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Abandoned by God

This past week, the United States and much of the world marked the fifth anniversary of the September 11 al-Qaida terrorist kamikaze attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. As people paused to remember that wanton death and destruction aimed at unarmed civilians going about their daily routines, many individuals are still asking questions about how such devastation could be allowed by a loving and compassionate God. How could a God of mercy permit such chaos and how could he allow the evil that created those events?

The answers to such spiritual questions are the same answers at the heart of the issues with which we wrestle every day. We have daily incidences of murders, robberies, conspiracy, political corruption, political and ethnic terrorism and falsification just about everywhere. While that has plagued our society for years, what is new is the increasing level of violence and corruption displayed in the form of suicide terrorists indiscriminately killing civilians and children killing parents, teachers, and other children. Hardly a month seems to go by without a report of children killing each other in school shootings or siblings ganging up to kill their parents, or unhappy students attempting to poison teachers.

Why is there such a rise in violence and murders, lying and deceit over the past few years? You might say, "When I was young, we never did anything like that." It's true: twenty or thirty or fifty years ago, there was a greater amount of self-restraint in society. Sure, people would get angry or lose their tempers but most individuals had enough self-restraint and inner convictions to be able to control their actions. Why is there such a difference in the last few years? Why do people and children, so easily lose control, lose their inhibitions, and give in to their rash impulses? Furthermore, why do terrorists scheme and execute such horrendous death and mayhem, despite the peril to themselves?

Throughout much of the western world over the past few decades, there has been a movement among liberal thinkers to diminish restrictive laws and self-restraint. Many have taken up the mantra of a lawless criminal in Los Angeles of several years ago who proclaimed, "can't we just get along?" Such attitudes of so-called "tolerance" betray the underlying principle that humans need structure in their lives.

The great man of wisdom, King Solomon, addressed the subject of self-restraint among lawless men in Ecclesiastes 8:11.

(Eccl 8:11 KJV) Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

Think about that for a moment. Solomon says men's hearts are set to do evil because sentence or the penalties against crimes are not executed speedily. Well, if it was true in Solomon's day, it is even more true in our day of overflowing court dockets and endless delays through appeal after appeal. In essence, evil abounds because of the delay in executing judgments and justice along with the fact that most criminals think they can get away with the crime or evade the penalty.

Prophesying of our day in "the latter times" in Matthew 24: 12, Jesus spoke to his disciples of the spiritual conditions that would exist in our world.

(Mat 24:12 NRSV) And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold.

So, we see it's really a vicious circle. Because penalties are not swiftly executed, criminals are emboldened to be more lawless; and because such lawlessness grows in society, the love of more and more people will grow cold. Such coldness and carelessness toward others just perpetuates the cycle by encouraging lawbreakers to be even bolder.

The subject of evil is huge and includes both physical evil and spiritual evil. For more insight, refer to our sermon entitled, Evil, on our website. Today, however, we will focus on spiritual evil in the world and how we are to face such evil in the church.

Evil Defined

In the Old Testament, there are two Hebrew words that are most often translated "evil." They are closely related and are "ra" and "ra 'a."

Ra is Strong's number 7451. It is defined as, simply, bad or evil

Ra 'a is Strong's number 7489. It is defined as to spoil (literaly, by breaking to pieces); figuratively, to make (or be) good for nothing, that is, bad.

In the New Testament, there are several Greek words translated "evil" but three are used most often. They are "poneros," "kakos," and "sapros."

Poneros is Strong's number 4190. It is defined as hurtful or evil.

Kakos is Strong's number 2556. It is defined as depraved, injurious, or worthless (intrinsically such; whereas 4190 "Poneros" properly refers to effects), Kakos refers rather to essential character.

Sapros is Strong's number 4550. It is defined as rotten, that is, worthless (literaly or morally). It indicates degeneracy from original virtue.

The Tree of Good and Evil

The first place in scripture we encounter the word and the concept of evil is in Genesis 2:9 at the beginning of the Bible. In the Garden of Eden, there was a tree different than all other trees in the garden.

(Gen 2:9 NASB) And out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

In verse 17, the first humans were given instructions regarding potential use of that special tree.

(Gen 2:16-17 NASB) And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; {17} but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die."

