Clean Teeth & Cupcakes
I often say, as do many others, that we don’t know whether God causes bad things to happen, or simply allows them to happen; in either case, I am quick with the disclaimer that we often don’t know why. We say things like this at least partially because we don’t want to be embarrassed. After all, who could stomach a god who would be behind something unpleasant, much less real human suffering (in which case, my vote would almost certainly be for god allowing suffering, not causing it).
But who are we to judge what is “bad”? Or to demand that any unpleasantness or suffering must be answered for? Behind these assumptions lies the conviction that God (or who- or what-ever you would put in this place) owes us, more than anything, a comfortable life. It’s as hard for us to stand outside of this assumption as it is for a fish to examine the water that it’s breathing. Oh, look, a worm…
Real poverty is not far from any of us. But one blogger has recently observed that any economy that has a niche-industry devoted entirely to cupcakes is pretty accustomed to comfiness. (https://www.ransomedheart.com/blogs/john/lets-seize-moment)
I am not so bold as to make any confident proclamation about the Coronavirus pandemic, but I have been thinking about something the Scriptures reveal to us about the God of Israel. 55 times in the book of Ezekiel alone, we hear the phrase, “Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
I’m guessing that more often than not, when we hear words like that we think of our sights and souls being lifted up into inspiration. You see a gorgeous sunset over Lake Pactola: then you will know that I am the Lord. “Be still and know that I am God” pairs perfectly with a cozy sweater and a steaming mug of cocoa.
Jaded much, Bob? I hope not. It’s not that those golden moments can’t have that effect on us, and when they do it’s great. It’s that in Ezekiel that phrase is used about four times more often to describe calamity (e.g. Ezekiel 6:7-14). What gives?
We can say with confidence that this God wants to be known. Not to be known like Leroy Brown, but to be known as the God who will, apparently, do or allow anything to be restored to genuine relationship with people. The prophet Amos goes so far as to present famine as God’s restorative gift: “I gave you empty stomachs in every city and cleanness of teeth in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. (Amos 4:6)
I can barely type these words, they are so offensive and hard to understand. They are so easily misused in the mouths of fools. (I am speaking like a madman.) They are too hot for me to handle, and too true for me to ignore.
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:22-25)
God would go so far as to see his own Son crucified. What else would this undomesticated God cause or allow for our sake?
Then you will know that I am the Lord.
Bob Jacobs is Pastor of Westminster Church, Rapid City. Check out his personal blog at www.brittlecrazyglass.wordpress.com.