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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Say No Evil

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." That's what we're told. Oh, that's not what we practice, but that's what we're told. And that's what we preach, especially when it comes to God. God must not say anything negative. He's a loving God, after all, and loving gods don't say negative things. Or ... so we're told.

As it turns out, it ain't necessarily so.

I recently read 2 Samuel. In the last chapter we see the interesting story of the "sin of David" in "numbering the people." Really?
Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He incited David against them, saying, "Go, number Israel and Judah." (2 Sam 24:1)
Now, there are questions about that entire setup. Did the Lord incite David? Or did Satan (1 Chron 21:1)? Or both? Some translations say "it incited David ..." That is, the Lord's anger incited David to sin. And then there is the whole question (and indeed it is a question -- I found at least 6 different suggestions as to what exactly the nature of the sin was) of why numbering the people was a sin. After all, David did it back in chapter 18 and it wasn't a sin. I'm not offering answers here because the really intriguing question to me isn't found there. It is the first phrase that caught my eye. "Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel."

It doesn't tell us why. It does tell us that it wasn't new. "Again." It wasn't for David's sin; it was "against Israel." Again. What was this sin? I mean, if you read the story, it gets really amazing. God gives David his choice of punishments and David ends up with a 3-day-pestilence option (2 Sam 24:12-15). In that event "from morning until the appointed time" 70,000 men died. David's census found 1.3 million fighting men and God's judgment killed 1 in 16. That's some sin. But wait! The story says that "the angel of the LORD" was doing the killing (2 Sam 24:16). And it was so bad that the LORD cut it short. What was this sin?

We don't know. We're not told. What we do learn is that it was costly. What we do learn is that even in this God was merciful, cutting the death toll short. (What was also interesting is that God stopped the judgment at "the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite" which, as it turns out, became the Temple mount, also known as Mount Moriah, which is also the place that God sent Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. That is, God demonstrated mercy on the same spot that He tested Abraham's faith while demonstrating the Lamb to come and set up His temple to, you guessed it, demonstrated the Lamb to come. Mercy indeed.)

We are told to say nice things. Don't talk about bad things. By no means should you point out sin. Just keep that to yourself. Now, mind you, Jesus is portrayed in Revelation as riding a white horse and "is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war" (Rev 19:11). It goes on to say, "From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty" (Rev 19:15). Say what you will -- that does not sound like "only nice things."

So how do we correlate "only nice things" with a loving God who does not "say only nice things"? A couple of thoughts. First, He's God. Always right; always just. He's the judge of all the earth, not us. Having said that, it is a mistake to think that loving is "saying only nice things." A parent that only says "nice things" to their child walking out into the street is not a good, loving parent. There are times that good, loving people need to say harsh things because they love someone. That shouldn't be mistaken for "not love." And if we are to follow Christ, we should expect not to always only say "nice things." We should always say loving things, but that's not always pleasant to the hearer. That's the difference.

1 comment:

Craig said...

Thanks for making the point that love sometimes requires that we say things that people perceive as not nice.