“The Word of the Lord came to me. ‘Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down. Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead…So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded.” Ezekiel 24:15-17a, 18
Verses like these are like car wrecks, people with special needs, and dogs with three legs – I try to look away, but can’t. I couldn’t imagine being Ezekiel, and having God tell me that not just one of my wives but "the delight of your eyes" is going to die and I am not allowed to mourn her (which in Ezekiel’s culture, they could mourn with the best of them) and then I had to go and preach to the people that God said earlier wouldn’t listen anyways!
There’s more here that just the difficulty that Ezekiel must’ve faced as he experienced the loss of the delight of his eyes. The fact that it is God that does this "thing" is something that is even harder to swallow. There seem to be only two ways of handling this fact – either this is an isolated incident, or God really does "cause all things to work together" – even life and death.
I can’t come to believe that this is an isolated incident when I consider passages like:
- Job 1:21 – "…The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away…"
- Isaiah 45:7 – "I (the LORD) form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things."
- along with the crucifixion of our Savior, which in Acts 2:23 says, "this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God…"
Combined with a host of other verses, I’m left to firmly believe that God does in fact "cause all things to work together" as Romans 8:28 says. This can seem overwhelming if we stop there – but this verse goes on to say that these"all things" are for good.
The truth that God is working for good (even when it doesn’t feel like it) must have comforted Ezekiel in his time of loss, and it has comforted me in the big and the trivial losses that I’ve experienced far more than thinking that "all things" (good and bad) are just happening to me, outside of God’s control, and that if he could do something, he would, but he can’t – so he won’t.
This can be easier said than done – I mean, when we had miscarried a few years before we finally had Austin, we heard people say (and we believed at the time) that "this wasn’t God’s plan", and "things like this happen because we live in a fallen world" – and for us God started shrinking. In our minds, he was either letting these things happen because he couldn’t stop them, or he didn’t really care about us. And I think those are pretty logical conclusions to come to if you believe that God is not in control of "all things". And the argument is that "God is love, and how could a loving God do such a thing as cause a baby to die or me to lose my job or have cancer or my house to burn down or…." and whenever God has been challenged about why he’s done something, his response has always been something like his response to Job (which He took 3 chapters to do!) – God lays out how majestic and powerful and amazing He is and says, basically – "who the heck are you?" And Job’s humble answer in chapter 42 is, "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." When we get outside the "God is Love" box, and actually get to experience Him like Job and so many others have, our only response is to despise ourselves and repent.
May we all grow to be like Ezekiel and Job and all the saints and trust God as he works "all things together for good."
Posted: 20 Feb 2009 08:30 AM PST
(Author: John Piper)
There is such a thing as unconditional love in God, but it’s not what most people mean by it.
- It’s not a saving love that he has for everybody. Else everybody would be saved, since they would not have to meet any conditions, not even faith. But Jesus said everybody is not saved (Matthew 25:46).
- It’s not the love that justifies sinners since the Bible says we are justified by faith, and faith is a condition (Romans 5:1).
- It’s not the love of working all things together for our good because Paul says that happens "to those who love God" (Romans 8:28).
- It’s not the love of the most intimate fellowship with the Father because Jesus said, "He who loves me will be loved by my Father" (John 14:21). And James said, "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you" (James 4:8).
- It’s not the love that will admit us into heaven when we die because John says, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). And faithfulness is a condition.
How then does God love unconditionally? Two ways (at least):
- He loves us with electing love unconditionally. "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world . . . for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 1:4-5).
He does not base this election on foreseeing our faith. On the contrary, our faith is the result of being chosen and appointed to believe, as Acts 13:48 says, "As many as were appointed to eternal life believed."He loves us with regenerating love before we meet any condition. The new birth is not God’s response to our meeting the condition of faith. On the contrary, the new birth enables us to believe.
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been [already!] born of God," (1John 5:1). "[We] were born, not . . . of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13).
Let us pray that thousands of people who speak of the unconditional love of God would discover the biblical meaning of what they say. If that happened many would find their feet on solid ground.