In chapter three and verse four, we find the serpent enticing the woman, Eve. The serpent, which was really Satan, tempted Eve by addressing the intellect as well as the ego.

(Gen 3:4-6 NASB) And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die! {5} "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." {6} When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

So Satan, the serpent, presented evil as the alternative to good. He appealed to the woman's intellect and ego by stating that such an action would elevate her in status to a position equivalent with God and enhance her power to the level where she could decide right from wrong, independent of her Creator. Her move was the beginning of man's rejection of God's standards of good and evil in favor of man's self-determination of good and evil.

Man's Standards of Good and Evil

Historically, there are numerous examples in scripture of man's quest for his own determination of good and evil. In Genesis 6:5, we can read of the evil that had grown to fill the world during the generations after Adam down to the time of Noah.

(Gen 6:5 NASB) Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

In fact, in the next verse, the evil had become so bad that God commented on his own disgust at even having made man at all.

(Gen 6:6-7 NASB) And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. {7} And the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them."

After the destruction of the pre-flood world, in Genesis 8:20, God commented to Noah about the very nature of mankind.

(Gen 8:20-22 NASB) Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. {21} And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. {22} "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."

It was not long after the time of Noah that some of his descendants, once again, rebelled against the standards of God. In Genesis 11:4, we can read of their bent toward evil in conspiring against the government of God ruling over them.

(Gen 11:4-9 NASB) And they said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." {5} And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. {6} And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. {7} "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." {8} So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. {9} Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.

Throughout the rest of Genesis and Exodus, it's plain to see how the many nations of the world foresook God's rule over them in a quest to determine their own standards of righteousness. God did choose, out of all the nations and families of the earth, the family of Abraham and his descendants to make into a nation that would voluntarily forsake their own determination of right and wrong and agree to live according to God's standards of good and evil. God made his laws and statutes known first to Abraham and then repeatedly to his descendants, Isaac, Jacob and the children of Israel.

The adherence to God's standards by the children of Israel was not long lived, however, as we can read in the last verse in the book of Judges. Just a few generations after Joshua's establishment of the nation of Israel in the promised land, most of the nation chosen by God had drifted away from him in the pursuit of their own standards of good and evil.

(Judg 21:25 NASB) In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

In Isaiah 1:16, during the reign of Uzziah, one of the more righteous kings of Judah, Isaiah pleaded with the children of Israel, on God's behalf, to forsake their own standards of good and evil and adopt again God's standards of righteousness.

(Isa 1:16-20 NASB) "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, {17} Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless; Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. {18} "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. {19} "If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; {20} "But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword." Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

After their return from the Babylonian captivity in Nehemiah 9:24, Nehemiah reminded the refugees of the history of their forefathers and the disobedient actions that led to their forfeiture of God's protection.

(Neh 9:24-31 NASB) "So their sons entered and possessed the land. And Thou didst subdue before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, And Thou didst give them into their hand, with their kings, and the peoples of the land, To do with them as they desired. {25} "And they captured fortified cities and a fertile land. They took possession of houses full of every good thing, Hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive groves, Fruit trees in abundance. So they ate, were filled, and grew fat, And reveled in Thy great goodness. {26} "But they became disobedient and rebelled against Thee, And cast Thy law behind their backs And killed Thy prophets who had admonished them So that they might return to Thee, And they committed great blasphemies. {27} "Therefore Thou didst deliver them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them, But when they cried to Thee in the time of their distress, Thou didst hear from heaven, and according to Thy great compassion Thou didst give them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors. {28} "But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before Thee; Therefore Thou didst abandon them to the hand of their enemies, so that they ruled over them. When they cried again to Thee, Thou didst hear from heaven, And many times Thou didst rescue them according to Thy compassion, {29} And admonished them in order to turn them back to Thy law. Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to Thy commandments but sinned against Thine ordinances, By which if a man observes them he shall live. And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen. {30} "However, Thou didst bear with them for many years, And admonished them by Thy Spirit through Thy prophets, Yet they would not give ear. Therefore Thou didst give them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. {31} "Nevertheless, in Thy great compassion Thou didst not make an end of them or forsake them, For Thou art a gracious and compassionate God.

God's Standards versus Man's Standards

At the close of the Old Testament in Malachi 2:17, God again addressed Israel's and mankind's warped perspective of good and evil.

