Between the pandemic, the violence/anarchy and a seemingly complete loss of sanity in some cases, does it fell like evil has the upper hand in the eternal struggle of good versus evil?
On days I feel that way. And I suspect most of you have at some point in 2020, a year that will soon not be forgotten long after it is over. (By the way, may I suggest to limit the time spent watching the news on TV or your other devices? Doing so can magnify the evil and suffering until it consumes us. The Bible tells us to magnify the Lord, not evil and suffering.)
The problem of evil and suffering has been around for most of the world’s history. I caught myself almost saying from day one, but that is not the case. Everything God created was good. Good? No, it was perfect! When he created Adam and Eve, he placed them in that perfect world, that paradise. There was no evil and suffering. And then one day it all changed, and ever did it change.
The LORD God told them that they could eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden except one. No one knows how many other trees they could choose from or how delicious they were. I can only imagine they were numerous and very tasty. So why did they disobey God and eat from that one forbidden tree? You remember the story. Satan, disguised as a crafty serpent, tempted them.
The serpent questioned everything that the LORD said to Adam and Eve. You remember it did not end well as that first couple believed Satan’s lie. Their disobedience got them kicked out of that perfect paradise into an imperfect world, and as Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.” Yes evil and suffering are part of that imperfect, fallen world that mankind has occupied ever since.
Even if you don’t remember all of the history you learned in school, you surely remember that evil and suffering have manifested themselves in various ways at various times and in various places. For much of the world’s history, it seems the majority of peoples have lived under some kind of oppressive or miserable conditions. Depending on your age, many now alive in the USA have yet to experience much of these on our shores …until now. For this reason all the upheaval that started in early 2020 has been much more difficult to cope with. (Let me make it clear that I am referring to the evil and suffering for a nation as a whole. Certainly individuals and families and some groups have experienced the fall-out of evil and suffering at various levels in various scenarios.)
In my last column on coping with the death of a family member, I referred to the fact that death, disease, and suffering are a result of living in that fallen world. It just goes with the territory. But wicked people are also a part of the evil in this world.
Psalms and Proverbs in make numerous references to the wicked. Here is a sampling:
“Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong.” Psalm 37:1
“An evil man is bent only on rebellion; a merciless official will be sent against him.” Proverbs 17:11
“The Lord is far away from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” Proverbs 15:29
“Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.” Psalm 7:9
“The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.” Proverbs 10:28
“The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.” Proverbs 10:7
“A man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” Proverbs 10:9
“There is deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil, but joy for those who promote peace.” Proverbs 12:20
“An evil man is snared by his own sin, but the righteous one can sing and be glad.” Proverbs 29:6
After reading some of these verses, do you get the feeling that those in Old Testament Israel may have thought that the wicked and evil had the upper hand? Read some of these verses in light of what is happening in our world today. These verses could very well be written today. The writers of these psalms and proverbs were obviously concerned and were taking their concerns and prayers to the LORD, even asking for his intervention. The writers were also comforting themselves and their hearers with these words. They were even asking the LORD to stop the violence of the wicked. They were seeking to gain the proper perspective and hoping their listeners would do so as well.
Bible study challenge
Do a study on each one of these verses. Ask questions. Is it a declarative sentence? Is it a command to the readers or request to the LORD? Is it something dealing with the past, present, or future? What relationship does the LORD have with the wicked? The righteous? How does the verse compare the wicked and the righteous? What is the fate of the wicked? What should be our response to the actions of the wicked?
In my next column in this series, I will share some of my thoughts on these verses.
Ben Alford is the former rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Albertville.