Good and Evil Alike from God
James Smith, 1861
God teaches by trials, and every trial should be looked upon as sent to teach us some lesson of importance. But for the trials of the saints, what a different book the Bible would have been. How many records of the trials and troubles of believers we have there. Who can be in trouble now, and not find a companion in God's book? What a blessing has the book of Job been to thousands. But it never would have been such a blessing if Job had not been tried as he was. The tree was stripped — yet it survived, and was more fruitful afterwards than before. All was taken away but his wife — and she appears to have been spared to be a tempter and a trouble unto him. She would have him curse God and die. But he nobly repelled her suggestion, and said, "What? shall we receive good at the hands of God — and shall we not receive evil?" Job 2:10
Jehovah's Prerogative:He sends GOOD — all good. He sends all temporal good, therefore Agur prayed, "Give me neither poverty nor riches; but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."
He sends all spiritual good, not only food for the body — but for the soul. He forms the light and creates darkness. His presence produces the one, and his absence the other.
He sends EVIL — not moral evil, for God cannot be the author of sin, nor in any way give his sanction to it. Unless he could sanction the grossest insult that can be offered to himself, and an attempt to rob him of his glory, and deprive him of his very existence, he never could sanction sin.
But he does send afflictions, bereavements, losses, crosses, pains and sorrows. At times, likewise, he gives liberty to our enemies, and allows them to trouble us, and for a time to prevail against us. He sends good and evil sometimes in quick succession. He sent the fish to preserve the life of Jonah, and the gourd to screen him from the sun — but he sent also the worm to destroy the gourd, and teach Jonah a beneficial lesson. Who can read the life of Jacob or Joseph, of David or Daniel, and not see that the Lord sends good and evil upon his people. Hence of the latter, the prophet asks, "Shall there be evil in a city — and the Lord has not done it?"
The Believer's Duty.We should receive all as from God's hand. The reference is not so much to the receiving, for we must receive it; but the manner of receiving as from God. We often receive good as from God — but we do not so receive evil; yet both alike should be so received.
GOOD should be received with gratitude and praise, with humility and love — with a deep sense of our unworthiness, and God's unmerited goodness. Nor should we forget, that we are held responsible for the use of all the good things we receive from God.
EVIL should be received with patience and submission, saying with Eli, "It is the Lord — let him do what seems good unto him." There should be a recognition of his justice, as Aaron, when his two sons were slain, held his peace. He was dumb, he opened not his mouth, because the Lord did it. There should also be confidence in his love, because the dispensations of his hand, never prove a change in his heart. He loves us as much when he sends evil, as when he sends good; for his love is not only everlasting — but unchangeable. The head should bow in reverence before the Lord, while we ask, "Show me why you contend with me." Or say, "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again unto the Lord." We should receive good and evil alike — as from a wise, gracious, and holy God; who in all that he does, while he exercises his sovereignty and maintains his high prerogative — always keeps his eye on his promises, and secures our welfare.
The Expostulation."What? shall we receive good at the hands of God — and shall we not receive evil?" Are we to receive good, and only good; or are we to view good alone as coming from God? Are we not to look at evil, at our trials, troubles, and tribulations — as coming from him? Or, are we to forget his favors, lose sight of his paternal relationship, quarrel with his wisdom and love — and thus act the rebel and the ingrate? Alas! this is too often the case. One trouble swallows up the remembrance of many mercies. We think more of one loss — than we do of the gains of years; and we are more affected with one hour's pain and sickness — than we are with months of ease and health. But it should not be so, nor would it be so — if we were properly affected with a due sense of our sinfulness, ingratitude, and unworthiness. Then in the midst of our good things, we would say with Jacob, "I am not worthy of the least of all your mercies!" And in the midst of our evil things we would say with Job, "The Lord gave — and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord"
It is folly to lose sight of God's hand in our troubles. We should rather say, "This also comes forth from the Lord Almighty, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working." Nor is it wise to complain of his dealings with us, for a sinner out of Hell — can never have any reason to complain. Everything short of Hell is mercy. Yes, "it is of the Lord's mercies, that we are not consumed, and because his compassions fail not," To rebel against his dispensations is to awaken his displeasure. He assures us that all he does is in love. His word to us, when things are at the worst is, "As many as I love — I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent." Silence befits us, though to justify God would befit us more.
We should not make too much of the instruments by which we suffer. Joseph said unto his brethren, "It was not you — but God." David said of Shimei, "Let him curse, for the Lord has bidden him." The best of men have always looked more at God who uses the rod — than at the rod he used. If he appoints it — it is wise. If he permits it — it is for our good. He does nothing, he permits nothing to be done, that affects his children — but they would do themselves, if they were as wise, as judicious, and as far-seeing as he is. Nor is there a doubt — but in eternity we shall bless and praise his holy name — for the very things that grieve and distress us now. Believer, receive everything, whether painful or pleasant — as from God's hand! And bless a taking — as well as a giving God.
Lord, pardon our folly and forgive our sins, for we have been guilty of both in our conduct toward you; and help us in future if tempted to repine, or if rebellious feelings arise in our hearts to say, "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God — and shall we not receive evil also?"