19. Why doesn't God Intervene?
As I look at the violence and persecution of the world today, at the ethnic and sectarian strife, I long for God to intervene. Surely he could put these things right at a single stroke.
Christians, of all people, should be encouraged, because - as Chapter 6 suggests - God's promise to deal with evil follows hard on the heels of the sin of our forebears, Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15). The woman's future offspring is a person; He will crush the serpent's head.
'But why not at once?' we ask. The answer is that for God in Christ to right all the wrongs of the human race at a single stroke would mean wiping out the human race at a single stroke. Many people long that violence and pain could be banished - but the answer to our question is itself a question: 'How righteous are YOU? What risk have you of being wiped out with the rest of the evil-doers, if God was going to end the troubles just like that?'
The Bible teaches that God is going to act at a single stroke. In fact it keeps warning us that he will (Zeph. 1:2, 18; Rev. 20:10, 14). But when it happens, it will be on a day and at a time known only to him (Matt. 24:36). And it will be the end of the world.
Meanwhile we are presented in the Scriptures with a God of amazing patience, 'not wanting anyone to preish, but eveyone to come to repentance' (2 Pet. 3:9). No action at a single stroke, then, because of the great numbers of people who would go down under the judgment required to set the balances straight.
So God waits. He works. He agonises. He grieves. He sends messenger after messenger, prophet after prophet. Doctors and aid agencies too. He's not required to! But out of love he persists. Many of these emissaries are rejected. It is a pattern of his mission (Heb. 11:32-38). Finally the Lord comes in the person of Jesus...still working, loving, wooing. He suffers hell's agonies himself, on the Cross.
There is God, the greatest sufferer in the universe.
The Bible teaches us that God has acted once and for all in Jesus Christ, in dealing with our greatest problem - unforgiven sin. On coming to Christ and his Cross, men and women are forgiven, even of the most hideous antisocial sins, for he has endured the divine judgment in their place, provided they repent and believe. There are many who refuse his offer.
We are still being given time - that is the situation. And while believers can never afford to be complacent, we can certainly be confident, because we know the end result. It is going to happen, as prophesied. If you have a strong view of the future, then be assured that the present will make sense. It is only if we have an inadequate view of the future that the present will seem meaningless.
Excerpted from The Top 100 Questions: Biblical Answers to Popular Questions by Richard Bewes (Christian Focus, 2003)