(Mal 2:17 NASB) You have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet you say, "How have we wearied Him?" In that you say, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them," or, "Where is the God of justice?"

In the New Testament, in Matthew 12:34, Jesus Christ spoke even further of the evil in men who voluntarily cut themselves off from God by the search for their own standards of good and evil, when he spoke to the Pharisees.

(Mat 12:34-37 NASB) "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. {35} "The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil. {36} "And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. {37} "For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned."

Again addressing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in Mark 7:5, Christ spoke of man's standards of good and evil compared to God's standards of good and evil.

(Mark 7:5-13 NASB) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?" {6} And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. {7} 'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' {8} "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." {9} He was also saying to them, "You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. {10} "For Moses said, 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER'; and, 'HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, LET HIM BE PUT TO DEATH'; {11} but you say, 'If a man says to his father or his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban (that is to say, given to God),' {12} you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; {13} thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that."

Continue in verse 20.

(Mark 7:20 NASB) And He was saying, "That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. {21} "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, {22} deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. {23} "All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man."

Paul also spoke, in Romans 1:18, of mankind's rejection of God's obvious standards of good and evil and how men, who willingly ignore God, are on an unending and never-achieving quest for their own standards.

(Rom 1:18-25 NASB) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, {19} because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. {20} For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. {21} For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. {22} Professing to be wise, they became fools, {23} and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. {24} Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. {25} For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

In our present-day societies, the New Age religious movement is an example of the worship of the created, rather than the Creator. It sees God physically embodied everywhere and present in everything. Scripture tells us that we are created in the image of God. Therefore, there is no doubt that God looks like we look. Though in magnitudes of power greater than our finite abilities, God is a creator in much the way we are enabled to plan and create things. The great creation and its unbelievably intricate interconnectedness is the outward expression of the Father's great creative abilities. God does not, however, look like a tree, or smell like flowers or the ocean air, or sound like a bird. God created those things but God is not embodied in those things. Such belief and behavior is idolatry and you know how much God's word is full of examples of his hatred of idolatry.

In verse 28, Paul continued his condemnation of such earth-worshippers and God-deniers by revealing their actual, hidden, attitudes, motivations, and actions.

(Rom 1:28-32 NASB) And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, {29} being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, {30} slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, {31} without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; {32} and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

As Paul spoke above about the suppression of truth in unrighteousness, so did David in Psalms 119. David went further than Paul though, because throughout Psalms 119, David compared issues in life to the standards of God's righteousness and the way of perfection exhibited in God's righteous laws. In Pslams 119:104, we can see that it is by God's sure standard of perfection that we can learn to modify our behavior throughout all aspects of our lives.

(Psa 119:104 NASB) From Thy precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.

Skip down to verse 128.

(Psa 119:128 NASB) Therefore I esteem right all Thy precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way.

Go to the source. God's precepts are the source of understanding. They are the ones that establish the correct standard of right and wrong.

What God Hates

Beyond the mere prohibition against idolatry in the second commandment, in Deuteronomy 16:21, God expresses his absolute hatred of idolatry.

(Deu 16:21-22 NASB) "You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make for yourself. {22} "Neither shall you set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the LORD your God hates.

Throughout the Bible, God shows us in many ways how much he absolutely hates idolatry. It is not just because he is a jealous God; it is because idolatry breaks God's commandments and undermines so much of the rest of the Torah God provided for our proper instruction and guidance into truth and away from error.

What else does God hate? Beginning in Malachi 2:10, we can see that, even though he permitted it, God really hates divorce because of the spiritual wrong it perpetuates. Notice how the words of God through Malachi show that divorce is really rooted in idolatry and unfaithfulness to God.

(Mal 2:10-16 NASB) "Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers? {11} "Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD which He loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. {12} "As for the man who does this, may the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob everyone who awakes and answers, or who presents an offering to the LORD of hosts. {13} "And this is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. {14} "Yet you say, 'For what reason?' Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. {15} "But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then, to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. {16} "For I hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel, "and him who covers his garment with wrong," says the LORD of hosts. "So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously."

In Zechariah 8:17, God gives us another list of things he hates.

(Zec 8:17 NASB) 'Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,' declares the LORD."

