My son-in-law passed the first day of his new role in promising fashion. He stayed up with the baby to let Mom sleep. As with the human creation, night came first, and as in one of my favorite texts, there was a lot of weeping.
Like a good father, my son-in-law met the needs of his child, and also the needs of the others who were dependent on him. That’s not always easy, as any father knows. And it always involves a strong emotional investment and sacrificial commitment by the father.
So as I plug those reflections into my quest to understand the heavenly Father, and how he is viewing the human race, I am confident that when the record is complete and everyone can see clearly what He was doing all these thousands of years of the “night of weeping”, we’ll be very amazed at his loving concern and commitment. Though I’m glad for brothers like John Piper to tell me that everything is fine, God is sovereign and can’t make any mistakes, I am not reassured by him — he just seems a bit insensitive to the real situation, the real impact of things on God’s creatures. Here, for example, is what my brother Piper says about the wrath of God toward those humans who do not come into the fold before they die:
If we focus on the wrath of God that falls on human beings at the final judgment, we can say at least these four things about it: 1) It will be eternal—having no end. 2) It will be terrible—indescribable pain. 3) It will be deserved—totally just and right. 4) It will have been escapable—through the curse-bearing death of Christ, if we would have taken refuge in him. (Sermon on God’s Wrath from 2005)
Over the next few days I’ll deconstruct this and, I trust, demonstrate that this sad view is both incorrect Biblically and, from Pastor Piper’s perspective, seriously at odds with his life goal, to praise God and enjoy what God is doing.
This morning, I’m just thinking about what God does to provide for his children. When I read the Bible, there is ample testimony from the scriptures that God had clear goals in mind, and is causing even the bad stuff to work out FOR THE GOOD of everyone.
For example, he wanted to give Jesus some people who could share with him in the governance of the world. (John 17:6-11) So Christians need this “world” of opposition in order to develop the kinds of gracious character, wisdom, trust, patience, and humility that God looks for as good fruitage.
Another example is the desire God has to teach the rebellious. Heaven knows that there are plenty of rebellious folks, going all the way back the beginning of the human race. Well-meaning brothers from Augustine to Luther to Piper have noticed, as I have, the scriptures that explain God’s commitment to the eventual destruction of rebellion. What is less well known is the equally clear message of hope for those who respond to God’s medicines for rebellion. I’ll expand on this in coming days, too, but for now just meditate on this one verse: (Psalm 10:15)
Break the arm of the wicked and the evildoer,
Seek out his wickedness until You find none.
Seek out each person’ wickedness until… until there is no more wickedness there. As a father, I can relate to this. Proverbs tells me that “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” But I don’t spend my days beating my kids to get it out of them. I give them experience, put them into situations that will tax their skills, place them under discipline, etc. until their foolishness is gone. Now, my kids feel to me like they’re my friends, my confidantes. I feel like I’m in a family of counselors, because I took the time to work with my children’s needs for correction and encouragement and admonition and love.
This is what I see many, many scriptures describing as the intent of what Pastor Piper calls “the final judgment”. God will have used 6000 years of human history to teach collective lessons about what humans can and cannot do without following his laws. He will also have used each lifetime to teach personal lessons about the pain that comes from disobedience. Then, when the evildoers are resurrected as the Bible plainly says they all will be, they will have some motivation to persevere through the time when God will, through the good offices of Christ and his gentle, loving but righteous Church, “seek out their wickedness” until it there is no more. All the wickedness will be found, exposed, repented of, and healed. As Isaiah 26:9 words it, “when [God’s] judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”
God has been saving for mankind’s college education. Not that it will be entirely a pleasant experience, any more than the years of self-will and Satanic deception have been fun either. But to prepare for a glorious, unlimited, wonderful future absent ANY pain or suffering, God has been allowing people by their own choices to “build up for themselves a storehouse” in the day of judgment. (Romans 2:5,6) That storehouse of undealt-with, uncorrected sins and character flaws will require some tough medicine. But it will be a benevolent learning experience, not a retributive frenzy the way Piper’s words above describe it. More tomorrow….
I’ll say goodbye with a photo my wife and I took last year of Zion… National Park, that is. But what an inspirational insight into the greatness, and goodness, and beauty, of our Father which is in heaven.