There’s one more thing I want to look at concerning Jesus in His infancy before we move on. Let me begin with this question: “Why do we pray for Divine protection?” [Ponder this] Is God just? [Ponder this] If it is worth our time to pray for protection, and if God is just, why does Jesus get special protection, while all the boys 2 years and under are wiped out? How could you justify this to a mother whose child just said his first word - that Jesus, God’s Son, got an miracle exemption while her son didn’t.
Justice and Divine protection, are issues that have plagued the souls of people since Cain killed Abel. Why was Abel, the good son, the one who died? Why didn’t God protect the good son, and let calamity fall on the evil son before the murder? Such questions have been the substance of sometimes life-halting searches into the heart of God, looking for answers that usually never come. Mostly God doesn’t justify Himself.
How do we deal with a God like that? I wondered if the anger and desire for vengeance that arise in me over injustice were illegitimate many times - like the rock thrown through our garage window this past week. This week I looked for how other godly men have reacted in the past - in the Bible. God speaks through these men; He speaks of what is acceptable in His sight because He authored the book and included these prayers and prophecies. Listen as the voices of the godly men of old speak:
Isaiah 13:15-18 [Speaking of the day of the Lord; His wrath against sinners]
15 Whoever is found will be thrust through, and whoever is caught will fall by the sword. 16 Their infants will be dashed in pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished. 17 Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them, who have no regard for silver and do not delight in gold. 18 Their bows will slaughter the young men; they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not pity children.
[A Worship Song of David against those who have deceived him unjustly]
6 Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser bring him to trial. 7 When he is tried, let him come forth guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin! 8 May his days be few; may another seize his goods! 9 May his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow! 10 May his children wander about and beg; may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit! 11 May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil! 12 Let there be none to extend kindness to him, nor any to pity his fatherless children! 13 May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation! 14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD, and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out! 15 Let them be before the LORD continually; and may his memory be cut off from the earth!
[Speaking against God’s own people who have gone to other gods, Hosea speaks:]
Sama'ria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword, their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.
No wonder many have called the Bible a bloody book, and God a perpetrator of violence and evil. It’s easy to look at these things and come to that conclusion. But it isn’t the conclusion I have come to. In my heart’s search, I concluded the following because of the honesty and integrity of the Bible in keep record of both Divine and very human responses to suffering and injustice:
a. None of us have carte blanche protection from God. The most protected part of us is our spirit; guarded by God’s own power, Peter says, for the day of salvation. The rest of us has no special protection - not our body, our mind, or our emotions.
b. God does intervene for all of us at times. He is strategic and purposeful in every intervention and in every withholding of intervention. He let’s evil and good fall upon the just and the unjust, because we all deserve the consequences of our own sin. God knows that those who have real faith will press in and grow strong and those without it will shake their fist and curse Him. In allowing human free will to be exercised, He knows every action or lack of action of His will become subject to the criticism of all of us at various times. So He strategically chooses when to intervene; enough to let we who love Him know He loves us, but not so much we can think of Him as a rabbit’s foot or prayer as a magical incantation whose plea for traveling mercies will prevent every car accident while we are breaking the law and sending text messages while driving. It’s also enough that those who don’t know Him have a chance to recognize His love in their lives if they so choose.
c. When evil befalls us, through no direct fault of our own, God is quite comfortable with us shouting out and decrying the evil that has befallen us. He’s also comfortable with us desiring vengeance. In fact, it looks pretty normal. He’s not much into us taking vengeance into our own hands, though, or blaming Him for it. Questions are good. Accusations not so much. A desire for vengeance is normal. Slandering them or beating them up, not so great in God’s eyes.
So I was trying to figure all this out and I asked Jake, my 15 year old son, about this passage and what he thought about God giving special protection to Jesus. Here’s what he thought:
a. If an angel appeared to those mothers and fathers, how many would have gone? [Good questions isn’t it?! We never consider that Mary and Joseph may well have been the only people in the area open to supernatural revelation from God.]
b. Jesus was saved because His father obeyed God. [Another good point. Maybe others were open to revelation and would be wowed by it, but like so many Egyptians during the 10th plague, would never have heeded the warning. Maybe there were no fathers among them who had faith to obey immediately.]
c. We don’t know that nobody else got angelic revelations/dreams. [Very true. We only know that all the sons 2 and under who remained were killed. Maybe God found 5 others who had faith to obey and got them out too. It just wasn’t recorded because the focus of the narrative is on Jesus.]
d. We may not like it, but we are all God’s creation, so it’s up to God what He does with us. [Does anyone else have this faith? Is there submission to God among us, like Jake, to believe God is King and we must bow to Him no matter what?]
Well I pondered this question a lot - really - a whole lot. I have been through a difficult seven weeks of seeking God in a zealous, time-consuming way since coming back from holidays. No revelation has come. No blessing. No pouring out of His Spirit. No miracles. No opportunities to share my faith. Just hardship, calamity, rejection, financial loss, criticism, etc. There seems to be neither justice, nor Divine protection for me. But here’s what God taught me through this passage this week, in the midst of all that is going on:
1. We must predetermine that God is good. It needs to be a bedrock belief and faith decision that we will not let go of no matter what the circumstances. This decision needs to be made before the tough stuff comes and affirmed repeatedly throughout.
2. We must be confident that God will justify all things in the end. He will be proven true. Trust that it is the limitations of our understanding that cause us to recoil at such apparent injustices and lack of intervention on God’s part. It will not be so forever. No injustice escapes the notice of God. He will vindicate those who have suffered, some in this life, some in the next. But nothing will be overlooked forever.
3. We must move into the injustice with worship and praise. This is so unnatural. Yet it is the very activity that releases faith and opens up portals in heaven to have favour, blessing, revelation and understanding released. God inhabits our praise and grace flows from His presence in our suffering. It is a supernatural resource released from a very human, willful activity.
4. We must remember Jesus was protected to die. He too died a terrible death as an innocent person - more innocent than the children in our passage. Jesus, while Divinely protected here, had His special protection last only as long as it took to fulfill a purpose. And He was perfect. He had no sin and no sin nature that would give even the tiniest ground for His demise. This points to the fact that while God will not protect us all the time, in all circumstances, He will protect us in all things that are crucial to the fulfillment of His call and purpose in and through our lives.
In spite of all I have been through, and in spite of no grand response to my pursuit of God, something is happening, I believe, because I have been practicing these four points for about two weeks now.
1. The fire for God inside me keeps growing.
2. Janice and I are coming closer spiritually than we have ever been.
3. God is moving around me to bless others. I have a stirring of love for people and desire to pray for people that I haven’t had in years. And I am seeing fruit from those prayers.
I guess the bottom line is, as I have faith in God’s goodness, justice and faithfulness in the face of trial and injustices that I can’t understand, God seems pleased to dwell in that faith. There is no direct cause & effect between my seeking and “results.” It’s just that His kingdom seems to thrive in that environment around me, even when I’m not directly responsible for it.
God will use you, your faith, your pressing in to Him to move things in His kingdom. Believe He is good - all the time. Don’t be afraid of anger or a desire for vengeance when unfairly treated. God welcomes your “worship” in the form of Psalm 109 among many others, crying out for vengeance. Just don’t take it into your own hands. Leave it to God. Trust He’ll work it out and move forward with praise on your lips, pushing your soul into faith when it just wants to stay angry or full of self-pity. And watch God begin to move in the environment of faith you are creating.