In Proverbs 6:16, God provides us with the master list of seven things he really hates.

(Prov 6:16-19 NASB) There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: {17} Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, {18} A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, {19} A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.

I don't know about you but I certainly wouldn't want to get anywhere near something God says he hates. That's strong language coming from our Creator.

Just think for a moment about how so many of the things which God says he hates are blatantly violated by terrorists, whether they be Al Quaida or Hezbollah or Palestinian Jihad or El Aqsa Martyrs, or any of the many other groups that spread death and destruction throughout the world. It seems their main motivating force is the evil and hatred they have in their hearts toward their neighbors and even toward some of their own people. They go to great lengths to devise wicked plans; their feet run rapidly to evil; and they certainly are false witnesses who utter many lies and perjure themselves in pursuit of their wicked plans. They spread strife in executing those plans among their neighbors and, whether they admit it or not, they even spread strife among their own people, as can be witnessed with Palestinians killing Palestinians.

Eradication of Evil from our Lives

Thus far we have seen that God, through his laws and statutes, provides mankind with the proper knowledge of good and evil according to God's standards of righteousness. Most of mankind throughout the centuries of his existence has rebelled against or ignored God's standards, in favor of searching for and determining his own standards of good and evil. Over the millennia and even now, those few who voluntarily acknowledge, submit to and adhere to God's definitions and standards are beneficiaries of the wisdom and blessings that come from obedience to righteousness. Just what should be our attitudes, our actions, and our obedience toward God's standards of good and evil?

In Job 28:28, Job spoke of our duty as God's slaves to depart from evil.

(Job 28:28 NASB) "And to man He said, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding.'"

There should be no argument that we all want to grow in understanding and wisdom. If Job, one of the greatest and most righteous men ever to live tells us that fearing God is wisdom and departing from evil is understanding, what can we do in our daily lives so that we can gain more of each? In Psalms 19:9, King David gives us the answer.

(Psa 19:9-11 NASB) The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. {10} They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. {11} Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.

So, it is by the keeping of God's judgments and commandments that we can grow daily in God's righteousness, wisdom, and understanding. In Psalms 34:11, David continues to extol the virtues that come through fearing God and keeping his commandments. We should choose to live according God's standards of good and choose to flee from what God deems as evil, rather than groping for our own standards.

(Psa 34:11-16 NASB) Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. {12} Who is the man who desires life, And loves length of days that he may see good? {13} Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit. {14} Depart from evil, and do good; Seek peace, and pursue it. {15} The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry. {16} The face of the LORD is against evildoers, To cut off the memory of them from the earth.

Not only did King David have a lot to say about voluntarily submitting to and living according to God's standards of righteousness, so did his son, Solomon. In Proverbs 8:13, God speaks through Solomon of his hatred of evil.

(Prov 8:13 NASB) "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate.

If it is now so clear that our Father absolutely hates evil and lying and idolatry, it is incumbent upon us, as his slaves, to do the bidding of our master. We should not, however, just do what is pleasing to God out of a motivation of fear alone. Earlier we read that David spoke in the Pslams about God giving rewards in the keeping of his commandments and judgments. Likewise, Solomon tells us in Proverbs 16:6 that God protects us when our ways are pleasing to him.

(Prov 16:6-7 NASB) By lovingkindness and truth, iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil. {7} When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

So, it is by the fear of God that we can keep away from evil. In addition, we can even atone for our iniquities by daily dispensing lovingkindness and truth to our neighbors. In Luke 6:27, Jesus (or Yeshua) made the showing of love and the doing of good to our enemies an even more binding way of life for his followers.

(Luke 6:27-35 NASB) "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, {28} bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. {29} "Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. {30} "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. {31} "And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way. {32} "And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. {33} "And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. {34} "And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same amount. {35} "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

Returning good for evil is not just a New Testament teaching of Christ. Back in Proverbs 25:21, God, speaking through Solomon, said the same thing in the Old Testament.

(Prov 25:21-22 NASB) If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; {22} For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you.

The apostle Paul quoted Solomon in Romans 12:17. He went beyond Solomon's proverb when he admonished Christians to overcome evil with good.

(Rom 12:17-21 NASB) Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. {18} If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. {19} Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. {20} "BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS UPON HIS HEAD." {21} Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We've now come full circle back to where we began. There can be no argument. We have seen many examples in scripture showing plainly that there is evil in the world. We know, in the final analysis, that it is Satan who is the ultimate author and inspirer of evil but it is men who do his evil deeds in the world today. We don't have to look very hard to see evil and lying all around the world. We can see it in corrupt governments in Africa, or in the false religion of atheism in communist Red China, on in the lying politicians of North and South America or Europe. We see it also in the lying and the murders and the terrorism against the descendants of Abraham in the nation of Israel by their Arab neighbors. It is absurd because, even though there are many feuds and skirmishes throughout the world with families fighting families and groups pitted against groups, where else can you witness so many nations filled with hatred whose goal is to annihilate another nation so that it can no longer exist? That is evil.

As slaves of the Most High God, we are not to behave in such a manner. We are to flee evil and do good, but not that which is good by our own determination. In Colossians 3:2, Paul said that we are not to live according to our old evil ways of this world but we are to put on the new man of God.

(Col 3:2-5 NASB) Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. {3} For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. {4} When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. {5} Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

Read it again. Did I say that? No, God said it. Immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed all amount to idolatry; and you know already how much God hates idolatry. Look at yourself. By this definition, are you an idolater?

Continue in verse six.

(Col 3:6-17 NASB) For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, {7} and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. {8} But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. {9} Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, {10} and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him {11} --a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. {12} And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; {13} bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. {14} And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. {15} And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. {16} Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. {17} And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Society is Cut Off from God

It has been said by some that the kamakazi terrorist attacks came upon the United States because of the evils we have allowed to fester in our country. While the words might have been poorly chosen, the intent of the statement was true and in agreement with what God says in his word. Through disastrous events, God gives nations the opportunity to repent from their evil ways. We can see an example of that in 1Kings 14:7, where God brought calamity on the northern nation of the house of Israel as an opportunity for repentance.

(1 Ki 14:7-10 NASB) "Go, say to Jeroboam, 'Thus says the LORD God of Israel, "Because I exalted you from among the people and made you leader over My people Israel, {8} and tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you-- yet you have not been like My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only that which was right in My sight; {9} you also have done more evil than all who were before you, and have gone and made for yourself other gods and molten images to provoke Me to anger, and have cast Me behind your back-- {10} therefore behold, I am bringing calamity on the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every male person, both bond and free in Israel, and I will make a clean sweep of the house of Jeroboam, as one sweeps away dung until it is all gone.

Hundreds of years later at the end of the reign of the house of Israel, God sent his final prophet, Hosea, as the final warning of repentance to the northern kingdom. Let's look to see if we can find any parallels with our society today.

(Hosea 1:1-9 NASB) The word of the LORD which came to Hosea the son of Beeri, during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. {2} When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry, and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD." {3} So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. {4} And the LORD said to him, "Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. {5} "And it will come about on that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel." {6} Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the LORD said to him, "Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I should ever forgive them. {7} "But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by the LORD their God, and will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses, or horsemen." {8} When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son. {9} And the LORD said, "Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God."

Continue in chapter four.

(Hosea 4:1-14 NASB) Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, For the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness Or knowledge of God in the land. {2} There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing, and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. {3} Therefore the land mourns, And everyone who lives in it languishes Along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky; And also the fish of the sea disappear. {4} Yet let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof; For your people are like those who contend with the priest. {5} So you will stumble by day, And the prophet also will stumble with you by night; And I will destroy your mother. {6} My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. {7} The more they multiplied, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. {8} They feed on the sin of My people, And direct their desire toward their iniquity. {9} And it will be, like people, like priest; So I will punish them for their ways, And repay them for their deeds. {10} And they will eat, but not have enough; They will play the harlot, but not increase, Because they have stopped giving heed to the LORD. {11} Harlotry, wine, and new wine take away the understanding. {12} My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner's wand informs them; For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, And they have played the harlot, departing from their God. {13} They offer sacrifices on the tops of the mountains And burn incense on the hills, Under oak, poplar, and terebinth, Because their shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters play the harlot, And your brides commit adultery. {14} I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot Or your brides when they commit adultery, For the men themselves go apart with harlots And offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes; So the people without understanding are ruined.

Look at that last verse. Verse 14 sums up the current plight of our nations today. "I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot Or your brides when they commit adultery, For the men themselves go apart with harlots And offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes; So the people without understanding are ruined." They chose, through their rebellion against God, to turn their backs on the true understanding revealed in Gods' righteous commandments. They chose to ruin themselves through their own lack of understanding.

Even Jesus used disastrous current events in his time to illustrate each individual's need to change his life's path of errant rebellion against God's righteous laws.

(Luke 13:1-5 NASB) Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. {2} And He answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate? {3} "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. {4} "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? {5} "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

We can say the same things today, "do you think the three thousand who perished in the Twin Towers and Pentagon were worse sinners than all the men who live in New York and Washington?" No, but unless you repent [that is, turn from evil and follow God's righteous laws], you will all likewise perish.

Do you remember what God said to Samuel in 1 Samuel 8:7 when Israel wanted a king of their own?

(1 Sam 8:7 NASB) And the LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.

In Leviticus 26:43, God had earlier told Moses what would happen if the people did not keep their part of the covenant they had made.

(Lev 26:43-44 NASB) 'For the land shall be abandoned by them, and shall make up for its sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, shall be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statutes. {44} 'Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God.

God's Protection

Why does it appear that tragedies and punishments occur "out of the blue" and for no apparent reason at all? Why can't people today connect the evils of our day-to-day activities with the tragedies that come our way? God currently has a "hands-off" policy over our day-to-day activities and only occasionally intervenes when it suits his purpose. Our nations have voluntarily removed themselves from being under the rule of our Creator. Therefore, our Creator is removing his protection from being over our nations. Without God's protection, the door is wide open for all sorts of evil to come our way.

It is by God's standards of good and evil that we are to live. That is true both for us as individuals and for our nations. Do you recall the other tree of prominence in the Garden of Eden? It was the Tree of Life. It represented the permanent, spiritual, eternal life that comes from God. Initially, there was no prohibition or limitation on the eating of its fruit. Once the choice was made to eat first, instead, from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve made the fateful decision for themselves, and for all of us since that time, to reject the standards of God and be cut off from the very source of eternal life. It is only through the sacrifice of the Son of God, our righteous redeemer, that we have been purchased back from our certain sentence of death and have been given an opportunity to be enslaved in righteousness to a new Master. We are to live now with freedom according to God's standards of righteousness, not our own.

We should always remember things from God's perspective. There is no middle ground between good and evil.

The title of this sermon, "Abandoned by God?" includes a question mark. Have our nations been abandoned by God? Have we been abandoned by God? The book of Romans holds our hope for the future.

(Rom 9:20-26 NASB) On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? {21} Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? {22} What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? {23} And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, {24} even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. {25} As He says also in Hosea, "I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, 'MY PEOPLE,' AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, 'BELOVED.'" {26} "AND IT SHALL BE THAT IN THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, 'YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,' THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF THE LIVING GOD."

Paul quoted from the second chapter of the book of Hosea. Let's look at the whole passage, beginning in Hosea 2:18.

(Hosea 2:18-23 NASB) "In that day I will also make a covenant for them With the beasts of the field, The birds of the sky, And the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, And will make them lie down in safety. {19} "And I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In lovingkindness and in compassion, {20} And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD. {21} "And it will come about in that day that I will respond," declares the LORD. I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth, {22} And the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine, and to the oil, And they will respond to Jezreel. {23} "And I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they will say, 'Thou art my God!'"

The rest of Paul's quotation came from the first chapter of Hosea and verses ten and eleven.

(Hosea 1:10-11 NASB) Yet the number of the sons of Israel Will be like the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered; And it will come about that, in the place Where it is said to them, "You are not My people," It will be said to them, "You are the sons of the living God." {11} And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, And they will appoint for themselves one leader, And they will go up from the land, For great will be the day of Jezreel.

That is our hope of the future: to become sons of the living God. For now, however, we should live our lives with the sure knowledge that, with God, there is no middle ground between good and evil. We need to judiciously use the time and opportunity we now have to repent and strive continually to live our lives according to God's way of truth and the perfection embodied in God's righteous laws.

Sermon given by Philip Edwards
September 16, 2006
Copyright 2006, Philip Edwards