>>
2CH news comments

Jesus brings the defeat of evil

A sermon by Harry Goodhew

INTRODUCTION

Back in 2006 a New Testament scholar who was at that time the Anglican Bishop of Durham wrote a small book entitled “Evil and the Justice of God”. His opening chapter is eye catching: “Evil is still a four-letter word: The new problem of evil”. His point is that for modern people “evil” has become freshly challenging and perplexing. It seems, he says, to have taken many people … by surprise”

But evil is not new. My wife and I saw a few of the new-release movies over the January holidays. Evil, in one form or another, was clearly present in each.

Evil, either suffered or perpetrated, can be complex, personal, and faith-shaping. It’s a prominent theme in the Psalms as believers wrestle with their experience of evil in the presence of God who is both omnipotent and loving.

SEGMENT 1

Psalm 36 is a reflection about the person who does evil. It divides into three sections. Here is the first of those sections.

An oracle within my heart
concerning the transgression of the wicked person:
There is no dread of God before his eyes,
for in his own eyes he flatters himself too much
to discover and hate his sin.
The words of his mouth are malicious and deceptive;
he has stopped acting wisely and doing good.
Even on his bed he makes malicious plans.
He sets himself on a path that is not good
and does not reject evil.

Here, the source of evil-doing is a loss of the dread or fear of God. The evil-doer is self-opinionated, self-focused, self-directed and autonomous in the way he thinks about himself and about life. He has no reference point beyond his own thoughts and desires by which to correct his behaviour.

He has no real moral compass beyond what he wants, what he knows, and what a society of people who are like him in outlook might approve.

As a consequence, his speech is malicious with no thought as to the harm that his words might do. It is deceptive for truth is not a fixed standard for him. His words cannot be trusted. He has abandoned true wisdom. God is no longer the arbitrator of what is right or wrong.

The picture of the evil man making malicious plans even when he ought to be sleeping may sound exaggerated. Yet, anyone who has lived in our times or who knows anything of history of our life-span will be aware of the carefully laid plans that have resulted in the misery and death of multiplied millions of human beings.

Such a person has chosen a path that is not good; a path dictated by un-reason and has by dint of his or her own philosophy become deaf to the call to depart from evil.

Whether thinking of ourselves or of others, “the dread of”, “the fear of”, or “reverence for” Yahweh, the Lord God, is a wall thrown up against the practise of evil. We all continually stand before him as our Judge and Assessor. Our accountability to Him is a powerful prophylactic against evildoing.

In answer to the question: “Where does wisdom come from?” Job answers: “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28)

SEGMENT 2

The second section of Psalm 36 is verses 5-9. They read:

Lord, Your faithful love reaches to heaven,
Your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains;
Your judgments, like the deepest sea.
Lord, You preserve man and beast.
God, Your faithful love is so valuable
that people take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They are filled from the abundance of Your house;
You let them drink from Your refreshing stream,
for with You is life’s fountain.
In Your light we will see light.

Against the one who does evil the Psalmist places God. Evil is real. As the bishop said, it is a four letter word, describing an all too obvious element of modern life. The presence of evil is sometimes used to impugn the character of God. But the Psalmist differs. In the face of evil he recalls the character of the God revealed in Scripture. He says,

Lord, Your faithful love reaches to heaven,
Your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains;
Your judgments, like the deepest sea.

He recalls God’s “faithful love” that is his unwaveringly commitment to his people. He speaks of God’s “faithfulness” because he always keeps his word. He knows that God practises “righteousness”, that is, he always acts in the right way towards his people. And he celebrates God’s “judgments” because he knows that the God will judge for the right with power and authority

Against evil he asserts the nature of God. The four characteristics he recalls he ascribes to God in the highest measure: they reach to heaven, to the clouds; they are like the highest mountains and the deepest sea.

When evil seems rampant our recourse is to God Almighty. Listen again to the Psalm.

Lord, You preserve man and beast.
God, Your faithful love is so valuable
that people take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They are filled from the abundance of Your house;
You let them drink from Your refreshing stream,
for with You is life’s fountain.
In Your light we will see light.

In like vein are the words of Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,
a helper who is always found
in times of trouble.
Therefore we will not be afraid,
though the earth trembles
and the mountains topple
into the depths of the seas,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with its turmoil.

SEGMENT 3

The last section of Psalm 36 is a prayer based on the reality of evil and of evil doers and on the unfailing character of God that has been celebrated. Listen to its words.:

Spread Your faithful love over those who know You,
and Your righteousness over the upright in heart.
Do not let the foot of the arrogant man come near me
or the hand of the wicked one drive me away.
There the evildoers fall;
they have been thrown down and cannot rise.

Before the threat of evil the Psalmist seeks the embrace of the one who alone can deal with evil. God will shelter and deliver the one who calls upon him. By contrast, the evil doer will be thrown down.

In the unfolding story of the deliverance of God’s world from evil, we come to the Christian gospel’s celebration of the victory of Jesus over evil.

Jesus has defeated evil. The perennial issue of evil’s existence, of evil done and evil suffered has been resolved in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus.

To accomplish the destruction of evil Jesus submitted himself to its power. He was crucified by evil men. He carried into himself as the God/Man all the evil that ever was or will be and removed it. In his resurrection he returned from death as the conqueror of evil, ascending to the throne of heaven from whence he will one day come to judge the living and the dead and to inaugurate fully his kingdom where there will be no evil.

In the life of the man or women who now relies upon Jesus the guilt of our personal evil is expunged. It is taken away. There is no more condemnation. In addition, the Spirit of the risen Christ lives in us as the children of God to enable us to wage war against evil within and to seek externally to do good to all: to live a life of love rather than a life of making plans to do evil.

God’s promise is that he will finally new create a world without evil. The only way any one of us can ever be fitted for that new creation is in and through the Lord Jesus and by the transforming work of God within us.

As the psalmist prayed for God’s sheltering presence in the face of those who did evil, so we should pray that Jesus, the destroyer of evil, will refashion our hearts so that more and more we may live the life of the world to come in this present age where evil is so obvious and powerful.

The prospect of a world free of evil is called by St. Paul the hope in which we are saved. In the parable of Jesus it is the field left with only wheat from which the weeds of the evil one have been removed.

CONCLUSION

Jesus brings the defeat of evil. He has dealt with it, he is dealing with it, and he will deal with it.

Our relationship with God having been made secure in Jesus, let’s listen once more to the words of the Psalm 36 and make them our own prayerful act of praise.

Lord, Your faithful love reaches to heaven,
Your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains;
Your judgments, like the deepest sea.
Lord, You preserve man and beast.
God, Your faithful love is so valuable
that people take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They are filled from the abundance of Your house;
You let them drink from Your refreshing stream,
for with You is life’s fountain.
In Your light we will see light.
So it is in the Name of Jesus. Amen

(This translation of Psalm 36 is that of the Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Archives

%d bloggers like this: