Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
John 17:20-26; Revelation 9; Job 35; Hosea 11-12
A passage like Revelation 9 brings little comfort to anyone. Whether the images are literal or symbolic, they describe horrific judgment being meted out on sinful humans. Such a vision may anger those who question how anyone could believe in a God who judges and punishes. Yet at the same time, many wonder why God allows injustice to continue. The truth is that God will judge; things will not continue as they are. We should not be lulled into complacency about human sinfulness, but neither should we despair that sin will continue without judgment.
This passage also reminders us of how tenaciously we cling to our sinful ways. The ravages of the locusts will be so intense that people will wish they were dead, but will not die. You would think that such suffering would bring people to their knees before God. Yet it doesn’t. People will continue to sin against God and other people. Humanity’s sinful nature is deeply engrained.
The Bible puts into the mouth of Elihu another common view of God and suffering. He notes that some people do see their sinfulness and turn to God for help in their suffering (Job 35:12). But Elihu claims that God does not listen to them or even pay attention. His picture is of a God who is unmoved by sin or suffering. He is a distant God, who seems not to care.
But the God of the Bible is deeply moved by sin and suffering, as portrayed by Hosea. He reminds the Israelites of their sinfulness. In spite of being God’s chosen people, they have lied and tried to deceive God (11:12). They boasted about their wealth, and turned to other idols. Yet God remained faithful to Israel, and continued to love them. He showed them kindness, brought healing and provided for them. He guided them through visions and parables granted to their prophets. He remained faithful to them, calling on them to return to him and practice love and justice. In spite of God’s love and provision, they refused to turn from their sin. Neither love nor terror is sufficient to bring some people to repentance. Such is the powerful grip that sin can have on our lives.
Yet God continues to love humanity, even to the point of sending his Son, Jesus (John 17). Jesus prays that everyone would recognise God’s love for us. He wants all people to know God, as he knows his Father. God uses love to try to draw all people to himself. As we get to know God, we see our sinfulness. The only way to overcome its power is through repentance and accepting the forgiveness offered by God. That offer is made available to everyone, but it will not be extended forever. At some point, judgment will come and justice will reign. Only then will sin be done away with.