that do not here. It seems to be a futile mission. What is God's purpose in order to find out next week on Renewing Your Mind

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